Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Buddhism and Humanism

(1) Buddhism and Humanism

When we think about Buddhism, it might be common that we do not suppose any relations between Buddhism and Humanism. But recently I have begun to notice the existence of much relation between Buddhism and Humanism, and I think that the recent enthusiastic approach of Euro-American Civilization to Budhism might be related with such a humanistic tendency of the world history in the 21st Centurry.
When I was a student of a highschool, I had learned the world histoty a little, and then I was much attracted by German historian called Reopold von Ranke (1795~1886), who insisted a very objective and scientific research of the world history, relying upon concret data and documents. And I remember that his historical descriptions were always humanistic too. Therefore I usually think that a history of human beings should be naturally humanistic. Because I think that all historical descriptions must be always relied upon the records of human societies themselves.
In such a meaning when I think about any kind of history, I usually think that almost all kinds of history must be humanistic, and I suppose that such a kind of humanistic tendency of human history should be maintained as human criteria at any age. Because if humanism is not maintained in the research of human history, the history might be different from the pursuit of human history. Therefore I think that it is necessary for us to have the perfect freedom to selct our own viewpoints even in our own research of human history, and then we should pursue our own viewpoint in the absolute freedom of our own selection.
But in such situations it is necessary for us to certify whether Buddhism can deserve to be the true religion, or not. And in such a problem relying upon Master Dogen's Buddhist thoughts, Master Bodhidharma's Zazen, Master Nagarjna's Mahayana Buddhism, and Gautama Buddha's Four Noble Truth, I am completely sure that we can establish Buddhism as a perfect religion, which will work as the ultimate religion of the world. I suppose that almost all people in the world will be afraid that whether my own rather fanatical belief can be afirmative to all human beings,
or not. But I think that if Buddhism does not have such a kind of absolute dignity, it might be perfectly impossible for Buddhism to be the ultimate Truth in human history at all.

And at the same time there is another problem, whether Buddhism is humanistic, or not. But because of my small study of Buddhism for about 70 years, I have arrived at my conclusion that Buddhism is just a very humanistic philosophy, and so if it is possible for us to clarify that Buddhism is just a clearly humanistic philosophy, there might be possibility for us to insist that Buddhism must be the same as Humanism, or Buddhism is just humanistic philosophy.
And in such a problem, it is inevitable for me to remeber the absolute reverence of the balanced autonomic nervous system in Buddhism. As I have repeated so many times, Buddhism reveres the balanced autonomic nervous system so much, and it insists that the reason, why we , Buddhists, revere practicing Zazen, comes from that the practice of Zazen realize our autonomic nervous system balanced. And the reason why, we, human beings revere the balanced autonomic nervous system so much, comes from the facts that Buddhism has insistence that the real state of human beings, who are keeping their autonomic nervous system, indicates that they are just true human beings. In other words a Buddhist, who is keeping a little stronger sympathetic nervous system, is called Sravaka, usually having rather intellectual tendency, is not esteemed so well in Buddhist societies, and another kind of Buddhist, who is called Pratyeca-buddha, usually having rather sensitive tendency, is not also esteemed so well in Buddhist societies. Therefore we can notice that, in buddhist societies, believers, who are a little intellectual, or a little sensitive members, called Sravaka, or Pratyeca-buddha, are not so revered in Buddhist societies well, and I suppose that in Buddhist societies, believers, who have rather intellectual, or sensitive tendencies, might be esteemed a little lower than Buddhists, who can able to keep always the balanced autonomic nervous system.
I think that it is possible for us to think that the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system in Buddhist societies have rather absolute value, and so the practice of Zazen in Buddhist societies is so much valuable actually.
Therefore, in Buddhist societies, Buddhists, who are dilligent to arrive at the Truth relying upon practice, or Zazen, are usually called Bodhisattva, and Buddhists, who are called Buddhas, that is, the Buddhists, who have arrived at the usual state of the balanced autonomic nervous system, are called Buddhas. And they usually receive the highest reverence in Buddhist societies.
So we can think that Buddhism has idea to revere the Buddhists, who are keeping the perfectly stable situations of the balanced autonomic nervous system as Buddhas, and so we can think that the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system, is the highest criteria in Buddhist societies.
Generally speakiing, a Sanskrit word Buddha means a person, who has awaked in Reality, and a person, who has awaked in Reality, means a person, who can keep the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system usually and naturally. Therefore we can think that Buddhism reveres the state of human beings, who can maintain the balanced autonomic nervous system, and at the same time the Buddhist philosophical system has the reverence of true human beings, who has arrived at the perfectly balanced autonomic nervous system as true human beings.

(2) Humanism in the World History

Of course I am never a specialist of a historical study, and so my description of Humanism might be much rough and one-sided, but it was rather strange that since I was a boy, I have a strong tendency to love Humanism. And I guess that my such a strange tendency as a boy might be related with my rather unusual daily habit of running in my childhood because of my father's guidance. I suppose that I have been rather balanced in my boyhood, and so even though I was a very young boy, there might be some kind of bud, which would become the later tendency of Humanist.
Therefore in such a meaning I would like to try my immature description of Humanistic history following my poor knowledge of it. (These descriptions are much relied upon the sources from "Oxford Dictionary of World History.")

1) Before ancient Greco-Roman Civilization
I think that before ancient Greco-Roman Civilization a trace of Humanism was very rare, and so I would like to pass such an age.
2) In the ancient Greece
In the ancient Greece there were many city-states, and even though those city-states were supported by slavery, the citizens, who were living in those city-states, could live in rather economically rather rich life, and enjoy their free time, which can be used for their philosophical or scientific researches, and arts. Therefore the citizens could enjoy their humanistic daily life. And in such a situations the ancient Greek civilization opened their very valuable flowers of humanistic civilization.
The first of all there were very famous idealistic philosophies, which were represented by Plato (427~347 B.C.) and Aristotle (385~322 B.C.) Plato insists that what really exists in this world is not matter, but idea itself. And relying upon mathematics he insists that the theory of mathematics are much more reliable than material things. Therefore he believes that ideas are much more reliable than matter. And such idealistic philosophy has been succeeded by his student Aristotle much more systematically.
But at the same time we can find a philosopher Demokritos (about 460~360 B.C.), who has insists the real existence of mater. He insists that this world is accumulation of atoms, and so matter is real existence. Furthermore Epikuros (341~270 B.C.) insists that the aim of human life is to get a personal pleasure, and so we can think that he has also insists a kind of materialistic philosophy.
And later, Greek philosophers have found Stoicism. A philosopher called Zenon (about 340~265 B.C.) opens a school called Stoicism in Athens, and the school has been maitained by Kleanthes and Chrisippos. And later the school has been introduced into Rome by Panaitios.
Their insistences are that the central aim of human life in Stoicism are maintaining the life of a wise man. Therefore we can think that the central point of Stoicism is not consideration how to think, but it is an attitude how to live in our human life. And so Stoicism is much diligent to arrive at the state of apatheia, which means just the state of no emotion. At the same time the living attitude of the wise man in their daily life, is just to live following the natural rules. And the natural rules, which they follow, are called logos, or reason, which pervades throughout the Universe, and in the mind and body of human beings. Therefore we can think that it is just the humanity itself.
Flankly speaking I think that the theory of Stoicism is very similar to Buddhist philosophy. Because the main part of stoicism is not a philosophical theory, but the main part of stoicism is to get a life of a wise man, who is perfectly free from the unreliable situations of secular societies. Therefore for getting such situations, they are diligent to get the state of apatheia, and I think that the apatheia might be the same as Buddhist Samadhi, that is, the balance of the autonomic nervous system in the modern age.
In such situations I notice that the human beings in the ancient Greece have enjoyed a very liberalistic attitude in selecting their philosophy, in which they have enjoyed the perfect freedom to select their own belief among several kinds of philosophies, or religions. And I think that the people in the human societies should enjoy their own freedom to select their own belief perfectly.
Therefore I think that people in the ancient Greece have enjoyed their humanistic civilization for the first time in human history.
3) In Rome and in the Roman Empire
The humanistic civilization of the ancient Greece moves to Rome, and it has opened a very gorgeous civilization of Humanism.
The idealistic philosophy of Plato and Aristotle are introduced into Rome, but at the same time Epicurean materialism and Stoic humanism have been also introduced into Rome enormously. And I think that the very important historical facts at that time may be that those kinds of miscellaneous humanistic civilization from Greece has been pervaded by the expanding Roman Empire into almost all Europe, and even to the northern districts of Africa.
We can think that the Roman people have their excellent ability in military power, lawful government, and stoic self-regulation. Therefore their invation into other countries are usually very successful, and they have established many countries, which are very useful to cultivate their own humanistic civilizations.
Relying upon such historical facts, the Greco-Roman humanism has been spread through the Roman Empire, and at the same time the Greco-Roman humanism has met with a religion, which is called Christianity.
Christianity has occured from an ethnic religion called Judaism in Israel, but the establisher of Christianity, Jesus Christ, has made Christianity into the world religion, and such a world religion has entered into the Roman Empire. And first the Roman Empire has forbiden Christianity so strongly, and many believers of it at that time have met so cruel oppressions for many years, but it is impossible for Roman government to suppress Christianity at last, and the very big and powerful Cathoric Church has been established in Rome. Furthermore since, relying upon the intention of the Great Emperor Constantinus and the Emperor Constantius, the Cathoricism has become the national religion of the Roman Empire in 391 A.D., therefore the authority of the Pope in Cathoricism has begun to overcome the authority of the Roman Emperor.
And I think that this historical facts suggest a very important meaning to human history, because the facts suggest that not only Rome, but the almost all Europe has begun to be influenced by Christianity. Therefore the Europian people at that time has begun to notice the
real existence of the world relying upon the Belief in God, and they have entered into a very religious civilization graduary. They believe in the theory of the original sin, and want to suppress physical desire, especially sexual desire. And such a tendency seems to be very fitting the social situation, that even though the population is going to increase, but the land, which can be opened for caltivation as fields, have decreased year by year.
4) In the Feudalistic Age
After the Roman Empire has ended in 476 A.D., many nations, which have been in Europe, noticed that it is very important for them to maitain the lands, where they can supply the necessary food for their lives. And so many nations, which have recognized such necessities, have begun to move for finding the adequate lands to cultivate for them so sincerely. When they have found rather adequate lands in Europe for them, they have moved to the lands for securing their foods. And an excellent leader among them has become the governor of them, or the King, and so there have been estabilished rather many countries in Europe as kingdoms.
Therefore those countries are limited by the width of the lands, and so it is necessary for them to have the Age of Feudalistic Societies.
Usually the Age of those Feudalistic Sosieties are called as the Medieval Age with the interpretation that the Age exists in the middle between the Ancient Age and the Modern Age, therefore the Medieval Age does not have any unique meaning other than the Ancient of Age and the Modern Age clearly. But I do not have such idea, but I think that the Feudalistic Age might be the new Age, when human beings have found the historically important facts that it is necessary for human beings to get and maitain the lands, which are inevitable for them to secure their foods. And noticing such a fact, human beings actually recognised the seriously important value of lands. And because of such kinds of historical facts, human beings have found the oneness of the lands, which have been found already, and they have recognized that many lands, which have been found already, might touch with each other, and so they have to suppose that the world may be only one. And relying upon such a supposition, I think that human beings have found the idea that the world might be only one, and such a recognition has human beings to be sure that there might be only one world, and so there might be only One God, who governs the Whole World totally. And I guess that such a human consideration has human beings confirm the monothestic attitude for God, and the very strong historical tendency, which promotes both Christianity and Islam so enormously at that time, occured naturally. Therefore I do not think that the Feudalistic Age is not the Medieval Age, but it might be the beginning of the Modern Age.
Of course in the Feudalistic Age the most serious problem was the scarcity of food, and so the spiritual religions of Christianity and Islam are very adequate to suppress the physical desire of eating and reproduction. And so such a tendency in the Feudalistic Age is not the natural character of Humanism, but a kind of necessity, which is inevitable meathod to manage the unfortunate situation of human societies. Therefore even though the people, who have to live so hard and so busy lives in human societies inevitably, after finishing the very heavy jobs of harvesting agricultural products, people can have joyful time of festivals and dancing, and so forth, for a little while to console themselves. So even though the situations of the Feudalistic societies are not so happy for the people at that time, but it is inevitable situation for the people, and so there is no another way for the people other than to endure it. And I interpret that at the first step of the modern age, it is unavoidable for human beings to experience such a kind of rather severe experience.
Therefore I think that the first step of the modern age is very spiritual and idealistic, and so it is said that the fundamental basis of Christian theology, which has been established by Saint Augustinus (345~430), is based on Platonic idealism, and the highest authority of the Catholic theology by Tomas Aquinas (1225/6~1274) is based on Aristotolian idealism. And I feel it is very natural that the first step of the modern Age has begun based on the idealistic philosophy, because I think that it is very natural that everything usually begins on the basis of idealism first.
5) The Renescence
In the latter part of the Feudalistic Age from 1096 to 1270 there are conflicts between Islamic countries and Christian countries, which are called crusades, and Italian countries called Venezia, Genova, Ferenze, Milano, have become rich because of becoming the passages of the armies. And those countries are very diligent in working for commerce over sea, or rudimental textile industry, and so forth, they have become very rich. And they are very diligent to support
writers, scholars, or artists, who are working to research the Ancient Greco-Roman Civilization, therefore those kinds of researches have become vigorous, and those tendencies spread gradually throughout the Europe. And the word Renescence means "Rebirth" itself, and so we can think that the Renescence means the rebirth of Humanism, which were so vigorous in the Ancient Greco-Roman Civilization, in the modern Age after a little supressed situations of Humanism in the Feudalistic Age.
6) The Reformation
The movement of Humanism has occured even in the area of religion itself. A German theological professor Martin Luther (1483~1546) has strongly criticized the attitude of Cathoric Church, especially its selling Indolence. He has shown his 95 questions on the door of Wittenberg Church to insist that Christian belief should be decided only relying upon the descriptions in the Bible. And such a kind of opinion has been supported by feudal lords, liberalistic citizens, humanistic writers, and farmers, who has been suffered so much from the severe circumstances.
At almost the same time, a humanistic theologist, called Jean Calvin (1509~64), having fled from France avoiding persecution by the government, has come to Switzerland. His thoughts are also similar to Luther's opinion that Christianity should always follow the descriptions in the Bible, and so the insistence is a little different from Humanism, but being promoted by such a Protestant religious efforts, especially because of the reverence to human labour, the activity of the modern commercialism, and the modern mechanically productive indusries, have been encouraged so much.
In such meaning we can think that the Protestantism in the modern Age has been so encouraging the modern chapitalistic societies, and so it was very powerful to promote the humanistic tendency in the modern societies so much.
But thinking about the mutual relations between Catholicism and Protestantism, I think that their differences are not so absolute, but their diffrences are only relative, because the difference is only related whether mutual relations between God and human beings are just the facts whether they are having one cussion, or not. In the case of Catholicism they have one cussion of the Catholic churches between God and human beings, but in the case of Protestantism they have just the direct relation between God and human beings. I think that, however, such difference is not absolute, but relative, because the difference of relations between God and human beings are only whether they have one cussion between God and human beings, or not.
7) Independence of USA
Since about the middle of 16th Century some parts of Puritans in England have begun to move to the east coast of the North America for keeping their religious belief, and the number of them has increased gradually. And in the former part of 18th Century the 13 colonies have been
established.
However, the English Goverment has been very severe to the colonies, and so people in the colonies has begun to hope being independent from England, and the Revolutionary War has occurred.
At the beginning of the war, the power of independent army is not so strong, but later the foreign armies of France, Spain, and Holland have helped the independent army, and so the independent army has become stronger gradually, and Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Prussia have promissed to be neutral. Therefore England has become rather isolated, and has stopped fighting by the Peace Treaty in Paris in 1783.
And we can think that these historical facts are also a very brilliant example for the progress of Humanism, and the independence of USA has much stimulized the French Revolution.
8) The French Revolution
A French political philosopher called Jean Bordin has proclaimed in 16th century that the sovereign power of a king has been given by God, and so it is holy and absolute.
But in 17th and 18th, for example, Voltaire (1694~1778), Montesquieu (1689~1755), or Rousseau (1712~78), have begun to discuss the problems on the basis of humanity itself. And the such kinds of humanistic opinions have been spread through the country relying upon correspondence.
In such situations French people gradually has begun to notice the real situations of their government and societies, and so they have criticized the govermental policy strongly. Therefore the government have to catch them because of political crimes, and so many prisons in the country have become full because of such situations. And on 14th, July, in 1789, a lot of women have marched in Paris for complaining an unusual scarcity of food, and they have gone to Bastille, where a prison is, to emancipate the prisoners. That is the beginning of the Revoluion.
And those kinds of confusion has spread almost throughout the whole country, and even though a new parliament has opened in October, in 1791, a moderate group Girondins and a radical group Jacobins have confronted with each other. Therefore even though the moderate group has organized their cabinet, it was impossible for them to compromise with Austria and Preussen, and they have proclaimed the declaration of war against them. However, the army of France has not been so strong, and so the foreign army has invaded France, and the radical group has recovered their power again, and they have killed the Lui 16th and his family. Therefore France has to enter into much more difficult conditions, and it has been necessary for them to be saved by Napoleon's military power in 1802.
Anyway France has become a democratic country, and people there have begun to enjoy much more human freedom than before.
9) The Civil War in USA
In 1854 the Repubric Party has been organized in USA for the first time, and the 16th President Abraham Lincoln has been selected from the party. And he has been very famous statsman, who insists the abolition of the slavery system, and so the antislavery movement has begun so vigorously.
But in the southern part of USA, there have been cultivated so wide cotton fields already, therefore it is absolutely necessary for farmers to use slaves. And in such situations the 11 states of southern USA have wanted to become independent from USA.
The Civil War has happened in 1861, and at the beginning of the war the southern army has been stronger, but the northern army has become stronger gradually because of efficient production of arms, and sufficient population, and so the northern army has wun in 1865.
Even in this Civil War we can look at very clear humanistic tendency, and we can think that such a kind of humanistic tendency in human history is very clearly manifesting throughout the world.
10) The World War 1.
On the 28th, June, 1914, the Crown Prince and Princess of Austria have been assassinated by a Serubian student, and so Austria and Germany have attacked Serbian district, but Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Serbian district, and so forth, have begun to fight against Germany, the Austro-Hangarian empire, Ottoman Turkey, and so forth.
And the fightings have been cotinued until 1918, but they have stoped on 11th, November, and then the armistice was signed and peace terms agreed in the Versailles Peace Settlement in 1919.
And we can think that even though Austria and Germany, and so forth, have been diligent to make their efforts for their Militarism and Emperialism, but it seems that such kinds of efforts have been a little too late comparing with the new humanistic, or democratic tendencies.
11) The World War 2.
In 1931 Japan has occupied the north-east district of China, which is called Manchuria, with a little unfair method, and it has established its puppet state called Manchukuo. And in 1932 and 1936 it has experienced small-scale coup d'etat in each year, and Prime Ministers, a Finance Minister, and famous leaders in economical societies, have been killed, and so since then it has become very difficult for Japan to move against the intention of military power in it.
At the same time in Germany the leader of Nazi (the Nationalsozialistische Deutche Arbeiterpartei) Adolf Hitler has got his political power so fast, and he has become appointed by Hindenburg reluctantly to the head of the government in 1933.
And in Italy Benito Mussolini has founded the Italian Fascist Party in 1919. Three years later he orchestrated the March on Rome by the Blackshirts and was created Prime Minister, proceeding to organize his government along dictatorial lines.
A war have fought between the Axis Powers and the Allies, including Britain, the Soviet Union, and the USA. Having secretly rearmed Germany, Hitler occupied (1936) the Rhineland, in contravention of the Versailles Peace Settlement. In the same year the Italian fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, joined Hitler in a Berlin-Rome axis, and in 1937 Italy pledged support for the Anti-Commintern Pact between Germany and Japan.
Since then German have invaded several countries around it, and Italy also invaded Ethiopia in 1935~36, and Japan has attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, provoking the USA to enter into the war on the side of Britain.
The Allied invation of western Europe has been launched in the Normady Campaign in June 1944 and Germany surrendered, after Hitler's suicide in Berlin, in May 1945. The Pacific Campains have had elimitated the Japanese navy, and the heavy strategic bombing of Japan by the USA, culminating in the atomic bonbing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945, induced Japan's surender a month later.
I think that even though Japan, Germany, and Italy, have wanted to recover their rather inferior situations in getting colonies relying upon their Imperialism, Dictatorship, or Militarism, but it seems to be a little too late for them to succeed in such a difficult job. Because of having developed situations of Humanism, or Democracy, people in the world do not like to come back the competitive Age of getting colonies.
12) Avoiding the World War 3.
After the World War 2. the USA and the Soviet Union have emerged as the two largest global powers. Their war-time Alliance has collapsed within the three years and the two nations have each embarked on a programme of rearmament with nuclear capability, as the Cold War developed.
United States of America (USA) : The world fourth largest country, comprising the central belt of North America together with Alaska, Hawaii, Perto Rico, and many small Pacific Ocean islands.
Soviet Union (official name Union of Socialist Republics) : A former federation of 15 republics occupying the northern half of Asia and part of Eastern Europe, comprising Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lituania, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan.
And it seems that those so big and so powerful two countries might have had the final game to decide the winner of the final game between the two strongest countries in the world at that time.
As I said before, I have some fantastic idea that the whole world history is as a kind of tournament game, which has been continued since the ancient age, when there were any kind of developed civilization hadn't occured yet. Therefore when I supposed the occurance of the final game between USA and USSR as the World War 3., I was so much worried about the miserable results after it. Especially, I have experienced the actual bombings by US Air Force in the World War 2., and by which my house in Tokyo has been burned out, and at the same time, looking at the serious damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, my supposition of the World War 3. has been so enormously miserable at that time.
Furthermore after the World War 2. the USA and the Soviet Union has emerged as the two largest global powers. Their war-time alliance collapsed within three years and the two nations each embarked on a programme of rearmament with nuclear capability, as the Cold War developed.
Therefore at that time I have been so serious in thinking the real situations of the world, and it was completely impossible for me to deny the occurrance of the World War 3., and so I have thought that if it would actually happen, there might be enormously big damage on the earth. There might have been so many destruction of valuable monuments, historical data, important and valuable human lives, cultural inheritances, and so forth. But at the same time I have thought that it might be completely impossible for human beings to stop the World War 3.
However, fortunately we, human beings, have been successful in stopping the World War 3 at last. Therefore, listening to such a news, I was so much surprised and I was so much thankful that we, human beings, haven't been so much stupid to destroy our valuable civilizations. Of course there might have been so many people's secret efforts to stop the war in the background, therefore I would like to offer so many thanks for those many people, but at the same time I would like to offer so many thanks to a Russian statesman, called Mikhail S. Gorbachev .
Mikhail S. Gorbachev (1931~2007) : Executive President of Soviet Union (1990~91). A communist Party member since 1952, he was elected to the General Committee in 1979 and to the Politburo in the following year. On the death of Konstan Chernenko in March 1985 he became the Soviet leader, exercising control from his position as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev's efforts to carry out perestroika, the economic and social reform of Soviet society, led to a gradual process of liberalization and the introduction of high technology of the Soviet Union. Together with his foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, he negociated (1987) an arms control (INF) treaty with the West to reduce nuclear forces in Europe. He released many political dissidents from restraint, including Andrei Sakharov and for the first time, the Russian people were told of the enormities of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Stalin's regime. He initiated a number of constitutional changes, whereby the Congress of People's Deputies was directly elected, the Congress then duly electing him Executive President. He supported the Gulf War; but he faced increasing resistance from a conservative, bureaucratic hierarcy, while the constuent republics of the Union sought ever-greater independence. Gorbachev made unsuccessful attempt to regain power in the presidential election of 1996, but he failed significantly to challenge Yeltsin.
And reading Gorbachev's political career, I am afraid that if Gorbachev were not on the earth, there might be no possiblity for Human Beings to stop the World War 3. Therefore I have so much reverence for his enormously valuable efforts to stop the World War 3., and I feel so much happiness that we, human beings, could be successful to stop the World War 3. at last.

(3) Fusion between Humanism and Buddhism

1) The historical facts, which are called Humanism, are very wide in its area, and very complicated in its meaning and so it is very difficult to understand its true meaning. However, at the same time, it is impossible for us to deny the existence of the historical facts called Humanisn, which have been continued for thousands of years actually without stopping at all.
And when we look for some kind of philosophy, which can be called Humanism, I think that it is possible for us to find typical Humanism in old Greco-Roman philosophy, which is called Stoicism.

2) Stoicism
When I think Stoicism as an example of Humanistic stream, the establisher of it, is Zenon from Kyprios (336~264B.C.), who admired Sokrates, and established his philosophy that the aim of Human life is to be happy, and to live naturally in our daily life. And Nature suggests logos, which means the Rule of the Universe.
Their philosophical research have been divided into three parts, that is, logic, physics, and ethics, but according to their insistences the logic and the physics are both the bases of ethics, therefore the study of ethics have been the central area of their learning. In such a situation the center of their research has been to accumlate their moral efforts for establishing their concrete method to live in human life.
In other words the aim has been to accomplish a personality, which has been called a sage. The sage is a person, who can transcend from miscellaneous changes in secular societies, and has accomplished a personality, who has arrived at a transcending state from emotional conditions
up and down. In Stoicism the state, which does not have any kind of emotional changes up and down, is called "apatheia", and a person, who has arrived at the "apatheia", is called a sage.
Furthemore a life of a sage is "to live follwing Nature." And Nature means "logos", which is reason, and so it might be a system, which pervades throughout things and phenomena in wider meaning, and humanity in narrower meaning. Therefore an act to follow our own Nature is the same as to follow the System of the Universe, and so a sage usually identify his own will to the general rule of Nature, and relying upon such a method a sage can identify his own will with the generally natural act following the order of reason, and then it is possible for him to become free from the restriction of desire. In short, it has been the fundamental thoughts of Stoicism to follow the Rule of the Universe, or teachings from the Heaven and the Earth. (Those explanations relies upon mainly "Seiyo Tetsugaku Shiyo, or a condensed history of
western philosophy" by Hatano Sei-ichi" and "Dictionary of Philosophy" by Heibon-sha.)

3) Stoicism and Buddhism
Stoicism has been popular from Ancient Greece to the end of the Roman Empire, and when we study it a little, it is very surprising that the philosophical system of Stoicism is so much similar to the structure of Buddhist philosophy.
(1) Both Stoicism and Buddhism are not familiar to idealism and materialism.
(2) Stoicism and Buddhism both, leaving idealism and materialism, have their fundamental bases of philosophy on action.
(3) Therefore the insistences of Stoicism and Buddhism are both very moral.
(4) Stoicism reveres a state called "apatheia" as the basis of no emotion, or being moral, so much, but at the same time there is strong possibility that the "apatheia" is the same as "samadhi", which is the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system in Zazen.
(5) In Stoicism a person, who is in the state of "apatheia" is called a sage, and the sage seems to be so similar to an awaked man, who is called Buddha in Buddhism.
(6) A life of the sage is "to live following Nature", and so it is the same as to live following logos, or reason, therefore the life of the sage might be similar to the life of Buddha, who lives his daily life following Dharma, or the Rule of the Universe.
(7) Therefore the facts that sages follow their truly natural own nature, may be the same as Buddhists follow their own moral way, which is called the Rule of the Universe in Buddhism.
Thinking about those facts it is necessary for us to think that the sage in Stoicism and Buddha in Buddhism might be the same in their philosophical meaning.
(8) However, even though we have found a very clear similarity between Stoicism and Buddhism, we should never misunderstand that Humanism is limited only inside Stoicism, but we can find so powerful and so wide tendency of Humanism, which covers the whole Euro-American civilization.

4) Fusion between Humanism and Buddhism
Even though I explained the so conspicuous similarity between Stoicism and Buddhism, my such indication does never suggest the identity of Humanism with Stoicism. Because Humanism in human history is so big and fundamental tendency of human history, which I have described in 2) Humanism in the World History.
Humanism is not so clear philosophical system yet, but has been found all parts of Euro-American histories so clearly, and it has been continuing for thousands of years. However, when we want to try interpreting it with western philosophies, the Humanism is so wide and incluses so profound meanings, and so even though the existence of Humanism in the Euro-American historys so clear as facts, but it was also so difficult for us to understand the meaning of Humanism relying upon western logically exact philosophies.
However, when we think about the meanig of Humanism relying upon Buddhist philosophical system, it seems to be possible that we can understand the philosophical structure of Humanism relying upon the philosophical explanation of Buddhism. And the reason why it is possible for us to understand the meaning of Humanism relying upon the Buddhist theory, especially by Master Dogen's very sharp logical structure, comes that the philosophical structure of Humanism might be completely the same as Buddhism in their similar humanistic
fundamental basis.

(1) The Four Noble Truth : In Buddhism we can find the very unique philosophical system, which is called the Four Noble Truth, or the Theory of the Four Philosophies. And the Four Philosophies are briefly speaking idealism, materialism, the philosophy of action, and Reality itself. And the meaning of the words suggests that we human beings have very excellent brain cells, therefore the first philosophy, which we usually have, is idealistic philosophy. But when we have become accustamed with sense perception, we are prone to become materialists. However both idealism and materialism are related with human mental functon or human sensitive fuction, therefore idealism and materialism can never get out from the area of consideration or sense perception.
However in the case of Buddhism, its philosophy is not limited inside the area of consideration or sense perception, but it expands its area into the area of action. I think that in the case of western philosophies it is usually impossible for a philosophy to recognise the existence of actual philosophy, but in the case of Budhism, it has broken through the barrier between mental or sensual function and action, and it has esablished the theory of the four philosophies.
Nevertheless I think that even in the western civilization there is a philosophy, which have transcended both mental consideration and sense perception, that may be Humanism. I think that Humanism has noticed the intelectual narrowness of idealism and materialism, but because of so strong power of idealism and materialism in the western civilization, I suppose that it was impossible for the western people to deny the absolute diginity of idealism and materialism, therefore even though they revere the value of Humanism so much, it has been impossible for them to affirm that Humanity as the ultimate Truth, philosophy, or religion in the world.
However fortunately in 20th Century I have found an importatant proposition that the balance of the autonomic nervous system may be the basis of true Buddhism, and relying upon such an idea I have clarified the true meaning of Buddhist philosophies including Zazen totally. Therefore I think that even in the case of Humanism it should clarify that Humanism is just a very clear philosophy, or religion by utilizing the identity between Humanism and Buddhism. In the case of Humanism, because of the so strong influence of idealism and materialism, it has be impossible for Humanism to proclaim that it is just an independent philosophy or religion, but relying upon the identification between Humanism and Buddhism, we can clearly insist that Humanism is just an independent philosophy or religion, which can be the ultimate theory to symthesize the whole therories in the world into only one Truth.

(2) The Theory of Cause and Effect : In the Buddhist philosophy of the Four Noble Truths we can find the 2nd phase of the Theory of Cause and Effect. In modern sciencies we have also the scientific theory of cause and effect, but in the case of cause and effect in Buddhism it is much different in its area, where the rule of cause and effect works. In the case of scientific cause and effect the area, where it works, is usually limited into the area of matter, and there is a tendency that in the case of cause and effect in science, it works mainly inside the material area. Of course there is a very conspicuous tendency even in sience that they think about cause and effect also inside in mind even in the case of sciences, but at the same time there is a tendency that even in the case of scientists they like to permit some kind of exception, which does not follow the rule of cause and effect in the case of spiritual facts. But if we want to expect the perfect identity between Humanism and Buddhism, it is impossible for us to permit even a bit of difference between Humanism and Buddhism related with such a problem.
Buddhism insists that the rule of cause and effect works well both in mental area and material area, because it is impossible for us to divide this world into the two parts of matter and mind. Therefore it is possible for us to say that the Buddhist cause and effect must govern not only the area of matter, but they also govern the whole Universe of matter and mind. So the Buddhist cause and effect are totally related with the problem of good and bad, or purity and impurity, or morality and immorality. So in the chapter of Shobogenzo entitled "Shinjin-inga, or Deep Belief in Cause and Effect," Master Dogen proclaimes that "In general, the truth of cause and effect is vividly apparent and is not a personal matter: those who commit evil fall down, and those who practice good rise up, without a thousandth or a hundredth of a discrepancy." Therefore we should think that the Buddhist Theory of Cause and Effect includes the whole Universe totally.
If we want to insist the identification betwen Humanism and Buddhism, it is also necessary for us to believe in the existence of the same rule of cause and effect in Humanism as in Buddhism.

(3) The theory of Appearance and Disappearance at the Present Moment : When I explained the Four Philosophies and the Theory of Cause and Effect, I did not feel so much difficulty to accept those two kinds of principles into Humanism. But when I think about an introduction of the third principle, that is the theory of Appearance and Disappearance 0f this world at the present moment, I have to feel so much difficulty for me to introduce it into Humanism. Because even in Buddhist philosophy, I have met the so unique theory of "Appearance and Disappearance of the whole Universe at the present moment" just in Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Chapter "Hotsu-bodaishin, or Establishment of the Bodhi-mind." (70) for the first time.
The Chapter says, (Book 3, P. 268, L. 22.) "In general, establishment of the mind and attainment of the truth rely upon the instantaneous arising and vanishing of all things. If [all things] did not arise and vanish instantaneously, bad done in the previous instant could not depart. If bad done in the previous instant had not yet departed, good in the next instan could not be realized in the present." ----- "Those who do not know the Buddha-Dharma and do not believe the Buddha-Dharma do not believe the principle of instaneous arising and vanishing. One who clarifies the Tathagata's right-Dharma-eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana inevitably believes this principle of instantaneous arising and vanishing."
Relying upon such a theory, we can do good, just after doing bad, and at the same time we can do bad, just after doing good. And such situations are the basis of human conducts in our daily life.
And if we want to identify Humanism with Buddhism, it is necessary for us as even Humanists to accept such a Buddhist principle of the instantaneous time at the present moment.

(4) Reality : Idealistic philosophy can not be real entity, and materialistic philosophy also can not be real entity. Idealism seems to be so romantic, so beautiful, so hopeful, and so reliable, but actually speaking what is not real can not be anything. And even though what is material seems to be so reliable, but actually speaking without idea matter itself doesn't work at all.
However we, human beings, have been attracted by beautiful dreams of idealistic philosophy so much, and at the same time we, human beings, have been deluded by material sense stimuli so much.
But in fifth Century B.C. the Indian Sage Gautama Buddha have found the unreliability of idealism, and unreliability of materialism both, and he has thrown away both idealism and materialism totally, and then he has found Reality, which is just the Truth. Gautama Buddha recommended us to throw away idealism and materialism together, and he proclaimed that what is reliable actually for human beings themselves is, neither idea, nor sense perception, but our action itself, which, we, human beings, are always doing at the every present moment in our daily life.
But unfortunately it is very difficult for us, human beings, to act. Because we, human beings, prone to think so much when our sympathetic nervous system is strong, and at the same time when our parasympathetic nervous system is so strong, we are prone to be sensitive so much. Therefore even though we are diligent so much not to think sometimes, it is perfectly difficult for us to stop thinking when our sympathetic nervous system is stronger, and at the same time when our parasympathetic nervous sysytem is stronger, even though we are so sincere to be spiritual, sometimes it is impossible for us to be sincere in our daily life.
And Gautama Buddha noticed such facts in his own daily life, and so he wanted to regulate himself as he liked. Therefore he began to practice Zazen, which was the best posture among many kinds of Yoga postures, and he noticed that the practice of Zazen makes his body and mind peaceful and joyfull. Of course at that time there was no knowledge about the autonomic nervous system in ancient Idea, but I suppose that the sharp-minded Gautama Buddha had recognized some mystical function in his own body and mind.
And fortunately we, human beings, have met very clear explanation of Zazen relying upon the modern scientific knowledge, and so by practicing Zazen everyday 2 times a day at least, we can keep our autonomic nervous system balanced everyday, and so we keep ourselves as Buddha everyday. And in such a situation it will become possible for us in our daily life to consider all kinds of philosophical problems on the basis of Buddhist philosophy, and so we can think about so miscellaneous philosophical problems one by one in our daily life, and after about more than 30~60 years later, we can arrive at the second enlightenment, in which we can have accomplished the all solutions of Buddhist pursuts totally.
In such situations in 21st Century I guess almost all human beings will begin the practice of Zazen, and many people will arrive at the ultimate Truth, which Gautama Buddha has found in 5th Century B.C.

End

15 Comments:

Blogger Kenneth said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Thank you for this posting. I also feel that there are many parallels and much common ground between humanism and buddhism. Perhaps the most fundamental difference, however, is that humanism remains a philosophy, whereas buddhism goes an essential step further to include practice which permeates all aspects of our lives.

As you mentioned in your book 'A Heart to Heart chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo', everyone actually has a religion, i.e. a set of values and, most importantly, behavior which reflects those values. Regarding humanism, presumably those humanists you mentioned in your posting did indeed practice what they taught as a form of religion. However, for me personally, as a mere reader of humanist texts they left a more intellectual impression on me, which may be latently present in my thoughts, but they didn't actually change the way I consciously live my life in a fundamental way. For this the Buddhadharma was necessary, for which I am most grateful to have encountered.

Best regards and gassho

Kenneth

7:25 PM, May 08, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For kenneth San

Thank you very much for your clear comment on Humanism and religion.

I agree your opinion, and so I think that if Humanism and Duddhism can be identified in near future, we can insist that Humanism is just the religion, which can save the whole Universe.

12:29 PM, May 09, 2007  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Gudo Nishijima-

Thank you for sharing your view on Buddhism and Humanism.

I recently went to an event which was being held for one of my favorte fiction authors, Kurt Vonnegut, who recently died. Kurt Vonnegut was the president of the American Humanist Society. The author's son, Mark Vonnegut, read us Kurts last speech, which made much reference to Humanism. I felt the ideas were similar to Buddhism. Here is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's most recent book called A Man Without a Country:

"We humanist try to behave as decently, as fairly, and as honorably as we can witout any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife."

After reading the quote, I thought Humanism is just Buddhism.

I looked up Humanism at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism)and I noticed their were to main types of Humanism, Secular Humanism and Religous Humanism. The former embraces scientific views while the latter embraces spirituality or supernatrual views. I feel that you, Master Gudo, teach Buddhism Humanism or Action Humanism.

Kurt Vonnegut was a secular humanist. His novels so happen to be science fiction. Here is one of my favorite excerpts from his novel Slaughterhouse Five, in which the main character, Billy Pilgrim, has just been abducted by aliens called Tralfamdorians, whom see the past, present, and future all at the same time. To me, this disscussion seems like a Buddhist Koan.

Excerpt:

There were two peepholes inside the airlock-with yellow eyes pressed to them. There was a speaker on the wall. The Tralfamadorians had no voice boxes. They communicated telepahtically. They were able to talk to Billy by means of computer and a sort of electric organ which made every Earthling speech sound.

"Welcome aboard, Mr. Pilgrim," said the loud-speaker. "Any questions?"

Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at last: "Why me?"

"That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?"

"Yes." Billy , in fact, had a peperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three ladybugs embedded in it.

"Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why."

1:26 PM, May 23, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Lone Wolf San

Thank you very much for your interesting story, but it is very sorry that I do not like to answer your question. Because your question is related with a kind of story, and in that case I usually refuse my answer. The reason, why I say so, comes from that Buddhist discussions are always related with a real fact at the present moment. Therefore, when a question is related with an fantastic story, I would like to stop my answer at every case. I am very sorry for my so rude attitudes, but it is impossible for me to violate the fundamental attitude of Realism.

4:12 PM, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thanks you Gudo Nishijima for responding. I think I understand your point based on the fiction story I wrote about, which had such unreal things as aliens in it. I don't feel you are being rude at all.

But this brings up another question. I enjoy writing fiction stories. I believe that even "non-fiction" books use elements of fiction, or fantasy, to tell their story. I feel that each time we think of a memory, we are changing little aspects of that event to the point of it being different from the moment we experienced that event. I feel that philosophy ideas are just fantasy ideas, not reality. Yet, helpful to explain reality. Isn't the first three philosophies of the four philosophies in the intellectual realm, though helpful to see reality, not reality. Is'nt intellectualization similar to fantasy?

Being that I enjoy writing fiction, do you believe one can write such creative fantasized stories and still practice Buddhism? Didn't Dogen write poetical stories to help explain Buddhist reality? How can I continue to write fiction stories and live a life of Buddhism.

My question is about creativity? Many of the Zen Buddhist Masters of the past and present are very creative with such practices as painting, calligraphy, etc. Is there a diffirence between creativity and fantasy?

I ask these questions with the wish to learn how to live my life in reality as I live a life of creativity. A life with meaning.

Thank you very much.

3:14 PM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Lone Wolf San

Thank you very much for your interesting question.

I do never think fantastic stories light, or sensitive stimuli light.

But I never mix fantastic stories with reality, or I never mix sensitive stimuli with reality.

Reality is perfectly different from fantastic story or sensitive timuli. Therefore I am so careful to distinguish the four dimentional differences.

8:31 PM, May 25, 2007  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you very much, Gudo Nishijima, for answering my questions.

I have difficulty understanding Buddhism based on real life situations for in real life situations one has to think and feel. Anytime one is thinking or feeling, for example me thinking to write this blog or me feeling the air blow on my skin from the fan, one is living outside of reality. How can one live in this world and FUNCTION without using intellectual aspect of mind.

My understanding is that Buddhism is the balance of thinking and feeling that cancel each other out. The thinking side gives meaning to life, and the material side is meaningless. My main question is how can one have meaning in life yet still live in the reality of no thinking and no feeling? Like I said, don't we need to think and feel in order to do everyday function.

Of course, I know I must be misunderstanding something, but this is my interpretation of the Buddhist teachings I read or hear.

Actually, it would probably be best for me to just sit down and shut up and do Zazen practice everyday, while I continue to just live out my oridnary life and duty. What I am trying to understand most likley will only make since when my automic nervous system is balanced.

Anyways, thank you Gudo Nishijima for your sincere teachings on Buddhism.

12:48 PM, May 27, 2007  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Is seems the only time one can be in reality is when there physically sitting in the Zazen posture thinking the thought of non thinking, doing the act of just sitting. It would seem that one can not be living in reality when going about their daily duties, but only in the act of Zazen?

12:56 PM, May 27, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Lone Wolf San

Thank you very much for your questions, and my answers are as follows.

In Buddhism thinking is not real, but it is only activity of brain cells, and at the same time feeling is not real, but it is only excitement of sense organs.
And Reality is just our action at the present moment.

We human beings can consider meaning with our brain, and can perceive our sense stimuli with sense organs. But when we act, the strengths of our SNS and PNS have become equal, and so the functions of SNS and PNS become plus/ninus = zero. Then real action exists. (continue further)

1:50 PM, June 10, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

In short, it is necessary for us to distinguish perfectly among consideration, perception, and action dimensionally.

I agree with your idea that the best solution of the problem is to practice Zazen actually.

And I would like to answer your next question here too.

The time, when we are just Reality, is never only when we are practicing Zaen, but when we are keeping the ANS balanced, we can always be in Reality.

4:19 PM, June 10, 2007  
Blogger Zushi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:52 PM, June 10, 2007  
Blogger Zushi said...

Dear Nishijima Rishi,
reading your last commentary isn't it actually meeting the cook that Dogen once has met when he arrived in China?

4:58 PM, June 10, 2007  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Thank you very much for your helpful answers Master Gudo.

5:16 AM, June 11, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Sensei,


On my blog I wanted to try to answer people’s questions on Master Dogen’s words “no nets and cages” (RARO IMADA ITARAZU), by which, I suppose, he expressed freedom from what might restrict a dragon or a tiger.

However, nobody has asked me.

So instead of writing on my blog, I would like to ask you to answer some questions on your blog on the pursuit of freedom by sitting-zen.

Recently I have reflected on the irony that Alexander teachers have a tendency to tie ourselves up in the pursuit of a free neck. Whereas your example is of somebody who has lived his life rather freely, not worrying about good and bad, but pursuing a rigidly upright spine in sitting. So I would like to ask you to express your thoughts on the real meaning of freedom.

(1) Please could you express your understanding of what kind of freedom, freedom from what, Master Dogen expressed with the words “nets and cages have not yet arrived.”

(2) I notice that it is still very difficult for me, when I practice sitting-zen, to be free of idealistic effort (trying to be right, trying to become somebody). After almost 70 years of daily sitting-zen and studying and teaching Shobogenzo, do you still notice any idealistic tendency within your own sitting-zen practice?

(3) A teacher of sitting-zen said to his student: “When you smoke a cigarette, buddha smokes a cigarette.” But I think that the desire to smoke a cigarette is not a natural or healthy thing, and the smoking of a cigarette has an artificial influence on the autonomic nervous system. So how can teaching like that be true?

(4) In the one-to-one, face-to-face transmission between master and disciple, along with concrete things like the Buddha-robe and the custom of sitting in the full lotus posture, is there some essential thing -- for example, freedom, or balance of the autonomic nervous system -- that has been transmitted?

With best wishes,

Mike Cross


Dear Mr Mike Cross,

Thank you very much for your questions, and I would like to answer your questions one by one.

As you know, "RA" is a silk net, which catches a small bird, and "RO" is a cage, which catches small fish.

But actually thnking, the net and the cage are both human concepts, which have been thought in human brain, and so if human beings do not suppose the existence of them, there is no net and there is no cage. The meaning of the words are like that.

I think that it is very nice idea that you would like to show your questions in Dogen Sangha Bolg, then all people in the world, who like to know Buddhism can study Buddhism because of your kind questions.

(1) When we do not think about net or cage, there is no net, or no cage in our brain, and so it is impossible for us to suppose such kinds of net, or cage, and such situations are called freedom.

(2) If I continue thinking something in my brain, I can never stop thinking, but when I keep myself in the authentic regular posture in Zazen, I can concentrate my efforts only in keeping the spine straight vertically, and so I am just sitting in Zazen not having thought.

(3) I clearly say that the teacher's explanation is absolutely wrong. A man, who is smoking is just smoking, and no one other than he, does never smoke at all in such a situation.

(4) Without the balance of the autonomic nervous system there is no Zazen.

Thank you very much for your questions.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

9:40 PM, June 19, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Zushi San

I think that the story of Chinese monk in China is a story, which has been written by Master Dogen in Tenzo Kyokun, but our discussion is just a real discussion, which we are doing really in 21st Cencury.

10:04 PM, June 22, 2007  

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