Vol. XLX, No. 5                May 2004
The True Religion???

I am so grateful that we are not burdened with the necessity to preach and defend the faith. The 84,000 gates
or paths referred to in Buddhism point to the myriad approaches to Bodhi – indeed there are as many paths or gates as
there are people. In Japanese Buddhism, this is extended to all beings animate and inanimate. We can share our
opinions, disagree energetically, posit this and posit that – it is still one person’s point of view. The idea that another
body of doctrine could be a threat to Buddhism just seems silly, to kill to defend Buddhism is obscene. One talks
about Buddhism out of enthusiasm for what it has done for us, not out of a “calling” or the command of a creator God.
In fact, it is somewhat of a tradition not to talk about religion unless asked to do so. Ours is the Silver Rule of “Not
doing unto others what we would not have them do unto us” – the same in meaning as the Golden Rule of “Do unto
others as you would have them do unto you” except for attitude. The one is “do not impose” the other is “do good”.
The “do not impose” stance can sometimes degenerate into do nothing, while the “do good” stance is complicated by
how to determine what a good deed is.

We are much more comfortable with relativism than absolutism, with mist and fog than clear sunshine, with “I
think this is so” rather than “This is so”. For us, life is an ever-unfolding mystery and delight, and the expression “It’s
too clear” is a perfectly legitimate and meaningful sentence. In Jodoshinshu, we don’t really know anything
definitively, and only that is clear to us – sometimes. Martyrdom, sacrifice, crusade have no equivalent in Buddhism
and can only awkwardly be translated into Buddhist languages. Why is monotheism and advance over polytheism?
And why is theism considered an advance over non-theism? They are all just another of the 84,000 ways. I may think
that mine is the best – but it is the best for me because it’s all I can understand at the moment. I recently discovered
some written notes for funeral sermons I gave some 20 years ago. In one corner were two stars, meaning these are
good sermons so save them. When I read them I was shocked to realize that I really thought they were good. What
drivel! I put them in the shredder. If I thought they were good 20 years ago, and I think it is drivel now, does that
mean that I have progressed a little? But if that is so, what will I think of what I am saying now 5 years from now?
Taking yourself seriously is pretty silly, yet so easy to slip into. Shinran Shonin was right, everything is vain, empty,
and a sham, only Namuamidabutsu is real. Siddhartha’s birthday is followed by Shinran’s – I knew a guy who had a
birthday about twice a week – Namanda, Namanda, Namanda.

Rev. Mas