Dr. Mark Blum
Dept. of Buddhist Studies, Bukkyo University (Kyôto)
Kôsai and the Ichinengi Controversy:
Mysticism and Antinomianism in Kamakura Pure Land
In general, the ichinengi position emphasized the primacy of religious experience and did not see diligent practice as necessarily being the efficient cause of that experience. As this moment of realization was the goal of the religious life, much akin to notion of the sudden enlightenment, this one mental experience defined an entire approach to Buddhism. Hence the name ichinengi. By contrast, the tanengi and shogyô ôjôgi approaches typically are understood as valuing diligent, disciplined practice throughout one's life. Although today there is much to question about these somewhat facile categories, these labels continue to be used as the traditional interpretative framework for understanding this period. In Kôsai's case the single thought is defined as a single moment where the mind of the individual is mysteriously "matched" with the mind of the buddha, in what appears to be a form of temporary mystical union. The ichinengi "movement" also had an antinomian dimension to it and this is what appears to lie at the heart of the political enmity it engendered. At the core was a serious doctrinal problem. Hônen's teachings stressed the transcendental alterity of the buddha as being the actual cause of sentient beings reaching the Pure Land, in contrast to the traditional view of this process as occurring as a result of reaching a certain stage on the path or accumulating a certain amount of karmic merit. The thinking among certain segments of this ichinengi camp was that if the buddha has already fulfilled his vows to bring everyone, even icchantika, to the Pure Land, then we are liberated in every sense of the word, hence free to act and live as we please. Indeed to do otherwise would be to suggest scriptural accounts are false and to turn one's back on the buddha's offer of compassionate assistance. It is not clear how widespread such an attitude was, but there were accusations of licentiousness among ichinengi followers that led even Hônen to denounce them.
Although Kôsai was not the only avowed ichinengi thinker, it appears he was the most influential. Nearly all of his works appear to have been lost by the end of the fourteenth century, a fact we can attribute to the political need for ichinengi to be suppressed both from outside and inside the Pure Land movement under Hônen's name.
While there is nothing to suggest this antinomianism in the extant material we have associated with Kôsai, I will discuss how those tendencies tended to arise from his understandings of the Pure Land teachings. For many, ichinengi means that the goal of Birth in the Pure Land is attained or at least confirmed in only one thought-moment. One aspect to be discussed will be the hongaku, or "original enlightenment" implications in the thought of Kôsai - made difficult because he never uses this word as such - and indeed all ichinen thinkers.