Volume 13, 2006
Aquinas and Dōgen on Poverty and the Religious Life
Douglas K. Mikkelson
University of Hawaii at Hilo
Recent efforts to articulate Buddhist ethics have increasingly focused on “Western” ethical systems that possess a “family resemblance” sufficient to serve as a bridge. One promising avenue is the employment of Aristotelian-Thomistic thinking in seeking to understand certain manifestations of Buddhism. More specifically, we can explore how the thinking of Thomas Aquinas may serve to illuminate the moral vision of the Zen Master Dōgen on specific topics, such as that of “poverty and the religious life.” Two texts seem particularly conducive as foci for this approach, namely IIaIIae 186.3 of the Summa Theologiae and the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki. This modus operandi reveals how Dōgen’s views on poverty and the religious life are significantly similar to, and yet in certain respects distinctively different from, those of Aquinas.