5) Gouranga Charan Pradhan, International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Sensory Narratives as Expression of Spirituality: A Case Study of Hōjōki
Written in the early Kamakura period, Hōjōki (方丈記, 1212), a very short work, maintained its popularity throughout the history of Japanese literature. Over the last century, many scholars have proposed multitude of interpretations concerning the religious thoughts of its author, Kamo no Chōmei, without reaching a definitive conclusion. Notwithstanding its visible Buddhist rubrics, scholars have identified the work in different ways, from being as an autobiographical memoir to a Buddhist literary text and occasionally pointing out its Taoist elements. Likewise, Chōmei has been variously marked as a mere aesthete, a devoted Buddhist and at times a Taoist recluse. This paper is another attempt in same direction, but adopts a new approach to ascertain the nature of the religiosity of Chōmei. While keeping prior studies in mind, my attempt in this paper would be to explore the narratives portraying sensory experiences in Hōjōki, in consideration to the socio-religious milieu of medieval Japan. References will also be made to some Buddhist texts of the period that deals with sensory experiences and their corresponding spiritual interpretations. Through close readings, I wish to prove that the depictions concerning bodily sensual experiences in this work is in line with the Buddhist conception of six internal sense bases that reflect the author’s spiritual volition as a devout Buddhist.