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Journal of Japanese Philosophy

Volume 3, 2015

Rein Raud
Pages 53-69

Casting off the Bonds of Karma
Watsuji, Shinran, and Dōgen on the Problem of Free Will

The article approaches the interpretation of the principle of karma as suggested in a sideline in Watsuji Tetsurō’s early reading of the phi­losophy of Dōgen: Karma is the historic, conditioned origin of how our being is enacted at every single instant, of which each individual is the constantly renewed product. In a sense, any sentient existence in the world is thus karmic because it has a history. The consequences of the problem thus posed are explored in the context of the question of subjectivity, causality, and free will, reformulated here as the prob­lem of “genuine choice,” the position where different inputs, such as desires, moral codes, and duties, prompt a person to choose between contradictory courses of action. The results of this analysis are then used to develop a rationalistic reading of one of Dōgen’s key terms, shinjin datsuraku (“casting off the bodymind”), building on Tsujiguchi Yūichirō’s recent work, as the refusal of a person to succumb to her primary karmic determination or to follow the most readily available course of action that her biological, social, and mental structures propose to her.