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M ATSUMOTO Shirõ
the Lotus Sutra and Japanese culture is an extension of my argument that the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha is not Buddhist.1 The question I put myself here is, What is the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, perhaps the most inµuential Buddhist scripture in East Asia? I have organized my remarks in response to the views of Hirakawa Akira, one of the leading Japanese authorities on Buddhism, whose standpoint can be summarized in three points:
HE PRESENT ESSAY ON
1. The idea of the “one vehicle” (ekay„na) in the Lotus Sutra indicates a principle that uni³es the “three vehicles” (triy„na). 2. The idea of “the attainment of Buddhahood by all beings” in the Lotus Sutra is the same as the idea that “all sentient beings have Buddha-nature” in the Mah„parinirv„«a Sutra, resulting in a view of the Lotus Sutra colored by the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha. 3. Stupa worship was the basis for the formation of the Lotus Sutra.
THE “ONE VEHICLE”: UNIFYING PRINCIPLE OR SPECIFIC OPTION?
What is the function of the idea of “one vehicle” in the Lotus Sutra? Hirakawa writes:
Although the followers of each of the three vehicles—sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas—all perform the different practices of their respective vehicle, they make equal progress on the path to Buddhahood. According to the chapter on “Means,” “There is only one vehicle, not two or three” (T 9.8a). In contrast, according to the Vimalak‡rti Sutra, the followers of the sravaka-vehicle are disparaged as having “rotten” or inferior seeds and are said to have no possibility of realizing Buddhahood. However, if sravakas and pratyekabuddhas cannot realize ultimate salvation, then the teaching of the Vimalak‡rti Sutra cannot be called a complete version of Mahayana, since some beings are not included within 388
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
the scope of the Buddha’s compassion. The One-Buddha-vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra probably arose out of the need to formulate a Mahayana teaching that would account for the salvation of Hinayana practitioners. In historical terms, after a period of emphasizing the opposition of and differences between the Hinayana and Mahayana traditions, Mahayana thinkers formulated new teachings such as those of the Lotus Sutra, which would encompass the two traditions. The appeal of such teachings was based on the popularity of stupa worship.2 The one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra includes and uni³es the sravaka vehicle and the pratyekabuddha vehicle…. This does not mean that one enters into the bodhisattva vehicle after totally abandoning the vehicle of the sravaka, but that the practice of the sravaka vehicle itself becomes the practice of the bodhisattva vehicle.3
According to Hirakawa, the idea of the “one vehicle” in the Lotus Sutra provides a principle for unifying Hinayana and Mahayana. This obviates the need for abandoning the Hinayana and converting to Mahayana, because the way of the sravaka is seen as a practice for attaining Buddhahood. I disagree with this interpretation. The idea of “one vehicle” in the Lotus Sutra should be understood in light of verses 53–55 in the second chapter on “Means”:4
Sravaka (Voice-hearers) of the Leader (n„yaka) Who hear the Dharma I preach, If they hear or bear in mind even a single verse, They shall all undoubtedly attain Enlightenment.  There is only One Vehicle (y„na), For in the world there is no second nor third, Except a differentiation between vehicles [Taught] by the Supreme Ones as skillful means.  The protector of the world is born into the world In order to clarify and teach the wisdom of the Buddha (buddha-jñ„na). There is only one purpose, and no second. The Buddhas do not lead beings through the Hinayana. 
The teaching in these verses is illustrated in Diagram 1 (see p. 390). I maintain that the true intent of the Lotus Sutra is to teach that even though three vehicles are taught as a skillful means, only the Mahayana (i.e., the Buddha-y„na) is real and true. The existence of three vehicles is presupposed in the Lotus Sutra teaching of one vehicle. We may assume
1 one vehicle = real ✖ ✖ Buddha-y„na (Mahayana)
three vehicles = means 3. Šr„vaka-y„na 2. Pratyekabuddha-y„na 1. Bodhisattva-y„na
that prior to the compilation of the Lotus Sutra there was a form of Mahayana (reµected in the Prajñ„p„ramit„ sutras)5 in which “Hinayana” and Mahayana either coexisted or were set in opposition to one another. With the appearance of the chapter on “Means” in the Lotus Sutra, however, the assertion was made that, of the three vehicles, only the Mahayana (the Buddha-y„na) is the true one. Whereas previously the other two vehicles were granted some validity, they were declared invalid with the coming of the Lotus Sutra. The core teaching of the chapter on “Means” is that the two lower vehicles are not really vehicles leading to Buddhahood at all, because they are inadequate to the task. What, then, quali³es a form of Buddhism as valid and adequate to be called a vehicle to Buddhahood? The answer is, the form that provides Buddha-wisdom (buddhajñ„na) or allows beings to attain Buddhahood. This disquali³es the ways of the sravaka and pratyekabuddha. Only the Mahayana—the “vehicle” of the bodhisattva and the Buddha—is a “vehicle” for this attainment. From the ancient past it was taken as accepted wisdom that the idea of one vehicle in the Lotus Sutra could be summarized in the phrase “the attainment of Buddhahood by the sravaka and pratyekabuddha” (nijõ sabutsu Ìñ6[). Unlike Hirakawa, I maintain that this does not mean that sravakas and pratyekabuddhas can attain Buddhahood while remaining in their current “way.” If they want to attain Buddhahood they must abandon their current state and convert to Mahayana. In Chinese Buddhism this conversion was expressed in the phrase “turning from the inferior and entering the great” (eshõ nyðdai q·×Ø), and this was set up as a necessary condition for those of the two vehicles to attain Buddhahood. More speci³cally, this conversion involves hearing the teaching of the one vehicle through the preaching of the Lotus Sutra and believing in this message. All who believe in the Lotus Sutra will attain Buddhahood, but those who do not believe will never attain Buddhahood. This is the basic stance of the Lotus Sutra.
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
The core teaching that runs through the chapter on “Means” is that the two vehicles are incapable of leading people to Buddhahood, and are thus useless “vehicles.” The verses cited above are the clearest expression of this idea, which is accurately transmitted in Kum„raj‡va’s translation (T 9.8a20–22):
In order to preach Buddha-wisdom The Buddhas come into the world. Only this one cause is true, For the other two are unreal. To the very end he does not resort to the Lesser Vehicle To ferry the beings across.6
On the basis of these verses we can say that the Lotus Sutra makes the following identi³cations:
The two vehicles = the “other two” = Hinayana = “unreal” The Buddha-vehicle = the “one cause” = Mahayana = “real”
In short, the one-vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra is neither a conciliatory nor a syncretistic teaching. It calls for a radical choice that involves rejecting what is wrong and accepting what is right. In a different time and place, Dõgen (1200–1253) was to take the same standpoint. In the Shõbõgenzõ zuimonki he says:
If someone comes to ask about the teaching or the essentials of practice, a monk must always answer him truthfully. Even if the person seems to be someone of no talent or is a beginner with little knowledge and cannot understand, the monk must not reply with an expedient or untrue answer. The spirit of the bodhisattva precepts requires that he answer only with the Mahayana teachings, even if the questioner is a Hinayana person who asks of the Hinayana way. This is how the Tathagata taught during his lifetime. The provisional teachings of expediency are really of no value. The last True Teaching [of the Lotus Sutra] alone has real worth. Do not worry about whether or not the person understands; just answer with the truth.7
Here Dõgen clearly states that the bodhisattva ideal requires that Mahayana teachings must be taught even to those who do not understand or who explicitly ask for the Hinayana teachings, and that this was also the way taken by the Buddha himself. Further, the “expedient” or provisional means are worthless, and the truth must be told regardless of the capacity of the listener to understand. This is the radical one-vehicle teaching of
the Lotus Sutra: that Mahayana alone is right, and the other teachings are wrong and useless. The differences of this position from Hirakawa’s should be obvious. I have illustrated it in Diagrams 2 and 3. In short, Hirakawa understands the one vehicle to mean a unifying principle that incorporates the two vehicles of the sravaka and pratyekabuddha. I understand the one vehicle as a principle that involves rejecting the two vehicles and choosing Mahayana. Another way to look at the difference between the two theories is to note that Hirakawa’s view involves four vehicles, while mine involves only three. I am aware of Kariya Sadahiko’s opinion that the traditional controversy between the so-called four-vehicles theory and the three-vehicles theory is µawed in the very way in which the problem is expressed,8 but here again I beg to differ. This controversy concerns the issue of whether or not the one vehicle is to be identi³ed with Mahayana, and this issue cannot be ignored when discussing the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Why, then, has the three-vehicle versus four-vehicle controversy remained unresolved all this time? The answer is really quite simple: the
One Vehicle as a Unifying Principle three vehicles = means 3. Šr„vaka-y„na 2. Pratyekabuddha-y„na 1. Bodhisattva-y„na 3 Buddha-y„na one vehicle = real
One Vehicle as a Speci³c Option Šr„vaka-y„na Pratyekabuddha-y„na Mahayana
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
teaching of the three-vehicle theory in its pure sense has never been accepted in the history of Buddhism in East Asia. By “pure sense” I mean the teaching of the three-vehicle theory that does not depend on the idea of tath„gata-garbha, or the structure that I call dh„tu-v„da. Among modern Japanese scholars Fuse Kõgaku, whose monumental study of the formation of the Lotus Sutra was published more than half a century ago, seems to be the only one to interpret the idea of one vehicle in terms of the three-vehicles theory.9 He speaks of the “transcendent” one vehicle (or what I call the “one vehicle as a unifying principle”), and rejects the idea in favor of singling out the one vehicle from among the three.10 All other modern Japanese Buddhist scholars interpret the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra in terms of “merging,” “reconciling,” or “unifying” the three vehicles, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly supporting the “four-vehicles” theory.11 In this sense, Hirakawa may be said to represent the standard view of Japanese Buddhologists. The problem is that the idea of one vehicle as a unifying principle cannot account for Dõgen’s position that “only Mahayana is true” or Nichiren’s radical and intense decision that “only the Lotus Sutra is correct.” In general the new Buddhist movements of the Kamakura period elected for clear-cut “choices” of certain teachings or practices, in contrast to the prevalent ethos of “reconciliation” and “unity” represented by the Tendai and Shingon schools. This latter ethos is best represented by the Tendai tradition of “original enlightenment” (hongaku hõmon û·À–), which derived in turn from tath„gata-garbha thought and its dh„tu-v„da structure. Let us now turn to the question of the relationship between the Lotus Sutra and the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha.
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND THE DOCTRINE OF TATHÃGATA-GARBHA
As is well known, Hirakawa interprets the Lotus Sutra in terms of the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha and Kariya criticizes him for it.12 We may begin with Hirakawa’s actual words:
The technical term “Buddha-nature” (buddha-dh„tu) does not appear in the Lotus Sutra, but the same notion is nevertheless expressed in ideas like the prophecies or assurance of Buddhahood for the sravakas (shõmon juki ¹l4z) and the attainment of Buddhahood by those of the two vehicles (nijõ sabutsu). We may therefore say that the idea of one vehicle is not only a [particular] teaching but also the ground or basis of the 393
teachings, and is in fact the ideal that “every being has Buddha-nature.” One cannot say that those of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood without acknowledging that every being has Buddha-nature.13 The idea that all beings can attain Buddhahood (or, to put it negatively, that there is no one who cannot attain Buddhahood)14 is the same idea as “all beings have Buddha-nature.”15
In short, Hirakawa identi³ed the idea in the Lotus Sutra that all beings can attain Buddhahood with the teaching of the Mah„parinirv„«a Sutra that “all sentient beings without exception have Buddha-nature.” I have argued elsewhere at length that these two positions are different, and that since the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha is a form of dh„tu-v„da, it is a philosophy of discrimination that, in the end, will claim that there are people who can never attain Buddhahood.16 Diagrams 4 and 5 illustrate this point, and show the structure of the idea of one vehicle taught, respectively, in the Šr‡m„l„dev‡ Sutra17 and in the Mah„yanasðtr„la½k„ra of the Yogacara school.18 I consider both of these structures to be dh„tu-v„da, but there is a theoretical development from structure 4 to structure 5. The crucial difference is that while there are movements of both production and dissolution in structure 4, only the unilateral movement of production remains in structure 5. This reµects the gotra theory of the Yogacarins, which teaches that the gotra (lineage) of each type is ³xed and cannot be overcome. There is yet another difference between the two structures. The term “Mahayana” in Diagram 4 has changed to tath„gata-dharma in Diagram 5. This reµects an important feature of dh„tu-v„da texts, namely that they seem to support the three-vehicles theory while in fact logically maintaining the four-vehicles theory. In discussing the relation between the one vehicle and the three vehicles, the Yogacarins were interested only in the realm of the super-locus. As a result, they understood the three vehicles to coexist as ³xed and different entities, while at the same time asserting that Mahayana was superior. This pattern resembles the state of affairs prior to the introduction of the idea of the one-vehicle by the Lotus Sutra. Even more pernicious is the fact that the difference between the vehicles and their superior-inferior relationship is ontologically solidi³ed on the basis of a single and real locus, which inevitably leads to an ideology of discrimination. I call this type of dh„tu-v„da the “gotra theory,” and I consider it to display the same discriminatory traits that we ³nd in the related ideas of kula (clan) and va½ša (lineage) in Indian society.
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
On a related point, we noted in commenting on a citation from Hirakawa earlier in this essay that he considers the Vimalak‡rti Sutra, which disparages the sravaka as “rotten seed,” to predate the Lotus Sutra, attributing its origins to a period when there was pronounced confrontation between Hinayana and Mahayana. I would argue, however, that the Vimalak‡rti Sutra clearly postdates the Lotus Sutra, both because it teaches an extremely discriminatory gotra theory19 and because its teaching is a form of dh„tu-v„da.20
We may now turn to the question of why some dh„tu-v„da literature seems to teach the three-vehicle theory when in fact it is based on the logic of the four-vehicle theory. To begin with, the dh„tu-v„da tendencies of Vasubandhu’s Treatise on the Lotus Sutra (*Saddharmapu«^ar‡kopadeša, T No. 1519) are clearly revealed in the following passages:
[The Lotus Sutra] clearly manifests [the idea that] all sentient beings are endowed with Buddha-nature (buddha-dh„tu). [T 26.9a] The Dharma body (dharmak„ya) is the same for the sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and the Buddhas. [T 26.7a]
Here the terms buddha-dh„tu and dharmak„ya refer to a single basic locus, of which individual sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and Buddhas are “super-loci.” Nevertheless, Vasubandhu clearly teaches the three-vehicle theory in the famous passage at the end of his treatise in which he supports “rejecting the two and clarifying the one” (&Ìgs).21 I would note here that the intent of this phrase is quite different from the three-vehicle theory that I accept and have illustrated above in Diagram 3. Whereas in my understanding the one-vehicle idea of the Lotus Sutra involves a total negation or rejection of the two vehicles, Vasubandhu admits the validity of all three vehicles and then sets out to establish their superior-inferior relationship. His reasoning clearly is based on the gotra theory, as reµected in the use of the common YogacaraVijñ„nav„da theory of the “four kinds of sravaka.” According to this theory, sravakas are classi³ed into four groups: the ³xed (·Ï), the arrogant (†îE), the transformed (ñ5), and those converted to bodhi (qT ¬Ø). Vasubandhu claims that of these four types of sravaka, only the last two are included among the sravaka who are assured in the Lotus Sutra of eventual enlightenment. It is important to note that in this scheme these two types of sravaka, who can attain Buddhahood, originally possess the lineage (gotra) of a bodhisattva and only assume the provisional form of sravakas, while the “real” sravakas who are ³xed in the lineage of a sravaka can never attain Buddhahood. Herein lies the basis for the fundamental notion of the Yogacaras that bodhisattvas alone can attain Buddhahood but sravakas cannot, and that there is a de³nite difference between the three vehicles. What is even more astonishing is that this discriminatory notion of the superiority of Mahayana on the basis of the gotra theory has even crept into the Lotus Sutra itself. In his insistence that the sravaka practices
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
themselves can become the practices of a bodhisattva, Hirakawa relies on two passages from Kum„raj‡va’s Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra:
a. Inwardly concealing their bodhisattva-conduct and outwardly showing themselves to be voice-hearers,…22 b. What you are now treading Is the bodhisattva path. By the gradual cultivation of learning, You shall all achieve Buddhahood.23
It is clear that these two passages are based on the gotra theory and support the position that bodhisattvas can attain Buddhahood but sravakas cannot. To further complicate matters, these passages are suspect on texthistorical grounds. For example, I agree with Kariya that the ³rst passage (a) is a later addition to the text.24 As for the second passage (b), the entire ³fth chapter on “Medicinal Herbs” is highly problematic, as indicated by the fact that Kum„raj‡va’s translation is missing the entire last section of the chapter. The quoted verse comes at the end of the chapter in Kum„raj‡va’s translation, and though Kariya goes so far as to reject most of the chapter as inauthentic,25 he retains this verse as part of the authentic Lotus Sutra. In any case, the problem still remains that this passage contains features characteristic of dh„tu-v„da. In fact, I have argued elsewhere that the dh„tu-v„da features are so prominent in this chapter that it is the earliest clear instance of dh„tu-v„da in Buddhist literature.26 Whatever the merits of this claim, the Sanskrit text reveals even more clearly the dh„tu-v„da-like logic of this passage:
šr„vak„‹…caranti ete varabodhic„rik„½ (131.11–12) These sravakas…are practicing the excellent practices for enlightenment.
Evidently this statement teaches a gotra theory based on a dh„tu-v„da structure, in that it implies that “these sravakas, who are listening to the Lotus Sutra at this time, are really bodhisattvas who possess the gotra of a bodhisattva.” By relying on these passages, Hirakawa throws his entire interpretation of the Lotus Sutra into question. Not that he is not in good company. Chi-tsang (549–623), one of the most important Chinese commentators on the Lotus Sutra, regarded passage (a) as crucial to the correct understanding of the sutra. According to Suemitsu Yasumasa, Chi-tsang divided the sravakas into ³ve groups, classifying Š„riputra, the four great sravakas, and Pðr«a among the “concealed bodhisattvas who
outwardly show themselves to be sravakas.”27 According to Chi-tsang’s view, all the sravakas who are assured of ³nal enlightenment or Buddhahood in the Lotus Sutra are really bodhisattvas who possess the bodhisattva gotra, and the real sravakas who have the sravaka gotra can never attain Buddhahood. In other words, Chi-tsang admits the existence of a group of people who are eternally incapable of attaining Buddhahood. This conclusion by Chi-tsang should not really surprise us, given his fundamental commitment to dh„tuv„da.28 Contrary to Chi-tsang and Hirakawa, I take the position that their interpretation of the Lotus Sutra is informed by the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha and dh„tu-v„da, and that they have seriously misconstrued its real message.
STUPA VENERATION AND THE LOTUS SUTRA
I part company again with Hirakawa on the issue of stupa veneration and the Lotus Sutra. Hirakawa emphasizes the important role of stupa veneration in the Lotus Sutra and says:
As for the origin of the Lotus Sutra, it is most reasonable to say that it appeared from a context of stupa veneration.29
Hirakawa’s famous hypothesis is that Mahayana Buddhism itself arose from lay-centered Buddhist groups composed of believers who were neither strictly monks nor laity.30 He also notes the connection between stupa veneration and the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha in that both share the use of the term buddha-dh„tu, with the primary meaning being “the relics or bones of the Buddha.”31 In his words:
If the original nature of the mind is pure, the manifestation of that original nature is equivalent to the attainment of Buddhahood. The Mahayanist’s vow to attain Buddhahood was based on the belief that the mind is innately pure.32
According to Hirakawa, then, accepting the tath„gata-garbha-type idea of an innately pure mind or Buddha-nature is prerequisite to arousing an aspiration for enlightenment (bodhicitta). This is tantamount to saying that there can be no Mahayana Buddhism without the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha! I ³nd this unacceptable. It seems to me that his logic of seeing tath„gata-garbha as a necessary element for the arising of Mahayana Buddhism is erroneously adopted to provide theoretical support for
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
the stupa-veneration theory. Unlike Hirakawa, I maintain that stupa veneration was not endorsed in the original form of the Lotus Sutra. I admit that the diverse and frequently diametrically opposed theories concerning the formative history of the Lotus Sutra have give risen to a multitude of still unsolved problems. But at the same time, I support the theory of Fuse Kõgaku, who argues that verses 78 to 96 of chapter two on “Means” (which expound on Buddhist stupas and statues) are a later addition.33 As further evidence of this theory, let us turn our attention to some religious and philosophical problems regarding the Buddhist stupas. To begin with, for Hirakawa the term “stupa veneration” means the veneration of an architectural structure wherein the Buddha’s relics (bones) are deposited and guarded. In other words, it refers to relic worship. The salient question is: What are Buddha relics? What are the bones that remain after the Buddha’s death? To answer the question properly, we need to clarify the meaning of the concepts of nirvana (nibb„na) and death in the Mah„parinibb„na-sutta. In an earlier essay I undertook a critical etymological analysis of the commonly accepted interpretation of the term nibb„na.34 In lieu of the usual way of reading “nir+v„+ana” or “nir √ v„” as the root for nirv„«a, in the sense of “blowing out the µame (of de³lements)” or “extinction,” I proposed a derivation from the root “nir √ v£” (to uncover), which would give the meaning of “emancipation; liberation; getting rid of coverings.” I therefore took nibb„na to be synonymous with nirv£ti, which in turn is synonymous with vimukti or “emancipation.” It is important to note that these two terms, nibb„na and vimukti (or mok¤a), were in use prior to the advent of Buddhism, and that they referred originally to the emancipation or liberation of the spirit (atman) from its con³nement in the body (non-atman), like a snake casting off its skin. This idea of emancipation or liberation has two features: it is based on „tma-v„da, and it idealizes the ³nal abandonment of the body in death. This notion erroneously found its way into the Buddhist tradition by way of texts like the Mah„parinibb„na-sutta, whose author or authors interpreted the Buddha’s death as the release of his spirit (atman) from its bodily con³nement (non-atman). Thus we ³nd the celebrated passage in this sutta that one should “take refuge in atman” (atta-d‡p„ viharatha),35 a clear indication of the idea of „tma-v„da. The passage teaches that one should take refuge in an atman that survives eternally after having been
released from the body through physical death. This sutta not only teaches the idea of an eternal atman but also justi³es the veneration of relics by identifying the relics (bones) of the Buddha with an eternal atman. The crucial phrase is “sar‡r„n’ eva avasissi½su,” or “only bones remained.”36 This refers to the historical fact that after the cremation of the Buddha’s body, only the bones (sar‡r„ni) remained. What, then, are these “bones” or “relics”? They symbolize something that survives the µames of cremation and continues to exist forever. In other words, they are identi³ed with the atman that survives physical death. As a result, the relics are later called buddha-dh„tu. It is only a short step for the Mahayana Mah„parinirv„«a Sutra to identify this term with the Buddha-nature and tath„gata-garbha. In fact this is the next logical step, because all of these terms refer to an eternal and imperishable atman.37 To summarize, it is clear that stupa veneration is simply the worship of relics of the Buddha that symbolize and project the idea of an eternal atman. Such stupa veneration is a direct contradiction to the basic Buddhist doctrine of no-self (anatman) and dependent arising (prat‡tyasamutp„da), and cannot be accepted. In fact the practice was entrusted to lay people, concerning whom we lack the information to determine whether and to what extent we could even call them Buddhists. Not to be overlooked in this regard are the passages in the Lotus Sutra itself that explicitly reject stupa veneration and the worship of relics, such as statements in chapter 10 on the “Preachers of Dharma” and in chapter 17 on “The Discrimination of Merits.”38 The most important passage is the portrayal of the Buddha Prabhðtaratna (“Many Jewels”) in chapter 11, “The Apparition of the Jeweled Stupa.” When Š„kyamuni opens the door to Prabhðtaratna’s stupa, he ³nds not dead relics but a living, µesh-and-blood Buddha seated in meditation. The superb research Kariya Sadahiko has done on this question is not to be overlooked. Nearly thirty years ago, on the basis of ancient Central Asian manuscripts, Kariya noted that the term parišu¤ka-g„tra‹ (“having a dried up body”)39 should be emended to aparišu¤ka-g„tro (“having a body that is not dried up”), so that the Buddha in the stupa is seen to have a beautiful body that lives forever.40 This reading is supported by Toda Hirofumi, one of the leading authorities on the philological study of the Lotus Sutra, who proposes his own emendation: paryaªka½ baddhv„ ’parišu¤kag„tro ’sa½gha¦¦itak„yo.41
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
Kariya argues further that this Buddha appears as a sa½bhogak„ya (“reward” body) rather than as a dharmak„ya.42 Since the theory of the three types of Buddha-body was grounded on a dh„tu-v„da structure that takes tathat„ or dharmak„ya to be the locus (dh„tu), the question of whether the eternal Buddha taught in the Lotus Sutra (in chapter 16 on “The Life-span of the Thus Come One”) is a dharmak„ya or a sa½bhogak„ya takes on great signi³cance. If the Lotus Sutra is understood in terms of dh„tu-v„da, it is natural to assume that the eternal Buddha of the Lotus Sutra is dharmak„ya. A typical example is the Tendai hongaku tradition of medieval Japan, which takes the idea of dharmak„ya a step further to teach the existence of an “originally enlightened Buddha who is beyond all actions.” In sharp contrast to these dh„tu-v„da-based interpretations, Chih-i (538–597), the founder of the T’ien-t’ai school and the most important Chinese Buddhist philosopher, sides with the sa½bhogak„ya position. In the Fa-hua wen-chü he writes that the chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra “clari³es in general [the teaching of] the three bodies [of the Buddha], but its speci³c intent is to clarify the sa½bhogak„ya.”43 Nichiren inherits this standpoint from Chih-i.44 I agree fully with Kariya’s position and would add that this image of the Buddha who lives forever, in chapter 17, is mirrored in the “eternal and true Buddha” whose image appears in the chapter on “The Life-span of the Thus Come One.” I differ slightly from Kariya only in arguing that the vision of the Lotus Sutra as presented in the chapter on “The Apparition of the Jeweled Stupa” is actually a denial of stupa veneration. I see its clear repudiation of the veneration of relics and its symbolic representation of death to be a rejection of the idea of nirvana as a representation of death in favor of an everlasting and living Buddha. The Mah„parinirv„«a Sutra, on the other hand—despite the prior example of the Lotus Sutra—reverts to attachment to the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha and a philosophy of death based on ideas of relics (dh„tu) and atman. In a word, it teaches dh„tu-v„da. Here again we see the danger of interpreting the Lotus Sutra in terms of the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha. Such an approach can only lead to grave errors and fallacious conclusions.
PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON JAPANESE CULTURE
While I admit that I have no expertise in the general ³eld of Japanese culture, I ³nd myself unable to stand by idly and allow recent theories of
Japanese culture based on the idea of tath„gata-garbha to go unchallenged. There is a tendency in certain circles to present an overly optimistic view of the “identity” of Japanese culture as a culture exhibiting the following characteristics:
1. The elevation of naturalism (illustrated by the idea of “the enlightenment of trees and plants”) over humanism. 2. The elevation of experiential antirationalism (the mysticism of Zen or tantric Buddhism) over logic and intellect. 3. The elevation of totalitarianism over individualism, which in turn paves the way to corporate nationalism, in a forced application of wa or “harmony.”45 4. The elevation of animism and polytheism or pantheism, on the grounds of relativism, over absolute monotheism.46
I would argue that this way of presenting Japanese culture derives from the “generative monism” or dh„tu-v„da of the doctrine of tath„gatagarbha. Not that this is anything terribly new. We ³nd it already, for example, in the Kokutai no hongi, a tract on national polity issued by the Ministry of Education in 1937, where the the idea of wa or “harmony” is traced to the Seventeen Article Constitution attributed to Prince Shõtoku (574–622), and is emphasized in a nationalistic or totalitarian context. These same views of Japanese identity are now being advocated by people like Umehara Takeshi, Director of the International Research Center for Japanese Culture.47 By his own admission he advocates and beauti³es the ideas of tath„gata-garbha, the “enlightenment of grass and trees,” as an animistic polytheism. Umehara-like expositions on Japanese culture begin, to one degree or another, with assumptions (of the sort commonly found in “decline-of-the-West” theories) that Western rationalism, rugged individualism, and anthropocentric ways of thinking and acting are all deeply rooted in a Judeo-Christian tradition that has irrevocably declined and fallen, and has proved itself incapable of rescuing humanity from its current problems. “Oriental thought,” in particular Japanese traditions like wa and the nature-centered view of the world, is offered as an alternative to help us out of our predicament. I wish to state in the strongest possible terms that the particularity of the Japanese does not lie in a simple “oneness with nature.” The Japanese people are not perpetually in an ecstatic state induced by staring at µowers and trees. We are not vegetable-like human beings. What makes us dis402
THE LOTUS SUTRA AND JAPANESE CULTURE
tinctively human is the same thing that makes Westerners human: we can think. If “not thinking” were the ideal for humanity, as proposed in the idea of tath„gata-garbha propagated by a certain celebrated Chinese Ch’an master called Mo-ho-yen at the bSam yas debate in ninth-century Tibet,48 we should all suspend life and rush to becomes plants and stones and relics. If Japan has achieved a considerable degree of economic development, this success is also due in great part to the positive inµuences of rationalism, individualism, and consciousness of human rights. (I hasten to add, however, that these ideals have yet to sink deep roots in Japan, at least not to the degree that they have in the West.) Why, then, should we abandon our dignity as human beings and return to “nature,” to “plants and trees,” and to “the Orient”? I am not blind to the current movements across the globe to protect nature and animals from the environmentally disastrous work of human hands. I, too, recognize the need to raise ecological consciousness, but with one obvious proviso: “It is worse to kill human beings than to kill nature or animals.” Let us not forget, either, that the ecological movements of today were not generated by Eastern naturalism. They were initiated by Westerners, and founded on the traditions of rationalism and respect for human rights. It is simply not logically possible to derive the environmental movement and environmental ethics from an Eastern naturalism expressed in such phrases as “mountains, rivers, plants, and trees are all enlightened.” Such “naturalism” leads nowhere but to the “natural state of doing nothing.” It does not direct us to think or actively to seek remedies to our problems. In order to acknowledge the “wrongs” brought about by destruction of the natural world and to right these wrongs by changing our way of living, we need to think and to act. But it is this very thinking and acting that is totally rejected in the “no-thinking” and “no-action” of Eastern naturalist philosophy. Personally speaking, it is my destiny to be a Japanese, but I am fervent in my desire to distance myself from those who naively advocate ideas of Japanese culture thick with antirationalistic praise for “Japan,” “the East,” “nature,” and “harmony,” ideas based on the doctrine of tath„gata-garbha and dh„tu-v„da.49
[Translated by Paul L. Swanson]
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