“Letters” 4

There are as many Buddhas as the sands of the River Ganges but they are really one Buddha, when viewed from the standpoint of Absolute Wisdom. And when viewed from the standpoint of their special mission (or vows), we say there are many Buddhas. Indeed, Buddhism is not Monism, nor Polytheism, nor Pantheism. It is the Religion (or philosophy) of Absolute Wisdom (or Truth). It is the way (or method) of realizing the Truth. The One Truth has branched into many schools or sects. In essence, however, there are two ways – Zen and Shin. One realizes the highest good through meditation and the other through Pure Faith. The former is called the Difficult Way (or the “Self-Power Gate”) and the latter is called the Easy Way (or the “Other-Power Gate”). Both can convey us to the same Castle of Great Nirvana and emancipate us from discrimination, subjectivity, and birth-and-death.

The Two Phases of the Universe

The Two Phases are heaven and earth, mountains and rivers, good and evil, right and wrong, happiness and misfortune, birth and death, health and illness, mind and matter, subject and object, Buddha and people, Pure Land and hell, man and the world, wise and ignorance, birth-and-death and Nirvana, worldly desires and Bodhi, one and many, change and eternity, light and darkness, existence and non-existence, wealth and poverty, young and old, male and female, large and small, plus and minus, pure and defiled, white and red, long and short, beautiful and ugly, love and hatred, assembly and dispersion, animate beings and inanimate things, and so on.

These are two phases of the universe. Now, what is the Whole One that includes these opposing things? One cannot be taken and the other cannot be cast away. How can we find the fundamental Truth among these innumerable antagonistic things? Where do these things come from? Were they created by God or are they governed by God’s Providence? I should say, “No!” The theory of creation is against both the Law of Causation and the Natural Law. This Law is even higher than God.

The Buddha taught us that the phenomena of the world were produced by discrimination and subjectivity along with erroneous human reasoning. If we were to be liberated from false discrimination through meditation, the phenomena of the world would disappear. What is left after these phenomena have disappeared? Only the absolute Truth, which is inexplicable by words. Zen followers tend to accord with this ultimate Truth through meditation, while the Shin devotees wish to attain the absolute Truth through the Pure Faith of Amida’s Vow Power. If a man has reached the top of the Mountain of Truth, he must needs come down into the streets full of din and bustle, and impart many kinds of teaching to people. Shin Buddhism is the blessing given by Amida Buddha through Sakyamuni.

Self-identity of Absolute Contradiction

As we have seen, the contradiction of phenomena in the ” Two Phases of the Universe “, is an undeniable fact but these should be unified. But the time when these contradictions are able to be unified into one great unity will never come. We must, therefore, seek contradictions in unity and unity in contradictions. Why is this so? No one can answer.

The great Zen master, Dogen Zenji (founder of the Soto sect) posed this question and, finding no one who could answer it, went to China and met Nyojo Zenji, a another Zen master who lived on Mt. Tendozan. Nyojo-Zenji used to say, ” Fall away from body-and-mind; body and mind have fallen away. ” This means, ” Forget yourself ” or ” Find your own Self in all things. ” In hearing this phrase, Dogen was at once enlightened. Two years later, he returned to Japan where he said, ” I went to China with empty hands and returned to Japan with empty hand. ” (This means that there is no discrimination nor subjectivity in the Great Nature. Indeed, discrimination and subjectivity are the origin of eternal perdition). In Shin Buddhism, Amida’s Vow-Power is too great for us to fully fathom and we cannot properly discriminate between good and evil. Shin followers never pretend to be equal to Dogen with respect to Wisdom as we consider ourselves to be utterly foolish and deluded. However, we are entirely satisfied with Amida Buddha and rejoice to hear Buddha that he attained Buddhahood for the sake of sinful and wicked beings like us. Our hands are now empty: we know not if we have acquired faith or not. Amida’s work is to save us assuredly; and our work is to fall into hell. But we are satisfied and eternal peace abides in our minds. This is the self-identity of the Absolute Contradiction of Shin Buddhism -pure Faith.

(This discussion of ” Self-identity and Absolute Contradiction ” will be continued in the next two instalments.)