Volume 4, 2016
Special Issue on Karatani Kōjin
Hope without the Future
Zen Buddhist Hope in Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō
In this article, I examine Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō to reconsider the notion of hope, many discourses of which are characteristically future oriented. Although there is an overwhelming suspicion that hope is incompatible with Buddhism due to its forward-looking nature, I argue that Dōgen’s Buddhist soteriology can establish a present-focused conception of hope that can challenge the dominant discourses of hope. In this comparative analysis, I first examine the conditions for hope and show that most theories regard hope as teleological and future oriented. As Dōgen rejects a linear conception of time, a future-oriented hope collapses in Dōgen’s soteriology. Nevertheless, I argue that Dōgen’s theory of temporality can ascertain a new theory of hope grounded in the interconnectedness of all moments, a present-oriented conception of hope based on the radical teleology established within the moment of the absolute now (nikon). Through an analysis of Dōgen’s soteriology from the perspective of hope, it becomes evident that Dōgen’s theory of temporality creates a space for karmic causality while also emphasizing the non-obstruction between practice and enlightenment. Hence, the notion of hope presents a way in which we can reconcile the apparent contradictions between the twelve-fascicle Shōbōgenzō that emphasizes the former and the seventy-five-fascicle version that advocates the latter. Although hope is not central to Buddhist soteriology, this article shows that it is beneficial to analyze Buddhist teachings from the perspective of hope, for not only does it offer a new insight to the growing philosophical discourses on hope, but it also presents a way in which we can reconcile the contradictions within Dōgen’s various writings.