Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Monday, February 16, 2009

Buddhism has evolved from a religion into a philosophy in 20th Century

Since Gautama Buddha has given Buddhism to human beings for the first time in the 5th or 4th Century B.C., about 2,500 years has passed, but during those years we, human beings, have been thought that Buddhism must be a religion. Because during that time we, human beings, have never understood the reason, why we, human beings, can get "Satori, or enlightenment" relying upon the practice of Zazen theoretically.

However since 20th Century, we, human beings, have begun to understand the reason, why we can get "Sarori, or enlightenment" because of practicing Zazen at last. Because of the enormously excellent progress in physiology and psychology in the 20th Century, human beings have found the scientific reason, why we can get "Satori, or enlightenment" by practicing Zazen. And since then Buddhism has begun to change itself from Religion, which believe in getting enlightenment by practicing Zazen only on belief, to Philosophy, which can realize clearly that we can get enlightenment by practicing Zazen on the basis of philosophy and practice. Therefore since the 21st Century, people, who practice Zazen, should understand why it is possible for human beings to get enlightenment by practicing Zazen.

When we think why it is possible for us to get enlightenment by practicing Zazen, the most important fact may be that human beings have found the existence of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) in our body and mind in the 20th Century for the first time. Before that time human beings have known the existence of Cerebrospinal Nervous System (CNS) since the Ancient Time, but in the case of ANS, human beings haven't known the existence of ANS at all before the 20th Century. And in the case of CNS, we can move it by our brain as far as we want,
but in the case of ANS, it is perfectly impossible for us to move ANS by our will at all.

And ANS is devided into two parts, that is, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), and SNS and PNS have generally kept absolutely opposite function.

When SNS is stronger, human beings are prone to show its function, which is rather spiritual, restrictive, rigid, and stern. But when PNS is stronger, human beings are prone to show its function, which is rather lazy, dull, relaxed, and unreliable. However, when the strength of SNS and the strength of PNS are equal, human beings can maintain themselves in the area of human beings. And every human beings have duty to maintain themselves as human beings, and so we human beings have to practice Zazen everyday.

Therefore we, human beings, have duty to practice Zazen everyday, and by continuing the practice every day, we can maintain the situations of human beings everyday by practicing Zazen without fail. Of course the practice is never limited only into Zazen, but for example practices of many kinds of Sports, producing many kinds of Fine Arts, many kinds of scientific research, and so forth, and so those kinds of miscellaneous human efforts are useful for making our ANS balanced. But in Shobogenzo, Master Dogen insisted that the reason why we usually select the practice of Zazn to have ANS balanced, might be related with the facts that Zazen is the most peaceful and easiest practice among many kinds of practices. Therefore Zazen can never be any kind of ascetic efforts, but the method to make our ANS balanced in our daily life.

By understanding those kind of theory, Buddhism has found the true meaning of Zazen in the 20th Century, and so since the 21st Century, Buddhism has changed from Religion to Philosophy, and so since then we, human beings, can pursue the Ultimate Truth of Buddhist Realism relying upon the practice of Zaze.

16 Comments:

Blogger kirkmc said...

Nishijima-sensei,

Is it your opinion, then, that the use of the term "religion" and even the more vague "spirituality" do not apply to your form of Zen practice? (I'm very interested in this, because this has long been my belief.)

Kirk

10:55 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Jordan said...

Nishijima Sensei,

I hope you can help me understand what you are pointing to here.

You say: By understanding those kind of theory, Buddhism has found the true meaning of Zazen in the 20th Century, and so since the 21st Century, Buddhism has changed from Religion to Philosophy, and so since then we, human beings, can pursue the Ultimate Truth of Buddhist Realism relying upon the practice of Zazen.

So with that said, is there a reason to study sutras, scriptures or even the teachings of Master Dogen?

Are the written records of Buddhist teaching just so much wasted paper? Or is there a place for practices outside of ZaZen? For example, the ceremony for taking and keeping the Precepts? The meal time verse? The instructions to the cook? The Eihei shingi?

Thank you for your patience,
Jordan

1:32 AM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Kirkmc San,

Thank you very much for your question, and I would like to answer clearly "yes." I think that Buddhism can never be religion since the 20th Century, and "spirituality" should be denied in Buddhism.


Dear Jordan San,

Thank you very much for your questions, and I would like to answer you simply and exactly.

What you wrote in your opinion, beginning with "You say: is true comparing with my opinion.

But I never say that there is no reason for us to study sutras, scriptures or even the teachings of Master Dogen at all.
I think clearly that without reading what Master Dogen wrote, I can never understand Gautama Buddha's teachings at all.In my case the Buddhist Sutras are too much many, and so I have concentrated my efforts to read Master Dogen's works solely. And I think that if we read Master Dogen's works all sufficiently, it is sufficient for us to study the fundamental true Buddhist theory totally.

It is also important to read the written records of Buddhist teachings, and so Master Dogen has picked up so many Buddhist stories in his Buddhist Books.

I think that the practice of Zazen is the main practice in Buddhism, and it is common and easiest way, and so we should revere Zazen especially so much.

The ceremony for giving the Buddhist precepts are also very important step, and it is the symbolical ceremony entering into the Buddhist Samgha, and so it is also inevitable process for entering into Buddhist Sangha.

The central point of Buddhist life is just our daily life, and so at the beginning of our meals it is fundamental necessity for Buddhists to recite the five kinds of reflections.

The instructions to the cook are also so important teachings for Buddhists, because they incluse so important instructions of Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist behavior, Buddhist life, and so forth.

The whole volumes of Eihei Shingi are also very important, and among them "Bendo-ho" is very valuable book especially.

3:14 PM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger kirkmc said...

Nishijima sensei,

Thank you for your reply to my question. You say:

"I think that Buddhism can never be religion since the 20th Century, and "spirituality" should be denied in Buddhism."

If this is the case, then what real place do the precepts, sangha, etc. have in Buddhism? Don't they foster the "religious" aspect of Zen? The precpts involve rites, and the sangha reinforces those rites.

I do understand when you say that Zazen is the main practice in Buddhism, and wonder if there is really any way to develop a teaching of Zazen without all the trappings of "religion" that have accreted around that practice over the centuries.

Kirk

6:23 PM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Jordan said...

Nishijima Sensei,

Thank you for your answers.

You say: The ceremony for giving the Buddhist precepts are also very important step, and it is the symbolical ceremony entering into the Buddhist Samgha, and so it is also inevitable process for entering into Buddhist Sangha.

I understand that the ceremony for giving and receiving the precepts is an important symbol and I might say declaration of entering the Buddhist sangha, what is your opinion of the significance to the Bodhisattva vows themselves?

You also said: The central point of Buddhist life is just our daily life, and so at the beginning of our meals it is fundamental necessity for Buddhists to recite the five kinds of reflections.

I have two daughters, one four and one six years old. When we have time to eat as a family we all site the poem of five reflections together, if they were to ask me why this is important, how can I explain this to them? They do not understand “The central point of Buddhist life is just our daily life.” I have always thought and taught that it was teaching us many core Buddhist thoughts of interconnectedness, gratitude, attention, self regulation, and the will to the truth. What is your opinion on this?

You say The instructions to the cook are also so important teachings for Buddhists, because they incluse so important instructions of Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist behavior, Buddhist life, and so forth.

I spent a decade in food service, so I especially revere the instructions to the cook. But I have always thought of them as very practical and pragmatic instructions. Could you go into more detail about Buddhist behavior, Buddhist life, and so forth in practical terms for the 21st century?

You say: The whole volumes of Eihei Shingi are also very important, and among them "Bendo-ho" is very valuable book especially.

Bendoho is indeed a work that has also spurred my pursuit of wholehearted practice, I would like to ask as to your opinion of the Eihei Koroku?

12:50 AM, February 21, 2009  
Blogger element said...

Hello Master Nishijima,
In the first chapter of your book "To meet the real Dragon" you define Buddhism as a religion. Can you describe what it is that changed your opinion about that?

Another impression of reading the first chapter of your book is that you are very influenced by Hegel, a thinker who is not regarded very high today. I can't accept the idea that history has a goal, and that one view, for example buddhism will be the goal of history.
This is only wishful thinking or beliefing for me.

Thank you!

2:03 AM, February 21, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear kirkmc San,

Thank you very much for your imporant questions.

The real place, where the precepts,sangha, etc. are working, is never the area of idea or perception, but it is just the area of Action.

Before the 20th Centry we could say that Buddhism is Religion. But since the 20th Century we, human beings, have clarified
what is the enlightenment in Buddhism physiologically and psychologically, Buddhism has changed its fundamental character from Religion to Philosophy.

When we think about Buddhism, we should never think about it on the basis of idea or matter, but we should think it on the basis of Action, or Reality. This is very important point when we think about the philosophy of Buddhism. When we think about the fundamental basis of Buddhism, we should think everything on the basis of philosophy of Action, or Reality itself by throwing away both idealism and materialism.

When we use the word of Zen, we should be very careful to the meaning of Zen. Originally speaking, Zen is an abbreviated word of Zazen, and so it has indicated Zazen itseif first. But later in Chinese Buddhism, they used the word "Zen" as a special mystical meaning, which has been produced in China, therefore we should be careful for us not to use the word "Zen" as such special meaning, which has been produced in China. (cf. Shobogenzo Bendowa,Q&A:5)

Rites belong to Action, and so they are revered in Buddhism so such.

Since the 20th Century, human beings have found the real situations why Zazen can make ANS balanced, and so Buddhism has begun to explain the affirmative reason for Zazen for the first time.

2:31 PM, February 21, 2009  
Blogger kirkmc said...

Nishijima-sensei,

Thank you for again responding to my questions. If I may, I'd like to ask for some clarification.

You use the terms "Action" and "Reality". I assume that by Reality you mean the reality that we don't always see, that is masked by our delusions. Is this correct? What exactly do you mean by Action?

Regarding the following statement:

"Since the 20th Century, human beings have found the real situations why Zazen can make ANS balanced, and so Buddhism has begun to explain the affirmative reason for Zazen for the first time."

If I understand this correctly, you are saying that Zazen - or meditation in general - was "discovered" at some time in the past, but people did not know why it had the effect that it does, and only now have we understood, through scientific research, what that effect is?

Gassho,

Kirk

5:43 PM, February 21, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Jordan San,

Thank you very much for your questions.

I think that The Bodhisattva Precepts in Mahayana Buddhism are vry important, and so we should follow those kinds of fundamental Buddhist Precepts in our daily life cinserely.

At every meals, you, the father, should recite the Poem of Five Reflections loadly.
And I hope that your wife will follow your recitation in future.
And several years later, I think that your two daughters will follow their parents.

I think that it is also important for us to teach many kinds of Buddhist Morals in our daily life gradually.

I think that cooking is also a kind of Buddhist action. Therefore if we are diligent to cook sincerely, our ANS will become balanced gradually, and we can become very good cooks, that is, very good Buddhist monks too.

I think that there are two kinds of behavior in Buddhism, and to think about Buddhism is not so important, but to act buddhism itself is very important.

Even in the Ancient India or in 21st in Euro-American Societies, Buddhism is just only one. Therefore it is always very important for us to keep ANS balanced at every moment.

I think that Eihei Koroku is Master Dogen's works, which are done in his rather later age, and so I think that his thoughts in Eihei Koroku have been much matured, but at the same time the contents of Eihei Koroku are related with special topics, and so it is also very important, but at the same time the contents are not so systematic.


Dear element San,

Thank you very much for your important questions.

In 20th Century I haven't grasped that the theory of ANS can not solve the true meaning of Satori in Buddhism so clearly. Therefore I haven't understand that Buddhism has changed its characteristics from Religion to Philosophy first.
But I understand the true meaning of Mulamadhyamakakarika (MMK) in Sanskrit, or "A Song of the Fundamental Middle Way," then I noticed that Buddhim has changed itself from Religion to Philosophy, because I have understood that the true meaning of Satori in Buddhism is much related with human ANS.

I interprete that Gautama Buddha has established his Buddhist Realistic Philosophy on the basis of the Four Noble Truth, that is, Philosophy of Pain, Philosophy of Accumulation, Philosophy of Self-regulation, and Reality itself.
Therefore I think that Hegelian Philosophy might be the Buddhist first step, that is Philosophy of Pain, in the modern humn civilization, and Materialism by Kahl Marx might be the Buddhist second step, that is, Philosophy of Accumulation, and Existential Philosophy by Heidegger and so forth, might be the third step of Buddhism, that is, the Philosophy of Existence.
Therefore I think that the next process of the World History might be the Age of Buddhist Realism, and then All human beings will enjoy the ultimate philosophy of Buddhist Realism at last.

5:29 PM, February 22, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

I think the first question should be "What is a religion?".

Is the word religion used in its right meaning today – or is it not?

Do people today have a true idea of what a religion is, or do they not?

I think your relating to "religion" relates to what people today – quite unclearly – (– unavoidably) consider it to be, - not to the real correct meaning of the word. (Which Buddha, or Christ, could not have mistaken.)

It is not possible to say that Buddhism is not a religion.

Rather – religion itself is not at all necessarily a “religion”.

And the true meaning will become clearer with time.

– And rather – the change you are discussing can only be – it seems – a change from one kind of a religion to another kind of a religion.

Also the statement that Buddhism has become a philosophy – I find quite uneasy to live with. (! – Though in ancient Greece the word "philosophy" – (originally) was used as referring to a kind of practice – (– which might also mean religion) not to a mere conceptual study.)

Philosophy – as seen by many intellectual fools today, - is disconnected from action – from application – and this is just what any religion should not be.

In that sense – it is doubtful whether the fourth phase could be regarded as (a) philosophy – since it involves the application as well – not being separate from understanding. (As far as I understand.)

Such stupidity (– as described above – of just those who are usually considered to be an authority on the subject) did not occur (or widely exist) at the time of Master Dogen in Japan, or in the east in general. I don’t know about the west. (at the time – i.e.)

2:10 AM, April 15, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

Also – since you are talking about the age of realism – I wonder whether it could be said the age of materialism was roughly (for about 2000 years?) until the coming of Christ, and the age of idealism - from then - roughly until today.

- And also – it seems the age of materialism had to do with the development of the will, (- of humanity - of course) and the age of idealism with the development of sensation, - and (so) it might certainly seem reasonable that the age of realism would have to do with the progress of thought.

Would you affirm?

2:34 AM, April 15, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

Thirdly - it seems from your post that the Cerebrospinal Nervous System has to do with the ego. - With the conscience mind.

And the Autonomic Nervous System has to do with the unconscious. (Not - (!) of course - with that which is referred to as "subconscious" in contemporary psychology, - i.e. - the (- yet) unawaken depths of the heart.) The spontaneous - likely. (?)

Due to that - I wonder - are the functions of the CNS and the ANS completely separate - or could it be, - that after a certain period of practice of Zazen - (or another practice) a function which used to be a function of the CNS - would begin to be performed by the ANS?

- I.e. - does the function of the ANS widen due to practice?

- Perhaps – and likely - since its potential abilities are actualized - due to inner synchronization – naturally enabled and therefore achieved, - by the balance of the two Nervous Systems of which it is constructed.

- Could it be said that the ANS forms the foundation of the Buddha Body, and that the CNS is but a temporary means of survival (- i.e. - existence) in the human body?

Consequently - In the case of a Buddha - is the SNS controlled by the ANS?


So far,
With best wishes,

Ran

3:51 AM, April 15, 2009  
Blogger Ran K. said...

Generally speaking - regarding the central matter to which you refer in your post - it seems the four vows should be transformed into four reflections.

Of course people should have understanding of the reflections, - and try to reflect, - minorically but seriously, and constantly - if we wish to attain results.

In just saying the words there would be no point, and just being dramatic - would - naturally, - usually just be very stupid.

So far,

3:12 PM, May 05, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Ran K. San,

I am very sorry that I have missed to write my answers to your questions on 16th, February, and so I would like to write my answers now, even though my answers have become too much late.

I think that a religion is a philosophical, or religious thoughts, which has any kind of ideas to believe in, because the ideas have some parts, which can not be known for people not to understand whether they are true or not, and so the believers have to believe in the thoughts as if it were true.

I think that the word religion is used in its right meaning even today.

I think that even though we do not know whether religions are true, or not, but we usually have some kind of obligation to believe in the religion as if it were true.

I think that, in the case of Buddhism, it has become understood the total meaning of Buddhist philosophy in the 20th Century, and so I think that Buddhism has become a philosophy in 20th Century.

I think that even in the case of religion, if it might be the ultimate Truth, it must be a kind of philosophy, which does not have any doubt at all.

I suppose that it might be impossible for all religions in the world to be the Truth.

I suppose that afer passing so long time, for example, after so many Centries, we, Human Beings, will find the ultimate Truth at last.

I think that the ultimate Truth might be only one, and so it might be a human duty to find the ultimate truth at last.

I think that there might exists only one Truth, I suppose.

I think that we, Human Beings, are so clever living beings, and so I expect that we, Human Beings, will find the ultimate Truth after very long ages

I have supposition that the ultimate Truth might be Action, like Zazen, and so I have much interests in Buddhism.

I think that the ultimate truth might be a kind of oneness between Action and the Philosophy.

9:02 PM, May 07, 2009  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Ran K. San,

Reading your comment, April 15, 2009, I noticed that in your mind the word "Realism" and the word "Materialism" seem to be the same, but in Buddhist philosophy Realism and Materialism perfectly different.

Because Materialism occurs when PNS is stronger, but Realism occurs when SNS and PNS have become balanced.

Therefore I do never agree with your opinion about materialism, Realism, and Christianity at all.

Reading your comments of your opinion about Idealism, Materialism, and Realism, your interpretation of those philosophial systems are perfectly different from my idea, and so I think that it is perfectly useless for us to have any kind of philosophical discussions at all.

12:32 PM, May 08, 2009  
Blogger BillG said...

Nishijima Sensei,

I have never met you but I have participated in the Dogen Sangha group sittings in Tokyo as well as the annual retreats held at Tokei In. I am writing today simply to say "Thank you" for the 3 "Treasures" you have brought:
1) The sincere dedication of your life to the understanding and practice of Buddhist principals as explained by Master Dogen
2) Your sincere dedication to the enormously important task of passing on your unique insights in such a way that you have awoken in many of us a deep desire to continue a personal practice centering on daily zazen and applying the principals you explain in our daily lives.
3) And finally for the compassion you show by patiently answering our questions with so much patience.

from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

9:25 AM, September 26, 2009  

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