Remembering Seizan Yanagida

pic: Yanagida Stanford Photo
This photograph shows Prof. Seizan Yanagida in front of Stanford University in the midst of colleagues on the occasion of his US lecture tour in autumn, 1989.
Sitting from left are: William Powell, Carl Bielefeldt, Yanagida-sensei, Bernard Faure;
standing from left: Richard Lynn, Robert Gimello, Philip Yampolsky, Peter Gregory, Mrs. Yanagida Shizue, Urs App, Robert Buswell, Griffith Foulk and John McRae.
Thanks to Prof. Urs App for this photograph!

Seizan Yanagida (聖山 柳田, 19.12.1922 - 08.09.2006) was one the most important Japanese Buddhologists in the century. He was born in a small mountain temple of the Rinzai-Zen School in the hamlet Inae near Kyōto (Japan). His major area of work was the research of Chinese Chan-Buddhism. Since the year 1960 he taught as a professor at the Institute for Buddhist Studies at Hanazono-University in Kyōto and after his retirement in 1986 he founded the IRIZ (International Research Institute for Zen Buddhism) in Kyōto, that became an important research institution for many Western Buddhologists, as well. In the course of his life Prof. Yanagida published 50 books and several hundred research papers - see the selected bibliography from Prof. Bernard Faure:
      Bernard Faure: Bibliographie sélective de Yanagida Seizan.
A excellent review article about Prof. Yanagidas extensive work was published by the US Sinologist and Chan-researcher, Prof. John R. McRae:
      John McRae: Yanagida Seizan's Landmark Works on Chinese Ch'an.
The Swiss Buddhologist and philosopher Prof. Urs App worked for many years as assistant, personal interpreter and vice director of the IRIZ for Prof. Yanagida. Two very impressive and very private lectures were given by Prof. Yanagida in the SFZC (San Francisco Zen Center) on the occasion of his US lecture tour in 1989. These lectures were kindly translated into English and published by Prof. App:

A short biography of Seizan Yanagida
(see also:柳田聖山)
1922 birth in the hamlet Inae in prefecture Shiga,
1940 degree from the highschool of prefecture Shiga in Hikone,
1942 degree from the Rinzai college (now Hanazono-college) in Hikone,
begins rigorous Zen-training in the Rinzai-Zen monastery Eigen-ji,
1948 degree in literature at Ōtani-University,
1949 assistant for Buddhism at Hanazono-University in Kyōto,
1954 assistant-professor at Hanazono-University,
1960 habilitation at Hanazono-Universit,
professor at the Institute for Buddhist-Studies at Hanazono-University,
1962 award from the Japanese Association for Indian and Buddhist Studies,
1968 head of the Institute for Literature at Hanazono-University,
1976 head of the Institute for Humanities at Hanazono-University,
1981 Yomiuri-Literature award for his book "Ikkyu - the world of Kyounshu",
1986 retirement (Prof. Emeritus),
foundation of the IRIZ (International Research Institute for Zen Buddhism) at Hanazono University,
1989 donation of his private library of 14.000 books to IRIZ,
USA lecture tour,
1990 inauguration of a Ryōkan-memorial bridge at Mt. Emei in the chin. province Sichuan,
1991 Korean tour on the occasion of the inauguration of Haein-sa Sangha University,
1991 Puple Ribbon Medal,
1993 donation of his private house to Hanazono University - this is renamed in Shimonkan and becomes part of IRIZ,
1993 27. culture awards of the Buddhist Mission,
1996 retirement as direktor of IRIZ,
Medal of the Holy Treasure - Isao Grade 3,
2003 visit of the Collège de France in Paris,
2006 death.

Lovely and touching is the following volume of commemoration, compiled after the death of Yanagida-sensei by Prof. Urs App and numerous Western and Japanese Buddhologists:
Urs App, et al., Volume in Commemoration of Prof. Yanagida Seizan,
Kyōto: Zenbunka Kenky sho, 2008. Institute of Zen Studies Kyōto.
These private memories show us Yanagida-sensei not only as an outstanding and great scientist, but, at the same time, as an extraordinary human beeing: hospitable, sensitive, alert, interested in every question, undogmatic, very freedom-loving - and in his heart a great friend of the Zen-monk and Zen-poet Ryōkan.
One of Yanagidas favorite poems of Ryōkan was:
     My life may appear melancholy,
     But traveling through this world
     I have entrusted myself to Heaven.
     In my sack, three shō of rice;
     By the hearth, a bundle of firewood.
     If someone asks what is
          the mark of enlightenment or illusion,
     I cannot say - wealth and honor
          are nothing but dust.
     As the evenig rain falls
          I sit in my hermitage,
     And stretch out both feet in answer.
                      One Robe, One Bowl,
                      The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan, p.26.
                      John Stevens, Weatherhill Inc., New York and Tokyo, 1977.

pic: Yanagida-sensei 2003 Photo
This photograph shows Yanagida-sensei in the year 2003.
Thanks to Prof. Urs App for this photograph!

M.B. Schiekel, Ulm, April 2015.

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