Zen and the Limits of Science – Specialization in IRIZ, Kyoto, Japan

15 септември, 2012 | Публикувано в: Forums, Specializations | Автор: Сергей Герджиков
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For the research

Zen and the Limits of Science

Japan, Kyoto, Hanazono University

30. 10. 2001 – 30. 05. 2002


A. ITINERARY (according application)

  1. Studying of classical Indian Buddhist Sutras
  2. Studying Classical Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhist treatises
  3. Studying contemporary commentaries and researches on Zen, Language, and Science
  4. Learning Japanese
  5. Field research at Japanese & Chinese Buddhist temples:
  6. Working on a book under working title „Zen and Science“


B. OUTLINE OF THE SCIENTIFIC ACTIVITIES IN JAPAN: experiments, discussions, research trips, etc.

  1. Working Bibliography: 30. 10. – 25. 12. 2001
  2. Studying of classical Indian Buddhist Sutras: 30. 10. 2001 – 1. 02. 2002
  3. Studying Classical Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhist treatises: 1. 12 – 1. 03. 2002
  4. Studying contemporary commentaries and researches on Zen, Language, and Science: 1. 02. 2002 – 30. 04. 2002
  5. Learning Japanese: 1. 11. 2001 – 1. 03. 2002
  6. Field research at Japanese & Chinese Buddhist temples: 5. 05 – 30. 05. 2002
  7. Working on a book under working title „Zen and Science“: 30. 10. 2001 – 1. 05. 2002 (from the beginning to the end)

This itinerary follows strictly my plan, announced in my application for JSPS fellowship.

I also made many notes (250 pages) on  the Japanese life.


I planed my research several years before, in my work at Sofia University and in the field of Philosophy of Language and Buddhism (Buddhist para-language experience). So, I investigate possibilities to visit Japan and to study and research in some Zen-Buddhist institute. I wrote a letter to IRIZ (International Research International for Zen Buddhism) and represented my work and interest. I was happy to receive a One-year, and after that, a two-year invitation for research work at IRIZ. So, I applied at Bulgarian Ministry of Education for a JSPS fellowship in the limits of 12-months bilateral exchange.

I have received seven months (from 30. 10. 2001 to 30. 05. 2002) research fellowship according bilateral exchange program between Japanese and Bulgarian government. I wanted more time for this big program and tried to receive it, but 2-year fellowship was only for “younger” doctors, for less than 6 years before. Some of them are older than me, and I have second Doctoral degree (Doctor of Science) from 1997, but they have more advantages from foundations.

Before my travel, in Bulgaria, I began to study Japanese language. I needed it for the communication and work. I spent a lot of time (about 300 hours) for the language in my country. I believed it would be possible to continue my Japanese classes in Kyoto. But there was no any possibility for free or cheap Japanese classes.


I used the facilities at IRIZ (International Research Institute for Zen Buddhism) at Hanazono University, Kyoto – Institute and University’s library, computer and copy recourses. Some members of the staff of the University helped me in my work. But I expected much more communication among the colleagues. My host-scientist, Prof. Okimoto, was too busy for contact and real help, but he understood my problems and appreciated my work.

I have read Buddhist classics and especially Zen and in the same time I was visiting Japanese language-instructions every day for a long period of stay, till end of February 2002. But when I received the negative answer from JSPS and other organizations for extension of the stay, I quit Japanese courses, for using all my small time for Zen and philosophy research in English. But it would be great to add also Japanese books, articles, and some original Zen-text in Japanese. My topic concerns Limits of Language, and I definitely need some important Japanese language forms in Zen practice and treatises.

The plan included also preparing some articles and working on a book, too, and visiting some Buddhist temples in Japan, China and Nepal.

So, I revised and completed my research plan, my working bibliography, and I finished with the reading an amount of 40 books and 35 articles in English – mostly Buddhist sutras and Zen treatises from my working bibliography. Some of them are studied in order of preparing articles on Non-dualism and Limits of Language. I wrote about 200 page notes for articles and book on Zen and language.

The rest of the books and articles has to be read and studied – classics and contemporary, on the topics of my research. After a new year Japanese learning it will be possible to begin with the reading and researching of Japanese classical and contemporary texts in original. It was impossible to finish even a half of the study, especially Japanese language, for this short time of seven months. For this tasks about two years are necessary. I finished my stay in Japan on 17. 05. 2002, and my work on Japanese was quite not enough and turned to be just spending part of research time.

During my stay I met different people at several Buddhist Universities, Japanese culture Institutions, and especially Ryukoku University in Kyoto, which is maybe the oldest university in Japan. I was invited to hold some lectures at Ryukoku University. So, I have red two lectures under the title: “Human Situation, East and West”.

I visited many Japanese Buddhist in Kyoto and other places (Nara, Kobe, near Tokyo), and especially Zen temples.  I spent some time ( 10 – 17. 05.) at Kyoto Betsuin temple for field research.

I manage to see and visit some classes for Tea ceremony, closely connected with Zen. I visited and research also the Buddhist sculpture work of wordily famous master Eri from Kyoto.

I visited also some restoration centers for Buddhist art in Kyoto and restoration of one of oldest temples in Nara.

I made a part of my planed foreign research trip in China. I visited a remarkable Buddhist place Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) – a temple and many pagodas, caves and rocks, places with great and long religious (Chan-Buddist) history.


C. A list of the papers published during the period of the stay in Japan

There is not papers, published during the period of the stay in Japan. But I prepared notes for several papers on sunyata (Mahayana Buddhist philosophy), Zen-koans and language.


D. My impressions on the present state of science in Japan in the field of Philosophy and Zen-study

There are remarkable persons and works in Zen and Zen-studies – classical and contemporary in Japan. It is great world treasure But there is not enough philosophy at the Universities and Zen-study. I found, red and copied many books and articles and I have much more to do. I could use real help for orientation and study by some of my colleagues like Prof. Jeff Shore and Dr. Urs App.

It was great time for reading, studying, writing, and visiting Buddhist temples and institutions.


E. Comments (suggestions) to JSPS, concerning fellowship program

It was extremely difficult to do all this works and study Japanese at the same time. For 7 months it is impossible.

It is time to change the rules for Post-doctoral and not-postdoctoral fellowships. The recent system gives not enough time for the proved, productive scientist received theirs doctoral degree before more than six years.

It is not normal to give to “young” scientists, who have received theirs doctoral degree at the time for less than 6 years before, 2 years fellowship and only some months for “old” doctors. Some of scientist just did the doctoral dissertation later in their carriers, but they are not really young. I am candidate-doctor (Ph.D.) from 1987, when I was 31 years old. By that time I have had many publications. Some researchers are older than me (46 years) and have doctoral degree from less than 6 years (in 1998 for instance). That means to give preference to researchers, who work more slowly and less productively.

I could not receive real help for Japanese language. The classes are very expensive and the grant is not enough to cover this kind of expenses plus living and research costs. It will be great to use some additional help for free Japanese-language classes, paid by JSPS.

I needed much more than this seven months I have had, and wrote letters to JSPS. My host-scientist Prof. Okimoto, and the President of Hanazono University, Prof. Nishimura, also wrote letters to the President of JSPS Mr. Sato, to ask for an extension of my stay in Japan with help of JSPS, but there was no answer. I received just informal negative answer and transfer of my request to Bulgarian Ministry of Education, which have very limited amount (12 months each year) for research exchange program. I feel some formality and lack of real interest in this kind of research work, which disperses Japanese culture abroad.


F. Other comments

I supposed, and Bulgarian Ministry of Education informed me, that there is possibility for additional application in September 2001. I tried to do that and I wrote several letters to Dr. Kirchner, Prof. Nishimura, and Prof. Mohr at Hanazono University. But I didn’t received collaboration for additional application (for a long-term non-postdoctoral fellowship) during September 2001.

I wrote also to the Director General Jsps (Mr. Tei-ichi Sato), and also din’t received any answer. After unsuccessful ask for an extension, according to the application conditions of JSPS, we (my host scientist Prof. Okimoto and I) decided to apply for 2003.

So, we prepared application for the next financial year, for Non-postdoctoral long-term (10-months) fellowship. I believe Prof. Okimoto will apply for me for another 10 months research work. I believe, JSPS will give me this possibility to continue my work.

I was tired and despaired by the silence and negative answers of all foundations and institutions I contacted for continuation of my grant for research in the name of cultural exchange and expansion of the Japanese culture in a global situation.


  1. G.  General impression on Japan formed during my stay

Japan is great and unique country and culture.

It is very clean, civilized, and quite.

Japan is beautiful. The mountains are many, Alps are beautiful and Mt. Fuji is fantastic. I climbed it wit great pleasure.

Japan has many centuries cultural history and has never been under foreign govern. It is a country, which accepted, preserved, and developed many Chinese cultural achievements: Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Buddhist architecture, poetry, painting, calligraphy, and especially Tee ceremony – the essence of Japanese and Zen spirit.

Japan is a modern country with great and deeply impressive achievements in most modern technology.

Japanese people are very kind and helpful in the limits of tourist communication. At deeper level they are more distant. At the same time, Japan is very difficult for foreigners. The communication beyond tourist topics is extremely hard. The people speak very little English. And Japanese language is extremely difficult, especially writing and reading. The Bank and Post services and travel agencies work poor (in English) and with heavy rules. Japanese customs are too strict and people’s behavior is not easy for understanding. Japanese mind is very traditional and closed. Society also is closed and it is not easy to penetrate in different social spheres. Japanese system is much burocratised.

All peoples have own advantages and disadvantages. Japan is unique and extremely interesting. The difficulties could be overcomed for mutual understanding, cultural exchange and collaboration.

Thank you to JSPS, Japanese government, and Japanese people, for the possibility to work and life in Japan for several months. I will be happy to come again for finishing my work and deeper understanding of Japan.





10. 04. 2002