Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism

Daiei Kaneko

Translated by Robert F. Rhodes

The translation below is the first half of Kaneko's Prolegomena to Shin Buddhist Studies (Shinshugaku josetsu). With the passage of a new law on institutions of higher education in 1922, Shinshu Otani University was reorganized and renamed Otani University. To celebrate this event, in October of that year, Kaneko delivered a two day series of lectures at the Yamaguchi Bukkyo Kalkan in Kyoto under the title 'Prolegomena to Shin Buddhist Studies'. In these lectures, Kaneko attempted to describe how the study of Shin Buddhism should be pursued in the academic setting of a modern university. The lectures were published as a book under the same title in January of 1923. Though brief, this volume had an enormous impact on the Shin Buddism' academic community and has continued to influence Shin Buddhist studies until the present day. Footnotes found in the original text are translated without any comment. Footnotes added by the translator are indicated by the word 'tr.' found at the end of the note.

Chapter One: Study

Shin Buddhism teaches us to go to the Pure Land by saying the nembutsu. That's all. Since that's all there is to the teaching of Shin Buddhism, is there any need to study it academically ? This, I heard, was the question once posed by a person connected with a government official in charge of educational policies. The same matter came up among my colleagues: can Shin Buddhist studies really be a valid field of study ? To be sure, we have long been engaged in academic studies. However, the meaning of the academic study of Shin Buddhism practiced so far, and the meaning of the Shin Buddhist studies to be pursued academically frorn now on in the context of a college setting, seem to me quite different.[1] Hence the question arose among the faculty, 'Can such a discipline as Shin Buddhist studies really exist ?' In this way, both from within and outside the university, the question was posed as to whether it is possible for Shin Buddhist studies to be an academic enterprise. This is an important question that the professors of Otani University and Ryukoku University must answer together with ordinary scholars of Shin Buddhism. Now, as for the question, 'Can such a discipline as Shin Buddhist studies really exist ?' To be sure, Shin Buddhism has been studied academically a lot until new, but today we must answer this question by establishing Shin Buddhist studies as a field of study in a novel sense. This is not something that just one or two people can accomplish. It's something we all have to do together.[2] My talk is a prolegomena to this task. That's the meaning of the title of my talk. The word 'prolegomena' immediately brings Kant's Prolegomena [3] to mind, but I haven't thought through the problem like Kant. But I wish to talk about my ideas with a spirit like his.

Generally speaking, what does it mean to study ? Before we ask whether or not there can be such a thing as Shin Buddhist studies, we must ask what 'studies' in general means. This is how we must approach the problem, but this is such a big matter. In a broad sense, all research can be included within the term 'studies'. However, it can be understood in a narrow sense as well. The inquiry of one's life, that is to say, what all humans must study once one has been born a human being: this is what 'studies' must mean. This is something we have to consider in detail. But let's leave that for later. Here I would first like to focus on the old word gakumon.

What does this word gakumon mean ? I don't know about its etymology, but it's made up of two Chinese characters, gaku (study) and mon (question), When I see this word, I can't help but focus on the second character, mon. Here, study (gaku) means to question (mon). When we have a question, that is to say, when we confront a problem, that's when we study. No one can engage in academics without having a question. What is the most fundamental question that we human beings have? I think it's made up of three parts: the question of what, the question of why, and the question of how, In other words, we must first ask what it is that we study. For example, when we consider the various types of studies found in the world, we first ask, 'What are they studying ?' [4] They're all studying something. Likewise, we must all observe and clarify the thing that we're studying. Next we have to think about how to study it. This 'how' is the question of method, In the case of scientists, they engage in experiments. Finally, there is the question of 'why'. Since the question 'why' is one that inquires into the fundamental ground (riyu) of the study, it is something that requires thinking. Reason is at work here. It's impossible to understand something just by observing it, or by doing various experiments and observing the results. Scientists have to ask why an experiment had a certain result. They have to think about why something happened. In this way, the object of study derives from asking what, its method derives from asking how, and the ground for engaging in an academic study develops from the question why.

The fact that we have these three questions is very suggestive. These three questions exist in every field of academic study. These three questions must be firmly related to the self. We can't just ask how and why we study something. I myself must have clearly formulated these questions, At the very least, the fact that we exist here means that these three questions hold sway over us. However, these three questions seem to imply that, fundamentally, they all come down to one question. When we ask ourselves from the depth of our heart what we should do, the question of 'how'arises. Next, concerning 'what': this question arises when we come to ask why we exist. What are we humans? And what is the ground of our existence? When we ask such questions, it indicates that, even while we humans are individual existences, we are seeking for something objective. We humans are not just individual beings. We sense something universal in us. Moreover, in addition to the questions of what and how, we also ask the question why. This really shows that humans are rational beings. The fact that we have these three questions reveals the nature of human existence.

Chapter Two: The Significance of Shin Buddhist Studies

I think that the significance of Shin Buddhist studies must be discussed from the perspective of the three questions above. However, let us return to the beginning for now, and ask if such as thing as Shin Buddhist studies is possible. First, some people say that religion is nothing more than faith. We feel this faith directly. We, so to speak, intuit the Buddha's saving power. Because it is intuition, there is no need for academic study in the world of intuition. This is the first objection concerning Shin Buddhist studies. Other people say that the characteristic feature of Shin Buddhism lies in the recitation of the nembutsu, which is a very simple practice. Each of us individually recite Namu Amidabutsu and experience something in it. There is nothing else to Shin Buddhism. To take up anything else and treat it academically is actually a hindrance, For this reason, academic study is unnecessary in Shin Buddhism. That's what these other people say.

However, as I have said before, all humans have three questions. Moreover, the fact that we have these three questions defines us as human beings. For this reason, even though it is true that faith or practice is the only important thing in Shin Buddhism, a certain realization, that is to say a certain rationality, must be working in the depth of faith and practice. No matter how much a human observes an object with a microscope, if he has no brains, it's impossible to discover any scientific truth. In just the same way, even if it is said that we should just believe or just practice, neither faith nor practice is possible as long as we have not been readied by our rational faculty. Thus, a certain rationality must be working in the depth of faith and practice. Seen in this way, both practice and faith can be included within study. This certain rationality lies at the basis of Shin Buddhist studies.[5]

My explanation is becoming quite complex, but let me here discuss the three questions as they relate to Shin Buddhist studies. Now, what is the object of Shin Buddhist studies? What do we study? We must first begin by discussing the object of Shin Buddhist studies, Once we establish what it is that we study, then we must next discuss how we study it, i. e., the method. Finally, there is the question of why we study it, but in my opinion this 'why' is the deepest and most fundamental question in Shin Buddhist studies.'

So, why do we have to engage in Shin Buddhist studies? This is a very broad way of putting it. From the standpoint of Buddhism in general, the traditional answer is to gain release from the cycle of birth and death. It's true that the words 'the great matter of gaining release from the cycle of birth and death' (shoji shutsuri no ichidaiji) sound old fashioned to us today. Long ago, people spoke of 'the great matter of the afterlife' (gose no ichidaiji) or 'the great matter of life and death' and these words undoubtedly made a far greater impression on them than they do on us. They sound irrelevant to people like us who have been influenced by modern thought. But when people first began to use these words, what feelings did they evoke in them? If we approach these words in this way, maybe we can understand what they mean.

For example, if Rennyo's [6] words 'the great matter of the afterlife' is understood to mean that this world is not important and that the important thing is that we'll go to the Land of Supreme Bliss after we die, these words may sound very remote to people like us who are attached to the actual world. To clarify the meaning of the phrase 'the great matter of the afterlife,' we can contrast it with the phrase 'the great matter of this life' (konoyo no ichidaiji), If the words 'great matter of the afterlife' are no good, let's use the words 'the great matter of this life,' When we consider what is evoked in our minds by the words 'the great matter of this life,' it's always something materialistic, something actual. In any case, it's always something connected with our daily lives. Then let's contrast the words 'the great matter of this life' with 'the great matter of the afterlife.' Let's consider the feelings evoked by the words 'the great matter of the afterlife.' Since the word 'afterlife' refers to the life after death, most people would understand this to mean that the most important thing is to prepare for our next life after we die. They would say that this suggests to them a sense of otherworldliness, that this world is not important. However, these words evoke in us something very profound. It concerns something that we have totally forgotten, the great problem of the spirit. It is the problem of our soul. It is the problem of our fundamental spirit. This is what it evokes....

The words 'the great matter of life and death' has the power to overturn reality as we understand it from the bottom up. These words reveal the contrast between the actual world and the ideal world. We ordinarily live in the actual world. As long as we are living in the actual world, worrying about food and clothing or worrying about love and desire, religion does not exist. From such a point of view, people who think about the ideal world are slighted as pursuing an illusion. It's often said that religion is an illusion. It's said that problems of food, clothing or love and desire are real problems, but that problems of faith in the gods or buddhas are not real. However, words like 'the great matter of the afterlife' or 'the great matter of life and death' end up overturning such common sense view of the world. The world which we until now thought was illusory somehow comes to have a powerful significance, while the conception of reality which we actually held until now becomes empty. What was most actual then becomes most empty. I think this is something that everyone experiences at some time or another.

We have been begotten between the Heaven and Earth and we worry over various matters concerning our bodies and minds. What does it all mean? We claim to exist in the actual world, but is it really so? What does it mean to exist? This may appear to be a very strange question, but it is actually a question which has the power to undermine us from our very roots. When we are confronted with this question, everything we had taken to be actual until now comes to seem empty like dreams or illusions, while what we had set aside as empty and illusory presses on us with great urgency. Although we too experience this reversal, I think that people of the past felt it much more strongly. I think the people of the past perceived the ideal world much more clearly and perceived the actual world as dreams or illusions to the same degree that we now consider the actual world to be real. When we experience this reversal, when this 'floating world' becomes empty, we perceive that there is something to this ideal world which we have taken to be empty. Furthermore, we come to perceive that we are fulfilled only in that ideal world. Without such reversal, I don't think religion would exist. It is only when we experience such reversal that religion, in the true sense, arises. This is what has been expressed since long ago by the words 'the great matter of birth and death' and 'the great matter of the afterlife.'

This great matter of birth and death is a matter that concerns our entire being. It is imperative to proceed in our studies with such a problem in mind. In other words, we must proceed in our studies with the vow to confront and resolve this great problem of birth and death. Unless it's done in this way, it's impossible to engage in Shin Buddhist studies. But does this mean that we must totally forsake the actual world? Of course not. That is to say, once we enter the ideal world, we are revived and brought back to the actual world by the power of the ideal world. The worldly realm, so to speak, is revived by the transworldly realm. In any case, we have considered 'the great matter of gaining release from the cycle of birth and death,' 'the great matter of the afterlife" or the need to realize the impermanence of human existence to be irrelevant to us for a long time. But that's really not the case. The feeling of impermanence is the feeling that human life is transitory, and it has the power to overturn our values from the very foundation. The significance of Shin Buddhist studies lies in the fact that it seeks to think through and resolve this great matter.

So, what then is the object of Shin Buddhist studies, and what is its method? Although I spoke of the object and method as if they were two different things, in reality, the method will be determined as a matter of course once the object is clarified. In the same way, the object of study arises naturally once the method is determined. In this way, the object of study and method cannot be separated. However following the standard academic procedure, I will first establish the object of Shin Buddhist studies and then turn to its method.

Chapter Three: The Object of Study: The True Words of the Great Sage

The object of study in Shin Buddhism is the true words of the Great Sage, in other words, the words of Sakyamuni Buddha. The phrase 'true words of the Great Sage' appears in the Chapter on Practice of Shinran's Kyogyoshinsho. There, Shinran speaks of the 'true words of the Great Sage and the interpretations of the great patriarchs.' The 'true words of the Great Sage' here reveals the object of Shin Buddhist studies,while the 'interpretations of the great patriarchs' shows the method to be employed. This is my general idea.

The Kyogyoshinsho begins with the Chapter on Teaching which indicates the true teaching of Buddhism. Sakyamuni's teachings are quoted prominently throughout the entire Kyogyoshinsho, and they are followed by the interpretation of these words by the seven patriarchs of Shin Buddhism. In other words, the Kyogyoshinsho does not exist apart from the true words of the Great Sage and the interpretations of the great patriarchs. So, to begin with, I will establish that the object of study is the true words of the Great Sage. To be more concrete, the object of Shin Buddhist studies is the true teaching, the Sutra of Immeasurable Life.

However, some people may say that this is incorrect. They would say that the object of the academic study of Shin Buddhism is not the Sutra of Immeasurable Life but the Kyogyoshinsho itself. Moreover, there are other texts, like Rennyo's Ofumi (Letters) and the works of the Seven Patriarchs of Shin Buddhism, which deserve to be studied as well, So, if the Kyogyoshinsho by Shinran, the founder of the sect, is the fundamental text of Shin Buddhism, this text should be the object of Shin Buddhist studies. This is the first objection that many people would have. For this reason, we must first determine what the purpose of Shin Buddhist studies is. Does it consist of research into Shinran's writings? Or should we consider Shinran himself as a student of Shin Buddhism? If it is the latter, this means that we are heirs to Shinran's study, and we have to clarify how Shinran studied Shin Buddhism, This may seem like a minor point, but it is of considerable importance for Shin Buddhist studies.

As for myself, I don't know what it was like before. However, from now on, Shin Buddhist studies should not be defined as the study of Shinran's writings, but the study of how Shinran studied. This is the point I want to make. This is a significant point. If Shin Buddhist studies is the study of Shinran's writings, we should begin from the standpoint that Shinran is the founder of the Shin sect, and study his doctrines diligently, like it was done during the Tokugawa period. However, from now on we should study the way in which Shinran studied. Shinran too engaged in the study of Buddhism, and our task now is to study how Shinran studied. That is Shin Buddhist studies. In my opinion, this is the only way that Shin Buddhist studies can become a field of study accessible to everyone. It's not that Shin Buddhist studies was not accessible to everyone before, but it will become even more accessible in this way. To study, as I said before, is to question with all of one's might. What kinds of questions engaged Shinran's attention? What did he study and how did he study them? If we focus on Shinran's questions, Shin Buddhist studies will become a broader field of study. In other words, Shin Buddhist studies will become accessible to all sentient beings in the ten quarters of the universe. Seen in this way, the Kyogyoshinsho is not the object of our study. The Kyogyoshinsho's object of study should itself become the true object of Shin Buddhist studies. If that is the case, it follows that the Sutra of Immeasurable Life, in other words the true words of the Great Sage as revealed in the Kyogyoshinsho, is the object of Shin Buddhist studies.

However, other people may present the following question: 'I agree with what you say. However, we do not wish to study the expositions found in the sutra. Instead we wish to study how the doctrines of the Shin sect were created and what lies in their background. Shouldn't such historical problems be the object of Shin Buddhist studies ?' [7] Others may ask whether our faith should not be the object of Shin Buddhist studies. They hold that we should conduct research into the contents of our faith from various angles,[8] that we should concern ourselves more with the theoretical study of faith, or with our actual experience of faith. Such people would find it impossible to believe that the true words of the Great Sage should be the object of study. Of course, we must respond to these questions, but I think these questions will be resolved naturally as we proceed. So for now, I would like to clarify a little bit more what I mean when I say that the true words of the Great Sage, i.e., the teachings of Sakyamuni, is the object of study.

Chapter Four: The Teacher and the Teaching

Now we have to confront two questions, the relation between the teacher and the teaching and that between the teaching and the truth. When we study the teaching, at least three things are involved: the teaching (words), the person who teaches (the teacher) and the truth pointed out by the teaching. How are these three related? I think this is a very important problem in considering the object of Shin Buddhist studies. We have been led astray for a long time because the relationship between them was unclear. Are these three totally different or are they in a certain sense one while remaining different? Unless this point is clarified, we shall become totally confused.

First, the teacher and the teaching. Some people may say that, when we study texts, we must first understand the text's author before we can understand what the text teaches. We can't understand a text just by reading it. We can't understand a text until we read its author's biography and know what kind of life he lived. That's what some people say. But other people may disagree. They say that, even if we don't know anything about the author, if we only read the text, we can understand it because the author is clearly reflected in the text. What's a biography, anyway? It's something in which a later person traces the path trod by an earlier person, in order to show how great are the traces left by that earlier person. That's how a biography tries to bring a person to life. But is it really possible to bring a person to life in this way? I don't think its possible for any biography to truly show us that earlier person. But that's not the case with a person's writings. A person's writings are in themselves that person's biography. A person's real life story appears in that person's writings.

Take Shinran, for example. Do we understand the Kyogyoshinsho after we gradually come to understand Shinran's life? Or can we understand him just by reading the Kyogyoshinsho, even if we don't know anything about his life? That's the question that I have always asked myself. Some people may say it doesn't make any difference one way or the other. However, unless this matter is firmly settled, it would mean that we cannot determine the value of the Kyogyoshinsho unless we can establish whether or not Shinran was Honen's disciple, or whether or not Shinran is actually the author of this text. However, when we read the Kyogyoshinsho itself, we can find Shinran in it. Shinran's whole person is clearly alive in the words that make up the Kyogyoshinsho.

So there are two ways of thinking about the relationship between the teaching and the person that taught it. The first is that, since the teaching and the person who taught it are different, it is first necessary to know the person to understand the teaching. The second is that the teaching itself reflects the person who taught it.

What is a teaching? I don't know much about logic or mathematics, but to study these subject, I think we have to distinguish between texts of logic and mathematics and the life of the person who wrote them. If you have really penetrating insight, you may be able to grasp the personality of the author when you read books on logic and mathematics, even if you don't undertake research into that person's life. But that's impossible for most people. But sometimes in the case of people who have experienced profound self awakening, later biographies tend to hide such people from us. So, in such cases, I think that their writings are their true biography. It may only be a matter of degree, but I think it's something well worth pondering over.

From such perspective, the first way of thinking, that the teacher and the Dharma which is taught are different, arises. The true teacher must have awakened to some truth. However, by nature, enlightenment cannot be expressed in words. Enlightenment is a kind of immediate experience (kantoku) a kind of self realization. It's not something you can explain. Words can never express the world apprehended through immediate experience or self realization. Words are all concepts; they can never express what is truly apprehended through our immediate expertence. When we say that fire is hot, it is a kind of immediate experience. But you don't get burned just by shouting, 'Fire is hot!' A word is just one concept, and it doesn't express the truth. Teachings are something that humans develop to express the inexpressible. Because it's impossible to make people understand our immediate experience by remaining silent, we are forced to use concepts to express it. When a teaching is expressed in words, it has already been conceptualized. A teaching is like a finger pointing to the moon. It's not the moon itself. Because the moon of enlightenment is something that words only point to, the realization of the person who preached the teaching and the words used to preach it are quite different.

So one fundamental problem is language and so I think I have to investigate the nature of language a little more. It's for this reason that I want to investigate linguistic philosophy, but I haven't had time for it yet.

But how is language treated in Buddhism? First, there is a theory that a word is not a dharma itself. This is found in Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosa. [9] This thing that I hold in my hand is called a rosary. But the word 'rosary' is not something belonging to the rosary itself. The word 'rosary' does not belong to the rosary itself. The word 'rosary' belongs to us. It is us who call this thing a 'rosary.' When we perceive this rosary directly, we have no way of calling it, so we grasp it with the name 'rosary.' It doesn't mean that it has the name rosary. The Lao tzu says, 'The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth; the name is the mother of the myriad things'[10] . That's really interesting. In the beginning, Mother Nature was nameless. Human life came into existence when names were given to things. Human life becomes meaningful only at this point. Buddhism speaks of 'perfuming through words' (myogon kunju) [11] . This means that human life begins with names. What we have are signs and the name does not belong to the thing itself.

Why do we give names to things that have no name? According to the Ch'eng wei shih lun (Treatise on Consciousness Only), things have two characteristics: their particular characteristic (svalaksana) and the common characteristic (samanya laksana). [12] The individual characteristic is something that reveals that dharma itself, and the common characteristic is something that reveals the common characteristic possessed by a group of things. Our words cannot express the thing itself. For this reason, our words grasp at some common characteristic and give it a name. For example, the word 'flower' refers to all flowers, not to one particular flower. Even if we say 'this flower,' 'this' is a common characteristic. Hence the word 'this flower' is a concept. No matter what expression we employ, as long as we use words, we are just playing with concepts. The "true characteristic of the thing itself is beyond our knowledge. It is beyond what Kant calls understanding (Verstand). Our thoughts are a kind of judgement. 'Flower' is a judgement. To speak of 'this' or 'that' is a judgement. Such judgement, in other words, is a kind of concept. It's never the form of the thing itself. So what we express in words is not really the wisdom realized by immediately experiencing something. What we express in words is not something we immediately experience as 'hot.' Through an expedient, provisional wisdom, we grasp the concept of 'hotness.' That's what the Ch'eng wei shih lun says. However because we are accustomed to using language, we think that language expresses the thing itself. We fall into delusion 'perfuming through words,' especially through the perfuming of the word 'self.' From such perspective, even the Buddhist teaching differs from the world as immediately experienced and realized. Sakyamuni's true realization, what he really realized, is impossible to express in words. In so far as it is expressed, it has already been conceptualized. We must say that the words are already far away from the thing itself.

However, there is a problem here. Buddhism speaks of particular characteristics and common characteristics. However, can there be a particular characteristic apart from the common characteristic? When we speak of a particular characteristic, we are already speaking of the common characteristic. As long as we think of the common characteristic as being opposed to the particular characteristic, both the common characteristic and the particular characteristic are concepts. But when we do away with all knowledge, saying that there is nothing but the common characteristic, will there remain something called the particular characteristic? I think this is the point that we really must think about. Rather I think that the particular characteristic lies at the basis of all common characteristics, and the particular characteristic gives rise without end to the common characteristic. I think that is what the particular characteristic is in the true sense. I believe it was Cohen [13] who said that the Idea (rinen, Idee) is the self consciousness of concepts. This is very interesting. We can't get rid of concepts just because they are concepts. There must be something there at the basis of a concept. Some Idea must be the basis of a concept, and that Idea appears in the form of a concept. If we consider all concepts to be bad and throw them aside, doesn't this mean that we lose the subsistent Ideas? In any case, I have reservations concerning the distinction between particular characteristics and common characteristics. Where did such distinction come from, anyway? Who first began using such terms? If the realization of the thing itself and our words are in totally different realms, where did such words like particular characteristic and common characteristic come from? There is no end to questions like these.

Let us, on the other hand, say that enlightenment and words are not different things. Of course, even though enlightenment and words are not different, they are not identical either. Let's say here that it's possible to express enlightenment in words. If we say that we cannot truly express the realm of enlightenment, does this mean that the world of enlightenment can never be expressed using words? Or does it mean that, even though we really and truly want to express our enlightenment, it's impossible to express it because enlightenment is infinite?... We have to consider these two possibilities when we say that the world of enlightenment we realize cannot be expressed in words.

If it is impossible to express enlightenment in words, should we blame the words or should we blame the person who is unable to express it in words? Although it's possible to say that the words are at fault, I'm not convinced that it's so. I want to stress the other view, that we cannot find the words to express it or that our enlightenment cannot deepen itself enough to express itself in words. Therefore, when we say that enlightenment cannot be expressed in words, it is because it is infinite in content. No matter how many words we expend to express it, it is still infinite. It is possible to even to say that enlightenment is inexpressible, because that in itself is an expression....

It's not easy to express profound experiences in words. Let's consider the bodhisattva's vows and practices in the ten stages of his progress to Buddhahood. At the first Stage of Joy, the bodhisattva discovers the truth and experiences joy. In the second stage, the truth he has discovered is put into action. Reaching the third stage, the bodhisattya hears the true teaching for the first time. He then continue his practices until he reaches the eighth and ninth stages. At these stages, he is finally able to preach the Dharma. This shows how difficult it is to express oneself in words.... Although some people say that actions speak louder than words, in the world of true self awakening, I think that words are to be valued over action. Seen in this way, it must be said that words do not necessarily hide a person, but that a person really appears in his most truthful words. A Buddhist treatise speak of both 'the dharma body of realization' (shotoku hosshin, prajnpti dharmakaya) and 'the dharma body of preaching' (shosetsu hosshin, vyavahara dharmakaya). The latter refers to the dharma body as words. In other words, one's entire person appears in one's words. I am convinced that the way to really encounter someone is through his most truthful words.

Chapter Five: The Teaching and the Truth

Next, let's go on to the relationship between the teaching and the truth, It's generally believed that the teaching and the truth are different. But this is open to question. First, if it's argued that the truth is different from words, let me ask, 'What is truth?' Truth is beyond words. We say that it is inexpressible. We call it 'truth' or 'suchness' (shinnyo). What then is the truth which is beyond all words? This is a major problem.

In thinking about the problem of the relationship between the truth and the teaching, we must first consider the relationship between the truth and enlightenment. What is the wisdom of enlightenment? And what is truth itself? Are the truth itself and the wisdom through which we awaken to the truth two different things? Or are they the same? This has long been a point of debate in Buddhism. One group of Buddhist scholastics vtw maintained that truth is an unconditioned (asamskrta) dharma, and hence is an eternal and changeless dharma. But the wisdom through which we awaken to this dharma is a human possession and hence is a conditioned (samskrta) dharma. For this reason, it was argued that the wisdom denlightenment and the truth itself must be strictly distinguished.

However, why is it necessary to maintain that the truth is unconditioned? When we say that the truth is unconditioned, we make the truth into some cold principle, into something cold and empty. Truth, of course, is infinite in content. That truth awakens to itself, Truth itself is what attains enlightenment. This is the argument of the second group of scholastics.

Indeed, it's been said since long ago that to really draw a flower, the flower must draw itself. The artist does not draw the flower, but the flower must make the artist draw the flower. In such situations, the artist disappears and the flower itself draws the flower. This, I've heard, describes the way in which the most accomplished artists paint their pictures. If that's true, then why isn't it possible for the unconditioned truth to act in the same way? To say it's impossible is only what humans have decreed. If we enter directly into the realm where the truth reveals itself - that is to say, in situations where we have really awakened to the truth we do not awaken to the truth but the truth becomes our self. Then the truth itself speaks and proclaims itself. It is here that the teaching is found. Hence the truth and the teachings are not two separate things. When the truth is to reveal itself as the truth, it becomes the teaching. When it's impossible for the truth just to remain as the truth, when it is necessary for the truth to reveal itself as the truth, then the truth becomes a person's words. Here the truth manifests itself as the teaching. Emphasizing this point, Buddhist scholars call this the teaching which 'Rows forth from the pure Dharma realm.'

Long ago, students of the Veda stated that 'speech is eternal.' Buddhist texts say that it's impossible for speech to be eternal, but that's because the authors of these texts wish to criticize this idea from the standpoint of Buddhist philosophical texts. But what arguments should we use to oppose those people who criticize the notion that speech is eternal? The words revealed in the Veda are true, and these words, they say, are eternal. But to such people, we can say that what the Veda teaches is not true. It's easy to say that what the Veda teaches is not true. But we cannot oppose the form of the Vedic expression 'speech is eternal.' That's because it's the truth announcing itself. The Veda is the god Brahma's story, It's the manifestation of the truth itself. Because it's argued in this way, it has an authority that we cannot deny. For this reason, it's the same as the teaching which 'flows forth from the pure Dharma realm.' In the Mahayana samgraha, we find words to the effect that the truth flows forth to become self realization, or that self realization flows forth to become the teaching. The teaching is the truth itself.

Let us consider the terms 'to give name' (nazukeru) and 'to proclaim oneself through a name' (nanoru). When we give names to things, they are concepts. But can we resist when a flower proclaims itself as a flower? Because the flower incessantly insists on proclaiming itself as a flower, I can do nothing but listen to the flower proclaiming itself. In struggling to proclaim itself, the truth becomes our self awareness, and this self awareness finally becomes the teaching. What does it mean to discover the truth apart from the teaching? Such a thing may be possible in a world that looks down on words, but it's impossible in the realm of truth. Rather, when we understand the real meaning of words, then we can discern the whole truth in the true teaching set forth by the teacher.

In the pages above, I have pointed out that there are two ways of looking at words, One is to see the true meaning of words, while the other is to see the conventional meaning of words. However, it is possible for the Buddha's true words to be understood in a conventional way. Moreover, there are some teachings taught by the Buddha on the level of conventional understanding. Neither, however, is the true teaching. But it does not mean that we must understand what kind of person Sakyamuni was in order to apprehend the true teaching. Rather by listening to the voice of the teaching, we discover both Sakyamuni and the truth in the teaching. Such teaching is the true teaching. From among the various Buddhist teachings, Shinran selected the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life as the true teaching. That is the object of Shin Buddhist studies.

In the 'Chapter on Faith' in the Kyogyoshinsho, Shinran states that the true teaching is the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. Furthermore, he summarizes the contents of the sutra with the words, 'to teach the Tathagata's Original Vow is the true intent of this sutra; the Name of the Buddha is its essence'. The Name of the Buddha here refers to Namu Amidabutsu, which are the words in which the Buddha proclaims himself. The Name refers to the Buddha proclaiming 'I am the Buddha!' or 'Here I am!' It is an expression of his enlightenment. The proclamation 'I am!' by the Buddha himself is at the basis of his teachings. His enlightenment is immediately proclaimed in his Name. If no proclamation is forthcoming, it cannot be the truth. As long as there no proclamation is forthcoming, it is impossible for the Buddha to be described as 'Immeasurable Light' or 'Immeasurable Life.' At the same time the Buddha proclaims 'I am!' and proclaims himself as Amida, he wishes to make this fact fully known to all the beings in the universes of the ten directions. Because he wishes to make his proclamation 'I am!' fully known to all beings, he sets forth his vow: 'I will become myself'. From the fundamental self awareness of 'I am!' arises the vow 'I will become myself' This vow that 'I will become myself' is none other than the forty eight vows. The original vows are not what we make privately. When the truth becomes an awakened person that is to say, when Amida comes forth (agata) from Suchness (tatha) it is expressed in the fundamental vow 'I will become myself.' i.e., the forty eight vows. For this reason, the forty eight vows are the essence of the Name. From the proclamation 'I am' issues the forty eight vows 'I will become myself.' And the vow 'I will become myself' is fulfilled the proclamation 'I am!'

When we hear the Name, we hear the Buddha proclaiming his Name 'I am!' From his deep desire to become himself, the Buddha set forth the forty eight vows, and, as Dharmakara Bodhisattva, worked to realize the Name proclaiming 'I am.' Hearing this Original Vow, Sakyamuni preached the Sutra of Immeasurable Life. Even Sakyamuni was unable to preach the true world from which the proclamation came forth. He preached just as he heard. The teaching which 'flows forth from the pure Dharma realm' refers to Sakyamuni's teaching which he expressed just as he heard, From this perspective, it's meaningless to assert that 'It is impossible to understand the teaching unless we understand Sakyamuni the person,' or that 'It is impossible to understand the teaching unless we understand the truth to which the teachings refer.' The teaching itself has an independent meaning. The teaching itself which possess an independent meaning is the true object of Shin Buddhist studies.

Chapter Six: Method Determined Naturally from the Object of Study

Once we understand what it is that we must study, the method for studying it will be determined as a matter of course. One possible method is the dogmatic authoritarianism which has long chaiacterized Shin Buddhist studies. It is, however, not the true method of study. I am not opposed to recognizing the authority of the teachings. However, I'm not sure whether it was the teaching, or the teacher, that was considered authoritative until now. Instead of recognizing the teaching itself as authoritative, the teacher was considered the source of authority. Since it was said by someone who never lies, it must be truthful, they said. However, we don't know if that's right unless we study the teachings closely. Although people may say that Sakyamuni's teaching is correct because he never lies, how can we know unless we rely on the teachings? We shall never know. People who think like this only recognize the authority of the teacher, and fail to recognize the authority of the teaching itself. We must not focus on the teacher but must clarify the significance of the teaching. If we just say that a teaching must be true because it was preached by an outstanding person and fail to study its significance, we cannot grasp the fundamental truth. It's only dabbling with words, and for his reason, it's not the true method of Shin Buddhist studies.

At the same time, it is incorrect to understand the teaching simply as a finger pointing to something else. For example, some people have preached that Amida is nothing but the manifestation of our minds (yuishin no mida) or that the Pure Land resides in our own mind (koshin no jodo). These are just two examples, but people who hold these views do not grant any meaning to the words of the teachings themselves. They turn their backs on the teaching, claiming that it is a symbol for something else, In my opinion, this is not the proper method of study either.

The genuine method is to apprehend the teaching of the Awakened One as a voice calling to us and to approach the object of the teaching. [14] What, then, should be our attitude in approaching that object? From this question arises the second method of Shin Buddhist study. Neither dogmatic authoritarianism nor the way of thinking which asserts that the truth must be sought outside the teaching are correct methods. On the contrary, we must grant true authority to the teaching and treat it with utmost respect. Since the teaching is none other than truth proclaiming itself in other words, since it is none other than the teaching of the Awakened One we must begin our analysis of the method of Shin Buddhist studies by reflecting on how the teaching echos in our ears and how our spirits are moved by the teaching.

1. Since long ago, 'study' in Buddhism and Confucianism has meant 'to mentally apprehend and physically practice something'. But nowadays studies are divided into things like the sciences and philosophy, or into natural science and normative science. Be that as it may, the important point is that a field of study is required to be organized systematically. Thus in thinking about whether Shin Buddhist studies can become a valid field of study, we must consider whether it can be organized systematically. However, I believe that a kind of system can be developed on the basis of Shinran's Kyogyoshinsho and that the significance of Shin Buddhist studies can be clarified from this perspective.
2. Of course, each person must pursue his or her own study by himself or herself. But for a discipline to truly be universal and valid, it requires that like minded people study the topic together. According to an old saying, 'When three people get together (to think about a problem), they're equal to Manjusri in wisdom.' A solution which results from Manjusri's wisdom is never a compromise worked out between conflicting positions. His wisdom is not based on individual guesses but is based on insight into genuine universal principle. In this sense, I would be honored if this Prolegomena were to be undersood as a suggestion for us to work together to create a field called Shin Buddhist studies.
3. Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics -tr.
4. Is not the fact that we have these three questions in particular the fact that one individual has these three questions the source from which arises the thing that can be systematized as a field of study? Furthermore, science works through observation, experimentation and thoughtful conideration of the result. These three steps, I believe, correspond to the three questions of 'what', 'how' and 'why'. Hence, if these three questions are fundamentally constitutive of our being, they may provide an opening from which to think about the so called 'primal or principal reason.'
5. I have said that the question 'why' leads to the object of Shin Buddhist studies, while the question 'how' leads to its method. However, concering the question 'why', I have not argued that it leads to anything, but that it concerns the significance of undertaking any study. This is because I believe that the question of 'why' is the most fundamental problem. In other words, it is on the basis of this fundamental 'why' that both the object and the method are determined.
6. '1415 1499. Rennyo played a pivotal role in spreading Shin Buddhism during the Muromachi period. In his efforts to popularize Shinran's teachings, he frequently employed the expression 'the great matter of the afterlife' -tr.
7. 'Of course, this is something that should be established as a field of study. But it is a way of studying from the 'outside', so to speak, and is not the pure Shin Buddhist studies that we seek. But the proper method for such study is also probably to be discovered on the fundamental idea of Shin Buddhist studies.
8. Shinran, who stated that the content of the true teaching is the Tathagata's Original Vow, would say that the object of Shin Buddhist studies is the Tathagata's Original Vows. However, I believe that the Tathagata's Original Vows can not be limited to being the object or the method of study.
9. Fascicle 5, '(Phonemes, words and phrases) belong to sentient beings. They belong to the person who speaks, not to the things that they designate' (This translation is taken from Louis de la Vallee Poussin, Leo M. Pruden tr., Abhidharmakosabhasyam (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 19881 vol. 1, 253 -tr.)
10. This is found in the first chapter of the Lao tzu (Tao le ching). Cf. Wing tsit Chan. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963): 139. -tr.
11. A term taken from the Yogacarara consciousness only philosophy. The Yogacara school maintains that all phenomena arise from the alayavijnana ('storehouse consciousness'), which corresponds to the eighth and deepest level of human consciousness. The arising of phenomena is due to the maturation of the various bija ('seeds') that were 'perfumed' (or 'planted') in the alayavijnana. The bija are planted in two ways: through the effects of past actions (karma) and through hearing words, such as the teaching of an enlightened person. The term 'perfuming through words' refers to this second type of perfuming.
12. The real refers to the particular characteristic. This is because neither provisional knowledge nor expression are its object. Neither pro provisional knowledge nor expression reach the particular characteristic. They only move in the realm of the common characteristics of dharmas.' (T3 1, 7b. -tr.)
13. Hermann Cohen (1842-1918). The founder of the Marburg school of NeoKantianism.
14. Here arises the question of how to hear and accept the teaching 'just as it is'.

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