Dogen Sangha Blog


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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Gautama Buddha's personality (1)

Buddhism, that is Gautama Buddha's teachings, were established by Gautama Buddha in Ancient India about from 5th Century to 4th Century B.C. He was the first son of Suddhodana, who was the king of a district called Kapilavastu, and so Gautama Buddha was at a position to succeed his Father's position as the king. Just after Gautama Buddha's birth, his father showed his first son to a physiognomist, and then the physiognomist said that "If your son maintain his life in a secular societies, he will become a great king, who will govern the whole world of India, but if he become a monk, he will become a
very great thinker, who will save all people in the world. Therefore the king, who was the father of Gautama Buddha, wanted for his son to become the king of the whole India than becoming the great thinker, who will save all people in the world. Therefore the King gave three residences, which were very comfortable for Gautama Buddha to stay there for the four seasons, and he made his efforts for his son to maintain himself in his secular life without becoming the great thinker, who could have an ability to save the whole people in the world. However Gautama Buddha was a very clever boy, and at the same time he was a very sensitive one since his childhood. One day he was watching a farmer, who was cultivating the fields in the castle. At that time the farmer cut an earthworm in the ground. Just at the moment, a bird, which was flying in the sky, suddenly came down to the field, and picked up a piece of the earthworm to come back to the sky. And looking at the scene, Gautama Buddha was very shocked, and he noticed that all living beings have to kill other living beings for maintain their own lives without any exception.


Blogger Smoggyrob said...

Master Nishijima:

Thank you for this look at the Buddha's life. I find myself waiting for each new post you write.

Would you be so kind as to speak more on Buddhism and Realism, or the Three Philosphies and One Reality?

And Mike, I couldn't find an email address for you, so forgive this public note. You deleted a post I really felt. Yeah man, I'll struggle with you, and so what if I liked Hardcore Zen?

I think the thing is, to stop struggling. So much easier said than done. I'm looking forward to learning a lot from you. Just probably not as much about AT as you would like. : )

Also, thank you for your work on Shobogenzo. Being as difficult to read as it is (I plan to finish volume one in 2007), I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to translate.

Buddhism is just realism. Man, I am missing /so/ much in that little sentence.

Rob Robbins

1:22 PM, December 17, 2005  
Blogger Smoggyrob said...

Master Nishijima:

On re-reading my post, I find it more abrupt than I intended. I'm looking forward eagerly to Gautama Buddha's personality (2), (3), as many as you care to write.

Eh, I don't know for a fact that Master Nishijima reads these comments.

I'll bow anyway.

Rob Robbins

1:45 PM, December 17, 2005  
Blogger Jundo Jim said...

Hello Again,

Some on this blog may be interested in a recent book explaining Nishijima Roshi's perspectives on Zen and Buddhism. Of course, I am biased as I am the translator, but we worked very hard to overcome the language barrier that can very often make Nishijima Roshi's wording a bit hard to penetrate on first impression.

Please do have a look ...

At and other sellers, it can be found as ...

A Heart To Heart Chat On Buddhism With Old Master Gudo

Here is an except on the topic

Gassho, Jundo


Sekishin: What do you mean by 'the three types of religion?'

Gudo: By this, I mean that, if we attempt to classify, based upon their content, the religions found in this world in which we live, they can be divided generally into three types.

Sekishin: Please tell me about each of the three types.

Gudo: The three types consist of those religions which set high store on the ideal, those that venerate the material, and those that emphasize 'action.' By the latter term, I mean a religion which simply tells us to live, to 'act' here and now, in this world just as it is. Thus, I call it a religion of 'action.' Buddhism, I believe, falls within this last category.

Sekishin: I think that this is the first time that I have heard such a classification ...

Gudo: Well, perhaps it contains within it my own particular view of religion. A few minutes ago, I expressed my idea that, if we consider ‘religion’ as commonly understood and ‘Buddhism,’ they are really quite different in their content with regard to the four characteristics that stand for a religion in ordinary definition, and the categories of religion which I want hereinafter to describe are related to that fact.

Sekishin: To begin … the first type, those religions that set high value on 'the ideal,' are what kind of religion?

Gudo: Those are what we usually think of as 'religions' in common understanding. For example, in most 'religions,' the central focus of the teaching is the idea of a super human, ideal entity such as a 'god,' whereby each such religion is formed having as its centerpiece a belief in that 'god.' It is this type of religion which is most like what we usually bring to mind as being a 'religion,' and thus is the most conventional. If we ask the true nature of the entity represented by these anthropomorphic, human like 'gods,' we can say that it is actually a concept of the 'ideal' which we human beings each carry within our hearts.

We human beings are the animal, among all animals, that has developed the highest ability to think. Accordingly, each moment of each day, we think that we wish circumstances to be 'like this,' or to be 'like that,' or that things 'should be like this' or 'should be like that.' We contrast this with the state of the world before us, the state of circumstances we see around us, that are just as they are with all their seeming imperfections. In such manner, the state of the way that things 'should be' that we human beings have the capability to envision within our heads is typically called the 'ideal.' Those religions that arose centered upon such higher ideals, images of the 'ideal,' and setting high value on the ideal, are in reality those religions that we most usually think of as being 'religions.' Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and many others ... most belief systems that these days we commonly call 'religions' belong to this category. They each hold up some perfect, idealized state or other world, in the light of which this world we live in is just a shadow … some other state of being, or some heaven, toward which we aim, but in contrast to which human beings and the unsightly human world fall far, far short.

Sekishin: And those religions that worship the 'material' are what type of religion?

Gudo: Those are religions that we usually do not think of as, or call, 'religions.' Because religions that place importance on the 'ideal' have been so successful, with so many people belonging to such religions, regulating their lives in accordance with the beliefs and tenets thereof … the result has been that a skeptical portion of such believers have come to feel certain contradictions in their religion, certain dissatisfactions with traditional, idealist religions leading them to doubt the dogma of the religion. The reason is that the ideals commonly upheld by the religion, and the explanations it will give for why the world functions in the way it does, will seem to diverge from the actual realities of the world in which we live, will not always mesh and be in accord with our understanding of how the world really functions ... With regard to those problems regarding which the two disagree with each other, or point in very different directions, people will suffer the dilemma of whether they should carry through with the ideal, or act in the manner that reality seems to indicate. They will be greatly frustrated by how our day-to-day world seems constantly to fall short of the religious ideal, and by how the explanations of the idealized religion seem to offer but fanciful stories to explain the way the world is ... fanciful stories which require a good deal of faith to be believed.

Thereby, from such experience, people will start to doubt the ideals that their religion seems to uphold, which may lead them to begin to criticize those ideals as such, which then may lead to such people beginning to separate themselves from the religion, perhaps to ultimately come to follow beliefs and tenets fully the opposite of what the religion upheld. Such a position is commonly called 'anti-religious,' which is a belief system usually viewed as not itself being a 'religion.' But if we look at what I described earlier... that the content of a religion is, first, a belief in some certain way of thinking or ideology concern the true nature of the world and mankind’s place in it, and second, action in accordance with that believed certain way of thinking or ideology ... we see that 'anti-religion' is itself clearly but a form of 'religion.' In addition, such a way of thinking, because it intentionally seeks to deny the 'ideal,' and because it seeks to remove the ideal from its importance and position in the 'real world,' with a tendency to define the 'real' as only those material phenomena and events which can be grasped and perceived by the eye and ear and the other physical sense organs ... such a way of thinking can be described as a viewpoint which places central importance upon, that venerates the 'material.' It is a religion which worships the material.

Sekishin: Can there really be such religions?

Gudo: They exist now, as they have existed throughout human history. For example, in Greek philosophy, we find Thales, Anaximenes, Leucippus, Democritus and various others who pursued 'matter' as the basis of all that exists in the world ... the many thinkers who developed the schools of philosophy know as 'materialism.' The ideas of those thinkers are usually put under the heading of 'philosophy,' not 'religion,' but my definition does not make much distinction between 'philosophy' and 'religion.'

Thereafter in the history of the Western World, we find the Middle Ages as a period manifesting an all powerful Christianity, whereby the idealistic vision of Christianity was prevalent, and materialistic religions were out of favor. However, as we enter the Modern Age, we find the re-appearance of materialistic religions among the ideas of English Empiricism and of thinkers such as Francis Bacon and Hobbes. In the 19th Century, via Feuerbach, Marx and other materialists, religions placing importance upon the material became most strong.

Sekishin: So, Roshi … You think of Marxism as a religion?

Gudo: Yes I do. Its arising out of a belief that all that this world contains was born from a foundation in the physical and material, its construction of an intricate system of thought and ideology, and the efforts of its followers to reform society using, as a basis therefor, that system of thought and ideology …. these can all be said to be clearly one type of religious behavior. I also believe that 'science' can be a religion for some people to the extent that it is viewed … not merely as a tool for understanding aspects of this world in which we live … but as the 'be all' and 'end all' perspective for the way this world is, that nothing is ‘true’ except as it has a basis in the material universe, seemingly harsh, cold and blindly operating …. that, perhaps, the universe is nothing more than an equation, for example. It is not just a faith in the utility of ‘Scientific Method,’ but a faith expounding that nothing has value, nothing really is ‘true’ … be it ‘love,’ ‘poetic truth,’ ‘artistic truth,’ the subjective truths of the heart … unless it can be tested and proven by ‘Scientific Method.’ That is a perspective now very common in our world.. Right or wrong, to the extent that such beliefs constitute a world-view, an ideology, to which people conform their lives …. a faith in ‘science’ is another religion.

Sekishin: So next, what do you consider those religions that emphasize ‘action?’ What do you mean by that?

Gudo: This refers to those religions that just call for us to ‘be,’ to ‘live’ and ‘act’ here and now, while simultaneously accepting this world ‘as it is,’ just ‘as it is’ here and now … without appeal to some ‘other world’ that is somehow better, more ‘ideal.’ Because all they ask of us is to ‘be,’ to ‘act’ here and now, in this very world in which we are living here and now, I call such philosophies ‘religions of action.’ Buddhism is such an existential religion. On the other hand, although Buddhism calls upon us to fully accept, to merely observe without judgment this world in which we are living … still, Buddhism need no be thereby a philosophy of passivity. We need not but sit in bliss upon our lotus leaf, watching life pass us by. While fully accepting the world, while fully not wishing that the world were any other way than just the way it is …. simultaneously and from yet another perspective, we are most free to act, to live and choose as we think best. We need not be passive, but can live our lives abundantly, moving forward …. all the while as we know that we are always just ‘here,’ that there is no place ultimately to go other than where we are… In this way, it is a ‘religion of action.’ ….. And again, equally important is the further perspective that in our acting, in our living … it is but the world which acts and lives as we act and live, for we are each but a facet of the world, but an expression of the whole of Reality without separation. In this stance, all concepts of ‘subject’ and ‘object’ are put aside, and our lives and the functioning of all Reality constitute a single Great Activity, one Great Functioning. Thus, because we view the world as acting by and through each of us without separation or division …. for this reason as well, it is a ‘religion of action.’ So, just ‘being,’ ‘living’ and ‘acting’ is sacred, a sacred act, in and of itself. We can even try to better the world as best we can, while hand in hand recognizing the world as perfectly just what it is. Because we can live, must live and act even as we accept …. So, it is a religion of ‘action.’

I believe that religions of ‘action’ are not included in the categories of religions which worship the ideal and those that focus on the material, but transcend both. I think that almost all of this world’s religions fall into one or the other of the previously described two categories. But, although their numbers are small, there do exist in this world religions not falling into one of those two categories, philosophies which can be said to transcend and swallow whole both the ‘ideal’ and the ‘material.’ Buddhism is an example. Buddhism possesses nothing within it equivalent to a ‘god.’ Further, it does not discount and reject the world of the physical, of the flesh… In fact, it honors the world we find before us. It does not recognize souls and spirits. Even if we just think alone about its characteristic of not denying or rejecting this actual world in which we live, we find thereby that it is certainly not a religion which worships the ‘ideal.’ On the other hand, if we think about it as a religion which seeks for the ethical, warns against our drowning in the senses, which is a viewpoint that does not see the total of Reality only in the empirical or physical, which places importance on actions and seeks for a unity of the objective and the subjective, Buddhism, from any viewpoint, is not a religion of the ‘material.’ Thereupon, if we then ask what is the real centerpiece of the teachings of Buddhism, it is not the ideal, not the material, but in reality its central focus is the actions of human beings, of being and doing here and now. So, when we encounter a religion such as Buddhism which has been created placing central importance on the actions of human beings here and now, that is called a religion which places highest value on ‘action,’ a ‘religion of action.’

3:02 PM, December 17, 2005  
Blogger Lone Wolf said...

Jundo Jim thanks for putting the first chapter of A Heart To Heart Chat On Buddhism With Old Master Gudo. I have been meaning to buy this book and now I really want to buy it.

3:47 PM, December 17, 2005  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For SmoggyRob San

Thank you very much for your kindness to read my Dogen Sangha Blog. Of course I will continue it further until my death.

It is just the favorite job for me to post the blog nowadays.

I think, that Buddhism and Realism, or the Three Philosophies and One Reality, is the most important theme of the True Buddhist Philosophy.

On our translation of Shobogenzo into English, Mike Cross San insists that the translation has been completed by himself only, but such an insistense is completely wrong. Because before we published our English translation by me and Mike Cross San, I translated Shobogenzo into modern Japanese first, because of so much difficulty of the original text.
Then I translated the total volume of Shobogenzo into English by myself again, and after finishing it, I asked for him to polish my Japanese English into his fluent English. Fortunately he has also ability to read Japanese sentences, and so I guess that he has checked the original text directly, but before his polishing of my translation into English has existed already clearly, I think that it is very dishonest for him to insist that the translation has been accomplished by himself only, actually. Before reading his so unfair descriptions, I have had my so perfect confidence in his personality, but having exprienced such a kind of so immoral behavior, I have lost my confidence in him perfectly.

My strong insistence that "Buddhism is just Realism" comes from my so stupidly long and sincere efforts to pursue the Truth for more than 60 years.

For Smoggy Rob San (again)

Of course I will continue my blog until my death. Thank you very much for your kindness to read my blog.

I am very sorry that I have begun to read the many comments by readers recently because I was so busy before. Therefore I am following the many comments from the readers from the beginnig of my blog one by one for writing my comments.

Thank you very much again.

For Jundo Jim San

Thank you very much for your kind promotion of my book "A Heart To Heart Chat On Buddhism With Old Master Dudo."

For Lone Wolf San

Thank you very much.

6:26 PM, March 15, 2006  

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