In the course of its development for more than two milleniums and a half, Buddhism is found to have kept all the time the same “flavor”, namely, that of deliverance, whatsoever different doctrines and sects have arisen from its founder’s teachings. This reveals, more or less, the fact that innumerable differences found in various interpretations of the Buddha’s words and sometimes regarded as doctrinal contradictions or even serious conflicts among the sects have exerted little or, in some aspects, almost unremarkable influence upon the way to deliverance cultivated by most of Buddhist followers in the world; or rather, it is the multiplicity of these interpretations that has, on the other hand, done much to make Buddhism more “practical”, to make it a possible way of life for human beings in whatsoever situations they may be.
After coming into existence in India, Buddhism gradually spread far beyond the borders of its homeland. Conquering Asia to the south as well as to the north and east, it became the faith of the masses and shaped the civilization of their countries for centuries. Nowadays, Buddhism has been introduced into Australia and several countries in Europe and America, where it tends to be turning into an actually new way of life out of what was considered to be merely a novelty for religious and philosophical research of the intellectuals in the early days of its introduction. The reason why Buddhism has flourished so immensely and impressively may be attributed to the practical values of Buddhism in human society and the altruistic spirit of its messengers in their mission of transmitting the Buddha’s message to every type of mentality on earth.
Very different from the other religions and beliefs of the world, Buddhism consists mainly in experience, especially human experience, which has become the pivotal support to all of its internal and external constructions; that is to say, all of the Buddha’s teachings, which are in essence the result of his very experience in cultivating the way to deliverance and attaining it, are handed down to his followers as instructions or indications rather than religious creeds on their way to experience the ultimate deliverance. This is really the most noticeable difference between Buddhism and other religions. A Buddhist may refuse to observe a certain number of indications found in the Buddhist texts and freely select the others which he finds to be much more appropriate for his own situation. Śīla-samādhi-prajñā (precepts, meditation, wisdom), for example, are generally accepted by all the sects of Buddhism to be indispensible conditions to a Buddhist in his attaining Buddhahood; nevertheless, he is free to decide what process and manner in which these conditions are cultivated and realized to follow, and what meanings implied in the Buddha’s words concerning them to develop. A Buddhist of a Theravadin community, for instance, can practice and possess these conditions in the gradual process as mentioned above by strictly observing precepts and cultivating the stages of meditation; but a Buddhist of another sect, as of the Pure Land school, can achieve them simultaneously by reciting the Name of Amitābha Buddha only, whereas a Zen monk has other ways of his own to obtain them spontaneously.
The fact that a Buddhist follower has the freedom of choosing his own way of practicing the Buddha’s teachings is due to different mental and physical faculties of human beings and different surroundings in which they are living. This also explains why no religions of the world have such great literature as Buddhism. In order to assist different people in different conditions of living as effectively as possible, the Buddha, in his more than forty years’s wandering throughout many regions in India to teach the way of deliverance, made great efforts to offer his teachings to everyone without any differentiations of races, classes, social positions, ect. Through his teachings, every Buddhist can find out necessary indications for his own stages in the process of experiencing what the Buddha himself attained but no one is expected to apply all of them simultaneously. Depending on each being’s differenct nature and different surroundings, the Buddha always knew how to recommend the most suitable teachings for his attaining the same goal.
No matter what terminological inexactitudes have been ceaselessly foisted on it, Buddhism has no other object than the experience of deliverance. In our conventional speeches, the term mostly always indicates “the deliverance out of a state ” (saṃsāra) and, at the same time, also implies “the entrance into another” (nirvāṇa); however, the sensible definition created somewhat easily from the way of our conventional thinking seems to be inadequate to what the Buddha implied in using the term as an indication to the ultimate goal of Buddhism rather than an description of it. According to him, nirvāṇa is not anything conditioned that can be thought of or described in words since it is not an effect created by any causes even though they are understood as our efforts on the way to it. On account of his “noble” silence whenever pressed for such explanations and his unwillingly formulated definitions of it, the term should not be misunderstood as “the entrance into another state.” For if nirvāṇa is not anything conditioned—namely, anything composed of conditions and restricted by space and time, we cannot perform the action of entering; and if there is not anything conditioned for us to enter later, we cannot suppose to have been liberated from something conditioned earlier. With such a “reasonable” statement as above, it is really difficult for us to grasp a true meaning of nirvana as it is. We cannot visualize the situation of deliverance out of something but not into anything at all; and neither can we speculate exactly about the state of a thing which is formed by nothing. Owing to our conventional way of thinking and our dual manner of reasoning, we find it difficult to gain a true insight into what we have never experienced. In other words, with such a type of mentality as we are possessed of at present, we hardly get any other vision than what we have been accustomed to. This is, therefore, the greatest hindrance that prevents us from understanding the “state” which the Buddha experienced and may be the reason for him to declare nothing much of it, too. All the information we can get from the Buddha’s words on nirvāṇa is rather little; and he himself ever advised his disciples not to spend too much time in their reflections, speculations and discussions as to what they had not yet experienced. As a result, in order to assist them to attain such unthinkable and ineffable experience, most of the Buddha’s teachings are concentrated on changing human beings’ conventional view of themselves and the world as a skillful means for making nirvāṇa accessible to every type of mentality rather than setting forth a certain description of it.
To change a view also means to transform, at the same time, everything concerning it—that is, the entire aggregation of mental and physical elements of what is commonly designated as an “individual” in its mutual relation to other individuals and the outer world. From the Buddha’s view, the mutual relation based on the interdependence of all things in the different spheres operates beyond the time; that is to say, it has neither beginning nor end. And it may be expressed as a circle in which the series of existence-and-nonexistence, life-and-death of all things recur uninterruptedly in an ever-changing state. It is together with the operation of such an endless circle that the greatest tragedy of human beings arises since they find it impossible to do anything else to make it come to an end. The more vigorously they attempt to escape it, the more deeply they become sunk in it; the stronger desire they raise to keep away from it, the more closely they are attached to it. For it is due to the arising of what is called volition and desire, even though that be the volition to destroy attachments or the desire to attain the ultimate deliverance, that it stirs up the mind more violently and hinders it from getting a complete view of the circle as it is. One cannot escape a thing unless one knows exactly what it is and how it works; therefore, it is possible to say that we hardly make our way out of it as we are completely ignorant of the interrelation in which we are existing with all things in spite of whatsoever intelligence, knowledge, or information we claim to acquire of it; or, in other words, we cannot attain deliverance unless we have got true knowledge of what as it is.
From one point of view, such a pure and complete view may be the very significance of what the Buddha attained under the Bo tree early one morning in India; and it may also be the very significance of what called deliverance in Buddhism. For when our false view of all things such as suffering and happiness, enslavement and deliverance, saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, ect. is broken up completely, there would be nothing regarded as suffering to be destroyed, happiness to be attained, saṃsāra to escape, and nirvāṇa to enter. In the Buddhist texts, the Buddha is generally depicted as the “Awakened One” or “Enlightened One” and it is also asserted that every being has the ability of becoming the “awakened one”. This, in some extent, denotes the fact that so far as we have not yet been a Buddha or, in other words, not yet been “awakened”, we are certainly remaining in no other state than a long dream with every kind of its own figments, which would disappear completely only at our wakening. Metaphorically speaking, the single purpose of the Buddha’s appearance on earth is to pull us out of our dream—a long dream full of endless desires and illusions—and with his boundless compassion for miserable sentient beings floating hopelessly in the ocean of life-and-death, he does not refuse any skillful means that he finds to be suitable for breaking obstacles on their way of getting a complete view. Buddhism is ready to provide the most necessary information for those who have made up their mind to set foot on its way—the information needed to solve both practical problems encountered in individual and social living and metaphysical problems in the religious and philosophical fields.
Thus besides skillful means used to assist us in practicing the Buddha’s teachings, we can find out countless means suggested by him in clearing away various hindrances encountered on our way. This is considered one of the vital functions of Buddhism, a decisive condition for all Buddhist followers’ achievements whatever sect they belong to, and an unforgettable detail for those who want to gain a right view of Buddhism. For in Buddhism the accumulation of “merits” can be achieved merely through the thorough destruction of hindrances; or, it is possible to say more exactly that “destroying is establishing” is the bed-rock of the experience of deliverance in Buddhism. This justifies the reason why Buddhism, as a whole, is neither a coherent ethical system nor a consistent philosophical system. We can, of course, extract certain ideas found in some Buddhist texts, arrange them in some logical order, compare them with some branches of the mankind’s modern culture, and consequently regard them as some doctrines of psychology, ethics, logic, sociology, idealism, pragmatism, etc.; nevertheless, we must understand that all of the apparently philosophical doctrines mentioned above, which have been used in Buddhism only as a means of destroying human beings’ ignorance, changing their false inherent visions, gaining the perfect wisdom, and attaining the ultimate deliverance, do not aim at satisfying their intellectual curiosity about ultimate things which expects answers in words; nor do they suggest any moral patterns which a Buddhist is obliged to observe in order to become a “good man” in the common sense of the term so that he would be proud of being respected by everyone and would be born in a paradise in the coming reincarnation. This is a unique aspect of Buddhism that has attracted many non-Buddhist people in many countries in the world, especially in Europe and America, for the past decades. It is when they have become doubtful and tired of the values produced by the Western civilization that they begin to turn to Buddhism, finding it the absolute freedom and grasping it as a possible way of liberating them from numerous frustrations they have been encoutering in their own life as well as in society. And certainly they can find out what they need because Buddhism in essence is an experience of living, a perfect release meant for those who do not want to be buried forever in ignorance and enslavement.
It is, therfore, impossible for those who have made some attempts at searching for what is commonly called coherence or rationality in the Buddha’s teachings as a whole—in a situation he is found to answer “yes” to the same question to which he had answered “no”. Neither is it true to claim that the teachings upon which some doctrinal interpretation is based are more “reliable” than the others since the Buddha ever advised us to use his teachings as a means, or rather, a raft for conveying us to the other side of the sea of life-and-death, and, at the same time, warned us not to look upon them as a description of the Reality, which he never intended to do. For even though he did give a true description of it, it would immediately become false conceptions in our way of dual thinking. Summarily, if there is really something more “reliable” in some of his teachings than in the other, only can it be that they are suitable for more sentient beings than the other; or, as some ancient Buddhist philosophers ever declared, some teachings are termed as “great vehicles” whereas some as “small ones” since the former can convey more sentient beings than the latter.
A notable fact in the history of its development is that Buddhism, whether a “small” or “great” vehicle, has been introduced to everyone as a necessary way of living to their present life but not as a promise of some better life in the coming incarnations as usually learned from some other religions. And Buddhism has succeeded in doing so due to all of its practical aspects, in which Buddhist followers’ spirit and efforts of propagating Buddhism are decisise factors. In his lifetime, the Buddha made great efforts ceaselessly in teaching and saving suffering sentient beings; and after his passing away, his immediate disciples did not fail to continue propagating his teachings more widely, actively and abundantly. They went on preserving and developing all that they had learned directly from their great teacher and the scope of their propagation became more and more extended. The Buddha’s parinirvāṇa was of course a great loss to them and left the vacancy of a teacher that no one could fill; yet it brought about unexpectedly favorable changes in their own maturity as well as their mission of spreading the teachings.
Firstly, when they no longer depended directly on their teacher for any necessary instructions concerning the way, they had to rely on no other than themselves in applying all that they had been taught in their teacher’s lifetime; and as a result, they came to acquire some full knowledge and experience of the teachings in detail instead of merely some general part as before.
Secondly, Buddhism, as we have seen before, is not a coherent doctrinal system but a collection of different instructions for different problems and situations; therefore, when studied as a whole, the teachings, in addition to some which are formulated as general principles, consist of several points that could be easily misunderstood as contradictory if considered on the same plane. And in this case, his disciples would be naturally driven to develop only those which they thought to be most appropriate, at least from their own view. And certainly their apparent freedom of application of the teachings, which had proceeded from their own academic and applicative needs, resulted in the unavoidable division of the Order into different sects; however, it is also the starting-point of the more abundant and influential development and propagation of the teachings after the Buddha’s parinirvana.
Thirdly, when they no longer attended their teacher’s discourses regularly, they would find it unnecessary to gather in the same community; and thus came very naturally the fact that the Order was separated into smaller communities due to their own needs of practicing, preserving and propagating Buddhist teachings. In spite of their different and, sometimes, apparently contradictory interpretations, all of the communities continued to develop Buddhist teachings in many different parts of India. Nevertheless, this does not mean that there could not be one or more other communities, of which the members, who could be the successors of one or more immediate disciples of the Buddha, retired to some unknown places deep in the mountains or in the forests of India and, instead of developing some teachings as the other communities, they preserved them for a later declaration at a more suitable time. Historically, some accounts concerning the former have been recorded rather obviously on the number of sects, their periods of propagation and their own interpretations of the principal doctrines although these accounts are of relative value owing to the fact that most of them are not independent accounts. As far as the latter is concerned, the discursive problem of their origins has not yet been decisively settled so far. Some Buddhists do not believe that some of the Buddha’s immediate disciples renounced the Order right after the Buddha’s death, or even in his lifetime, to preserve some of his teachings somewhere in India; nevertheless, they also find it difficult to deny this since no one can affirm that the whole teachings that have been recorded in the Buddhist texts so far really include completely all that the Buddha declared in his lifetime. Meanwhile some Buddhists firmly believe that the Buddha’s teachings, whether they are the ealier or later recorded, are all of great value in their religious life and sometimes the latter are found to have assisted them more efficiently than the former in settling many of their practical matters. Their belief arises from both historic facts and their own experience in applying the teachings to their way of deliverance. The Buddha’s words found in the texts were all recorded after his passing away—that is, without his final confirmation as to which text is original and which is not; so it is impossible to depend on some doctrines interpreted and some historic accounts recorded by a certain allegedly “orthodox” sect to conclude that the others are not orthodox. All the Buddha’s teachings are declared for the benefit of all beings not only in this world but also in many other worlds so it is not “buddhist” at all for a sect to have made some of them an object of its desire and claimed to be their owner. Since the teachings and their interpretations preserved and developed by a sect are all based on the experience resulting from the Buddha’s realization of nirvāṇa as well as his follower’s process of practicing them to attain the same goal so it is impossible to judge rightly the value of them unless we apply them to our practical religious life and are, consequently, possessed of the same experience. Buddhism did not start as a new and independent religion but it came into being at a time when various religious and philosophical doctrines were flourishing abundantly in India; and all of them, including Buddhism, set forth their own solutions to the same problems as to sentient beings and the world. It is, therefore, really inexact to issue superficial stataments that some sects are non-Buddhist or, even, heretical only because in their interpretations some problems, but not solutions, are found to be the same as those of others religions.
Those Buddhist followers who have ever pondered over the above-mentioned facts must have been extremely careful in inheriting such great literature of sacred teachings. For them, instead of relying merely on some traditional interpretations extracted from a single sect or some unilateral remarks quoted from a certain research to grasp the true meaning of any statements found in or about Buddhism, the best way is to consider it on the basis of the general principles of Buddhism together with valuable interpretations based on more experience than knowledge. In fact, this is merley important and necessary to those who want to satisfy their curiosity about intellectual aspects in Buddhism. To those who have been possessed of a strong belief in the Buddha and his Teachings, it is really unnecessary to aquuire an all-round knowledge of Buddhist teachings when they have had enough essential instructions for their daily way of living as a Buddhist. Buddhism has then become a religion, a belief, an indispensible support to them and they are not so innocent as to confide their fates to any incorrect statements about what they have regarded as their own single source of living. Nor are they, of course, too fanatical to comprehend the other instructions offered by Buddhism but their comprehension must proceed not only from their modest knowledge but also their daily experience of practical matters concerning every condition needed for their application of the teachings to their way.
For the reasons mentioned above, some Buddhists firmly believe that they can inherit the whole of Buddhist literature and apply them to their religious life successfully by their own contemplation and appreciation based on the essential meanings found in Buddhist teachings and what they have themselves experienced in their living. Thus no matter what statements have been issued of the teachings recorded later, they know exactly that it appeared at a time, when the division of the Order into various sects had no longer kept its original meaning and caused, in their course of developing and spreading Buddhism, serious conflicts in their different interpretations of teachings among the sects and, consequently, brought about an actual “schism” in the Order. The appearance of the later Buddhist teachings aimed at refuting the false views which the sects had made to support their doctrinal interpretations and, at the same time, developing the doctrines that had been very plainly developed before. Philosophically considering, the later teachings may be considered highly metaphysical; its principal aim, however, is still the same as that preached by the Buddha and recorded in the earlier texts; that is, to declare more skillful means for sentient beings in their efforts to destroy hindrances on their way to the final deliverance. Without these skillful means, a humble shepherd on a mountain in Tibet, a miserable peasant in a villge in China, or a poor fisherman on an island in Japan has been unable to dream of some salvation out of his woeful life-in-ignorance. For if the ultimate goal were understood to be reached merely through such “noble” means as either a being’s gradual cultivation of all the stages of meditation or fulfilled analysis of various states of mind, Buddhism would certainly be merely something extremely strange to the common people, something very lofty meant only for the happy few.
In Buddhism, a human being’s efforts to practice and propagate Buddhist teachings are always made simultaneously. Even in his lifetime, the Buddha always persuaded his disciples to act for the benefit of other beings, which had been the single motive of his decisions to seek for a way of liberation for sentient beings in his early days of renouncing the world, and to declare the teachings that he just realized instead of entering the final extinction after his enlightenment.
Nevertheless, the most remarkable significance that helps to distinguish Buddhism from other religions of the world is of its spirit and attitude of propagation. From the Buddha’s view, his teachings should be spread as widely as possible not for its sake but for the benefit of suffering sentient beings. A Buddhist, therefore, when making up his mind to introduce Buddhist teachings to others, does not aim at making Buddhism something more overwhelming, more triumphant, but helping others make use of it as a means of liberating them out of the bondage of life-and-death. The object of propagation in Buddhism, thus, is human beings’ welfare rather than the prosperity of Buddhist teachings themselves. All that the Buddha declared is the truth, relative or absolute, as to beings’ fate and the world, which still exists forever whether the Buddha appears or not. What the Buddhist followers need to protect, therefore, is not the truth but the means of manifesting the truth. Buddhist communities, together with their material possessions of some kind such as monasteries, temples, stupas, ect. and even sacred books are all means of attaining Buddhahood and saving the world. According to the general principles of Buddhism, all of them are conditioned, ephemeral and without “self-nature”; and if a Buddhist, instead of protecting them to faciliate his services to other beings, makes use of them as a means to increase the benefit of himself or his community, he is violating the Buddha’s exhortations. The most supreme achievement in Buddhism is generally regarded as the final attainment of deliverance or nirvāṇa; nevertheless, there were many beings in the past who, instead of entering nirvana after innumerable long aeons’ efforts of practicing Buddhist teachings, decided to remain at the threshold of nirvana for the happiness and salvation of the world. Out of their perfect indifference and compassion, they made vows of being ready to appear in any form which sentient beings need for their salvation; there were, too, some who made vows to postpone their attaining Buddhahood until all damned beings could be saved out of the hells and attain their ultimate deliverance. In the Buddha’s lifetime there were many of his disciples who were ready to sacrifice their lives for the propagation of sacred teachings; and since then the same deed has been more and more vigorously performed so that it has become in Buddhism a unique way, an indispensible condition for those who make up their mind to save the word. It is thanks to great deeds of the transcendent beings growing up in a teaching of wisdom and compassion that Buddhist teachings have been spreading widely to many people in the present-day world and Buddhist followers are inheriting a greater treasure-house of sacred teachings. Thus they have more suitable means to choose for their efforts to attain the final goal; however, this does not mean that they would encounter less obstacles in their practicing and propagating than before.
In essence Buddhism is human beings’ experience of deliverance, which is attained only when they have made up their mind to set foot on the way of deliverance and made their great efforts to cultivate it by means of the Buddhha’s instructions recorded in the Buddhist texts and interpreted profoundly and elaborately by many eminent Buddhist commentators. Both the goal and the means are thus very obviously affirmed for those who take the decision to follow the way; nevertheless, the remaining problem is how to make such a decision. There are two kinds recorded in the Buddhist texts: the inborn and the “new-born”. In regard to the former, it is interpreted as the continuity of a decision made in a certain incarnation in the past; and the latter is made of some conditions in the present. Theoretically, such a decision, whether inborn or “new-born”, arises from a human being’s perception of some kind of the sufferings of human and other beings in the world. This is an obvious truth that everyone, Buddhist as well as non-Buddhist, finds it easy to agree with. The decisive point, however, is that it is not a plain perception but a decision, arising from such a perception, to escape it. In order to raise such a decision it is necessary for human beings to have deep experience and thence right view of what is conventionally termed “suffering”. In the ordinary sense of the term, “suffering” is quite an abstract category in which it consists in many different ways of perception rather than objects of perception; that is to say, a circumstance, a fact, a thing, an event, ect. may be considered to be unhappy from a person’s view but possibly not to be unhappy at all from another’s. Even though Buddhism sets forth a highly comprehensive definition of the term that suffering comprises not only our physical and psychological miseries, and frustrations in our conditions of living, and impermanent and momentary flux of all things but also the nature of our existence, it is likely of strong persuasion only to a very small number of human beings in the present-day world, which should not be neglected by those who want to introduce a new horizon to people of every type of mentality in the modern age, especially to the circle of the young intellects. Most people in the present age have generally acquired enough knowledge of various sufferings of the human beings’ fate in its relation with other existences in the universe. They can therefore approve of what was exactly declared by the Buddha as to sentient beings and the universe; and some of them can also, if asked to do so, analyze and elucidate the same subjects much more profoundly and efficiently than some textbooks in a college. But if they were encouraged to make some attempts to transcend the bondage of human fate, they would find it impossible to do. Except those who have had some intensively shocking experience of suffering in their own lives or those whose mental faculties are extremely strong to get an insight into the real nature of all things in the world, most people accept their fate with resignation: they are not so innocent and effervescent as to look upon only the bright side of life; nor are they too ignorant to comprehend the deep significance of the Buddha’s formulations of human life as well as his affirmation of possible ways to sublimate it; however, all of this is not strong enough to raise a firm belief within themselves. The solutions that the Buddha sets forth are very ideal but seemingly too difficult for them to realize and, at last, they impassively accept their present living and manage to overcome their sufferings by other ways which are of course not so skillful and effective as those found in Buddhism, but much easier and faster. And in case they cannot find out any solutions at all, even though it is an ephemeral and delusive one, they are ready to endure their fate uncomplainingly and their final statement of life may always be “So is life”.
Morally considering, this is really a tragic prospect of the mankind in a period when the spiritual values are being gradually destroyed by the material ones, especially in the youth’s ways of living; and it is also a great challenge to those who want to transmit the Buddha’s message with the hope that it would be the final ferryboat for sentient beings to cross the river of ignorance and desires. In order to do this Buddhist monks, who are traditionally regarded as the messengers of Tathagata, must reach a deeper understanding with human beings in their relation with social and natural changes in the modern age as much as possible; and at the same time they must make great efforts in their monastic and social activities to prepare themselves efficiently and effectively for the fulfilment of the mission that has been perfectly achieved by their predecessors. Out of their deep thanks to the Buddha and their compassion for suffering beings, they cannot give up their sublime mission; nor can they refuse their responsibility by making such immature statements as “the force of human beings’s karma is too strong for them to approach the final deliverance”, or “they are too ‘ignorant’ to be saved by means of Buddhist teachings”. In fact, if the term ignorance in Buddhism is understood, in some aspects, as having no proper knowledge of life and the world, people in the present-day world are not so completely “ignorant” as we have ever thought. For their perception and experience of life as mentioned above are not quite different from those of the Buddha gained unintentionally at the first three sights he had witnessed on his outings from the palace for the first time of his life as a prince; the most unhappy thing for them, however, is that they have not seen what Prince Gautama saw from the fourth sight. In fact, they have also seen something of the same appearance as the prince did; but the difference is that they are not impressed strongly enough to make a vital decision like the prince’s. They are really disappointed to have seen and understood that those whom they have expected to bring about a faith for them in the sacred Dharma are found to be dreaming of what have been sinking them more and more deeply in the mud of life-and-birth so far. From their own innermost feelings and expectations, all that they wish to see is not the Buddha’s teachings expounded by his messengers but the messengers growing up from his teachings. They are thirsty not for a Buddhist Doctor of Philosophy with his treatises on the worldly subjects such as sociology, psychology, pedagogy, ect. but a Nagarjuna “studying the whole of the Tripitaka in ninety days but not satisfied, and then …”. They need a spiritual teacher and friend not graduated from a college but trained in the shade of ancient pines of a monastery. They want to hear an Aśvaghosa with his Buddhacarita “widely read or sung throughout the five divisions of India, and the countries of the Southern Sea” rather than a monastic poet praising the seasons and sacred love. They want to have a national teacher whom a king must consult for the state’s affairs instead of a monkish mandarin drooping his head in the presence of the king. They wish to approach a Shinran wandering in his tattered clothes throughout the coastal villages for the salvation of fishermen rather than a shrine-keeper sitting in his splendid temple for the reception of pious patrons.
Probably some of us are feeling annoyed by their “excessive” requirements to Buddhism for its worthwhile position as a great religion in human society. Whether they are excessive or not, the wishes above have truly demonstrated the Buddhist laity’s concern about the future of Buddhism and caused us to reflect upon what we have been doing so that Buddhism can remain forever a hope, a belief for the suffering beings on earth: Is Buddhism being preserved as a gem or a showcase? What are we doing in order to render our deep thanks to the Buddha and convert sentient beings? Is it true that we are applying the Buddha’s words to destroying our passions and ignorance? What are we relying on Buddhism to purify? . . . Countless questions are being raised from the ten directions and expecting a reply from us in the same way as inmeasurable offerings have ever come to us. Ought we to make a respond?
Day after day the hot sunshine cannot burn the bare feet on the yellow sands of the fishing-villages along the coast, the stormy rains also fail to soak through the brownish robes on the country roads across the fields, and through the mountain paths above the deep valleys the crimsom hats remain unmovable in the freezing snow; but in the streets of big cities the noises are drowning the final words of the Compassionate Teacher echoing from the high mountains as an eternal exhortation:
vayadhamma saṃkhārā, appamadena sampādetha;
vayadhamma samkhārā, appamadena sampadetha;…