Tuesday, March 19, 2002

The Buddha and the Devil

One particularly lovely March afternoon, the Devil came up quite unexpectedly to Shakyamuni Buddha, who was sitting in meditation under the Bodhi tree, and began to question him:

Devil: Hey there, Shakyamuni! Meditating on a beautiful day like this? I've heard something strange, and wanted to ask you about it.
Shakyamuni: And what would that be?
Devil: Well, you know--I usually hang out in the area west of Israel, so there's a reason why I'd come all the way to India today. It seems that there's a religion that started in the 20th Century in this country called Japan, and they teach that "there is no evil." That in itself is pretty strange, but they also say that you teach the same thing, too. I thought, "You gotta be kidding," but, since I'm not exactly up to par on the Buddhist teachings, I thought I'd come here and ask you straight out.
Shakyamuni: You mean, you want to ask me whether or not I teach "there is no evil."
Devil: Right.
Shakyamuni: And why do you want to know this?
Devil: Well, it's really very important to me.
Shakyamuni: And why is that?
Devil: Why, I'm the Devil. If there's no evil, that means that there's no me.
Shakyamuni: Who said you're the Devil?
Devil: Who said??? Everyone! On earth, in the heavens, in the Spiritual World, in the Astral World. Every living thing calls me the "Devil" and I think so myself!
Shakyamuni: Why do you think you're the Devil?
Devil: Because I'm bad and evil. I mean, really evil!
Shakyamuni: What do you consider "evil"?
Devil: Hahahahah. Listen to what I've done just recently?
Shakyamuni: What have you done?
Devil: September 11, 2001.
Shakyamuni: What happened on that day?
Devil: What??? You mean to tell me you don't know????
Shakyamuni: What exists around me is only Paradise.
Devil: Oh, well, that makes it worth telling you all about it, then. To put it simply, I crashed an airplane, with hundreds of passengers, into a building where thousands of people work. That was really something. Not only once, either, I did it twice. I tried it a third time, but, unfortunately it was a little off target, so there weren't that many victims.
Shakyamuni: Isn't there about the same number of victims when there's a large earthquake?Devil: What? Are you saying that an earthquake is worse than I am?
Shakyamuni: No, I'm not saying that.
Devil: When I said, "really evil", I meant the fact that I blamed all the stuff that happened in those disasters on God. In the human world, none of those things happened because of the Devil. They blame everything on people--the very religious Muslims--who claim they were doing it in the name of God. So the Muslims are being condemned, and it's not only that the Christians have started a war of retribution to retaliate, but now there's even fighting going on between the Muslims and the Hindis. With all this happening, there are a bunch of people who've stopped believing in God. "There's not one good thing about religion", is about it. No earthquake could do this.
Shakyamuni: So, that's what you mean by "really evil"?
Devil: Right. There's nothing in this world, or any other world for that matter, that's even close to being as bad or evil.
Shakyamuni: Why do you think what you did was evil?
Devil: What? You mean to say, you don't think so?
Shakyamuni: If the same kind of meteorite that dropped on the earth millions of years ago, and destroyed the dinosaurs were to drop again, Man might start a world war in order to save himself. In such a case, they can't be bothered by religion.
Devil: Oh, right. There you go bringing up all that cataclysmic stuff. Trying to put me down again. You're really mean.
Shakyamuni: For Tathagata, there is no such thing as that. Aren't you the one who is trying to be obstinate?
Devil: What do you mean?
Shakyamuni: You insist on being the most evil.
Devil: Why, of course. After all, I am the Devil.
Shakyamuni: By the way, what makes you think that September 11 was the worst thing ever to happen?
Devil: I think I've already answered that question. I've already explained why I'm really evil.
Shakyamuni: No, not that. How can you determine things to be "a little evil" or "pretty evil" or "the worst"? How can you measure "evil"? What type of scale do you use to measure it with?
Devil: I've never thought of that. But, now that you mention it, I guess I have been putting evil in rank order. Yup, I think so. That scale that you were asking about is this--How much I can disappoint humankind by destroying everything people hope for. The level or magnitude of evil depends on how much I can crush their hopes. I'm the Devil, so, for humankind, I cause the most desperate and hopeless situations.
Shakyamuni: So then, that means that all humankind hopes for "good."
Devil: Oh, very keen observation. You can't necessarily say that, though. When one comes over to my side, he wants evil. Like that Osama guy.
Shakyamuni: So that Osama guy is sometimes more evil than you.
Devil: No. He just did those things because I gave him the idea.
Shakyamuni: So, does that mean that he wouldn't have created those disasters if it hadn't been for you?
Devil: That's right.
Shakyamuni: Then, that makes Osama a good guy at heart.
Devil: Well, I guess you could put it that way, but there's no way that there could be a "without me", so he is evil.
Shakyamuni: Hmmmm. Well, does that only apply to Osama? In other words, if the Devil, who is you, did not exist, does that mean that only Osama could be a good person, or all other persons could be good as well?
Devil: Shakyamuni, I am the root and source of all evil. If it weren't for me, humankind would still be in the Garden of Eden.
Shakyamuni: Well, if the cause for evil is not with Man, then it all comes back to the question of whether you, the Devil, are really evil.
Devil: You know, you talk just like Socrates.
Shakyamuni: I've been in Ancient Greece, too.
Devil: And I've been there, too.
Shakyamuni: So, should we ignore the details regarding humankind, and concentrate on whether or not you are evil?
Devil: Sure. It's really quite obvious.
Shakyamuni: What's obvious?
Devil: That I am the most evil.
Shakyamuni: I don't think it's so obvious. Let's talk about that "scale of evil" you mentioned.
Devil: Sure.
Shakyamuni: How much or how far does that scale measure? In other words, you say that "the worst", or most evil thing, were the incidents on September 11, but do you have a way of determining "fairly evil" and "a little evil"?
Devil: That all depends on how crafty I am. The craftier I am, the worse it gets.
Shakyamuni: You said that the "evil" depends on how much you can disappoint or betray humankind, did you not?
Devil: I did.
Shakyamuni: Which means that you know what humankind's hopes are.
Devil: I guess so. If I didn't know, I wouldn't be able to disappoint or betray them.
Shakyamuni: Then you know when someone is thinking about doing something good.Devil: Yes, and I try to prevent that from happening.
Shakyamuni: And that's because you recognize the fact that what that person wants to do is "good."
Devil: Yes.
Shakyamuni: Which means that you have something within your mind that is divinely inspired by "good."
Devil: I don't like the word, "divinely inspired." I have something that "detests" the good in humankind.
Shakyamuni: But, if you weren't able to be divinely inspired by it, then you wouldn't be able to detest it.
Devil: Then I'm divinely inspired by it and detest it.
Shakyamuni: That's why you have within you, the ability to be divinely inspired by "good."
Devil: What if I do? What happens then?
Shakyamuni: That which is divinely inspired by good is only good.
Devil: Even if one creates evil as a result?
Shakyamuni: That's because you detest it. Just stop doing that.
Devil: Stop kidding around, Shakyamuni. If I stopped doing that, I wouldn't be the Devil.
Shakyamuni: You don't have to be the Devil. You have sensors for "good" within you.
Devil: Ohhhhhh. I'm all confused. Those sensors are there for me to be able to hate. It's for me to perceive goodness and destroy it. It's like a mouse trap or a snare. It's to perceive the prey and kill it.
Shakyamuni: Mouse or bear traps don't perceive prey. The animals perceive the bait in the traps and come up to it.
Devil: Same with me. Humankind perceives evil and comes to me.
Shakyamuni: Don't fool yourself. You just said that you perceive good and destroy it.
Devil: Just what are you trying to say?
Shakyamuni: I'm not trying to say anything. You said it.
Devil: What???
Shakyamuni: That you have sensors to perceive good.
Devil: And?
Shakyamuni: Only good can perceive good.
Devil: So?
Shakyamuni: So you are good.
Devil: Hahahahahaha. If the Devil is good, then there is no evil.
Shakyamuni: That's right.
Devil: But, the Devil is "evil" because evil exists.
Shakyamuni: You know that evil is evil because you have sensors to perceive good.
Devil: Then why is it that I create evil even if I have the sensors to perceive good?
Shakyamuni: That's because you refuse to accept the compassion of the Buddha.
Devil: Shakyamuni, There is no "Buddha" in my world.
Shakyamuni: Then "God." You refuse God's love, so you hate good even though you know what it is. That mind of hatred manifests evil.
Devil: There's no way I, the Devil, can accept God's love.
Shakyamuni: Why not?
Devil: Well, God doesn't love the Devil.
Shakyamuni: That's only what you think. God loves you.
Devil: What are you saying? Don't say things that you can't prove.
Shakyamuni: The fact that you have sensors that detect good is proof in and of itself.
Devil: But, I abuse that.
Shakyamuni: There, that's what I mean. The fact that you realize you are "abusing" things is proof that you know what needs to be done to use it for good. All you have to do is follow that knowledge of good.
Devil: Are you saying that the Devil has knowledge of good?
Shakyamuni: Stop calling yourself the Devil. Having sensors that recognize good, and having knowledge of good--that is not the Devil.
Devil: I don't have any reason for living, then.
Shakyamuni: God loves you and has given you sensors to perceive good as well as the knowledge of good. Recognize these things and live as a part of God.
Devil: Then there will be no evil.
Shakyamuni: There was no evil in the first place. Don't get attached to things that are non-existent and think of them as being yourself. Evil always translates into good. That's because evil is a pretend existence. The extinction of dinosaurs led to the birth of humankind on the earth. Slavery eventually led to multiracial coexistence. The second World War led to the formation of the United Nations and the international monetary system. The events of September 11 will, some day, lead to something positive. It's meaningless to become attached to evil which will eventually disappear entirely. The Devil and such do not exist.
Devil: I don't exist?..
Shakyamuni: No, that's not it. You are actually an angel, a Buddha.
Devil: Oh, Shakyamuni! I'm disappearing!
Shakyamuni: That which disappears is not real. You will be reborn as a child of God.
Devil: Ahhhhhhhh....

- MT

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Proclamation that "There is No Evil"

Spring is early this year. I'm a little concerned, thinking it might have to do with the effects of global warming, but when the cold begins to let up and it begins to get warmer, it just naturally makes you feel cheerful and lighthearted. The temperature in Tokyo yesterday went up to a high of 23.9 degrees (Centigrade), which was 11.3 degrees (Centigrade) warmer than usual--the kind of weather we usually have at the end of May. In our garden at home, the iris started blooming a few days ago, the magnolia are in full bloom, and the golden bells are blooming as well. The snowflakes (flowers) started blooming yesterday and the toads in the pond have begun their grand love story. It was also proclaimed that the first strong winds of spring blew in the Kanto region. And the Meteorological Agency made an announcement that the cherry trees in Tokyo have started to blossom--the earliest ever recorded.

In this way, if we make such proclamations through words, we really feel like it's happening. It isn't as if the strong winds that we experience at the beginning of spring just started yesterday, and it's not as if the many cherry trees in Tokyo didn't have flowers before yesterday. However, when a public agency takes the opportunity to make solemn proclamations such as, "the first strong winds of spring are here" or "the cherry trees are in bloom", it's amazing that we are then able to switch our thinking over to "spring is here at last." While we're at it, it would be nice if someone would proclaim that "the Japanese economy has made it out of the recession" or "terrorists have been irradicated", but these aren't the same as the natural changes in the seasons that occur. Rather, it is a matter of Man's mind, so whether or not we can acquire any sort of credibility along these lines is questionable.

Then, how about the grand proclamation that "There is no evil"? Seicho-No-Ie has been saying this for over 70 years now, but, unfortunately, the number who don't believe this outnumber those who do. Despite this, the mayor in a town in the southern United States made this proclamation, and has created quite a stir. More precisely, this mayor signed and stamped a proclamation that said, "Satan is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town." She then placed it on four posts at the town borders, reports today's edition of the International Herald Tribune.

This person is Carolyn Risher, mayor of Inglis, a town with a population of approximately 1400, located about 120 kilometers north of Tampa in West Florida. Risher said she wrote the proclamation, guided by the "voice of God" that she heard on Halloween night of last year. The idea of placing the proclamation on the posts was suggested by a minister of a church in the town. Behind all this, however, is the fact that the young people of the town have started wearing strange types of clothing, have been rumored to be using drugs, and the increase of domestic violence. There is a big difference between, "There is no evil" and "banning Satan." The former denies the existence of evil itself, while the latter recognizes the existence of evil, and goes on to proclaim that it will not be a part of one's existence. To introduce a part of this proclamation, it says, "Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis. Satan is powerless and can no longer control or have any influence on any of our citizens." This is clearly recognizing the existence of Satan, so perhaps, in this case, the principle of "That which is recognized, appears" applies.

Immediately after issuing the proclamation "banning Satan", the Town Hall phones began to ring. And, when someone answered, there would be a voice that said, "This is Satan. Is the Mayor in?" "Is this Caroline? This is Satan. I know you really like me." Of course, these are tasteless pranks, but even worse was when, in the beginning of March, the posts on which the proclamation had been attached were stolen. The town immediately made duplicate copies of the proclamation, and, this time, put them inside the posts, and, last week put the posts in concrete blocks. The police authorities say that there are very few people on Satan's side, and the majority of the citizens are united together to "obey the law."

In the United States, where the "separation of church and state" is emphasized, it's surprising that all this actually happened. That's probably how much Christian thinking has permeated American society. Let's think about whether or not there is a possibility that this could happen in Japan. It doesn't seem possible, but perhaps the Japanese custom of scattering beans to ward off evil spirits corresponds to this. The Japanese word "oni", when translated into English, is "demon", and there are some dictionaries that translate "demon" as "Satan". Strictly speaking, though, "oni" is neither "devil" nor "Satan", but something close to that. So, if they had this bean scattering ceremony in the town and city halls of Japan, would it be a violation of the "separation of church and state?" Now we're getting a bit complicated, but it seems that, as far as that type of proclamation is concerned, it is already being done in various places throughout Japan. So, I guess we can think of it as being just one more step before they proclaim, "There is no evil."

- MT

Sunday, March 10, 2002

Is the Mind of Man Imperfect?

There was a Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture in Nagoya City, and, as always, when we asked for questions regarding my lecture in the morning, I received about 30 forms. When there are this many, it's difficult to answer them all, due to time constraints, so we need to select the ones that I can answer. Since there were many questions asking that I "explain in more detail the principle of the world being a reflection of the mind", I used the first half of the afternoon session to do so. I explained this teaching during the morning session as well, but it was probably insufficient. When I said, "Since Man's five senses are imperfect, we cannot perceive existence exactly as it really is", it must have been because I emphasized the part of the senses being "imperfect", a 21 year old male student from Tokorozawa City asked the following question:

"How can Man view a perfect world (perfect and harmonious) with an imperfect mind? As long as we have a mind, I don't think it's possible to see the True Image. Can it not be said, then, that, as long as we are alive, we cannot ever realize Heaven on this Earth?"

What I said was that, "Man's senses are imperfect," but this person understood it as meaning, "The mind of Man is imperfect." It seems that I did not explain it thoroughly enough. What I meant in my explanation was that, Man's five senses are all imperfect and cannot perceive all things, and, when we construct a world from the information perceived through our five senses in our minds, we cannot do so perfectly as in the Reality. So, I guess it can't be helped if this was interpreted as meaning that "the mind, too, is imperfect." But, in the same context, I said, "The reason that Man seeks truth, goodness and beauty is because Man knows what they are." Since "truth, goodness, beauty" are also known as the "Virtues of God", they can be used interchangably with the word, "perfection." If we assume that, then we can say that "Man seeks perfection because Man knows what it is." "Man knows what it is" is the same as "Man's mind knows what it is", namely Man's mind knows "perfection." That which knows perfection has the basis for "perfection" within. In that sense, the mind of Man is perfect.

Let's discuss this in more detail. I touched on this in my lecture, too, but, watching the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, I was really quite impressed at "how Man strives so hard to reach 'perfection'." How did you readers feel? There were speed skaters who tried hard to beat times within 100ths of a second. In figure skating, it used to be that "triples" were the best skaters could do, but this time "3 and a half" jumps and "quads" were performed. In cross-country skiing, there were athletes trying to test the human body to the extreme limits. Why does Man try to push himself "higher and higher" still? Skating one second faster, or jumping one meter further, or making half a revolution more does not make that person's existence any more fit than another's. At the very least, it's not something that one has to do in order to survive. Despite that, people make great sacrifices and expend a tremendous amount of energy to do so. Watching it all, people throughout the world excitedly respond and are deeply moved. Is this not Man trying to express the perfection within?

This is not only the nature of athletes. Artists, musicians, actors, writers, directors, businessmen, inventors, engineers, scientists, farmers, chefs--trying to do something a little better, a little more excellent is what they live for. In other words, Man is an animal that finds great joy in achieving a certain level of excellence in all aspects of daily life. We can't help but think that there is an image of "perfection" in the mind of that kind of Man.

To recognize or feel the "perfection" within ourselves is what we believe in Seicho-No-Ie. When the young student said, "Man cannot perceive perfection with an imperfect mind", he probably wanted to say, "We cannot perceive God with a deluded mind." When we bring out a deluded mind into time and space, the undeluded, true mind appears. In other words, if we do something with a deluded mind, and, even if the result is unsuccessful, Man has the ability to look at that result and get a more perfect understanding. Hasn't that been the case with the history of mankind? Through these activities, it is possible for Man to create "Heaven" on this earth, and I think such activities are actually happening around us.

That's why we must look more towards the perfect, find more aspects of excellence, and pay more attention to those things on earth that show truth, goodness and beauty. That's what I think. Focusing on the mistakes, scandals, corruption, killings and cheating of people will only cloud one's mind with "imperfection", and then, the "perfection" that we should know deep within ourselves is hidden, and there are instances when we may not be able to express that perfection. This is the state of "delusion." There is no better way to rid ourselves of delusion than to look towards perfection. There is no reason why Man, who has that perfection within, cannot do this.

- MT

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Animal's Love

This morning's edition of the Asahi Shimbun had an article regarding how it's possible for a lion and a herbivore to have a "parent-child" relationship. Although I think this type of relationship is quite rare, I was surprised to hear that it really does happen. It all occurred at a wildlife preserve in central Kenya, where someone saw a 5-6 year old lioness walking alongside a newborn oryx (an antelope, belonging to the cow family, an herbivore). The lion wasn't thinking about "eating it", but would lie next to the oryx when it was sleeping, and, in order to protect her "child", she did not eat anything for about ten days. However, on January 6th of this year, other lion, attacked the oryx and ate it, while the "mother" was taking a drink of water. They say that for some days afterwards, the lioness would not get up and appeared to be mourning the death of her child.

This lioness didn't give up here. In the middle of February, she again accepted another oryx "child." But this second child was so weak that it couldn't stand. Seeing this, the Kenya Wildlife Service, which maintains the national parks in Kenya, moved the oryx to an animal hospital in Nairobi. According to the newspaper article, this lioness lost two cubs of her own last year, got separated from her herd and was living on her own.

Both male and female oryxes have long, spear-like horns, and are about as big as a cow--about 47 inches at the shoulder, weighing anywhere from 250 to 390 pounds. They live in the deserts and savannahs of Arabia and Africa. Their diet consists of grasses, buds, leaves, and also eat roots and tubers, that have a lot of moisture, digging them up with their front legs. They usually give birth to one calf, but, in rare instances, two. They leave the herd to give birth and hide the calf for 2 or 3 weeks. That's probably when the mother oryx was killed by a carnivore. Since their "natural enemies" are lions, panthers, and wild dogs, it seems that its "natural enemy" was playing the part of the "parent."

Whether or not "animals have (the ability to) love" is sometimes a topic of debate amongst biologists. This example effectively illustrates how different types of animals can establish a "love-like" relationship. In his book, When Elephants Weep, Freudian scholar and psychoanalyst, Jeffrey Masson introduces some examples of how a "parent's love" can transcend species. In one experiment, a rat which had children, was given baby mice and rabbits. Not only did the rat take them in as her own, but also "adopted" a kitten. When scientists tried to separate it from the rat, the "parent" showed signs of resistance. And, while cats lie on their side and feed their young, rats feed their young while on all fours. This rat tried desperately to feed the kitten in a standing position. Fascinated, the scientists decided to give the mother rat a Japanese bantam chick. There was a lot of excitement when the rat tried to hold the neck of the chick in its mouth and bring it into its nest.

These experiments, however, are conducted with a lot of human intervention, so, when one considers that the "minds" of the humans and animals are intermingling, one can't say necessarily that it's a "natural state" of things. But, in the first case with the lioness in Kenya, it was something that happened in the wilds, without any human involvement at all. One can feel the strength of a "higher power", and one would have to be pretty brave to call it "coincidental." One might also call this type of behavior in animals, "instinct", but then we should also call "love" that we humans feel "instinct" as well.

In Hindu and Buddhist teachings, it is said that, "Animals are reborn as humans, and humans are also reborn as animals." In the Jataka stories of Buddhism, there are examples of Shakyamuni Buddha, in his previous lives as an elephant or monkey, appearing as a Bodhisattva and performing altruistic acts of love. Many people may think that these are "pretend stories" written to support the teaching of reincarnation, but, when there are examples such as these where this lioness loves a baby "cow", I'm probably not the only one who feels that this type of "high spirit" lives on amongst the animals to this day.

While romanticizing, I also thought of something else, and that is what was written in The Book of Isaiah of the Old Testament. In Chapter 11, there is the following reference reminiscent of the "Final Judgment", describing a time when carnivore and herbivore would eat and sleep together:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed;
their young ones shall lie down together:
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den.

It's true that people have wanted this kind of world for many a year. However, it's difficult to explain why this is true.

- MT