The Current Task of Religion

Hisamatsu Shin'ichi

Translated by Jeff SHORE, The FAS Society Journal, Winter 1986-87, p. 35. The original text was first published in Buddhist 1,1 (1979) and is now included in Hisamatsu Shin'ichi Chosakushû, Vo1. 9 (Hôzôkan 1996), pp. 578-579.

Religion is generally as Schleiermacher (Friedrich, 1768-1834) described it: a feeling of absolute dependence, a feeling of utter devotion and reverence. It is after all a feeling of absolute faith in God. It can also be considered that which has as its aim redemption from sin through this faith. In Buddhism as well one can be saved from sin by having absolute faith in Buddha and being dependent on Buddha. In Western mysticism and in the Shodomon (i.e., the gate of saintly practice, as opposed to the Jodomon or Pure Land Practice) of Buddhism, salvation is usually thought of as becoming one with God or Buddha through mystical union (unio mystica) with an objective God or Buddha.

Even in the Zen sect there is the daily recitation of "taking refuge in the three treasures" of Buddha, Dharma (Buddhist Truth), and Sangha (Buddhist Community), an important religious ritual.

However, if such things are religion, then it is obvious that there is religion which must be called un-religious, even anti-religious, anti-faith. Further, such religion is not ordinary atheism which simply denies God and Buddha, nor the post-atheism of modern times which denies God and Buddha by relying on mankind's anthropocentrism. This religion even denies the humanistic theism which has negated theistic God.

What! What is called un-religious is precisely that which possesses the essence of religion, its root-source and ultimate point! Graspingthis is the current, grave task for religion and religious studies, a task which has not been imposed previously. I will await another day to give a detailed explanation of this task and here will simply present a few examples of what can serve as its foundation:

Rinzai said, "Encountering a Buddha slay the Buddha, encountering a patriarch slay the patriarch ... thus can on attain Emancipation."

Again Rinzai said, "I bow neither to Buddha nor to patriarchs."

Joshu said, "'Buddha' -- that is one word I don't like to hear."

A monk asked Ummon, "Killing father and mother one can confess to Buddha, but upon killing Buddha and the patriarchs to whom can one confess?" Ummon replied "It's clearly revealed!"

Bodhidharma said, "Vast emptiness, nothing holy."

And the world-honored one (Shakyamuni) proclaimed, "I have the true eye and treasury of the Dharma, the wondrous mind of Nirvana. This Dharma gate of the subtlety of true form is formless. Without relying on words or letters it is an independent Self-transmission apart from any teaching."

Last updated: 18 April, 1998