Shagi / Steps the Journal of the SASH


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Suicide and self-sacrifice in the Hosshinshū

N. N. Trubnikova
The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (Russia, Moscow)

DOI: 10.22394/2412-9410-2022-8-4-78-99

Keywords: Japanese Buddhism, setsuwa didactic tales, Kamo no Chōmei, Hosshinshū, suicide, self-sacrifice

Abstract: The question regarding suicide in Japanese Buddhist thought does not have a clear answer. A person should cherish his life in the world of people, where conditions are very favorable for asceticism, for moving towards liberation; however, determination to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others raises the ascetic to an even higher level, from the path of people to the path of bodhisattvas. The reasons why people choose to voluntarily die, and how this choice affects their fate after death, are much discussed in the tradition of ­setsuwa didactic tales, in particular, in the Hosshinshū (1210s). Here, the stories of people who have decided to die can be divided into four categories: 1) people pass on to follow someone dear to them, whose death makes their life meaningless; 2) people strive to leave this world before illness or old age prevent them from meeting death with the proper attitude; 3) people sacrifice themselves to prove their devotion to the Buddha Dharma; 4) people risk their lives for the sake of their fellow human beings. Basing himself on these examples, the compiler of the collection, Kamo no Chōmei, discusses whether it is worth protecting the body, received under the law of retribution. To throw away the body is good in any case, but what is better, to hasten ones death or to spend ones remaining time on good deeds, everyone must and can choose for himself. The article contains translations of selected stories from the Hosshinshū and an analysis of the sources followed by Chōmei.

Acknowledgements: The article was written on the basis of the RANEPA state assignment research programme.

To cite this article: Trubnikova, N. N. (2022). Suicide and self-sacrifice in the Hosshinshū. Shagi/Steps, 8(4), 7899. (In Russian). https://doi.org/10.22394/2412-9410-2022-8-4-78-99.