Why did samurai follow Zen?

I’d always assumed it was the discipline of meditation, standing under waterfalls etc that was the main appeal to the militaristic samurai, but this passage on its appeal to the totally unmilitaristic Chinese aristocrats suggests the often idle Tokugawa-era samurai might have had other reasons:

“during the prosperous period of Tang China, the spontaneous, aesthetic spirit of Chan Buddhism appealed to the elite, who had ample leisure time to pursue sudden enlightenment, not necessarily through the monk’s strict regimen of meditation, but through experiencing art and poetry, or merely communing with nature”

Buddhism A History by Noble Ross Reat pg 157

Why has Zen had more influence than other forms of Japanese Buddhism?

There are several parts to this question. The first is why it had more influence on Japanese art and, arguably, society than Pure Land Buddhist sects such as Nichiren which have always had more adherents. The next question is why that is also true of those sects’ influence abroad.

The main reason Zen had more influence in Japan was that it was the sect of choice of the samurai class who controlled society, whereas Pure Land Buddhism generally appealed more to ordinary people. Aesthetic appreciation was also more a part of Zen than other sects, hence its outsized influence on the arts. Both of those aspects are relevant to its reputation amongst foreigners, many of whom were upper class aesthetes who were naturally attracted to the minimalist, subtle upper class Zen-influenced art.

Why do we use Japanese names for Chinese Buddhist sects?

For example:

“The esoteric Zhen Yan (Chen Yen) or Tantric school – better known by the Japanese name Shingon…” and “Chan Buddhism, better known by the Japanese name Zen…” from the chapter on Korea in “Buddhism A History” by Noble Ross Reat (pg 176-177)

I wonder if Buddhism was spread by Americans who were in Japan during the occupation, the same way that (Western) futons were. There is also the fact that both of the two mentioned in those quotes became much more successful than they ever were in China. Might well find out the answer to this is I ever finish the book…

Why has no one heard of paracetamol in Japan?

One major reason may be that it is only known as “acetaminophen” (アセトアミノフェン):

“Paracetamol as it’s known in the Uk has the generic name of acetaminophen. It’s marketed as Tylenol in the US. You can often find Tylenol in regular Japanese pharmacies. If not then ask the doctor for acetaminophen. I’ve been given it in Japan for a fever but it came in 100mg tablets whereas the UK paracetamol is in 500mg tablets. I think the US Tylenol is 350mg in one tablet but I don’t know about the one sold in Japan. Read the label. “

From the last comment here:

Medicine in Japan on JapanWith Kids


“regarding paracetamol I also managed to find it in Japan !

For the people who are unfamiliar with paracetamol it is a very popular drug that is used as a pain reliever (analgesic) and to reduce fever (antipyretic). However it has no anti-inflammatory properties. This drug was first available in the UK in 1956 under the brand name Panadol (“gentle to the stomach”), unlike aspirin this drug didn’t irritate the stomach lining. The name paracetamol was originally the british generic name for the drug but it was later also adopted as the International Non Proprietary Name.

In the US this drug is known as Acetaminophen (a popular brand is Tylenol), it has been available since 1955. In Japan they also call this drug by the US name, Acetaminophen !! So I found that I could buy it at the pharmacy by asking for Acetaminophen ( the dictionary lists this as the katakana pronunciation アセトアミノフェン )

When I asked for paracetamol initially they had never heard of it, or another place told me it wasn’t available in japan. However when I ask for Acetaminophen no problem !”

from near the bottom of here:

Dental floss and Paracetamol on GaijinPot

How does a French e end up as a Japanese u?

I can just about understand how the French definite article “le” ends up as “ru” in Japanese, as it is probably closer to the pronunciation than a Japanese “re” would be in that case, but there is no way that the first syllable of Renoir in French sounds like “ru”, to give one of many examples.

Why are hot springs such a big thing in Japan? Third attempt

Looks like it might at least partly have got popular simply because it was allowed when so many things weren’t:

“Although the [Tokugawa] shogunate prohibited travel in the interests of preserving order, it allowed pilgrimages, visits to relatives, and trips to medicinal hot springs

 East Asia A Cultural, Social and Political History pg 345

Why did Nobunaga and Hideyoshi attack Buddhist sects?

I’d always assumed it was because Confucianism more suited the philosophy and needs of military strongmen, but apparently the reasons were even more directly military:

“‘The Tendai establishment on Mt Hiei was razed to ashes by Nobunaga in 1571 because of its participation in an unsuccessful military alliance against the strongman… After Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582, his ally Hideyoshi took charge of the campaign to unify Japan… In 1584, an army of fifteen thousand Shingon troops unwisely attacked Hideyoshi’s stronghold in Osaka”

Buddhism: A History by Noble Ross Reat pg 213

Why are most Japanese Buddhist priests not celibate?

unlike any other Buddhist country, apparently. It all seems to boil down to one person in one particular circumstance leading to huge consequences, as is sometimes the case:
“Shinran’s most influential innovation was his open, unabashed abandoning of celibacy…Shinran… paved the way for hereditary succession to the leadership of the sect… This stable leadership succession was of particular importance during the turbulent times in which the sect originated and consolidated its following”
Buddhism A History by Noble Ross Reat pg 203- 204
It doesn’t explain what, if any, religious justification he had for this, but it does say that he thought most of the trappings of the priesthood and religious practice were pointless so I suppose that could be it.


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