Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path - Preface
In September 1999, I was offered the opportunity to speak about the fundamental principles of Shin Buddhism during three days of intensive lectures at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Most of those in attendance had some prior connection with Buddhism or Shin Buddhism. However, we were also joined by many people from various other religious traditions. I was not certain whether my thoughts would be sufficiently conveyed at such a venue—but I was happy to receive favorable comments from the attendees and was grateful that my own hopes seemed to have been attained. This small volume arose out of my notes for those lectures, with a few minor revisions.
Through the lectures I came to realize that if the teaching of Shin Buddhism is to gain general acceptance in the world of the future, more than anything else, it must be clearly grounded in Eastern logic and particularly in the principles of Mahayana Buddhism.
As long as Shin Buddhism remains stuck as the abstract and sectarian doctrine of the Shin Buddhist religious institutions, it cannot claim to represent the true Buddhist teaching. Further, it will not be accepted by the people of the world as a legitimate alternative to Christianity, Islam, or other religions. And, certainly, it will never be studied with sufficient interest. Therefore, I believe that the traditional doctrine of Shin Buddhism must be reexamined, and in its place a new teaching must be formulated. That new approach must offer an immediate return to the fundamental principles of Mahayana Buddhism and engage directly the basic intentions of Shinran, the founder of Shin Buddhism. It must also be capable of responding to the many and various problems that the people of the world will come to face in this new century.
My understanding of Shin Buddhism, which I have presented here, has been born of this aspiration. I am afraid, however, that my thoughts are truly wanting, not wholly fulfilling this aspiration. For their completion I can only look forward in anticipation to the young scholars who will carry on these efforts after me. I sincerely hope that Shin Buddhist studies of the future will continue to point in this direction and be addressed with even more diligence and thoroughness.
These lectures took place as part of the Yehan Numata Lectures, and I feel profound gratitude for the late Mr. Numata’s abiding benevolence in support of academic endeavors. In addition, all of the planning and preparations for these lectures was done through the efforts of David Matsumoto of the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California, and Professor Mitsuya Dake of the Department of Intercultural Communication of Ryūkoku University in Kyoto, Japan. I would like to express my deep gratitude to them.
The publication of this text has come about through the good offices of President Shichihei Nishimura and Mr. Kenyu Ikeda of Hōzōkan Publications in Kyoto. To them I also offer my sincere appreciation.
If this small volume may in some way prove helpful in allowing the teachings of Shin Buddhism and Amida Buddha to spread to the people of Japan and the world, I will be most gratified.
How to cite this document:
© Takamaro Shigaraki; English translation © David Matsumoto, Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path (Wisdom Publications, 2013)
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