Abstract/Details

To forget the self: Aging and senility in medieval Japanese Buddhism


2005 2005

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Abstract (summary)

While modern narratives of aging and senility are profoundly influenced by the findings of scientific medicine, medieval Japanese understandings of these processes were primarily shaped by religion. Pre-modern Japanese medical knowledge was inextricably intertwined with religious knowledge and construed “mind” not primarily as a faculty of reasoning, but as a complex of energies and spiritual forces. Aging was understood as a process whereby these energies were dissipated or depleted, and prescriptions for their conservation were compatible with broader religious recommendations for skillful aging involving retirement from secular life. Medieval discourse described the elderly as particularly well suited for religious life and constructed old age as a social category situated between the human realm and the realm of “gods and buddhas.” Rituals, social conventions, and retirement customs encouraged ever more extreme forms of de-socialization for the elderly, imbuing them with more spiritual charisma the more they were able to detach themselves from human society. Medieval literature provided models of spiritually advanced elders whose wandering, incomprehensible behavior, and transgressions were seen not as evidence of disease, but as marks of their advanced spiritual realization. Facilitating the view that even seemingly cognitively impaired men and women could possess hidden virtue, medieval Japanese Buddhist philosophies of mind held that cognitive functions such as memory were of dubious importance in the spiritual quest. At their most radical, these traditions maintained that “forgetting” could be an essential step toward gaining release from attachment, and thus a gateway to spiritual mastery.

Indexing (details)


Subject
Education history;
History
Classification
0520: Education history
0332: History
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences, Education, Aging, Buddhism, Japanese, Medieval, Senility
Title
To forget the self: Aging and senility in medieval Japanese Buddhism
Author
Drott, Edward Robertson
Number of pages
382
Publication year
2005
Degree date
2005
School code
0175
Source
DAI-A 66/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
ISBN
9780542198694, 054219869X
Advisor
LaFleur, William R.
University/institution
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Degree
Ph.D.
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Language
English
Document type
Dissertation/Thesis
Dissertation/thesis number
3179726
ProQuest document ID
305446723
Copyright
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
http://search.proquest.com/docview/305446723
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