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Pure Land Notes. Journal of the Pure Land Buddhist Fellowship. Web version. namandabuPLN web header.gif
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The Tannisho Today
Rev Tairyu Furukawa March 1996
On Meditation
Vaughan Evans May 1995
From Blood to Rocks
Geoff Carpenter March 1996
Tokudo
Rev John Paraskevopoulos March 1996
The Meaning of Kikyoshiki
Hongwangi International CentreSeptember 1996
The Shin Buddhist Way
Rev Jack Austin September 1996
A Sutra of Healing and Protection
Tricycle Publications March 1996
Rules for Being Human
Unknown September 1996
Reliance
September 1996 Sallea Ungar
The Importance of Self Effort
Joren MacDonald September 1997
Self Power and Other Power Play Together
David Brazier
September 1997
Faith in What?
Sep 1997 Ajahn Sumedho (summerised by Max Flisher) Sep 1997
The Myokonin
Friedrich Fenzl September 1997
Seiza
Toshio Murakami September 1997
 
 

 

THE MYOKONIN - AN IDEAL FOR OUR TIME
Shaku Myoshin (Friedtich Fenzl)


Taken from a Lecture at the 8th European Shin Conference. Vienna 8-10 August 1994

Genza was a simple peasant, who lived in one of the Western prefectures of Japan, bordering on the Sea of Japan, the Tottori -ken. He was one of the strange characters, who was called 'myokonin' in Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, the 'wonderfully kind people'. Japan has produced many important religious figures in its history, world known scholars, impressive priests founders of sects and highly talented artists. But it seems to me. that nothing better exemplifies the spirit of this nation than the simple people, who were often uneducated by the standards of classical education and lived far from the centres of religious life, Kyoto, Nara or Hiei-san. They may appear to us, who make self-love the centre-point of our lives, like figures from a faraway planet, unsuited to the struggle of normal existence. Genza was delighted when he lost his hat, because the finder might have been pleased. He advised a thief who broke into his orchard to take away as much fruit as he could; he ploughed the field of his neighbour and neglected his own one. How can you comprehend this odd behaviour with the common sense of an 'average person'?
We can only explain it, when we realise Amida's call; when we learn to have a pure, infinite trust in Amida's vow.


A myokonin like Genza cannot behave differently to the way he actually behaved. He is the vessel that takes Amida's compassion and benevolence. In order to do this, he must first empty himself from his small wishes and the egotistic whims of self interest, even from his smallest vanity - which to be honest is in everybody - urging him to enjoy or praise his good actions.
We sometimes think we are sincere and compassionate, but alas, true sincerity and true compassion are totally different from such a selfish opinion. As long as sincerity and compassion realise themselves they are not genuine. Sincerity never says: 'I am sincere' and compassion never utters: 'I am compassionate'. That is the true, unadulterated spirit of the myokonin, who know that they are full of evil passions, and with defiled minds that wish to appear noble-minded and gentle. Many readers will know the name of Shogon Hoshi, in the secular world


Reverend Harry Pieper. He was my teacher and friend, who died in 1978.
Harry was the closest ideal of a myokonin, that I have ever met on my forty year-walk on the Dhariina-path. He was neither a great speaker nor a brilliant author of much-read books. He did not stand out by the flamboyance of his Dharma interpretations or by his physical appearance. He was a Buddhist master of the 'small details', lovingly shown by a comforting letter to a prisoner; a talk with a desperate person; a concise sermon or teaching to the 'uneducated', who had never enjoyed the benefits of a higher education; or by tolerance to people of different religions or ways of thinking. His greatest opponent was intolerance, the stubborn keeping to narrow-minded 'principles', even when they were advocated by Buddhists.
He had a fine, ironic humour, which never hurt others. 'A Buddhist', he sometimes told me, 'should never be a grumbler who goes around with a Beethoven face', alluding to the great master, who was mankind's greatest composer, but a misanthrope all his life. Shogon Hoshi's tolerance even baffled his Buddhist friends: as his wife was a Catholic, the children were brought up in the Catholic faith. When his wife was sick or prevented from going to church, Harry, the Buddhist minister and Dhanna-teacher accompanied the two girls to 'Holy Mass'. This attitude may remind us of the kindheartedness of some Japanese myokonins, who act - in a way inconceivable to the average Buddhist - against their own interests.


We are sure that only shinjin, pure, genuine, devoted confidence, will save us from the karmic consequences of our prenatal evil actions. The 'hearing' results in the compassionate response of a myokonin, who becomes a sort of mirror, reflecting Amida Buddha's infinite compassion and benevolence for human beings who are afflicted with klesa and subject to samsara, but receptive to the hearing of Amida's vow.
The myokonin will therefore be the transmitting element of Buddha's message, a part which is played in other denominations by the guru, the roshi, the thera or the meditation master.
I am fully aware that this demands a high idealistic attitude in a historical period of mankind which is characterised by egoism, career-striving, over-ambition and self-realisation. Who would like to become a myokonin without appearing as presumptive loser, as an egocentric or as a 'fool in Buddha' The reply can only be given in the hearing of Amida's name. The myokonin will never become an honourable member of the modern, performance-orientated society, not even a respected fellow-traveller of a Western Buddhist Sangha, because he/she incarnates the admonishing conscience of refrained and neglected actions of maitri and karuna. He will neither enjoy the reputation of a Buddhist scholar nor the belief in authority and miracles some Eastern and Western gurus are shown by their disciples.
In any case, the myokonin is a 'foreign body', a weed in Buddha's garden, a persona non grata. Furthermore, he cannot allow himself a little appreciation, because this would obviously be jiriki, self power, arrogance. Who would become a myokonin under these circumstances?


And yet, I am firmly convinced that they will appear in our Western countries as comforters of the sick and suffering; as advocates for their fellow beings who are deprived of their rights and dignity; as companions to the dying and fellow travellers on the path to the Pure Land. You cannot educate or instruct them in courses, seminars or colleges.

This article first appeared, with the Author's permission, in PLN 10, September 1997. Republished here in agreement with the compiler/editor of the inaugurate hard copy Journal. The Author, any person or any organisation credited, quoted or connected with this article are cordially invited to contact me with any comments, amendments, fresh contributions or complaints. email me

 

 

 
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