Dear Rev. Jack Austin,
I have been negligent in writing to you for a long time. Thank you very much for the Dhammapada. The book is very well written. It is really admirable. I am very glad to think that many people of the world will be saved through this valuable book.
As you say, Zen is flourishing among the Europeans and Americans. The cause of which, I think, is that Zen is of the absolute truth, or transcendent wisdom, standing aloof from human relative knowledge and logical reasoning. Christianity has failed in explaining the world and sentient beings. The theory of creation is the chief defect or error in that religion. This is one of the chief reasons why Christianity does not flourish in Japan in spite of their earnest propaganda.
Why does Shin not flourish in Europe and America? Because the Christian god resembles Amida Buddha, and most scholars think Shin Buddhism is not Buddhism from a historical point of view.
It goes without saying; Buddhism consists of Sila, Zen and Wisdom, or in Wisdom and Compassion: and the origin or foundation of Buddhism is Zen – the deep meditation of Buddha Sakyamuni. The cosmology and epistemology of Shin is the same as that of Zen. Zen is for the wise, and Shin is for the ignorant and sinful. Zen people forget their own sinfulness and ignorance.
At the present time in Japan, there is no Zen master nor Zen devotee who is fully enlightened like Buddha Sakyamuni or Bodhidharma. I should say that almost all Zen abbots have wives and children; therefore, they are not liberated from avarice, anger and ignorance (unrighteousness). I have studied Zen from my boyhood and have read many Zen books but have not become a bit wiser; I am a fool as before.
When could I be fully enlightened? Life is short and draws me into hell-fire. The truth of Zen is eternal but the devotees of Zen (including Zen masters) are all depraved. Shin Buddhists are also degenerate, but Shin Buddhism is truthful and eternal. The patriarchs of Shin Buddhism – Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu – were the greatest Zen masters.
Zen stands on meditation-wisdom, and Shin stands on meditation-compassion; wisdom and compassion cannot be separated; nay, true wisdom is true compassion. The power of the Buddha’s compassion can save people – ignorant and sinful. People should not be deceived by their over-esteemed power. They should look at their own unvarnished feet and repent every day.
The end and aim of Zen is to be emancipated from one’s own subjectivity and discrimination, standing aloof from good and evil but who can, in the present age, attain the ultimate aim? They must not forget that the law of causation is stubborn and life is evanescent. A man can be called wise when he travels the highway to Nirvana through Amida’s compassionate Vow while riding the wagon of the truth of Zen. Neither path contradicts the other. They are two phases of the one truth.
The pure faith of Shin can liberate men from their own subjectivity and discrimination in another sense: simply by obeying Amida’s Calling – His Vow, power, wisdom and compassion. A man of true, pure faith transcends good and evil, and even forgets himself. The religion by which one forgets oneself is Shin.
Saizo, 1 October 1971