Saturday, November 8, 2008

Reactions against Kobai Sensei's statement and my answers (part2)

This long post is for those of you who have enough patience to read :)) and are interested in the nowadays wrong understanding of Amida Buddha being a symbol, myth or a fictional character.

It is a second collection of fragments from my correspondence with many people (I keep their names anonymous) from Europe or USA who wrote to me (read first reactions here) after I presented and supported the clear statement of Kobai Sensei made at the 15th European Shinshu Conference. I will add more correspondence in time, as I receive new letters on this topic and answer to them. I just hope that people will stop arguing on this mater and just accept what Shakyamuni and Shinran preached in the sacred texts. I am tired of debates, and I hate debates, but sometimes I really have no other option than to stand up and fight against the wrong views that are prevalent in our international sangha which to my sadness, it often becomes a dangerous place where everything is accepted and labeled as Jodo Shinshu. Unfortunately, my attitude is often mistaken as being impolite and no matter how hard I try to explain to people that I am just doing my duty as a priest, a guardian and transmitter of the teaching we find in the sacred texts, many of them seem not to understand this. Well, although it saddens me, I have no other option than to go on without thinking too much about my image in the eyes of others.

Other articles related with this topic are:

1.Kobai Sensei's statement (video) - Amida is a true and real Buddha, not a fictional character

2.Reactions against Kobai Sensei's statement and my answers

3Amida as a Sambhogakaya Buddha

4Some discussions on the nature of Amida Buddha

You may also find all articles related with the true understanding (as we find in the sacred texts) of Amida Buddha here.



“But especially scholars use the term "myth" in another sense: as a neutral word for the "talking about the numinal" [The Japanese word "shinwa" f.e. means God/deity/the numinal (shin)- talk (wa)]. In this sense the word is very useful for two reasons:

The first reason is that if people of different religious confession come together to talk about their relgious experiences, they can use this term as framework and bridge between their ideas. For example, if Christians and Buddhists talk about how they deal with suffering, Christians will say: by looking at the cruelsome suffering of Christ and his ressurrection, and Buddhists will f.e. say: by contemplation on the univerality of suffering within the cyclic existence. For Christian scholar of religious study is the cross and resurrection of Christ in the same way the mythological symbol for suffering as the cycle of existence is for the Buddhist scholar. “


My friend, I don’t know what the word “myth” might mean in academic circles and do not really understand its usefulness there, but I know that using this word when preaching the Dharma is not at all a good upaya (suitable method) in explaining the reality of Amida Buddha. Religion has to address to all kind of people in order to awake faith in them, and it is normal for ordinary people to take this word “myth” in the sense that Amida is not truly real or 100% real (in his transcendental form or Sambhogakaya). Also I always see that these scholars who relate to Amida as to a myth are the same people who deny the reality, in terms of causes and effect, of the story of Dharmakara becoming Amida Buddha in the Larger Sutra, and go so far as to deny the authenticity of this sutra, things that Shinran or Rennyo never did. As I always stated, these scholars who deny the authenticity of the Pure Land sutras can’t understand the transmission of sutras through Samadhi, as Inagaki explains, and they do not understand the effects of their complicated explanations and personal ideas on ordinary followers. They don’t understand that people can’t be lead to the religious experience of shinjin through such explanations by using terms like “myth”, “symbol” or fictional character.

And these terms are always related with one another in the minds of scholars who use them, like for example, Nobuo Haneda who says very clear that Amida is “a fictional character like Hamlet” .

They don’t use the word “myth” as you explained in your examples, related with suffering, but they always relate this word with what they say it is the not so real story of Dharmakara becoming Amida, or the Three Pure Land sutras not being taught by Shakyamuni, etc. And they don’t use this word in academic discussions only, but in the presentation of the Jodo Shinshu teaching in temples, sanghas and websites! Words like myth, symbol or fictional character are used in Dharma talks which become so complicated that I wonder who truly receives shinjin or simple entrusting in Amida, through this kind of Dharma discourse.



“But this has nothing to do with the perception of reality the respective scholar has ("myth" is not the opposite of reality!). For a Shin Buddhist the Universal Vow is more real than even the keyboard on which I am typing now these lines, because the keyboard could just be one of my illusions, a fever fantasy created by Mara, but not the Universal Vow!”


I doubt these scholars really have the understanding of Amida as being true and real and of the Primal Vow being true and real, when they doubt the authenticity of the Larger Sutra in which the story of Dharmakara making the Primal Vow and becoming Amida is taught by Shakyamuni. I, for example, can’t believe in this sutra if this sutra was not actually taught by Shakyamuni but imagined or created by some wise monks many centuries later, for whatever the reason. I believe in Amida because Shakyamuni talked about Amida – it is because a Buddha talked about Amida, I entrust in Amida.

As Shinran said in Tannisho:

“If Amida's Primal Vow is true, Shakyamuni's teaching cannot be false.”so by Shakyamuni’s mouth and words we come to believe in the Primal Vow and Amida!

Also Shinran said in the Shoshinge:

“The reason for the Buddha's appearance in the world
Is solely to expound the Primal Vow of Amida, wide and deep as the ocean.
All beings in the evil age with five defilements
Should believe in the truth of the Buddha's words.”

“Myth” or “symbol” used in the explanation of the reality of Amida Buddha clearly takes the mind of the listener to the idea of something not 100% real, and opens subtle gates to many misunderstandings. These words will always make us think to something created or imagined by the human mind in order to explain something which is beyond our comprehension. And if something is in some way created or imagined by human beings, then this is not true and real, but the product of the human mind.

Why should we use such words as myth or symbol in relation with Amida Buddha and the story in the sutras of Dharmakara becoming Amida, and complicate our minds ?

Using these words in explaining the nature of Amida Buddha is dangerous and surely leading to misunderstandings.

We can’t use neutral terms when we speak about Amida in Dharma talks. Why should we do that? People have to feel they have a relation with Amida Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form, feel embraced and accepted by a true and real Buddha and words like myth or symbol are not at all helpful in this. Such language was never used by our Masters, so why should we use them in explaining the Dharma?

I will never agree with the use of such words in relation with Amida in the international sangha, because I know what lies beneath these words and where these words are leading the mind of the listeners. Amida has to be perceived exactly as it was described in the sutras and sacred texts, that is in accordance with the doctrine of the Three Buddha bodies, etc

All those scholars who use words like myth, symbol or fictional character, can’t accept 100% the sutras and the sacred texts, and they are not intellectually comfortable with Amida Buddha as a transcendent (Sambhogakaya) Buddha. They are indeed false teachers because they spread their misunderstandings among others and don’t help them in receiving simple faith from Amida. Because only by listening the true teaching we can receive shinjin from Amida.

The situation is too much complicated than you explain it and this complications didn’t appear if we would just explain the teaching as it is in the sacred texts and don’t try to change it or accommodate it with our own ideas or understanding of this or that concept.

Why not keep simple our Jodo Shinshu teaching because it was meant to be simple and easy to understand.



“The second reason why many scholars, eypecially the deeply religious one, like using the word "myth", could be called relgious respect. Particularily we Buddhist should be aware of our limited human mind. A myokonin once said: "Between me and an ant is only one degree, but between Amida and me there are 52". If there were an ant crowling on my sleeve and asking me (it if could perceive me at all): What are you doing now?", do you think I could answer: "I am writing an e-mail now"? An ant has no idea of "writing" and "e-mail" and so on. I would answer (if I could at all) something like: "I am setting a scent mark." Buddha Shakyamuni was in the same situation, when he talked about the Pure Land and the Buddha Amida to ordinary people.”


“The sutra f.e. says that Amida attained buddhahood 10 kalpas ago, but indeed Amida is the eternal Buddha, who is Buddha since endless times (Look: Jodo Wasan 55). This is really beyond our reason.”


When Shinran speaks about Amida as being “a Buddha more ancient than kalpas countless as particles”, he refers to the Dharmakaya or ultimate nature of Amida Buddha. But he never said we should entrust in the ultimate nature of Amida, which we cannot understand, but in Amida as the fulfillment of his Primal Vow, which is Sambhogakaya.

And in many parts of his writings, including the Shoshinge, he writes again the same teaching about Dharmakara becoming Amida as presented in the Larger Sutra, a sutra which these scholars who say Amida is a myth do not feel comfortable with it and say it was not actually preached by Shakyamuni.

Bodhisattva Dharmakara, in his causal stage,
Was in the presence of Lokeshvararaja, the Enlightened One.
He saw the pure lands of many Buddhas, observed how they had been established,
And examined everything, good and bad, about the humans and gods inhabiting them.
He then brought forth the unsurpassed and most excellent Vows..

He also said:

Amida, full of compassion for those lost in the great night of ignorance -
The wheel of light of dharma-body being boundless -
Took the form of the Buddha of Unhindered Light
And appeared in the land of peace.

This and other many quotes in the writing of Shinran clearly shows that he always related to Amida and adviced others to relate to him as to a Buddha in transcendental form, that is as the fulfillment of the practices and Vows of Dharmakara.

He also said:

“Amida, who attained Buddhahood in the infinite past,
Full of compassion for foolish beings of the five defilements,
Took the form of Sakyamuni Buddha
And appeared in Gaya

So, Shakyamuni was actually the manifestation of Amida. But if the Pure Land sutras were not actually taught by Shakyamuni, how can we entrust in Amida Buddha?

I repeat, those people who say Amida is a myth, symbol or fictional character are the same people who don't believe that the sutras were actually preached by Shakyamuni. Just ask them or read their writings and you will see.



“-Therefore some people speak about the "myth of Amida" because they deeply feel that Amida is beyond the range of human language.”


Exactly because Amida is beyond the range of human language, we should not use language and terms in describing Amida that was not used by Shakyamuni in the sutras or Shinran himself!!

People who use terms like myth or symbol in describing Amida are in fact thinking that they can somehow explain Amida and put Amida in the framework of their intelectual ideas created by their limited minds . They don’t just listen and accept with humbleness the teaching as it was presented in the sutras and words of Shinran, but try to accommodate it with their minds. And they are labeling their ideas as being Jodo Shinshu. This is wrong and dangerous as I showed in many parts of this letter.



“Amida is also beyond what we call history: not, because he is not real, but because everything which is part of historical sciences does not reach to the era of Dharamkara and even our perception of what an era and time is, may be wrong in this dimension.”


Our history is just an extremely little part of the cosmic history and we should not think that some things never happened because it was not happened in the history we know on this earth. In Buddhism it is always talked about “the beginningless past" and endless future. In this infinite interval of time, Buddhas will always appear. But what some scholars are doing is to accommodate the infinite dimensions to our limited visions, - exactly like in your example with the ant. These scholars are just unenlightened ants who wish to change something which they can’t understand, and more than this, they wish to change the medicine (Dharma about Amida) given to us, sick people by the doctor (Shakyamuni and Shinran) , as if they are themselves doctors. I find this very dangerous and not a good method in presenting the Dharma, and I will always be against any attempt to change the teaching on the basis of such and such personal opinion.

I am just a simple priest who wishes to be only a transmitter of the Dharma as I received it from the Masters and pass it to others. I will never let my ego to modify the teaching on the basis of my personal views. I can’t label as Jodo Shinshu something which was not actually taught by Shakyamuni and the Masters of our tradition.



“In your last mails you used often the word "right and wrong views". It is true: there are ríght and wrong views, and if I look at other people I am often very saddened. Most people on the world will never come into contact to the teaching of Buddha Amida, and the few one who did misunderstand it or even don't take it for serious. This applies even to the most of the Japanese Shin Buddhists. But what can I do: I am not a Buddha, I cannot see into their mind and how I should agitate that they will develop best. I even don't know whether my own understandnig of the teaching is absolutely correct. Even if I had some extraordinate teachers, how should I know that their understandnig is correct?"


My friend, there is something we can do and what we should do, without the need to see in the minds of others. We have the intellectual capacity to read and study seriously the sacred texts and to understand them. By understanding with the head the CONTENT of the teaching in the sacred texts, we can receive shinjin in the HEART from Amida. If your understanding is in accord with what Shinran and Rennyo themselves taught, then you know that your understanding is true. Further, we should teach and transmit to others only what is presented in the sacred texts.

Also when we listen to other teachers presenting the teaching, we should compare their words with the words and explanations of Shinran and Rennyo and the sacred texts. If their words are in accord with these sacred texts, then what they say is true, if their words are not in accord with these sacred texts and words of our Masters, then their words are not true and they are false teachers.

My friend, Yuien-bo didn’t just stay aside and do nothing when he met with wrong understandings of his time, but took action. He had courage in refuting the false views on the basis of the words of his Master Shinran. This is exactly what we should do today in confronting the modern misunderstandings. If there was indeed no possibility for us to understand anything, then Yuien-bo would not write the Tannisho or Shinran and Rennyo didn’t write anything. We are intelligent human beings and we can understand what is written in the works of our Masters and we can compare them with what some scholars are saying about Amida.



“What I mean is: we should be cautious in judging the faith of others and not overestimate our own understanding.”


We can judge and compare the words of others in relation with the sacred texts. We have the right to do this because some claim to be Jodo Shinshu teachers and they are preaching to us. And we can very well say that someone who don’t understand Amida as it was simply presented by Shakyamuni or Shinran, don’t have shinjin and the experience of salvation. Nobody who distorts the teaching can ever receive shinjin or be able to help others.



“For example the idea that Buddha Amida is a fictional character is a clear misunderstanding, and - if taken in this way - the claim , that the story of Amida is a "mythos", or Amida is not "historically real" can also be typical wrong views.”


As I previously said, the using of words like myth, symbol or fictional character are always related with the denial of the story of Amida and the authenticity of the Pure Land sutras – just read how X in my discussions with him on the shindo group said he can’t accept the story of Amida and that he and also others like Rev Unno and Rev. Bloom deny the fact that the Pure Land sutras were actually preached by Shakyamuni. All these people are acting like they understand everything related with Shakyamuni and the transmission of Mahayana sutras.



“Just imagine someone who strongly believes that Amida is "only" a mythos (in meaning 1) and that "religious imagination" as believing in a "story" like this is a good means to oppress the mortal fear. Suppose he continues his dharma studies only for purpose of interesting discussion or scientific achievments. If he really comes to die, then there will presumably the point of ultimate despair, in which he understands that Amida is not only a story. Then his nembutsu is ripe. - But if he meets a very strict Shin Buddhist at the beginning, who rebukes his "wrong views" and critizises him severely, may be he will feel discouraged and give up his studies in the Shin Buddhist teaching. When it comes to die, everything is forgotten, what he has learned about the teaching, and he dies without the nembutsu.”


I can’t know exactly all the condition that may appear in the personal history of such and such person, but I have never seen to Rennyo, Shinran or Yuien-bo the attitude of letting a wrong understanding to prevail in their lifetimes because who knows, maybe somebody can somehow achieve something or even shinjin at the end of his life, like in the example you gave. We can imagine a lot of examples and specific situation, but we can’t, for no reasons, because nobody of our Masters did, to let some misunderstanding spread.

And I repeat, those false ideas about Amida are not talked only in academic levels, but in the temples, Dharma talks, introductions into Jodo Shinshu and many websites, and all these false ideas are labeled as being Jodo Shinshu. We just can’t stay aside and imagine various ideal situations of a misunderstanding turned into a good understanding by chance.

In the personal example of Shinran and Rennyo we see how they actually worked hard and wrote a lot of letters only to correct errouneous views. We should do the same. I will do the same, because I am priest ordained by Hongwanji, and I am loyal to all the Masters recognized by Hongwanji. I am in the same school with Master Rennyo who was never resting in matters of presenting the same teaching of Shinran in clear terms and with no such complications as some modern scholars use.



“I think we should be very aware that we live in mappo, and not only in mappo, but perhaps in the end of mappo. 99 percent of the people will not come into contact with the dharma in their life, 99 percent of people who do are not interested, and 99 percent of the few ones who are interested are interested for the wrong reasons. Therefore let's do our best and don't be harsh to the weak people.”


I am not harsh with anybody. I repeatedly said that I do not attack somebody in his private life but only at the levels of ideas and opinions. I do not relate myself to the weaknesses of anybody, but to the ideas they present as being Jodo Shinshu. And I do this for the sake of the many people who have hard lives and difficulties and are feeling hopeless about their end of suffering. It is a great sorrow for me to think these people might never meet the actual teaching of Shinran and thus receive shinjin from Amida, but meet the various bubble of the many so called teachers of Jodo Shinshu.

And also those people who present wrong understandings are not weak, but have a lot of publicity on the internet and in Buddhist magazines and their books and articles are read by so many people as representing Jodo Shinshu teaching.

And nobody takes attitude, not even those who received the priest ordination and promised in the front of the Founder and Go Monshu sama to “help others receive shinjin”! This is truly sad. And if somebody tries to challenge those false teachers and ask them to relate in their expositions only to the words of the sutras and sacred texts, like I do and Kobai Sensei does, then he is considered to be an extremist and fundamentalist!



“Nevertheless let us always be very humble and modest. It is true that throughout the history of Jodo Shinshu the critism against wrong understandings of the teaching is one of the main topics. But it neeeds a lot of experience really to say what it is a right and wrong interpretation of the dharma. One must learn the dharma for decades, and cultivate not only the listening to the dharma, but also to the people. Therefore all great teachers, you have mentionend, began to write, when they were over forty and developed their i-anjin theories usually very late, in their last years.”


I understand the need to stay humble. And I also interpret the need to stay humble as always relating in our talks and writings and Dharma teaching activities only to the words of Shinran and Shakyamuni. This is humbleness and modesty – to always present and explain the words of the Masters, not our own interpretations. As long as we think we are only transmitters, we are humble.

Also I don’t think it needs a lot of experience to read the story of Dharmakara becoming Amida and to realize that Amida is not a fictional character, symbol or myth. We can read the words and understand them if we are sincere and humble seekers, wishing just to understand what Shakyamuni’s teaching about Amida is. Our Jodo Shinshu teaching is meant to be simple to understand and its message is clear, so one doesn’t need many decades to understand its essentials, and one essential thing in this teaching is that we entrust in Amida Buddha who is a true and real Buddha, not a fictional character. These kind of things we can understand and we can and have the right to go against views that say something else.

Life is very short and fragile, we even can die in a few days or hours. We have to struggle and read the Dharma texts and listen to the Dharma (reading is also listening) like this is the last day of our life. I can’t wait for decades until I am able to say that those who present Amida as a myth, symbol or fictional character (which are all terms related with one another in the minds of those who sustain such views) are false teachers and are presenting wrong views which were never taught by Shakyamuni and Shinran. Especially I am a priest and now my duty is to help others receive shinjin and I can’t do that if I don’t teach them the words of the Masters and show to them the wrong ideas that are prevalent in our days.

This is my duty. If I needed to wait a few decades until I can do this duty well, then I should close the gate of the dojo and close my blog and talk to nobody. But I can’t do that. So I will continue my own studies which are studies only of the sacred texts in Jodo Shinshu canon, asking advice when there is something I don’t understand, from truly wonderful teachers of our times like Inagaki Sensei, Kobai Sensei and George Gatenby Sensei and in the same time, continue my preaching activities. There is no time to wait. We need to act now.



“We should also have deep respect for the scholars and their achievements (even if we not totally agree with their theories), because everything we know about the dharma we have received through their translations (or - if we are translators byself- through the tradition of translation).”


I have respect for every human being and also for them, but this doesn’t mean that all the scholars are saying is true and in accord with the words of the Masters. Why is this tendency among some members of the international sangha, to think that if I disagree with some scholars and say they are spreading false ideas, it means that I don’t respect them? But lets be precise – not all the scholars who translated the sacred texts into English are false teachers. I know nobody in the Hongwanji translation committee to assert such views like Amida being a fictional character. I also enjoy Inagaki Sensei’s translations and he doesn’t speak about Amida in terms of myth, symbol or fictional character.



“You are saying that Shinran never used words like "myth", "symbol" etc., but did he use words like "true and real". This is a translation, but what words are in the background? And supposed the translation is the best possible, what connotations are translated and what connotations are lost? If you interpret texts, the connections you discover by reading the Japanese original are different to those you can find by only reading a translation. This is due to the fact, that the translation here is not only the translation between the same type of languages (German to English, or English to Romanian), it is a translation between two totally different linguistic universes. “


My friend, Shinran used many words in which he CLEARLY talked about Amida Buddha as being a true Buddha on which we can rely. He also accepted and presented in his writings, like in Shoshinge, the story of Amida which we can find in the Larger Sutra. This can’t be denied. What words can be in the background of this?? He repeated the story of Amida and he entrusted in it. He spoke about Amida as a Sambhogakaya Buddha, which is not at all a myth or fictional character! It is clear for everybody who reads his words or the sutras with the story of Amida, and wishing sincerely to understand what Amida is, that Amida is a Buddha one can rely on, a real personal manifestation in terms of causes and effects of the ultimate Dharmakaya.

We don’t have here a problem of language! Why should we complicate our minds, inventing many theories and thinking to many complications when this Jodo Shinshu teaching is meant to be a simple path of entrusting to Amida Buddha!

Do we really want to escape this burning house and be born in the Pure Land ? Do we really want other people receive shinjin – simple entrusting in Amida Buddha? If we want this, then nobody can really entrust into a fictional character or symbol, into something which is somehow the invention of human mind, and find salvation by this false entrusting! It is as simple as that.

There are many situations when we see that our masters wanted us to keep the teaching simple and not make it complicate. We can never really draw the conclusion from Honen’s “One sheet document”, or from Rennyo Letters or from Tannisho that Amida is a fictional character or a myth. The idea of Amida being a fictional character or symbol is in itself impossible to accept in the context of this simple, devotional and faith oriented school. There is no point in continuing the discussion on this theme, just if we wish to complicate ourselves.



“It is wise, if Christian churches demand of their priests that they have to learn old Greece , Latin and Hebrew within their theological studies. Also in Japan at Ryukoku or Otani Úniversity people learn a very sophisticated Shin Buddhist "theology", for which one needs at least traditional Chinese and Kamakura Japanese. Not everything is clear, if you read those languages, on the contrary, they are exstremely ambigous, there remains a big translation problem even into the modern Japanese. It is naive to say, the true teaching of Shinran or Rennyo is only this or that. Nothing is done by just quoting a English translation. This gives us only a first idea, from which the work can begin.”


We don’t need to learn old Chinese to receive the simple message of Jodo Shinshu. The translations we also have here in English are good enough so that we can simply entrust in Amida Buddha and be born in his Pure Land . Can we somehow find through learning old Chinese that the message of Jodo Shinshu is something else than to entrust in Amida Buddha and be born in the Pure Land ? There is no ambiguity in this and if there is no ambiguity in this, it logically follows that we can’t be born in the Pure Land with the help of something described as a myth (no matter the sense you use it), symbol or fictional character and that those who assert such views are not true teachers. It is simple and logical. Can we somehow find through studying old Chinese that Amida is a fictional character? I don’t think so.

But the minds of some scholars will always remain complicated and they will always find something to make it even more complicated for others to understand.

I believe that I will be born in the Pure Land because through reading the sacred texts translated into English I was made by Amida Buddha to entrust in him. I feel my birth in the Pure Land assured and now my mission is very clear to me: to continue my studies and help others listen the true teaching so that they will also receive shinjin.

I don’t know if I have enough time to study Japanese. I always have in the background of my study the thought of impermanence. All my Buddhist activities, be it study or translating or teaching, are based on the thought of impermanence. I am always happy that I am alive just one more month to help another one receive the simple message about Amida.

Shinjin and salvation is received only with the knees on the temple’s floor, with the eyes and ears in complete concentration to absorb the essentials of the teaching. This is a religious path, not a scientific path. Here we are talking about people’s salvation from suffering, and we can’t play with people’s salvation. Jodo Shinshu is not an academical object of study, like somebody studies chemistry, for example.

I am a priest in the front line, that is, in a country where Jodo Shinshu is at its very beginning. There are already people who are listening to the teaching and others will come also. I can’t leave all the people I have here and go to Japan for academical studies! I can’t let these people without the chance to listen the Dharma because I want to spend some years in Japan . Who knows what might happen in these years! As I said, I always live with the powerful sense of impermanence.

My opinion is that few of those who follow academical studies are truly aware of impermanence and most of them, don’t live like me in a dojo and a country where Jodo Shinshu is at its very beginning.

There were others among my teachers who did academical studies, like Inagaki Sensei and Kobai Sensei. I think I can continue very well my Dharma work here and my studies while keeping close contacts with them and ask guidance from them. I don’t need to go to Japan in order to learn Jodo Shinshu.

But in time I will surely send a member of my sangha to Japan to study and come back here to help me. Now I have a member here who learns Japanese.



“stay away from these hectic discussions! Develop awareness for the details!”


I will never stay away and do nothing when I see divergences from the words of Shinran or the sutras, no matter those who support such divergences are scholars or not. Kobai Sensei, who has the academical rank of shikyo, is also very active in fighting with the same divergences like me. Why does he says the same words like me? He is a scholar and he fights the same “fight” like me, so I am not the only one and as you see, I have a great supporter. Also George Gatenby Sensei in Australia doesn’t agree with the idea of talking about Amida as a myth, symbol or fictional character. Also Inagaki Sensei doesn’t agree with these descriptions of Amida and he is a scholar too. I keep a good correspondence with him on many topics and I know very well that he shares the same ideas like me – Amida as a Sambhogakaya Buddha, etc. Also, when I read the sacred texts I always study them in detail and read a text again and again but I have never found words like myth, symbol or fictional character in them.



“F.e. you claimed. that there is a difference between some scholars who use the word "myth" and Shinran. Then you must first find out what the scholars mean by their term. And then you must find words in Kamakura Japanese which Shinran could have used expressing a similar idea. What is Shinran saying about them? Is there a contradiction between the modern scholars and Shinran? etc.”


As I said, life is short. I clearly never seen, and my teachers to whom I am in correspondence, never seen a description of Amida in the sacred texts who can be similar with words like myth, symbol or fictional character. These are all modern human inventions, nothing else. And I repeat what I said in my previous letter: these scholars who are talking about Amida in terms of myth, symbol or fictional character are the same who don’t accept the Three Pure Land sutras as being actually taught by Shakyamuni and who don’t accept the story of Dharmakara becoming Amida.

I will never think there is something good in the bubble of these scholars when they don’t even recognize the Pure Land sutras as being actually taught by Shakyamuni.

This is inacceptable to me and I clearly have nothing in common with somebody who doesn’t accept the authenticity of the Pure Land sutras.

So, for me, this topic is closed. I don’t need to complicate my mind by going to Japan and study all the bubble of many scholars, while leaving alone my people in Romania, and do nothing for Jodo Shinshu here for many years in which who knows what might happened.



“Maybe you will answer: I am a practioner and do not want to become a scholar. - This is okay, but then you must accept that you have not the right to write polemics against them. In this case, it is also okay if you say: "For me Amida is not a 'myth' for this and that reason." (As I already mentioned, I totally agree with this oppinion, if the term "myth" is just taken in an ordinary sense.) But you cannot claim it as the official doctrine of Shinran and the Honganji, because it is simply not true (insofar there are other understandigs of this term and they are even used by respected "theologists" of the Honganji.)”


On the contrary, I have the right to write polemics, as Kobai Sensei who is a scholar, also does, against those ideas of Amida being interpreted as a myth, symbol or fictional character. And I have the right to do so because I am a Jodo Shinshu follower. In Rennyo’s time he encouraged even some lay followers to speak about the teaching and even praised their simple understanding – attention, he praised simple understanding! – while sometimes he criticized the wrong understanding of some priests. He encouraged simple people’s understanding even if they were not scholars. Also I don’t think that only the scholars have the right to speak about what is good or wrong understanding in Jodo Shinshu. I have this right too. Although I have only tokudo ordination, I was appointed by Hongwanji as representative of Jodo Shinshu in Romania . I was given the right to preach and teach Jodo Shinshu, and of course, not to let wrong views spread here.

Nobody can truly act as a messenger or missionary in a country or in any place if he says only words like “my opinion is this, but you can think or speak whatever you wish and say this is Jodo Shinshu”!A missionary with a full sense of his mission has to be very serious and have an uncompromising attitude in what is true and false teaching. He has to present the teaching exactly as it is written in the sacred texts and on the basis of the sacred texts he can say “this is wrong understanding, or this is good understanding”. It is exactly what we have to do in Europe where Jodo Shinshu is also at its very beginning. Many wrong ideas can be spread and labeled as Jodo Shinshu only because we think we don’t have the right to act because we are not scholars.

And I repeat again, the word myth in every sense it is used (ordinary or not) is not useful in describing Amida Buddha and more than this, it is a danger. And all the scholars who use this term are the ones who don’t recognize Pure Land sutras as being taught by Shakyamuni.

I will continue to criticize such views and say these views are not Hongwanji’s views, because as far as I know, Hongwanji’s official doctrine is expressed only in the texts from the Jodo Shinshu canon. Hongwanji also recognizes the Pure Land sutras as being taught by Shakyamuni and the story of Dharmakara becoming Amida. So, I truly represent the view of Hongwanji, and if the actual leadership of Hongwanji will somehow disagree with me, they should write me a letter and say it clearly that they accept the description of Amida in terms of symbol, myth, or fictional character and that the Pure Land Sutras were not taught by Shakyamuni.

Then, maybe I will set my robes and my kesa in fire, and close myself in my temple.



“Just be as gentle as the water, that changes the side of this earth, just by flowing along gently. Amida Buddha needs no warriors, he does it all by himself or better already has done it all. To teach what Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin had to say, is our duty, whether or not the people follow or gain Shinjin is not up to us. It´s Amida, who grands it to the people, it´s a gift, that is not coming from us or through our effort. I believe strongly in remaining as calm as possible in any matter, it is not easy all the time of course, but one can always try and leave the things to Oya-Samma.”


My friend, if we just remain calm and do nothing, don’t react clearly by saying “this is not the teaching of Shinran”, when misunderstandings arrive, then I think we don’t do our duty as priests or representatives of Jodo Shinshu.

In the working of Amida, the teacher is one of the five conditions for birth in the Pure Land , as explained by Rennyo, so a true teacher spreading the true teaching is extremely important.

If we just let things happen and say Amida does everything and we do nothing to prevent the spreading of the wrong understandings then how can people who come to the temples and dojos receive shinjin? Only when one listens the true teaching from a true teacher, then he can receive shinjin from Amida.

The working of Amida is spread through men and women of shinjin and with clear and right understanding of the teaching, and not through people of false views.

If by being gentle we mean “there is enough room or space in the sangha, for people who spread ideas that Amida is a fictional character”, then we are not gentle but foolish. And people with wrong understandings will use our foolishness and lack of strong reaction to destroy the Dharma. Shinran himself was not always “gentle”, you know the case with Zenran, and that case was not the only one. Master Rennyo also one time closed a temple because people there were losing time. And he was very strong in his attitudes during his entire life of reconstructing the sangha.

Sometimes here I refused people with wrong understanding and mixing practices from giving them the Three Refuges and recognizing them in my sangha. I also refused to recommend them for kikyoshiki because I don’t think their place is within the Jodo Shinshu sangha.

I also firmly believe that the place of those who spread wrong understandings is outside the sangha, because the sangha is not a place where everything can be said, but where only the true Dharma is taught. As Master Zuiken said: “Keep your mouth shut and let the Buddha Dharma speak”. Not everybodie's ideas, but the Dharma!

I am very sad that my clear statements and repeated statements (because I always react when I see somebody saying something false) are not understood in their real sense. But I prefer to stay like this, firm, clear and insisting on the difference between true and false, always relating to the sacred texts.

Of course, I never relate to the personal life or private life of those with whom I oppose, but in rest I will say everything I think that has to be said, especially that their place is not in the sangha as teachers.



"Namo Amida Butsu" what else is there to be explain?”


Ok, then from now on, when somebody comes to your dojo or center, just tell them Namo Amida Butsu and if they ask you something don’t talk to them, just say Namo Amida Butsu. :)))

And if these so called “modern scholars” erase all their personal views from all the websites and all Buddhist magazines, I will also shut up and say only Namo Amida Butsu. :)))

Also I think, if there were no deviations from Shinran’s teaching, Yuien bo also would shut up or say only Namo Amida Butsu.

you may also want to read this article

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

4 comentarii:

Paul said...

Dear Adrian - Even if there are only a few of us standing up for the True Teaching in our day as Yuien-Bod stood up in his, it is enough.

In our declarations of truth, we are not arguing or debating with sentient beings. It's not my job to argue or debate with anyone - much less convince them of anything.

Rather we are deconstructing the DELUSIONS of sentient beings. In this case, like Yuien-Bo, we are deconstructing the delusions of those who - having once been taught the True Teaching by Master Shinran, Master Rennyo and others - have since laid it aside in order to embrace some other teachings that cannot save anyone.

It is part of our job to point that out - just as Eiken Kobai Sensei does - and I am glad you do so.



Gary Link said...

Dear Rev. Cirlea- I just finished reading the comments posted on this thread and I am amazed. Why the insistance of Amida as 'myth'?

How does one become 'truly settled' in this life based upon Amida as myth? How do we form our relationship and devotion to Amida as myth? We don't, because it will never go any further than a concept or idea. There is no Shinjin in myth. I am grateful for my teachers, Kobai Sensei and Inagaki Sensei.

Coming from Master Honen's (Shinran's teacher) perspectice-there is no myth. Amida is real and true, end of story. Myth is a 20th century word used to describe what other religions truly believed to be real.

'Once a scholar is born, he forgets the Nembutsu'-Honen

Be Well-


JAY said...

just some thoughts from Rennyo Shonin that seem to apply to this discussion:
45. "People of the present should study the past.
Old people should teach of the past.
Spoken words become lost;
written words are not". --from thus I have heard
the working of great compassion brought about the written form of the sutras for times such as these when people misunderstand or vainly mislead. Rennyo wanted us to remember the writings. and though some cannot read those that do should transmit the Dharma not personal theory. is what I get from this short passage.
this next shows that unless Rennyo shonin definetly held Amida Buddha to be The teacher and a true Buddha
76. Shonin Rennyo asked Hokyo, "Do you know who it is that now teaches you to seek refuge in this Amida Buddha?" Junsei replied that he did not. "Then I shall tell you who that person is. But, first when you ask blacksmiths and carpenters to teach you something, you always reciprocate with a gift of some sort. Is it not so? This is very important. Tell me what will you give me?" Junsei answered, "Whatever you wish, I shall give to you". The Shonin continued, "The person who teaches this to you is Amida Tathagata. It is Amida Tathagata teaching you, 'Seek refuge in Me'." Thus, spoke the Shonin.

even though we all have our own experience of Shinjin the basis for that Shinjin is Amida Buddhas light/vow. If I seek refuge in a fictional character then I could choose any cartoon and recieve benefit. Since this is obviously not so it is also not so that Amida Buddha would be a mythical being because we do recieve benefit.

I hope this is at all useful in the discussion


Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

Jay said: "If I seek refuge in a fictional character then I could choose any cartoon and recieve benefit. Since this is obviously not so it is also not so that Amida Buddha would be a mythical being because we do recieve benefit."
You expressed it so well.
Namo Amida Butsu