China and Inner Asia
Ohio State University, United States
In 1926, after having already spent over a decade largely confined to bed by tuberculosis, author Kurata Hyakuzō was struck by a second epochal illness: a nervous collapse, marked by insomnia, obsessive thoughts, and a devastating writer’s block. Kurata sought treatment with a disciple of Japanese psychiatrist Morita Shōma, and by 1930, he was feeling much better: not only had Morita therapy cured his mental illness, it had cured his tuberculosis too—he was now able to hike eight or nine miles in the mountains, stand for hours at the theatre or on the train, and go without sleep whenever he wished. This robust physical health, however, was only a side effect of a more fundamental spiritual transformation, by means of which Kurata had penetrated “the true marrow of faith” and become a buddha. What might we make of Kurata’s experience of such total cure? Drawing on the work of Juhn Ahn and Yu-chuan Wu, this paper seeks to unpack how Kurata’s narrative of illness and healing is shaped by an idiom in which health is understood in terms of circulation and stagnation. It examines how both Kurata and Morita draw freely on Zen and Shinshū repertoires in their efforts to describe the mind-body relation that tends toward stagnation, and to cultivate a “natural” mind-body relation that tends instead toward circulation and so toward increased well-being. Finally, it considers how and why Kurata and Morita recast early-modern Buddhist notions of longevity and liberation in the scientific language of organic life.