Thursday, November 11, 2010

Build barricades of true Shinshu Dharma in your own town and country

             Recently I wrote to one of my fellow practitioner from Europe:
No, I don’t have anything in common with those who do not rely exclusively on the sacred texts of our school, I mean on the medicine given by Shakyamuni and the Masters. How can people who rely on different things have something in common? How can I who, following the Masters instructions, entrust in Amida as a real and living Buddha, have something in common with those who think Amida is a fictional character or a metaphor?”

I am sure that many feel the same when facing the doctrinal chaos which is easy to be found everywhere in the international sangha. Officially, we are all Jodo Shinshu followers, but practically speaking, if you take two separate groups and put them at the same table, you’ll see that sometimes they speak different doctrinal languages. The main difference is of course, that between us who strictly follow the instructions of Shakyamuni and the Masters from the canonical texts and those who tend to adapt the Dharma to their own limited opinions, to the teachings of other schools and even to the various materialistic views that are prevalent today. In the last categories are included theories like Amida being a metaphor, symbol or a fictional character, the Pure Land being here and now, and the Pure Land sutras not actually being taught by Shakyamuni.

While I see no mistakes in the official documents declaring the basic teaching of our school (like Kyosho, for example) or in the official statements of Go Monshu sama[1], I do find great error in letting people of wrong understanding to spread their personal views as the Shinshu Dharma.
The situation is such that at the official level the doctrine is well preserved and affirmed, but in practice, everybody is allowed to say everything he wishes about the Dharma so that a doctrinal chaos is unnoficially maintained by the lack of action against modern divergences and wrong understanding of the Jodo Shinshu teaching which is prevalent in many places.

If one wishes to read the sacred texts of our tradition he can do so thanks to the great efforts done by Hongwanji International Center who made a wonderful translation work in English and other languages[2]. He can thus find and study the official and traditional canonical texts of our school on which Jodo Shinshu teaching is based.
So, I repeat, I find no fault in the official documents of our school which establishes and affirms the doctrine and I greatly respect the translation work that has been done, but I strongly criticize the lack of action by those responsible against the gradual spreading of some divergent modern interpretations which have nothing in common with the teaching one can find in the texts of the sacred cannon that Hongwanji-ha itself officially recognizes as doctrinal authority.
After contemplating the present situation I reached the conclusion that it is the right time for Jodo Shinshu followers who are true to the Dharma found in the sacred texts of our tradition to build their own barricades across Europe and the world against modern divergences. Some of these barricades may consist of internet places like personal blogs, websites, online discussion groups, etc, which already exist, but also of centers in as many locations as possible, throughout the world.

To build our own groups and dojos inside the Hongwanji-ha branch of Jodo Shinshu, composed of people who are faithful to the sacred texts presentation of the teaching is the only solution to counteract the spreading of false teachings. To have our own meetings and discussions and base our understanding on these texts only, should be the reason for the existence of such groups. Amida-ji Retreat Temple Romania will be exactly this kind of international temple as Tariki Dojo Craiova already is since I found it in 2004.

Without having the smallest thought of leaving the family (Hongwanji-ha branch of Jodo Shinshu) when it passes through difficult times like these, I chose to build an island of true understanding in the middle of the nowadays doctrinal chaos, working to heal the international sangha from inside. Those who belong to other branches of Jodo Shinshu school or who are independent of any branch, but adhere to the same teaching of Shinran and Rennyo are also encouraged to do the same – start their own groups and dojos. We can work together, both members of Hongwanji-ha and non-members for the promotion of true Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teaching across the world.

My urge is not to create separatist movements inside the international sangha, but groups and centers where the Shinshu Dharma will be taught only according to the sacred texts (that Hongwanji itself officially recognizes as being the source of the teaching). These places will perhaps gradually become centers of healing the international Shinshu community from the inside and will provide to newcomers a helping hand in learning and studying the Dharma about Amida as it was taught by Shakyamuni and the masters.

In these temples, dojos and groups I advice to be found everywhere, only those who are ready to listen to the teaching as it is presented in the sacred texts should be allowed to become members while those wanting to promote their own personal ideas be redirected towards other places where they can do so without anybody say anything. Thus, everybody will find a suitable place for himself in the international sangha, without anybody becoming upset. 
The rules I established for my dojo are a perfect example of how the Romanian sangha works under my leadership in this spirit of faithfulness to the sacred texts. If others think these rules would apply to their situation too, they can copy and use them. If not, they can make their own rules and regulations.

Groups who spread their own ideas as being Jodo Shinshu are allowed to flourish and expand, so us who think that Jodo Shinshu is only the teaching found in the sacred texts of our Masters should be also allowed to organize ourselves as we think is best.

So, dear friends from Europe or other continents, who share the same aspiration like me, start organizing yourselves! Found your own centers in your towns and start doing activities for the spreading of the Jodo Shinshu Dharma. Make study groups everywhere, put posters in the town or make publicity to such a group in local newspapers. Make it a custom to read and discuss various passages from the sacred texts at your monthly or weekly meetings. From time to time, if you can, invite teachers that are faithful to the Dharma to give lectures, etc.
Make your own blogs or websites and add your voice to the ones that already exist on the internet. It doesn’t matter you are a priest or a lay. Be sincere, study hard, ask advices, and share with others what you have learned.

It depends on us to counteract the immense river of modern divergences from flooding every corner of the world and everyone should feel responsible about how the Dharma he himself received will be preserved and spread to future generations.

No central leadership should be named for this network of centers which I hope will soon develop as time passes, but every group should act and organize itself freely according to the wish of their founders or members. We can collaborate together and keep good contacts among us and with Hongwanji International Center,  IABC or other official institutions for those who belong to Hongwanji-ha branch while maintaining our uncompromising allegiance to the sacred texts and the fight against modern divergences. Attending international Conferences, receiving kikyoshiki (confirmation rites) or any other activity that is usualy organized in the international community should be appreciated and joined too, while in the same time we’ll try to have our own specific meetings and events.

Thus, for members of Hongwanji-ha branch, affiliation and respect for our Buddhist family is maintained, while we act according to our counscience as responsible members and disciples of Shinran and Rennyo.

I would like to hear your reactions to this article here or in private and if you are interested in founding a group or a center somewhere in the world I would be happy to help you with everything I can, from advices to Dharma materials.

Yours in Namo Amida Butsu



[1] For example, the last animation made by Hongwanji about Shinran’s life is a wonderful presentation of the Dharma in accordance with the sacred texts.
[2] Read, for example, www.shinranworks.com

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