Some Critical Questions About
Hisamatsu's Philosophy @& F. A. S.

Bernhard Neuenschwander

FAS Society Journal 1997, pp.94-96.
I am thankful to Christa Anbeek of the Tiltenberg for having so wonderfully prepared the second FAS retreat in Europe. I would like to take this opportunity to express some critical questions about Hisamatsu's philosophy and FAS. Deeply impressed by Hisamatsu's ideas and having experienced myself the strong and healing energy that flows out of them, I am far from rejecting or negating the great gift that Hisamatsu has given to humanity. It is the very strong impressions I received in my year working in Peru and witnessing the struggle for survival in Latin America that made me think and question Hisamatsu's ideas in a new and critical way. I hope and wish that these remarks provoke a more profound reflection on his ideas and produce a creative transformation that, so to speak, stays in his flow but leads to a new shore.

1. Is it true that the FAS program, politically understood, is completely subversive? The idea of "all humankind" sharing all spiritual and material resources aims at the destruction of all nation states and all socio-economic institutions that follow their own interests and are, therefore, ego-centered. Since all human institutions seek to maintain themselves, it seems that FAS seeks the total destruction of society as it exists today, in the hope that the new postmodern society will be established. Is this not subversion?

2. Having experienced Latin American terrorism, which works for a total revolution to create a new society, I wonder what are the limits for someone acting from the Formless, or True, Self. If an ethical argument is based on the Formless Self, how is it possible to control actions emerging from it? In other words, can someone justify criminal acts like murder or robbery because they come from the True Self? Can the liberty of the True Self be abused; and, if so, can it be exposed?

3. The fundamental koan as a tool to realize the Formless Self seems to be an utterly inadequate method for people living in extreme political, socio-economic oppression, where one has no space to step back from the daily struggle for survival. When daily life itself is like a koan and there is no supportive, caring system like there is here (including security of daily needs, good friends or community, and faith in caring, religious seniors), then proceeding to break through the koan is impossible; one is stuck in the daily struggle to survive. In such a situation it seems that the unique method of the fundamental koan would become pitiless torture, since those people's "I" is constantly being overpowered (and psychologically damaged), and they do not have the possibility of struggling with the koan in a relatively safe situation where they can give themselves up to it.

4. There seems to be a strong tension or even contradiction between the method of the fundamental koan and the political engagement expressed in FAS. First of all, since the method of the fundamental koan turns all one's problems into existential ones, it may actually weaken one's ability both to perceive political and socio-economic problems and to solve them in that realm. The result may be a highly developed person within, but who is blind to the reality of complex social problems without. As struggling with the fundamental koan leads to stepping back and distancing oneself from socio-political problems, solving the fundamental koan will not help to solve those problems. Secondly, the method of the fundamental koan is so extremely fundamental and extensive that it seems impossible to solve completely. A person could end up struggling with it his/her whole life. Since new and decisive action is expected to arise out of having solved the koan, the question must be asked: When will someone still struggling with this koan be able to start acting?

5. Looking at Hisamatsu's new ethic of "all humankind" and "supra-historical history" based on the Formless Self, I wonder if he really returned to the world. It seems to me that he not only fails to incarnate his ideas into concrete explanations, but also lacks awareness of the relative value of the institutions of marriage, law, politics, and so on. He fails to see the importance of realizing justice, and the disclosure of injustice, as well as the need for repentance and forgiving. Peace without justice is certainly easier to realize; it is often the only thing that can be realized. But such peace is gained at great cost, and it never becomes an abundant or lasting peace. Further, the FAS program does not seem to enter into a real and concrete commitment with other people and institutions, a commitment which requires relative faith and acceptance of an authority outside of oneself. Consequently, it does not lead to a realization of human interdependence and mutual responsibility.

6. I wonder if Hisamatsu's philosophical description of the Formless Self pays enough attention to the individuality of each specific self. His arguing from the standpoint of Formless Self seems to consider human selves only as "formless form," not as unique forms that differ from and interact with others. Thus, there seems to be a lack of appreciation for one's own and others' individual feelings, bodies, and sexes. These are just considered as things which we have, but not as anything specific. Further, Hisamatsu's Formless Self does not seek reconciliation with the former, individual ego, but seems to just leave it dead in the past. Thus, the Formless Self actively radiates out of itself, so to speak, but without giving birth to, without bearing, the preliminary dualistic nature of its form. It lacks the existential commitment to be its own caretaker and to be responsible for others. It fails to take into account the existential reality of our "inner child" with its vulnerability and its need to be taken care of. Finally, the Formless Self described by Hisamatsu seems to lack the self-critical attitude which arises from the awareness of one's own individual limitations and weaknesses.

Let me repeat that, in spite of these critical questions, I remain convinced of the strong and compassionate power of Hisamatsu's philosophy and of FAS. Through such questions and criticisms, FAS can only gain in depth and significance. I look forward very much to receiving various responses to my questions. Thank you.

Bernhard Neuenschwander
Greyerzstr. 47
CH-3013 Bern
Switzerland Tel/FAX: ++41-31-332-1003

5 July, 1997