A History of the FAS Society: Part V

By ABE Masao


Since we started off in that manner, you may think that we have been engrossed in the inner problems of the self, disregarding other problems. It may seem that we always spent our time inquiring into the self, that is, pursuing koji kyumei (elucidating the matters of the self). However, the problems of the world and of history have been a great concern from the start for us donin. When our group was started during the War, the national crisis was one of our urgent problems as well as the problem of whether human beings should ever be allowed to kill each other under the name of war. Therefore, problems of the nature of the nation and the world, so often involved in war, were inseparably connected with our own life-and-death problems. "What is the world which out to be?" "Is the present way of the world right or not?" These questions haunted the youthful minds of donin along with the problem of the nature of the self. We could not consider the problem of the world apart from the problem of the self.

Social conditions after the War were greatly changed from what they had been like during the War, but people could not find peace anywhere. There arose various cries for social reforms or revolutions within the country, and internationally the United States confronted the Soviet Union, a confrontation which gradually intensified. A drastic historical change was being brought about in the world situation. We in Japan felt deeply concerned at the outbreak of the Korean War. People came to entertain some fear over the possibility of the outbreak of the third world war. As most of you well know, there were many peace movements at that time, and we ourselves could not be indifferent to them. We felt, however, that we were neglecting something by only considering the problem of world peace from the political or social standpoint. Regardless whether it is a problem of peace or a problem of social reforms, unless one copes with the problem on the basis of man's true existential awakening to Reality, his approach must be superficial. Although those who participated in the peace movements were full of much goodwill and a strong sense of justice, if they lacked an awakening to Reality, their movements were without real power, or worse, were creating other confusions. On the other hand, needless to say, if only the religious aspect is stressed and if priority is given only to self-salvation and the thoroughness of man's awakening to Reality, thereby neglecting affairs of the world, then problems could not be brought to a true solution. Therefore, we thought that we should stand upon the point where religious problems and world problems can be brought together.

In July of 1951, we pronounced a vow in public, the "Vow of Humankind," which we continued to make thereafter as our statement of belief in Gakudo Dojo. This is one of the written conclusions of our discussions on the aforementioned problems. It begins, "Keeping calm and composed, let us awaken to our True Self, become fully compassionate humans ..." This sentence explains explicitly the meaning of the "Absolute Great Way" spoken of in the first line of "Our Guiding Principles for Attaining Awakening." The Vow ends with the phrase, "... (to) construct a world in which everyone can lively truly and fully." As a whole the Vow of Humankind explains how donin approach problems of individuals, society, history, and the world from that basic standpoint. To "awaken to the True Self" and to work on the problems of the world are inseparable tasks for donin, and because of this we could not help but announce the "Vow of Humankind" publicly as well as to ourselves. All of these facts have already been stated in the first sentence of "Our Guiding Principles, " which was composed at the very beginning of our Society. "We are determined to attain awakening to the ultimate, great way through critical study and struggling practice, and thereby to participate in the honored work of creatively revitalizing the world."

It is not the sole fundamental concern of Buddhism to save oneself and to investigate what the self is. For instance, the first sentence of the Shiguseigan (Fourfold Great Vow) is not: "However inexhaustible the passions are, I vow to extinguish them." the primary concern of the practice of the Buddhist Way is not to extinguish our passions but to save the innumerable sentient beings. The Fourfold Great Vow clearly shows that emancipation of oneself from the power of passion cannot be attained apart from the salvation of the innumerable sentient beings. When we look upon Buddhism and its activities today, however, such an aspect of Buddhism seems to be very weak. Even the importance of this aspect is not clearly realized. This must be one reason why today's Buddhism has become removed from social realities and confined to temples, and seems to be engrossed only in the inner problems of the self. Therefore, those who live their lives and are struggling in the historical world cannot find the basis for their own way of living in Buddhism. The Vow of Humankind, created at the moment of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1951, was not a mere cry for peace movements; it was a vow in which we clearly stated that the establishment of true world peace was inseparably related to one's awakening to the True Self, and on this basis we vowed for the liberation of all human beings.

What I would like to say here is that koji kyumei (inquiry into the self) will necessarily become superficial and unreal if it is reached only for its own sake. Therefore, we should work upon sekai kyumei (inquiry into the world), the problem of what is the true world, what is the root and source of the world in which we live. Accordingly, sekai kyumei is not different from koji kyumei. Further, to study and clarify what the world is, is also inseparably connected with rekishi kyumei, that is studying and clarifying the origin and true meaning of history.

Accordingly, the questions of what the self is, what the world is and what history are all related to one another. The problem of what the self is cannot be solved in its true sense if it is studied independently of those problems of the nature of the world and the meaning of history. One the other hand, world peace cannot be established in the true sense, nor can history be created, unless one clarifies what the self is. These three problems are inseparably related and united as one at the root of our existence. It was our thought that this is the place of returning and of coming forth -- the place which we have long sought.

The idea was clarified through Hisamatsu's trip abroad several years later. In the autumn of 1957, Hisamatsu went to the United States and gave lectures on "Zen and Culture" at Harvard University. Then he traveled in various countries of Europe and in India, and met people representing various fields. He came back to Japan in August 1958 with the idea of FAS. Even before he went abroad, he began to speak of FAS, but when he came back from his trip around the world, he stressed that we should take our stand upon FAS.

"F" stands for awakening to the Formless Self, which means to awaken to man's fundamental realization as mentioned before. "A" means taking one's stand on the standpoint of All humankind. "S" stands for creating Suprahistorical history. "To awaken to the Formless Self" is the problem of the self, i.e., koji kyumei. "To stand on the standpoint of All humankind" mans to grasp racial, national, and class problems from the perspective of all mankind, which does not mean to adopt the perspective of any one race, nation, or class as the ultimate. This is a problem that concerns the nature of the world, that is, sekai kyumei. Not only the problem of the self but also the problem of the world must be solved. The problem of the world and the standpoint of all humankind are thus realized as being inseparably related to the problem of the self. And to stand on the standpoint of all humankind leads us to the third step where the standpoint of all humankind is not limited to the present world, to the problem of modern history, because "all humankind" necessarily refers to humankind in the past as well as in the future -- humankind in its whole history. Consequently, the problem of all humankind inevitably turns into studying and clarifying the meaning of history and its origin and end, i.e., rekishi kyumei. Hisamatsu expressed the inseparability of three problems (Self, world, and history) and their solution in terms of FAS. Right here the meaning of the opening sentence of the "Guiding Principles" of Gakudo Dojo and the meaning of the Vow of Humankind became more clearly realized among us.

Around the time of Hisamatsu's trip abroad, other donin left fro various countries including Germany, England, France, Ceylon, India, and the USA to study. Here in Kyoto we also received visitors from abroad. Through the personal contacts with foreigners, we became convinced of the necessity of FAS. It was at that time that we changed the name of our organization to FAS Society, for Gakudo Dojo seemed to indicate only concern with the self.

Such is the present standpoint of the FAS Society. We hope to join hands and cooperate with those in the world who have the same problems, be they Christian, Hindu, scientist or artist. We are hoping to establish a basic center for that purpose.

(to be continued)

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Last updated: May 25, 1996