Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reactions against Kobai Sensei's statement and my answers

There was a recent heated debate in a European Shinshu yahoo group which started from the video recording of Kobai Sensei’s statement I posted on my blog here.

I am presenting you now some parts from this debate, while leaving anonymous the names of the people to whom I was addressing. The sentences in “….” represent the others opinions. I hope that by showing some fragments from this debate, the reader can understand better how deep the misunderstanding and complacency in not correcting the errors are in our international sangha, and be aware of the danger themselves might be caught in when studying the Dharma.


”Words like 'those who don't believe it the same way as I/we/they etc. do, have not real Shinjin and no experience of salvation' is actually strong meat and an expression of a certain 'I know it all, you don't' attitude which I find - especially within a Buddhist context - completely unacceptable. “

Kobai Sensei didn’t say that those who don’t believe his opinions don’t have shinjin! In all his Dharma work, (and my Dharma activity also) he does nothing else than presenting the Jodo Shinshu teaching as it is expressed in the sutras and the texts of the Masters of our tradition.

To be a priest and a teacher means to express the exact teaching of the sutras and sacred texts, not our own opinions and ideas which are always changing as the various theories of such and such scholar will always change.

The sutras and the sacred texts of our Masters are the only source of the teaching and the only way in which we can verify if someone’s ideas represent or not the Jodo Shinshu teaching. When we, the traditionalists say “such and such thing is not Jodo Shinshu”, we do this only by relating it and comparing it to the writings of Shinran and other Masters recognized by our school.

Christians and other religions have their sacred texts also by which they can legitimate their ideas. We also have the writings of Shinran, the sutras and the Jodo Shinshu canon.

I see no problem in legitimating our words by relating them with the sacred texts.


“Usually I don't see any reason at all for discussing this because I can't prove my view and the other one can't do it either and if there's no interest in actually having a serious discussion about it with trying to understand the different position on its own terms, it is
futile. But I often see that someone of the 'it's exactly as it is written' faction is always eager to press the button for opening pandoras box about all kinds of 'consequences' you might suffer if you have 'the wrong view'.”

The only thing we should prove when we present the Jodo Shinshu teaching is that our opinions and ideas, our words are in accord with the words of Shinran, Rennyo and the sutras. Nothing else.

And also scholars of the “its not exactly as it is written” are always pushing the button and spread their ideas everywhere on many websites and in many conferences and they label their opinions as Jodo Shinshu.

I and some of my friends, also had a lot of bad experiences with the so called nice guys with different opinions. We are not the bad guys and you are the good ones or the polite ones. Kobai Sensei and myself received many letters, not so polite, from various people telling him or me to depart and take distance from Paul Roberts whose voice is also against the same divergences.

So let us, the few people who are against what we consider “modern divergences” raise our voices and speak. You and your friends who look to Amida as a fictional character are not the only voices in Jodo Shinshu. This should be known. And many, priests and lay, agree with us, just don’t have the same courage to raise their voices so clear and firm.

I know many who support me in doing what I do, encouraging me, etc

As I said, our references is the sacred texts, while your references can’t be found in the sacred texts. When we say something, like “those who consider Amida as a fictional character don’t have shinjin” we rely on the many explanations and presentations in the sutras, those of Nagarjuna, Shinran, the experiences of master Shan tao, etc who prove that Amida is a true and real Buddha in transcendental form or Sambhogakaya (read here some doctrinal explanations on Amida in accord with Mahayana general doctrine, Shinran and other Masters).

How can one rely on a fictional character? How can I rely for my attainment of Buddhahood on a fictional character, a human invention? How can the transference of merit from Amida to sentient beings be true and real, causing us to be born in the Pure Land , if Amida is a fictional character?

How can the idea of Amida being a fictional character be taken as true in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism? How can faith or entrusting to a fictional character be effective? How can entrusting to a fictional character or symbol can be called shinjin? Why should we change the Mahayana doctrine of Trikaya or Three Buddha bodies, just because some intellectuals don’t agree with it ? How can an unenlightened person really understand with his limited mind the Trikaya doctrine and a Buddha in a transcendent form? How can an unenlightened person prove that a Buddha is a fictional character?

My opinion is to leave the Dharma as it is. We can have various methods of explaining the Dharma according to different personalities, but we can’t change the Dharma which is what should be taught. The dharma is as it is, it was given to us, sick people, unenlightened people, as a medicine by the Buddhas and Shinran Shonin. How can a sick person change the medicine? How can an unenlightened person change the Dharma given by the Buddhas and by Shakyamuni in the Three Pure Land sutras? How far can the ego of the so called modern teachers and scholars can go?

We the traditional guys just call for humility and realization of the limitations of human mind and the mind of unenlightened people.

And as Inagaki Sensei also said, many Mahayana sutras were transmitted through Samadhi from Shakyamuni to others, until these sutras were finally put in written form. How can a smart scholar can verify Samadhi transmission? Are you modern smart guys good enough for any kind of Samadhi? I recognize that I am not, so I let Dharma speak through the mouths of Buddha and Masters and keep my mouth shut. When I open it I do it only to transmit what they taught, not my personal ideas.

I have never heard a Tibetan practitioner, and I know a lot, who doubts that his sacred texts were not actually preached and transmitted by the Buddhas, because they don’t think they are so smart and evoluated as to check the Buddhas and transmissions. They just follow the way and that’s it.

And we still wonder why Jodo Shinshu has so little followers in the West, while Tibetans have a lot! This teaching and school which is a devotional and faith oriented school, with a message taught to be simple to understand by many, is so much complicated in our days by so many smart guys whose egos are so big as to change the Dharma.

They say that by changing it more westerners will come to Jodo Shinshu, but on the contrary, we have the smallest number of adherents in the West and one of the reasons is that when one enters Jodo Shinshu he faces so many ideas and divergences as he can’t know which is the original teaching.

What I consider to be my task and mission is this – to show to people the original teaching about Amida, not my personal opinions or the opinions of some unenlightened and sophisticated smart scholars. This is not an ego centered attitude, but on the contrary! I don’t rely on myself or on the changing ideas and opinions of a changing and unenlightened mind, but on the sutras and sacred texts which were taught by infinite superior guys than me – Shakyamuni, Shinran, Shan tao, Nagarjuna, etc

Those who change the Dharma to accommodate with their own ideas and opinions, should be careful about their ego and stay humble!

If you or your friends don’t like the way this simple teaching was presented by Shakyamuni in the sutras or by the Masters of our school, its ok to make your own school, where you can present your own ideas about Buddhism. I have nothing against it, on the contrary, I have nothing against Buddhists of other schools saying different things than Shinran or our Masters. But I don’t think it is impolite to say somebody is wrong and not in accord with the sacred texts that are the basis of Jodo Shinshu and what Jodo Shinshu really is. I and neither my friends, like Kobai Sensei or Paul, are making any reference to the private lives of others.

By saying somebody is not a true teacher of Jodo Shinshu, I make reference only to his/her ideas in relation with the texts that are the foundation of Jodo Shinshu. It is like saying somebody is not a liberal because he supports socialist ideas.


Part 2

A priest in the group related to some of my words and made the following statements. Between --…..-- are the quotations from my affirmations to which he was related and between “….” are his affirmations.

--And I don’t think, like Kobai Sensei also don’t think, that somebody who doesn’t receive the same teaching Shinran preached, can receive shinjin.—

“ Please be careful. To see "Shinjin" in this way is the kind of self power and calculation we should avoid. If Shinjin is what it is, it is free of any conditions, not even bound to a certain religion. “

Shinjin is entrusting in Amida Buddha to be born in the Pure Land and we hear about who and what Amida is, and the Primal Vow, nembutsu, etc in Jodo Shinshu, not in Christianity or other religions.

What I said is not at all self power, because I do not relate to myself, but to the words and guidance of my infinite superior friends, like Shakyamuni, Shinran and the Masters.

And it is written in a lot of texts, and you know it, that by hearing the teaching one receives shinjin through Amida’s power. Listening the teaching is extremely important, but to what teaching do we hear and listen – do we listen to the teaching of Shinran and our Masters or do we listen to the noise of our own minds? That is the question we should ask ourselves if we want this school to prosper in shinjin.

Master Rennyo said:

Regardless of our doubts, if we listen intently with our entire being, we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion. The Buddhist teaching begins and ends in hearing.

So, in our tradition, listening to the teaching is the most important practice. You have to listen again and again, and one day, you will become open and you will receive shinjin. The words "we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion" shows that shinjin comes from Amida, but the first part "if we listen intently with our entire being" shows what we have to do, if we wish to receive the gift of faith from Amida.

Yuien-bo said in Tannisho:

For how is entrance into the single gate of easy practice possible unless we happily come to rely on a true teacher whom conditions bring us to encounter?

Let there be not the slightest distortion of the teaching of Other Power with words of an understanding based on personal views.


--- As I said once, for me Jodo Shinshu it is not just an object of study, but a way of escaping a great fire and a great sickness. It is like accepting the cure for cancer or AIDS.----

“It is hard to explain the experience of fire as long as you are burning yourself.”

I am not trying to explain the fire, but the way out of the “house of fire” as Shinran said. And this way out of the fire, lie in front of us and it was explained by some guys infinite more prepared than us – Shakyamuni, Shinran, etc

In the quote you are using from my words, I wanted to show how important the Dharma is for me, as the only true medicine, a medicine which should be left as it was prescribed by the doctors. The sick and unenlightened patients should not change or modify the medicine.


“ If I am confronted with what I perhaps realise as wrong view, it is my challenge -- to find out how I can go along with it. It is a chance for me to reflect the teaching again and I can leave the "other one" to Amidas compassion.”

Sensei, you are a priest and a teacher and if you resume to just reflect yourself and shut up, and don’t explain to others, like Rennyo or Yuien-bo did so many times when encountering wrong understandings, then you are not acting in accordance with your mission which is: “help others receive shinjin”.

Yuien-bo wrote the Tannisho especially to go against wrong understandings of his time – it is a lament against divergences from true shinjin, this is how this book is called. He said:

Here, then, I set down in small part the words spoken by the late Shinran Shonin that remain deep in my mind, solely to disperse the doubts of fellow practicers. Thus, it seems likely that among people of the wholehearted, single practice now also, there are those not one in SHINJIN with Shinran.

Although all of the above are repetitions of the same words, I record them here. While the dew of life barely clings to this withered leaf of grass that I am, I can lend an ear to the uncertainties of the people who accompany me along the way and relate to them what Master Shinran said.

But I lament that after my eyes close, there will almost certainly be confusion concerning the teaching.

This is what a priest and a teacher should do. Just look to the sadness of Yuien-bo when encountering wrong understandings. He wrote a book, he took action, he didn’t retired in self-reflection only!

I myself will never retire in self reflection, but speak loud and clear.


“I think it is mainly a semantic problem, or more concrete a problem of our daily language. Shinran says the final Buddha has no form, if he has got form he is not the final Buddha (in explaining Jinen) Relying to Amida, "his" embracing compassion is no fiction, but also can not be grasped or calculated by us.”

Especially because it cannot be grasped by us I always say we should relate to the sacred texts when we talk about Amida and not say he is a fictional character. A fictional character is not just a semantic problem, but a very clear word expressing that Amida is a human invention – something invented by humans in order to express a higher principle. On the contrary, Amida is a Buddha and it has indeed no form in his ultimate nature, or lets say, "beyond form", but it also has form and Name, which are real in the eyes of the practitioner.


“So please let us be like drops of water in the endless sea of Dharma, the endless sea of Nenbutsu, let us be patient and wait until we experience the often quoted moment when the wave realises it is water. Than it becomes clear that we are -- a fiction. “

Nice words… it is nice to speak about the sea of Dharma , etc, but here people ask me, what is the Dharma. I always confront with real and practical situations when I have to explain to people what the Dharma is, - what are the words and instructions given to us by our Masters.

The sangha is the place where the Dharma is taught, understood and accepted as it was taught by the Buddhas and Masters, in order that ourselves become Buddhas. These are The Thre Jewels. Practically speaking, and leaving aside beautiful words and poetry, if we distort the Dharma by our own ideas, we cannot become Buddhas.


In the end of this long post where I presented you some fragments from a recent heated debate, I wish again to emphasize that when Shinran Shonin speaks about Amida in ultimate terms he never denies Amida’s reality in terms of a transcendental Buddha or Sambhogakaya. He speaks about Amida in ultimate terms but he also speaks about him in terms of cause and effect which the story of Dharmakara in the Pure Land sutras making his Vows and bringing them to fulfillment, shows.

Sambhogakaya refers to the process through which Dharmakara Bodhisattva became Amida Buddha as a result of his Vows and practice – a practice which led the Vows to perfect fulfillment. Shinran didn’t deny the story in the sutras of Dharmakara becoming Amida, he also said that Shakyamuni is the manifestation of Amida in human form. Otherwise, if Amida was a fictional character and not a true Buddha as a result of Dharmakara practices and Vows, it cannot be any salvation, no shinjin, no birth in the Pure Land. Through Dharmakara's fulfilled practices and Vows we, ordinary and unenlightened sentient beings have access to the ultimate Buddhahood when we are born in the Pure Land. We can't have access to our Buddha nature or Buddhahood directly and here in this very life. In this sense, Kobai Sensei said that those who think Amida is a fictional character don't have the experience of salvation.

We limited sentient beings cannot rely on Dharmakaya or ultimate Buddha nature in order to become Buddhas, this is why we have Dharmakara Bodhisattva who made Vows and brought them to fulfillment and he became Amida in sambhogakaya form. And this process by which Dharmakara became Amida is true and real in terms of causes and effects, not just a fictional story. We rely on the Primal Vow made by Dharmakara Bodhisattva who became Amida, we don’t rely directly to our Buddha nature. To understand ultimate nature is not shinjin. To have shinjin is to rely on the promise of Dharmakara Bodhisattva who became Amida Buddha, thus fulfilling his Vows and promises.

We don’t say Amida as fulfillment of Dharmakara practices and Vows is fictional or just a symbol, but a true and real Buddha, exactly like Shakyamuni was. And Shakyamuni was indeed the manifestation of Amida – this is what Shinran said very clear so that every ordinary and stupid human being can understand and have a simple faith.

Readers who wish to understand better the Trikaya doctrine of three Buddha bodies please read here. Also, please read carefully the entire category Amida Buddha on this blog where everything about what Amida is, it is explained together with the rejection of false teachings about Amida that are spread in our days by some too smart guys.

If you have questions or difficulties you can always talk with me privately on e-mail.

related article:

Those who deny the existence of Amida, don't have shinjin

9 comentarii:

Unknown said...

For people who are interested in Shin Buddhism, there is one essential question: are we the arbiters of what is and is not the True Teaching? Or has that role been given to Shakyamuni Buddha, the seven Pure Land masters, and Master Shinran and Master Rennyo.

If you believe that your understanding is superior to theirs, then of course you will bend the Dharma to conform to your own thoughts.

On the other hand, if you believe that you're more or less incapable of figuring out anything on your own, when it comes to the ultimate questions which the Dharma addresses - and that you're really just one more BONBU, one more plain person, one more lost and confused being walking around with a paper bag over his head...then you'll listen gratefully to those who HAVE been given the custodianship of the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way.

In the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, Master Shinran's major work, he warned explicitly that those who muck around with the Dharma message, who mix up the Dharma with their own ideas and their own practices, could not be born in Amida Buddha's Pure Land at the end of this life.

Instead, they would be born, at best, in the borderlands...a place Master Shinran called "The Land of Indolence and Pride".

Indolence...meaning laziness, meaning unwillingness to search out the words and the meanings of the words...even though we all have free access to these precious sacred texts online.

Pride...meaning the elevation of one's personal, egoic perspective over the perspective of those whose karma it was to be the custodians and the stewards - the faithful messengers - of this supreme Dharma message.

This Dharma message is supreme because it is the ONLY Dharma message that is able to save confused, deluded, passion-laden beings like you and me in this age of Dharma Decline - when the Buddhafield of Shakyamuni Buddha is no longer powerful enough to propel us into the state of non-retrogression.

If it bothers you to hear that, it is your ego that is botheres, pure and simple. You can hold on to your ego's perspective, or you can let it go and allow yourself to listen deeply to our true teachers.

It is up to you.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Josho said:"Otherwise, if Amida was a fictional character and not a true Buddha as a result of Dharmakara practices and Vows, it cannot be any salvation, no shinjin, no birth in the Pure Land."

Here, for me, it's THE question....

Who pronounced the 18th vow?
For them,if i understand :Sambhogakaya-Amida don't exist so...
>no Shinjin
>no nembutsu
>no Jodo
>nothing ?????


Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

Thank you, Paul.

Indeed, Vincent, for those who say Amida is a fictional character, there is no shinjin (faith)and no salvation, because shinjin and salvation which is promised in the Primal Vow, can come only from a true and real Buddha, not a human invention. And all fictional characters or symbols are just human creations in their pursuit to understand with a limited and unenlightened mind that which is inconceivable and beyond our understanding. Entrusting to a fictional character doesn't lead to birth in the true Pure Land. We should just accept what Shakyamuni, Shinran, Rennyo and the seven Masters taught us about Amida and don't try to change anything on the basis of our unenlightened understanding.

Anonymous said...

Can I ask which yahoo group hosted this discussion?

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

Hello, Brian.
The discussion from which I presented some fragments, was held on shindo online. I recently left this group because some members there became upset due to my firm and uncompromising attitude on this matter. I don't know how the discussions went on after my leaving of the group, and I don't want to know.
Also if you check the archive of the group, you may see that I also insisted on this topic long time ago.
In the future I will continue my internet activities only here on my blog or on places where people are truly interested in listening the Dharma as it was presented in the sacred texts.
I don't want anymore to spend in vain my energy with people who wish to adapt the Dharma to their own ideas and opinions. They have their own way, and I have my way.

ps: those who wish to read some fragments from an article of Inagaki Sensei on the same topic together with the comments of Paul Roberts from trueshinbuddhism group, please go here


Unknown said...

INAGAKI Hisaho Words

4 days ago i sent some questions to hisao Inagaki sensei.
Now i would share his answer with you.
Here, i simplified the form of my questions for a best understanding,except for the second.
(and of course the answers are excactly like i received them from Inagaki sensei ):

1)For you, is it important to you to have a butsudan?
2) I read your article on Amida butsu but i know that several teachers say the the sambhogakaya of Amida don't exist .It's a "symbol", "like the methaphor of the moon and the finger" that he isn't the moon but just the finger showing the moon. Several are like this, like a teacher who talk to a fictional character "like "Faust"" concerning Amida buddha.These teachers said that it's this the teaching of Shinran.
You says in your site( in your site6 .>Amida the infinite >6 wo is Amida?) that he is a distinct person isn't? can you say me another thing about it.Sambogakaya does exist for you if i understand
If yes he have form , color of it's another form that we know in this earth..(i want say a little bit of course , not excactly the same form that an human)
3) I read "between amida and you it's a relation between 2 persons and not a fusion(in this life or in the after life in the pure land)" are you agree?
4)The name with 10 characters "Ki.myô Jin.Jip.po Mu ge.kô Nyo.rai"is he different from the name with 6 "Namo Amida Butsu"?

I will give you short answers to your questions.
(1) You don't have to have a proper butsudan. Just a myogo - Namo amida butsu - will do.
(2) Sambhogakaya is not a mere symbol. It has appeared from the Dharmakaya to realize its aim. As compared with our existence which is false and unsubstantial, Sambhogakaya is firmly supported by ultimate reality.
(3) The relationship between Amida and I: Amida and I are two but one; one but two. From our viewpoint, Amida appears to be an external being, but from Amida's side, I am completely embraced by Amida.
(4) The ten-character name is originally Vasubandhu's term, with which he took refuge in Amida. The six-character name appears in the Contemplation Sutra. The latter is the authentic name by which Amida is worshiped and taken refuge in. It must be remembered that the six-character name is also used as a mantra or spell in other schools. You know that the nembutsu is to recite the six-character name but in Jodoshinshu it is not used as a mantra or spell.

A GREAT THANK YOU to INAGAKI Sensei for his answers and who gave me his permission to post his e-mail here.

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

thank you, Vincent for asking those questions and sharing them with us, here.

About the personal altar or butsudan.
Although a myogo is enough, I also prefer to add a statue with Amida or a painted image, because I like to look to Amida's face while I recite nembutsu. Inagaki Sensei also tries to spread the mandalas of the Three Pure Land sutras - a pictural representation of the Pure Land sutras, from which the manadala after the Contemplation Sutra is my favorite.

Unknown said...

it's me who say you Thank You!

here the Taima mandala:

NEW poems by Gansen John Welch