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TSUNESABURO MAKIGUCHI'S VIEW OF RELIGIONi‚Qj

3 Makiguchifs Acceptance of Nichiren Buddhism

@@In gOutline of the System of Value-Creating Pedagogyh, Makiguchi does not give specifics about the aspects of Nichiren Buddhism that impressed him the most as he became a believer; that discussion appears in volume two of gthe System of Value-Creating Pedagogy h. This work contains his first fairly thorough treatment of the substance of Nichiren Buddhism after his conversion to Nichiren Shoshu.
There, Makiguchi is principally concerned with presenting his philosophy of value. He makes an important point in chapter five, gThe Varieties of Value,h section five, gWhat Is Religious Value?h, where he considers the hierarchy of value proposed by a Neo-Kantian philosopher Wilhelm Windelband, of Truth, Good, Beauty and Sanctity, and then rejects the idea that Sanctity, or religious value, is an independent value. Makiguchi writes:
If religious value is conceived as a mode of spiritual peace, a saving refuge from the sorrows of human condition in its extremity, and if this spiritual repose has sacred value, does not its place in society correspond to our idea of moral value? Or, from the point of view of the individual, is it a benefit one? Other than to save people or to save the world, does religion have any meaning in society? Is not the spiritual liberation of the individual an individual benefit, the saving of the world a moral good? Call it divine favor, or call it a state of grace, but the words express the same idea (vol. 5, p. 356).
Reducing the religious value of Sanctity into Benefit and Good, Makiguchi articulates the view that unless a religion imparts the value of Benefit to individual and the value of Good to society, its existence has no meaning.
Makiguchifs view of religion denied Sanctity as a self-sufficient, exclusively religious value, and emphasized Benefit and Good as values derived from religion and realized in peoplefs lives and society. This basic attitude played an important part in how he responded to Nichiren Buddhism. Continuing the above statement, in section six, gThe Relationship of Religion to Science, Morality, and Education,h Makiguchi explains his perspective on Nichiren Buddhism, citing three points regarding its theoretical orientation.
First, Makiguchi notes a similarity between accepted methods of establishing scientific laws and the Nichiren Buddhist method of establishing Buddhist truth. He says:
The scientific methods we use propose general principles through comprehensive integration of facts followed be testing in empirical applications. Only because of its rigor do we place our trust in the method. In the Lotus Sutra, however, reasoning from and demonstration of actual fact are supported by documentary evidence, the teachings set forth in the pages of Buddhist scriptures. The combination of these three [types of proof] is the essential condition for making doctrinal arguments. In other words, one cannot make a valid argument in Buddhism unless reasoning, documentary proof, and actual fact all coincide (vol. 5, p. 359).
Scientific approach provides theories derived from facts, and the validity of the theories is supported by the results of testing. Similarly, the Lotus Sutra (Nichiren Buddhism) establishes truth on the basis of reasoning (theoretical proof), and actual (experimental) proof are required, and, in addition, documentary proof (literary evidence).
The second theoretical characteristic that Makiguchi brings up is the fact in Nichiren Buddhism the object of worship is neither a personified deity nor Buddha, but the Law for becoming a Buddha. Describing how the Law could also become an object of science, he says:
Non-Buddhist [religious] teachings, and even some schools within Buddhism that never moved beyond the sutras taught during the forty-plus years before the Lotus Sutra was expounded, have for their object of worship a concrete object that is considered the embodiment of a deity or a Buddha. Since the image of the object as deity or Buddha is a mental construction by those individuals who revere it, it is very different from the truths and principals that are the object and goal of science. Because of that difference, such religions are contrary to science, and so they also fail to agree with morality.
In contrast, the heart of the Lotus Sutra is the gLawh. As an expression of praise it is termed the Mystic Law (Myoho). The gLotus Flowerh (Renge) is a metaphor for the Buddha who emerges from the muddy swamp [of society] and gives concrete expression to Dharma (Law) by leading a life based on the pure Law. Kyo (Sutra) indicates the teaching of the Law. And em>Namu means to reverently devote onefs life to the Law. Thus, doesnft gNamu-myoho-renge-kyoh fulfill what scientists throughout the world seek? (ibid)
@@Here, Makiguchi distinguishes between religions that embrace a personified deity or Buddha and those that embrace a Law, and argues that the latter have an affinity with science. He further notes that the object of worship for Nichiren Buddhism is the Law as testified in the Lotus Sutra, and that Buddha is one whose life is based on the Law and gives it concrete expression. Thus, we should note, Makiguchi attaches more importance to the Law than to Buddha.
As for the third theoretical point, Makiguchi focuses on the Nichiren Buddhist teaching, gThe Buddhist Law is the law of society, and the laws of society are the Buddhist Law.h This statement, he writes, is a declaration that there is no contradiction between Buddhism and science, and that Buddhism in fact encompasses science. Interpreting this principle, he writes:
In the final analysis, Shakyamunifs teaching that gthe Buddhist Law is the laws of society, and the laws of society are the Buddhist Lawh establishes perfect accord among morality, science, and religion, and it also means that all of these are comprehended within Buddhism. It may be that I am applying an inadequate scientific interpretation that fails to understand religion, and in so doing I am guilty of slandering the Law; if so, then I sincerely look forward to being corrected.
However, if there is any respect in which they [science and religion] are different, it is with regard to the following. The law (truth) of humanity, that is, the law of social cause and effect, which belongs to the realm of ethics and morals, is limited to the present existence. And law of cause and effect recognized by science is limited to only phenomena considered by various disciplines of science. And though philosophy may stand above all branches of science, it is limited to views of life and world that cannot transcend the present existence. By contrast, Buddhism teaches about both things of this world and things beyond; that is, it clarifies the law of cause and effect operating over the three existence of past, present, and future (vol. 5, p. 360).
In developing his argument here, Makiguchi later substituted the term glaws of livingh for glaws of society,h and interpreted this idea to mean that Buddhism is a teaching that explains the fundamental principles of how to live. He also elaborated on his second point, that Nichiren Buddhism is characterized by importance it places on the Law. Makiguchifs democratic political ideas and Nichiren Buddhism went very well together, leading him to assert that Nichiren Buddhism was a religion well suited to a state governed by the rule of law. Commenting on a passage in Nirvana Sutra that was often cited by Nichiren, gRely on the Law and not upon persons,h he wrote:
This passage agrees with the underlying principle of the constitutional government that civilized countries of the twentieth century uniformly embrace.c Through the gradual growth of knowledge among the general populace, more importance is placed on the law than on persons. Even a monarch must respect the constitution, once it has been properly enacted, and is sworn not to circumvent it without good cause (vol. 5, p. 361).
The points Makiguchi makes in volume two of gthe System of Value-Creating Pedagogyh regarding Nichiren Buddhismfs theoretical characteristics closely correspond to the way he explains his conversion in gOutline of the System of Value-Creating Pedagogy.h His realization that Nichiren Buddhism embraces the scientific and philosophical principles at the basis of daily life, which he cited as a motivation for his conversion (a), corresponds with his third observation about the laws of society being the same as the Buddhist Law. Declaring that Nichiren Buddhism is completely free of contradictions (b) corresponds with the three types of proof that he notes as the first theoretical characteristic. And finding a strong theoretical character that sets Nichiren Buddhism apart from all other religions and morality he had known before (c) corresponds to the importance placed on the Law as object of worship in Nichiren Buddhism, his second point.
Let us sum up Makiguchifs view of religion and his interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism as set out in volume two of gthe System of Value-Creating Pedagogyh. In the first place, regarding the relationship of religion and morality, by making religion the basis of morality, Makiguchi creates the possibility of transcending the relative criterion of good and evil based on secular social laws, and finding an absolute criterion of good and evil based on the religious law of cause and effect that operates over the three existence of past, present, future. (This will be discussed below in Section 7.) Second, concerning the relationship of religion and science, Makiguchi demonstrates the possibility of a criterion based on science for determining the true and false, superiority and inferiority, in matters of religion. (This will be discussed below in Section 5 and 6)

4 Relationship with Sokei Mitani

An educator Sokei Mitani greatly influenced Makiguchi in his decision to convert to Nichiren Shoshu. In volume two of gthe System of Value-Creating Pedagogy,h Makiguchi gives Mitani high praise;
As to the essence of Buddhism and the history of East and West, the outstanding scholar Sokei Mitani has come out with a book, w—§³ˆÀ‘˜_¸ŽßxRissho Ankokuron Seishaku [Detailed Interpretation of Rissho Ankokuron], in which he elucidates the above truths (vol. 5, p. 362).
Since it was Mitani who had explained the teaching to Makiguchi prior to his conversion, it is only natural that Mitanifs interpretation would be reflected in Makiguchifs understanding of Nichiren Buddhism. This is apparent to some extent if one looks at gDetailed Interpretation of Rissho Ankokuron,h which Mitani published in 1929.
First, regarding the three proofs, Mitani says, gthe coincidence of three components is a necessary condition for making doctrinal arguments. These are theoretical proof, documentary proof, and actual proof (Mitani, p. 55).h This is nearly the same as Makiguchifs thesis.
Second, concerning the importance placed on the Law as the object of worship, Mitani sys:
The Buddha, too, is a human being. The Buddha differs from ordinary people in that he makes the noblest law in the world, the Lotus Sutra, his own spirit. This is the condition indicated by the concept gthe oneness of Person [Buddha] and the Law,h where the Person is the Law and the Law is the Person (Mitani, p. 35).
gThe oneness of the Person and the Lawh is a key concept in Nichiren Buddhism. Whether or not Mitanifs interpretation agrees with the traditional interpretation is a complex matter. However, it can be said that through such interpretations by Mitani, Makiguchi understood that the object of worship was not the Buddha, but the Law, an idea that he would identify as one of theoretical characteristics of Nichiren Buddhism.
In this work Mitani does not specially discuss the third theoretical characteristic, the concept that gthe Buddhist Law is the laws of society.h However, the idea that religion offers a comprehensive explanation of including science, is plainly evident in Mitanifs thought (Mitani, p. 101).
Thus, the doctrines that Makiguchi regarded as theoretical characteristics of Nichiren Buddhism were already articulated in Mitanifs work. This in itself underscores the importance of Mitanifs interpretations. However, it is also true that Makiguchifs response to Nichiren Buddhism was affected by Mitanifs view of government and of Japanese imperial myth. As I have already noted, Makiguchi asserted that the central importance Nichiren Buddhism placed on the Law made it well suited to a state governed by the rule of law. Such an interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism would have been by no means self-evident from general body of Nichiren scholarship of the day.
At the time when Makiguchi converted, Chigaku Tanakafs Nichirenism had a great deal of influence. Taking the doctrine of emperor-centered historiography as his premise, Tanaka argued that,
The Lotus Sutra is gthe teaching that must unify the world.h Japan is gthe country that must unify the world.h The decree for the construction of the country issued by the [first] Emperor Jimmu makes it clear that Japan was founded for the purpose of unifying the world by virtue of its morality (Tanaka, p. 52).
Tanaka also wrote:
In addition to being a master of world stature in both literary and military arts and the leader who secures the peace of all nations, the Japanese emperor is a living god who, wielding great religious authority, dominates the thought and belief of the peoples of the world (Tanaka, p. 410).
Tanaka portrays the emperor not just as a political ruler, but also a religious leader. Makiguchi attended a number of lectures given by Tanaka, but would not have been clearly impossible for him to reconcile Tanakafs interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism with his own political ideas. Mitani also did not concur with the ideas expressed by Tanaka. Regarding the emperor-centered historiography, Mitani wrote:
Rarely have we seen instance of history being fabricated by scholars under government patronage in order to curry favor [with the rulers] on the scale that we see in Japan. Anyone with a conscience is now filled with burning shame. We possess a truly fine history which we should bear with pride before all nations. However, as a result of our having blindly acquiesced in the notion that our emperor is the descendant of a person who descended from heaven, our seventy million compatriots today must endure the great irreversible shame that all regret (Mitani, p. 78)
Mitani fully rejected the emperor-centered view of history. Refusing Tanakafs interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism that praised the imperial system, Mitani interpreted Nichirenfs Rissho Ankokuron in a way that was compatible with the ideals constitutional government. And this approach, as has already been noted, agreed wit Makiguchifs own political ideas. Thus, in this sense as well, Mitanifs views had an important influence on Makiguchifs understanding of Nichiren Buddhism.

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