Friday, November 6, 2009

Reactions to my criticism of Rev Unno's writings (part2)

Please also read: "Reactions to my critics of Rev Unno's writing(1)."

 Seeing other people in the international sangha answering and taking attitude against modern divergences from Jodo Shinshu (Shin) teaching spread by scholars like Unno, Shigaraki, etc, is a proof that I am not alone in my actions like some wanted to give me the impression. I also invite other priests and lay people to express themselves, take action, write or speak against these modern divergences and sustain me, Kobai Sensei, Paul, Rick and others in this just cause of cleaning the Jodo Shinshu Dharma of the dust placed upon it by some scholars. Let us be a united team, many voices speaking the same truth, and the things will change for the better in the international sangha....

All I can say for the moment to my readers is that I am working hard (in my free time) on a new book about Amida Buddha in which a special chapter will be dedicated to modern divergences from Jodo Shinshu teaching. This book will contain many quotes from the sacred texts of our tradition, recognized as representative by Hongwanji, because as you know, I always rely in my presentation of the Dharma on the words of Shakyamuni and the Masters. So, dear readers, please consider that if I am not always present on the internet, it doesn't mean that I am inactive.


Paul's answers to Rev Arai's articles:
I just read Toshikazu Arai's new post, and my good Dharma friend Adrian has asked me to respond to it, because he is pressed for time.

Rather than respond to it tit-for-tat, which would quickly become a pointless exercise, I want to take a step back so we can ALL look at what has gone on in the Sangha as a result of the modernist approach
to Shin Buddhism, regardless of what Taitetsu Unno was saying, or (as Arai asserts) trying to say, in one passage or another of his book BITS OF RUBBLE.

What is important - and necessary - is not to play a game of "I'm OK, you're not OK"...but rather to encourage all of us to look carefully and closely at what Master Shinran says in teaching the Dharma, and to make sure that we are saying the same thing - and not something different, and therefore incorrect.

The Sangha has suffered great loss, and many have become very confused, because we haven't done that. And right now there are many who call themselves Shin Buddhists, but do not have the same understanding as Master Shinran concerning the very BASICS of our faith. This is the direct result of tolerating divergences in the
Sangha that Master Shinran and Master Rennyo would never have tolerated.

Let's speak frankly about the matter: There are many - including some who have an international reputation as Shin Buddhist teachers - who simply do not accept or believe that Amida is a real Buddha of reward
I've read the writings of these teachers, and that's what they say. The result is that sincere seekers who are still stuck in a materialist vision of the universe don't ever have their doubts confronted, but rather confirmed! Because their false beliefs are never challenged, they cannot become settled in SHINJIN.

Similarly, some of these same modernist teachers preach and teach that the Pure Land is a state of consciousness, rather than a real place. Once again, this FALSE teaching appeals to the materialist
sensibilities of sincere seekers who haven't yet had their eyes opened to the numinous and transcendental mulit-leveled dimensionality of existence - as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, the seven Pure Land Masters, Master Shinran and Master Rennyo.

This is a tragic situation - deplorable beyond words.

We must remember the example of Master Shinran, even as a young man studying under Master Honen: When he encountered others in Honen's Sangha who were disseminating false teaching, he confronted them
directly, and assertively. Master Honen confirmed that Master Shinran's understanding was correct, and the understanding of those he confronted was incorrect. So how can anyone say it is a bad thing for us to do the very same thing that Master Shinran (and Master Rennyo and Yuien-Bo) did - for the sake of all those who are being called by Amida Buddha?

Let me speak plainly: There is no good reason for any teacher of Shin Buddhism to be unclear or ambiguous or unclear about WHO Amida Buddha is, and WHAT the Pure Land is. Ambiguity and lack of clarity on these most basic doctrines of the pristine Dharma leads inevitably to confusion and decline in the Shin Sangha.

As for those who purport to function as teachers of Shin Buddhism, and yet deny these most basic Dharma doctrines of Master Shinran, they cannot be called true teachers of the Pure Land Way in any sense. They
may be nice people, and learned scholars - but they lack the essential inner apprehension of numinous reality that is the baseline characteristics for all people of SHINJIN.

As such, it is simply a mistake for anyone in the Shin Sangha to look to them for guidance and direction on how to become a person of SHINJIN - which is the whole point and purpose of our school, as our Dharma masters have said so often, and in so many ways.

Next, Master Shinran is very clear in clarifying his statement about a person of SHINJIN being equal to the Buddha. He says - very explicitly - that it is not meant to give us a position of equivalence IN THIS LIFE...but rather to say that at the end of this life, we will indeed become Buddhas - while the next Bodhisattva who will become a Buddha won't become a Buddha untill six billion years have past.

Once we read all of Master Shinran's statements IN CONTEXT, we know that it is entirely unacceptable to conflate us and our lives - in which we live as non-Buddhas right up until we take our last breath -with the life of Amida Buddha.

We are not Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha is not a mythical figure that really is a symbol pointing to us. The use of the western ideas of symbolism - whether by Carl Jung or Paul Tillich or anyone else - has nothing to do with the pristine Dharma.

We are not Amida Buddha. We are us. Right now Amida is doing the work of graat compassion, along with all the other Buddhas, to bring the rest of us to Buddhahood. Right now, we are not capable of the work of great compassion, because we are non-Buddhas - plain people -BONBUS - still dealing with the tar-baby of our intractable egotism.

Next, we must not conflate our surrender to Amida Buddha with the end of egotism, as Arai does. Even Unno, in his books, speaks honestly enough about how much his own egotism is a part of his life.

What our surrender IN FAITH does is this: It allows Amida to work in us in a direct and more or less unimpeded fashion. If we get off track (as we all can) or succumb to our blind passions (as we all can)
or find our cravings and aversions tugging on our minds (as we all can), then we can go directly to the living Buddha Amida, and His light can move into our darkness.

The end of egotism - for all of us - will ONLY come when we awaken at last in Amida's Pure Land, and experience the tranformation into Buddhahood that is the outworking of the Primal Vow.

Master Shinran himself - even though he surely had surrendered himself to Amida - spoke bluntly and honestly about how he was still "filled with desire for fame and profit". So - if his egotism was still alive and well and something he needed to deal with - how could we possibly otherwise for ourselves?

The truth is, we cannot. Our egotism is a part of our lives, as non-Buddhas here in Samsara. Even Shakyamuni Buddha did not snuff out his own egotism, which he called "the builder of this house", until the very moment of his own attainment of Buddhahood. To present Shin Buddhism in a way that makes it seem that we can (or worse, should) snuff out our egotism will only harm those who come to listen to the Dharma because they yearn for the freedom that only this Dharma path offers us all by setting up impossible expectations that no BONBU can
live up to.

To sum up: It is time - and past time - for those who are people of SHINJIN to return from the wilderness of non-Buddhist teachings, and present the pristine Dharma as it was meant to be presented - leaving the results entirely to Amida.

The pristine Dharma does not belong to us. It is not a teaching that belongs to Dharma scholars or "doctrinal experts". It is not a teaching that belongs to Japan, and one does not need to understand Japanese in order to grasp it fully, and be grasped by it. In fact, Master Shinran declares plainly that the teaching does not even belong to him.

In truth, the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way belongs to the real and true Buddha Amida - and all we can do is be good custodians of it, as Amida leads us to share it with the next person. And this pristine Dharma is is open and available and able to be understood by all who care to read it for themselves. Amida Buddha made it so, deliberately, so that lack of scholarly education would be no barrier, just as lack of moral goodness would be no barrier.

In fact, Master Rennyo said this in his Goichidaiki-kikigaki:

"There are some who are learned in the scriptures, but are ignorant of them, while there are others who are ignorant of the scriptures but understand them. Even if you do not know a single character of the scriptures, if you get someone to read the scriptures to others and lead them to acquire shinjin, you are one of those who are ignorant of the scriptures, but understand them. Even if you are learned in the scriptures but if you do not read them in depth and sincerity, without appreciating the Dharma, you are one of those who are learned in the scriptures but are ignorant of them."

Those scholars who do not recognize Amida Buddha as a true Buddha of reward body AS WELL AS the original formless Buddha cannot be said to be among those who truly understand the Dharma. In Master Rennyo's clear words, such scholars "are learned in the scriptures but are ignorant of them."

For those of us who DO recognized Amida Buddha, because He Himself has opened our inner eye, we have a sacred obligation to warn seekers not to mistake the false teachings of such ignorant scholars witht the
True Teaching of the Pure Land Way.

And for those teachers who really do know that Amida Buddha is a true Buddha, and the Pure Land is a real place - and yet have compromised the Dharma because of some misguided hope of appealing to those of
modernist materialist sensibilities - it is time to step back from the precipice of creating confusion by mis-handling the pristine Dharma.

Let's clear the air in the Sangha, and present the Dharma just the way our Dharma masters did - entrusting Amida that He Himself will call those whose karma is ripe, so that they can hear it and respond to it.


Here is Rick's answer:

"Toshikazu Arai writes in his blog:

'I decided to respond to Rev. Cirlea's severe criticism against Prof. Taitetsu Unno and Prof. Takamaro Shigaraki, not because I am attached to them, but because I respect them as true scholars and as sincere nembutsu practicers. I met them at different times of my life. I met Dr. Unno in 1975 and listened to his lectures for one semester in that year and then in the summer of 1980. As a student of Ryukoku University Graduate School, I belonged to Prof. Shigaraki's Shinshu seminar from 1982 to 89. I haven't met Dr. Unno for years and meet Prof. Shigaraki maybe once a year. They are very different persons from each other, but there is one thing in common to them. Both of them discussed their understandings and interpretations of the teaching with their students, but never imposed their ideas and thoughts on their listeners. They never claimed that their interpretations were true and others' interpretations were wrong. One time I felt so free and unrestricted that I criticized some of his interpretations in front of him in class, and he just smiled and responded to my criticism, for which I respected him a lot. '

Answer of Rick:r:
All this is saying is that these modernist teachers like Taitetsu Unno and Takamaro Shigaraki are personally not strident in their public speaking style. What is missing is that they are not teaching in accord with the teachings of Shinran Shonin and/or Rennyo Shonin. They are not teaching about the all-important matter of attaining Shinjin in this life. They are not teaching about the absolute reality of Amida Buddha and His Pure Land. The point is not to be passive about imposing one's personal beliefs (and by standing up and presenting their views in public through lectures or books they are not passive, no matter their personal style), the point is to be assertive about accurately presenting the true Shin Dharma of the masters, Shinran and Rennyo. If this means saying bluntly that some people ARE wrong in their understanding as measured by the plumbline of Shinran and Rennyo, then that is entirely appropriate whatever the cost of polite discourse. One does not need to have bad manners, of course. But if we are so polite that we cannot stand up to obvious divergences from Shinshu teachings, then our politeness is doing ourselves and the Shin Sangha a grave disservice. Those who courageously stand up to and refute such divergences are what is needed today. Shinran and Rennyo did not abide divergences and misunderstandings when it came to the matter of faith. They were outspoken in confronting such divergences and misunderstandings, as reflected in their letters.

This is precisely what Rev. Eiken Kobai sensei is doing in Japan. It is what Rev. Josho Adrian Cirlea is doing in Europe. It is most emphatically NOT what Dr. Unno, or Dr. Shigaraki, or Dr. Arai are doing, which is something entirely contrary. Furthermore, these latter three men carry the mantle of "Dharma scholars." So it is one thing for them not to impose their views aggressively, but it is another thing for them to clothe their personal re-interpretations of Shin Dharma with the mantle of authority as scholars. What does it matter if one or two of their students stands up and disagrees with them? They lose nothing by smiling and not creating an argument. What they have, and this is deplorable, is an academically sanctioned podium to disperse their divergent views as if they represented the original teachings of Shinran Shonin or Rennyo Shonin, which they most emphatically do NOT.

These men - Unno, Shigaraki, Arai - are not genuine Jodo Shinshu authorities no matter how many degrees or university professorships they have in their curriculum vitae or how many books or lectures they have. They are bombu, foolish beings of blind passions, like the rest of us. But do they ever admit this publicly as Shinran Shonin did? As Rennyo Shonin did? If they did AND REALLY MEANT IT, perhaps they would have the true humility to stop promoting their revisionist personal theories about Shin Buddhism and return to the basics as taught by the real masters of our Shin tradition based on the Pure Land Sutras and the Patriarchs of Jodo Shinshu. Whether this will ever happen remains to be seen. One can only surmise that these three teachers are NOT persons of true Shinjin, otherwise their teachings would clearly AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY champion the path of true faith and complete entrusting in the Real Amida Buddha and the Real Pure Land, not in some sort of abstract symbol or metaphor that undermines the very Shin Dharma they purport to represent.

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