Introduction to the Study of the Soul 159

Introduction to the Study of the Soul 159

The Quest for Bodaishin V

Keiko Takahashi


Bodaishin’s View of Humanity and the World

It is not an obvious fact to everyone that each and every being contains the light of Bodaishin.

In human reality, there is always a rivalry between light and darkness, and at times the darkness becomes dominant due to deficiencies, immaturity, or the mind’s distortions that human beings harbor. This is evident when we look at worldly affairs.

It should be said that the concept that every person harbors Bodaishin within, is one type of view of humanity and of the world.

Referring to whether human nature is fundamentally good or evil, perceiving that there is Bodaishin at the center of a human being represents a view of humanity that human nature is fundamentally good. 

As I mentioned above, even if we adopt the doctrine that human nature is fundamentally good, of course, it is not as simple as white against black.

We have a nature that heads toward light and also have a nature that inclines toward darkness. Sometimes the conditions of birth and upbringing happen to draw out the dark quality rather than light quality. In other words, in the midst of the competition between good and evil, light and darkness, we still believe that there exists the nature of light at the root.

As is evident from the origin of the word Bodaishin, it can be said that Buddhism clearly holds such a view of humanity and the world.

In fact, in Mahayana Buddhism, there is a concept of the Nyorai-zo (Every existence harbors Nyorai within it). 

It states that although human beings are covered with various kinds of Bonno, they are also permeated with the wisdom of Nyorai (Buddha), in which Nyorai dwells within people.

The concept of Nyorai-zo was developed from the idea that the mind is originally pure, but it becomes contaminated when it is attached and covered with Bonno. It is said to have originated in the Nyora-zo Sutra, and to have been inherited and developed into the Immortality Sutra, the Shoman Sutra, and the Nirvana Sutra, and completed to be the Ho-sho theory of (Theory of Treasure Quality). 

In Japan and China, it has become the basic concept of most Buddhist schools, together with the One Vehicle Thoughts of the Lotus Sutra.

In our country, it is no exaggeration to say that the concept of the Nyorai-zo has permeated our minds even if we do not know this word.

People from overseas who visit Japan for sightseeing feel that Japanese people who doze off with their luggage under their feet on the train or leave the table with their luggage on the seat in cafés or restaurants are too indifferent. We behave in that way because many people in Japan vaguely believe that others will not steal their luggage even in such situations.

Even if you lose something, many of the found items are delivered intact and returned to their owners, which is also considered unthinkable in other countries.

Of course, such a tendency may be due to the fact that many people are conscious of how others see them.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that this reality is created by the fact that many people feel, without even being aware of it, that there is a nature of the light, a goodness, represented by Bodaishin, dwelling within human beings.

The Power to Resist Materialism

However, if we think about it again, it is a reality that is a little different from the recent impressions about Japan.

The feeling of finding light within human beings, just as Buddhism itself does, cannot be separated from the religious view of human beings and the world. In a broad categorization, I would say that a way of life that finds a dimension that transcends the material, believes in it, and cherishes it, is generally led to a category of life that recognizes the light within human beings.

Conversely, without recognizing such a dimension, in other words without having faith, makes it difficult to find the special light in human beings from the materialistic view of things and the world.

Japan is known in the world for having a large number of unbelievers and atheists who have no definite faith. The percentage is said to be second only to that of communist countries such as Vietnam and China.

The reason why such a tendency has become prominent in Japan is not only that scientific thinking has become more thorough, but also that Marxism and other communist materialistic ideas swept through society after World War II, and that the influence of leftist ideas was widely spread by the Japan Teachers’ Union in the postwar education world.

If there are so many people who are unbelievers and atheists, it’s not unusual for us to be dominated by thoughts that human nature is fundamentally evil, with which we don’t find light within human beings. However, as I mentioned earlier, on the contrary in Japan, we can see here and there a way of life based on the concept that human nature is fundamentally good, which those in other countries cannot imagine.

I think we can say that when we say, “no religion” or “no faith,” it’s not as simple as that.

There is a survey that proves so.

In an international survey conducted in 2008 (International Survey on Religion, ISSP), the question was “What is your current thought about God” and people chose an answer from the following six options.

  1. I don’t believe in the existence of God.
  2. I don’t know if God exists, and I don’t think there is any way to find out if It does or does not exist.
  3. I don’t believe there is a God, but I do believe that there is some supernatural power.
  4. Sometimes I believe in the existence of God, and sometimes I don’t.
  5. I sometimes do question the existence of God, but I believe that God exists.
  6. I know that God actually exists, and I have no doubts about Its existence.

Japan was characterized by the fact that among the countries surveyed, the number of respondents who chose 2 “I don’t know if God exists, and I don’t think there is any way to find out if It does or does not exist,” and 4 “Sometimes I believe in the existence of God, and sometimes I don’t,” were the highest.

What does this mean?

There are forces from one side that recognizes the existence of God, and from the other side, there are forces that deny the existence of God. But it means that these two groups cannot be distinguished so clearly.

In other words, many people feel that it is not self-evident which is correct between the two: the feeling of belief in the world of invisible connections surpassing matter, or the materialistic thinking that does not accept the invisible connections. Furthermore, even those who are inclined to one or the other between the two may change how they feel depending on times and occasions.

This means precisely, that people are still wavering in their positions. In Japan, many people who say that they have no religion or faith, put their hands together before a meal, and at the turn of the New Year, they pay a visit to a shrine to confirm their reverence for the new beginning. And also, at the time of death of their immediate family members, they put their hands together and pray for the peace of their souls. In words, they say, “I don’t believe in the soul and of such,” but deep inside, they harbor that feeling.

In other words, even in the midst of the overwhelming materialistic view of humanity and the world that prevailed after World War II, many people have not adhered to that view. Even though they do not have a firm faith, they have recognized a dimension in nature and the world that transcends the material, and have somehow managed to preserve their sentiment of valuing it.

The same is true for the widespread feeling of recognizing Bodaishin within human beings. It has become a power to resist materialism, which perceives everything as matter.

(To be continued)