Saturday, September 24, 2016

On the wrong view of regarding one's teacher as a manifestation of a Buddha or a Master

I have just found these words (see left photo), writen on September 21st, by a Dharma friend, member of Horai Association of Jodo Shinshu on another friend's Facebook page: "Zuiken Sensei was also known to be a manifestation of Kassapa Buddha in Japan". I decided to take a print screen and give some quick comments.

With all due respect for the good things Zuiken Sensei and his son, Zuio Inagaki Sensei, did for the Sangha, I publicly ask my Nembutsu friends to stop this idol worshipping attitude. No modern teacher should be placed on equal status with Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin, and nobody should be considered or treated as a manifestation of a Buddha. This is clearly NOT the Jodo Shinshu way of relating with a teacher. If we allow such idolizing of our priests and teachers, we open a very dangerous gate. Thus, everything a teacher sais or writes will not be checked anymore through the filter of reason and no more compared with what Shakyamuni, Shinran and Rennyo said, because..... that teacher is "the manifestation of a Buddha".....

Please, ask Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin and tell me where in their writings did they ever say that we should regard our teachers and priests as manifestations of Buddhas? Even if many of Shinran and Rennyo's followers treated them as holy manifestations, they NEVER presented themselves to be something else than ordinary people of simple faith. One may argue that Zuiken Sensei also presented himself as an ordinary person, too. I am sure he did that during his life, so why some of his students present him as something different? Why not reading his texts and poems with a normal and reasonable attitude, like we should read the texts of all modern and contemporary teachers? Why should we put him on a pedestal like a master? And yes, some of Horai members refer to Zuiken with the title, "Master", which is another element that worries me, as we should never regard anybody as a Master, except Shinran, Rennyo or the seven Masters.

So, what if Zuiken Sensei made a mistake? Or was he infallible because he was a manifestation of Kassapa (Kasyapa) Buddha? Should we just read all his texts like they are Buddha's own words or Shinran's own words? Please, dear Dharma friends, pull yourself together and act in accordance with common sense - we should never open our minds unconditionally to anybody, because nobody is beyond criticism, except Shakyamuni Buddha and those who are trully the Masters of our tradition.

Jodo Shinshu is NOT a guru devotional school. Here we do not listen to a teacher with the same devotion we give to Shakyamuni Buddha and our Founding Master. As long as we are in these samsaric bodies, we can all make mistakes, including our dear teachers. Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin clearly defined the role of teachers in our school, and they never said we should consider them (the teachers) as manifestations of Buddhas. 

Just imagine what may happen if we open this gate of teacher worshipping! This would really be the end of reason and will make a dangerous precedence! Yes, some of our teachers might be very good teachers, even wonderful and extraordinary teachers, but even the good and wonderful teachers can make mistakes! So, if we allow ourselves to think that contemporary teachers can be manifestations of Buddhas, then nobody will check them anymore, and we would accept anything they say, just because they said it. Trully, how can you not accept in faith the words of a "Buddha"? More than this, if some are "Buddha's manifestations", why shouldn't they have the authority of changing the Dharma, give a new interpretation, or even mix various teachings and practices? If they are really "manifestations of Buddhas" who can deny them such an authority....

Some might think that the print screen I took from a facebook discussion where a dear friend and member of Horai professed that Zuiken Sensei was a manifestation of a Buddha is a rare and separate occurence and does not represent Horai Association. Well, unfortunately, he is not alone, as many Japanese (and even some non-japanese) regard Zuiken Sensei like that. Our friend himself used the expression, "Zuiken Sensei was also known in Japan to be a manifestation of Kassapa Buddha". To be "known in Japan"presuposes that there are many people who think like that. So, how do they know that he is a manifestation of Kassapa (Kasyapa) Buddha? By their own veneration and devotion toward him, as their teacher - a devotion which, of course, has gone way too far than Jodo Shinshu allows it to go for any teacher. And, certainly, as there is no smoke without a fire, some continue to perpetuate and transmit this idea to others, which gives constant fuel to a wrong attitude among Shinshu members.... 

I hope that I will not be misunderstood by this sudden outburst of worry thoughts, as I consider that there are many good and wonderful instructions in Zuiken Sensei's teachings, even if, I think that sometimes he and his son, Zuio Inagaki Sensei exagerated with their attachements to Zen, which gave birth to some poems and passages which, although beautiful in their poetic manner, may be useless and confusing for ordinary beginers who try to understand the basics of Jodo Shinshu. Zuiken was also a teacher who did not embrace the wrong views of Amida as a myth or metaphor, like many nowadays deluded priests do. This can be seen clearly in many of his inspiring and devotional poems and texts, part of which I myself translated into Romanian many years ago. So, I hope its clear that I do not question his faith or good intentions in this article. However, he was a human teacher, with his ups and downs, not a divine figure. Thus, we should read his written work with a critical eye, like we should do with every teacher who claims to represent Jodo Shinshu. 

We can pick and chose that which is useful, and discard what is not useful - there is nothing wrong in that. This is also how I treat his son's work, Zuio Inagaki Sensei, for whom I also have a deep respect. I use, with gratitude in my heart, his many wonderful translations and explanations of the sacred texts, but I stay away firmly from his errors, as you can clearly see in one of my recent posts against his idea to mix Jodo Shinshu with Zen (click here to read it). It is a pity that some of his students or members of Horai did not reacted publicly when they read those clearly wrong opinions expressed by their teacher. I know it is easy to look away when mistakes are made, but if we are not careful, what is now a little ball of snow may turn into a big avalanche of wrong views in the near future. It depends on us to maintain and transmit an authentic/orthodox Jodo Shinshu teaching, and we can't do that if we put our teachers on a pedestal or turn a blind eye when they make a mistake. Also, when we think that the sanghas or groups/lineages we created inside Jodo Shinshu have some kind of cosmic dimensions, perhaps we should stop and think twice.... because, perhaps it is the ego speaking, not faith:

"The Horai School is unequalled in history;
Difficult to encounter even in myriads of kalpas, nothing
is more difficult than this.

Being the manifestation of the Dharma-realm in its
entirety, its teaching is monumental;
It transcends literary descriptions and far exceeds verbal
expressions".
(Zuio Inagaki Sensei, Thorn Bush - reflections on the Buddhist Thoughts, p 81-82)

Wow! When you think that one of your teacher is a Buddha, of course that your particular sangha  is something which is not met in myriads of kalpas.... I realy have nothing more to say than please, dear friends, come to your senses. A little humbleness has never hurt anybody. 

*

Update: I have just found a poem of Zuio Inagaki Sensei, in the booklet, Buddhist Paintings with Poems, where he clearly encourages, in a poetic manner, the wrong idea that his father was a manifestation of Kasyapa (Kassapa) Buddha. While commenting on a statue of Kasyapa Buddha from the Mo-kao cave, China, which was painted in 1987, he said:

"I did not know that Kasyapa Buddha was Master Zuiken!
By the painter's brush
His presence now is clearly shown!"

I have no problem with filial piety and the devotion of a son towards his father, but to make such a statement publicly from the position of a Jodo Shinshu teacher and priest is terribly wrong and is doing no service to Jodo Shinshu or to Zuiken Sensei's legacy.



5 comentarii:

Heng Ng said...

Thank you Rev.Josho for your excellent article and courage in correcting a wrong view that is spreading within Jodo Shinshu circles. Putting a teacher, a mundane foolish person on a pedestal to worship as a Buddha is truly ridiculous. It reminds me of my nightmare 20 years ago, as a sincere follower of the Vajrayana teaching, when I have to take the vow to look at my guru as a Buddha.

Namo Amida Butsu

Our Beautiful Path said...

Brilliant article Josho :)

It is quite evident within the scriptures of the Masters that this is not something to do at all, calling ones teacher a Master, or putting ones teacher somehow above the scriptures of our True Masters, no matter how wonderful a teacher, friend or parent they are or were is absolutely wrong.

Master Shinran says in the Tannisho...

It is unbelievable that any dispute should have arisen among those who devote themselves to the exclusive practice of the Nembutsu as to who are my disciples and who are the disciples of others. I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the Nembutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. BUT it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the Nembutsu THROUGH THE INFLUENCE OF AMIDA BUDDHA...

<<<

Obviously Master Shinran didnt believe he personally was anything worth following, that it was AMIDA only who was the influence and cause of all benefits he brought... Master Shinran continues...

When karmic conditions are favourable, Master and disciple must meet: When adverse, they must part. Despite this, there are those who disconcert the faithful by saying that if they desert their present master and repeat the Nembutsu while following some other master, their Rebirth in the Pure Land can never be attained. At this, words fail me. Do they mean that they wish to REVOKE THE FAITH CALLED FORTH BY AMIDA BUDDHA, AS THOUGH IT WERE THEIR OWN... Once we are in harmony with the spontaneous Power of the Vow, we naturally come to realize our indebtedness to AMIDA BUDDHA and feel gratitude toward our teachers.

<<<

Again we see that Master Shinran is baffled by students or followers saying they cannot move on from a Master!!! Shakyamuni himself sort teachings from over a hundred Masters if I remember correctly - a teacher is NOT THE DHARMA... They teach the Dharma - it is AMIDA and the Dharma that need to be followed NOT the Teacher themselves..


In Master Rennyos teachings we read...

The late Master said:

I Shinran, do not have even a single disciple. The reason for this is that when I expound the Tathagata's Dharma to sentient beings in the ten direction, I am only speaking AS THE TATHAGATA'S REPRESENTATIVE. I..... do not propagate any new Dharma at all; I entrust myself to the Tathagata's Dharma and simply teach that to others. Besides that, what do I teach that I would speak of having disciples?

Thus (Master Rennyo continues) we are one another's companions and fellow practicers. Because of this, the Master spoke respectfully of "companions and fellow practicers."

<<<

This all is very clear to me, that our Masters themselves were so humble; they did not want to be seen as anything great, or worthy of our praise... and as Master Shinran has said a number of times he is a bald man full of foolishness.... We need to follow their example, and not insist on putting our Teachers, (no matter how much we believe them worthy), on pedestals or following THEM, rather than the Dharma...

Master Rennyo also states...

The point is to keep the matter of Other-Power faith firmly in mind... Beyond that, you should just say the nenbutsu - walking, standing, sitting, and lying down - in GRATITUDE for AMIDA BUDDHAS BENEVOLENCE....

<<<

to be continued...

Our Beautiful Path said...


I dont believe I have ever read that we should be putting our TEACHERS on a pedestal - infact I am sure I have read somewhere this is not a good thing to do, but I cant find it currently in the scriptures. However teachers are only the HELPERS of AMIDA'S Other Power - they are not anything more, they receive their light through Amida Buddha it is not of their own sakes - they give you the words in ways to help you understand, but they are not Masters or Buddha's, they are people, they make mistakes, and to acknowledge them as anything further is not beneficial to yourself, and especially not to those who are reading your words, and those of the future who could easily misunderstand these terms of gratitude from a student....

In our tradition AMIDA and Shakyamuni Buddha are the ones worthy of our adoration and praise... Our teachers are certainly very important to us; as Paul is to me.... It was AMIDA through Paul that helped me to come to Shinjin, BUT whilst I am grateful to Paul and I love him for the very kindness he gave to help me, and we have become dear friends - I would NEVER put him on a pedestal; or call him Master; or Sensei - for a start, he wouldnt hear of it, but it wouldnt be right.... Just as it wouldnt be right to follow a teacher who you really liked and admired, if you knew they werent following the scriptures or telling the truth.... THIS is peoples LIVES we are speaking about.... Following or passing on divergences, could stop many people; and over the generations an extraordinary huge amount of people to go astray - so while something small may seen trivial - it could affect huge amounts of people in the long run - this is not only something we are told in the scriptures not to do; as the Tannisho is written about just that; but also the karmic consequences are huge...

However we read in the scriptures that even those who have spread divergences, can always repent, change their ways, and return to Amida....

Also we must remember that we are all bombu's, mistakes are a given, and putting someone on a pedestal like this CAN encourage another's ego to be blown out of proportion. As Shakyamuni Buddha himself said - 'I found you the burner of this house' And what did he find... he found the cause of suffering - the Ego. We all have these issues, including our beloved Teachers, or Mentors, and everyone else...

As an example we see this most clearly in Master Shinran's own life when his son Zenran, who we would assume had the best teaching in the world, became a liar and spread divergences among the people... So much so that Master Shinran felt he had no choice but to disown him... so it can happen and does happen and given the right circumstances, usually power, it can bloom voraciously .

I know in this case we are speaking about someone deceased - but I have to ask, if Zuiken Sensei was alive, would he be happy with people calling him Master or 'saying' that he was a Buddha... I would imagine not, or else he would have said as much whilst he was alive....

It is great to love your teacher, or father,or Mentor etc but to state he is a Buddha due to that is just plain wrong.... and as we see above can have huge consequences for generations.

We have Masters in our tradition - Master Shinran and Master Honen.... the founders of our school. We have their works and Shakyamuni's words in the Larger Sutra, and these are the teachings that Zuiken Sensei and all other in our tradition should be teaching.

So I agree absolutely with everything Josho has put in his post, and I hope that this type of grandeur will cease...

Namu Amida Butsu
Thank you Amida Buddha

Gassho, Camille

Our Beautiful Path said...

* Correction - Builder of the House;not burner of the house.... Not sure how that happened - Bombu Extraordinaire :)

Gassho, Camille

Dave Kruemcke said...

Namu Amida Butsu