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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 71 Reviews perceived overemphasis on the perfor- mance of funerals and endless memorial services. Kiyozawa’s response was two- fold. First, he engaged in what he called a process of inner “experimentation.” This involved such extreme asceticism that at one point he reduced his diet to eating pine needles. The extreme physi- cal discipline provided the platform for an intense turn inward to explore the spiritual significance of life. It was through this process that he came to discover the utter helplessness of “self- power,” or ego-driven attempts to attain spiritual freedom, and the need for let- ting go into absolute “other-power”: The tathagata [buddha] graciously takes responsibility for all my actions. Simply by believing in this tathagata I am able to live in continual peace. The power of the tathagata is infi- nite. The power of the tathagata is unsurpassed. The power of the tatha- gata is ubiquitous. The power of the tathagata pervades every direction in its unrestricted, undefiled activity. Entrusting myself to this miraculous power of the tathagata, I gain a great calm and a great peace. Entrusting my very life to the tathagata, I feel no anxiety and no unease. For Kiyozawa, this did not mean he could do whatever he wanted with- out any responsibility. To the contrary, it was irresponsible to think that the ego could fulfill itself. The true subject grounded in the absolute was disclosed when one realized the helplessness of the ego in the face of death, not just physi- cally, but also in terms of its socially and ethically constructed facade. Only then could one live responsibly, that is, true to the ethical foundation of the self in the flow of the oneness of the other power of the tathagata of unhindered light, Amida Buddha. The basis of ethi- cal life thus shifts from social expecta- tions to the realization of absolute other power, or the oneness of all existence. The other thrust to his experimen- tation was to reformulate Shin Bud- dhist thought in the wake of his study of Asian and Western philosophy and religion, leading to the publication of his Skeleton of a Philosophy of Reli- gion (Shukyo tetsugaku gaikotsu) in 1892. He also became the head of Shinshu Daigaku, the sectarian college of the Higashi Honganji, which later became Otani University. Kiyozawa forbade students to study for career- oriented success, and encouraged them only in the pursuit of spiritual or reli- gious self-understanding. This experi- ment didn’t last long because it didn’t attract enough students to sustain the institution. However, he developed a close circle of followers who creatively rethought Shin Buddhism within the larger scope of Buddhism from India to Japan as well as global philosophy and religion. These included Ryojin Soga, Daiei Kaneko, and Yasuda Rijin, who are all featured in the anthology. Soga and Kaneko became leading scholars at Otani University, while Yasuda, who was especially inspired by the teachings of Kaneko, became a revered teacher who preferred to work closely with small groups of students in person and later in his own private academy, even though there were several requests for him to take a professorial appointment. For all four of these figures, however, the path to recognition for their deep spirituality was not a smooth one. They were variously criticized and for years even expelled from their positions for “heretically” departing from the nar- row confines of sectarian dogma and for veering off into the larger world of Buddhist and global religious thought. They eventually not only returned to prominence in the religious center of Kyoto, but Soga became president of Otani University. Kiyozawa has been criticized for failing to take a stand against Japanese Jakusho Kwong, Abbot Soto Zen Lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi resident training monthly sesshins guest resident practice solo retreats workshops daily meditation rural country setting Genjo-ji 6367 Sonoma Mountain Road Santa Rosa, CA 95404 707.545.8105 firstname.lastname@example.org www.smzc.net SONOMA MOUNTAIN ZEN CENTER