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The Problem of “Knowing” and “Doing” in Shinran's Buddhist Ethics

Wamae W. Muriuki


For Shinran (親鸞1173-1262), the founder of Japan's Shinshū (True Pure Land) school of Pure Land Buddhism, the question of how to do the right thing was constrained by the larger problem of how to discern the right thing to do. In his view, human behaviour was constrained by two large issues: the problem of the times and context in which human beings live, mappō, and the consequent problem that human beings were not capable of properly distinguishing between right and wrong, good and evil, and thus could commit any kind of act. This paper argues, drawing upon Merleau-Ponty’s account of “flesh” and the “horizon”, that the possibility of living and acting ethically in the present, among others, depends upon relationships of care and compassion between and among others, within close networks of human relationality, rather than upon abstract ethical absolutes.

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eISSN: 2076-7714
print ISSN: 0251-043X