Saturday, March 08, 2014

”these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” - Buddhist Priest Shinran

Tokyo Skytree Tower 634 Meters High

Buddhist Priest Shinran

One of the most influential Buddhist monks in the Japanese history is Shinran (1173 - 1263).

Shinran was born at the end of the era of the old imperial regime and worked hard through the beginning of the samurai era.  

Buddhism in Japan had been under protection of the imperial court since the religion was first introduced into Japan in the 6th century or before.  But along with the fall of the imperial regime (actually aristocracy) and the start of the rule by the samurai sword, Japan came to have new types of Buddhist factions.  They all concentrated on preaching teachings of the Buddha through adaption to the need of the general public, though Buddhism had been mostly possessed and studied by noble people before.  Buddhism had been used to enhance authority of the imperial court as it had been thought to be a higher level of philosophy or a cultural product imported from China, the then most advanced empire in East Asia.

The era of the first samurai regime in the Japanese history is called the Kamakura Period, since the samurais who took over power built their capital in Kamakura, 70 km west of Tokyo, though the emperor and other noble class members stayed in Kyoto with their ritualistic authority.  All through the subsequent samurai eras that continued for 700 years, Japan had virtually two capitals: the imperial capital Kyoto and the samurai regime's capital, such as Kamakura and Edo (Tokyo).

The Kamakura Period produced some unique leading Buddhist monks who became founders of new Buddhist schools.  One of them was Shinran.

Once Max Weber studied the history of the Japanese Buddhism to find that old Buddhist schools strongly connected to the imperial courts were a kind of Catholic while those new schools of Buddhists were a kind of protestant.  So, the teaching by Shinran was radical.

Shinran taught mainly:
"One cannot reach a state of goodness or righteousness only through his effort."

"Anybody can be saved by praying to Amida Buddha or reciting Namu Amida Butsu."

"Amida Buddha saves especially those who cannot be excellent in their practices of Buddhism."

Put simply, Shinran said that the poorer or the more foolish one was in line with a value system in conventional Buddhism, the more probably he would be saved by Amida Buddha, since anybody could not satisfy the very high standard the Buddha had basically requested.

Shinran thought that everyone was evil.  But when he realized that he was evil, he could find a chance to be saved by Amida Buddha.  If one thought that he was good enough to be praised by Amida Buddha, his arrogance would be hated by Amida.  A bad man was in a different phase from a self-judged good man in terms of his religious status; hence he could be saved through a different path than a selfish good man.  And such a path to salvation of the soul of a bad man is more blessed that the path of such a good man to any salvation.  

Christ Jesus said, "Nobody is good.  Only the God is good."  He also asserted that if a sinful man repent, the joy in Heaven would be greater.   Accordingly, the teaching of Shinran is not so far from Jesus' teachings.


Finally, it is important to know that the Japanese public had been familiar with the same teaching as what Christians in Europe learnt from the Bible since the start of the samurai era in the 12th century.

*** *** *** ***

Luk 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Friday, March 07, 2014

"Ye must be born again"

Ueno Museum, Tokyo

*** *** *** ***

Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Joh 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Joh 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

"baptized of him in Jordan" - Chinese Red

Tokyo Ginza Shopping Street

Chinese Red

Kanji or Chinese characters are an interesting set of letters or pictographs.

We, Japanese, use kanji letters, however, without minding what their shapes originally mean.

One example is a pictograph meaning Chinese red.

This character is called "shu" or "aka" in Japanese.  It roughly means red in English.

Looking at it carefully, you can see it is composed of the following part.

This character means a cow, called "ushi" or "gyu" in Japanese.

So, the character "shu" or Chinese red consists of "gyu" or a cow.  But it has additional bar(s) in its structure.  It means a cow is cut at a throat by a knife, so that it pours out blood.  And the color of the blood is Chinese red.

Practically, when applying it to commodities, this Chinese red or "shu" was originally taken out of an ore called Cinnabar or cinnabarite (red mercury(II) sulfide (HgS), native vermilion).

Japan had abundant Cinnabar.  When the shu red was used in combination with gold, it really looked impressive especially in ancient days.  Japan had abundant deposits of Cinnabar and gold, so that ancient capitals of Japan had main buildings painted or decorated using Cinnabar and gold.  THey must have looked so vivid and vibrant.

Even today, there are many shinto shrines in Japan which abundantly use the shu red color.

Chinese also like the color red.  Temples of Taoism and even other commercial buildings in China traditionally used this color so abundantly.  Even today, the Chinese national flag is based on the red ground.

But its origins is blood gushing out of a cut cow.  It is not a Japanese sense.  It is indeed Chinese origin.  

Ancient Japanese developed a technique to crate red lacquer or red japanese, using Caesalpinia sappan, a species of flowering tree in the legume family, Fabaceae, that is native to Southeast Asia and the Malay archipelago.  It has a common name of Sappanwood.
Japanese wooden tableware painted with lacquer with the ancient red

But, we had better still wonder what the ancient Chinese civilization was like as it created a character red in such a cruel manner in association with gushing blood of a cow.

Chinese people or the Han Chinese must have been a very wild tribe using a bleeding cow for some ritual.  They must be still bellicose.  Truly China occupies Tibet and part of central Asia by force and intends to invade territories of other countries the East China Sea and the South China Sea.  Red China can be so dangerous.

Finally, for ordinary red (called "aka" in Japanese), the Japanese people usually use the following character.

Originally ancient Chinese invented this letter by combining a pictograph indicating "large" and "fire."    So, another red is from fire, probably observed in a big flaming torch or a bonfire used also in a ritual.

*** *** *** ***

Mat 3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
Mat 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

"grieved for the hardness of their hearts" - Chinese Buddhism

Ueno Park, Tokyo

Chinese Buddhism

When the Gospels were edited in or around the Roman Empire in the first century, Buddhism reached China.

But the development in China of this religions originated in India 500 years before the birth of Christ Jesus was very different from that of Christianity in Europe.

Even unlike in India where Buddhism was supported by ordinary people, Buddhism was protected and promoted by courts of successive dynasties of China.  Accordingly, development and diffusion of Buddhism in China could be studied along with changes in dynasties which ruled all or part of China in the proceeding of the history.  

Traditionally Chinese did not accept Buddhism as it was.  They selected contents of the religion in light with their tradition and culture.  Chinese Buddhists, monks, or scholars never abandoned Sinocentrism.  Rather, teachings of Buddhism which did not fit with Sinocentrism were neglected.  Instead, they created their version of Buddhist scriptures based on their philosophy.  They also mistranslated original sutras.  In addition, they added their writings to original Buddhist literature or deleted some part of sutras so as to make Buddhism serve their culture and tradition.

What is remarkable is that various Buddhist factions came to emerge as study of Buddhism developed over time.  Different interpretation led to formation of different factions.  So, it was very complicated that Chinese Buddhist schools handled Chinese versions of sutras, which were complicated due to interaction with Chinese philosophies, based on their unique philosophies.  Accordingly, the Chinese version of Buddhism, as a hole, became very special extension,  expansion, or even application of Buddhism practiced in India.    

And what is more complicated is that Japanese imported Buddhism from China (or through the Korean Peninsula in an early stage).

And finally, the Japanese unique Buddhism was established since the 12th century, which was also very different from the Chinese Buddhism, though this religion Gautama Buddha (circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE) started in India reached Japan in the sixth century or earlier.

However, one thing true is that Chinese believe a spiritual world as is seen in traditional Taoism and the philosophies of Lao-tse and Chuang-tse, legendary Chinese scholars in the 5th century BCE.

*** *** *** ***

Mar 3:5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

"not blot out his name out of the book of life" - Association of Fractal

Tokyo Ginza Street

Association of Fractal

There is an interesting pattern of stories in traditional Chinese novels.

Hundreds years ago, Chinese people wrote and read stories where another world was found to exist in a tiny vase or such a vessel.  And, a hero living in this real world went into another world in a vessel or sometimes a human ear to experience an extraordinary incident.

It might remind you of  a fractal, a geometric feature of this universe.
A fractal is a mathematical set that typically displays self-similar patterns, which means it is "the same from near as from far".[1] Fractals may be exactly the same at every scale, or, as illustrated in Figure 1, they may be nearly the same at different scales. The concept of fractal extends beyond trivial self-similarity and includes the idea of a detailed pattern repeating itself.
Fractals are distinguished from regular geometric figures by their fractal dimensional scaling.

One often cited description that Mandelbrot published to describe geometric fractals is "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole";[2] this is generally helpful but limited. Authorities disagree on the exact definition of fractal, but most usually elaborate on the basic ideas of self-similarity and an unusual relationship with the space a fractal is embedded in.

Figure 2. Koch snowflake, a fractal that begins with an equilateral triangle and then replaces the middle third of every line segment with a pair of line segments that form an equilateral "bump"

So, there are similar conditions in smaller spaces around us to those at the level of our real living space.

But also in the human mind, there is such structure.  Conversely, if you have become rich, your basic mind structure or internal structure must be the same as that you had when you were poor.

Money cannot change the internal structure of a man, though he would become more coarse internally while expanding its size and upgrading its level in terms of interaction with the material world.  While a poor man could see various exquisite things around him in the world and in other human beings, he would lose ability to see them when he has become rich.  So, to enjoy similar  exquisite things, he has to pay big money to buy costly work of art, a leisure home built at a place of scenic beauty, or association with talented people.

It is also why still people can learn a great deal of human wisdom, foolishness, truth, evil, tragedies, happiness, and so on by reading the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Some pious people might today even believe there is another live universe in the Book as some old Chinese thought that there could be another live world in a vase.


*** *** *** ***

Rev 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Rev 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
Rev 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Monday, March 03, 2014

"Peter and John about to go into the temple" - Marega Collection to Prove Old Persecution in Japan

A Tokyo Subway Station

Marega Collection to Prove Old Persecution in Japan

The world does not wonder why Japan is not a Christian country.

It is because the Vatican which sent many missionaries to Japan for 100 years from the middle of the 16th century could not understand its significance.

But recently, the Vatican has realized that it possesses about 10,000 Japanese documents related to movements and incidents of Japanese Christians since 1600s.  To make sure, the samurai regime of Japan at the time almost successfully suppressed growth of Christina communities in Japan.  Till the Meiji Restoration for modernization of Japan in 1860s, there had been nominally or officially no Christians in Japan under the rule of the samurai sword, though it is said that there were 300,000 Christians in Japan around 1600, accounting for 1.7% of the whole Japanese population at the time.      

VATICAN LETTER Jan-30-2014 (710 words) Backgrounder. xxxi
The Salesian and the Shogun: Documents discovered in Vatican Library
By Cindy Wooden 
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just a few days before the feast of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, the Vatican Library announced a major project to inventory, digitalize, catalogue and study unique historical documents collected by a Salesian missionary to Japan. 
The estimated 10,000 original documents, dating from early in the 1600s to the mid-1800s, provide cold bureaucratic details about the persecution of Christians in Japan during that period. 
Salesian Father Mario Marega, who first arrived in Japan in 1930, gathered the documents, along with a smaller, but more varied collection preserved at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. He died in Italy in 1978. 
The Vatican Library has begun a six-year project to organize and safeguard the material, working with the National Institute of Japanese Literature, the National Museum of Japanese History, the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo and the historical archives of the Oita prefecture on Japan's Kyushu Island. 
The collection held at the Vatican is made up mostly of local government records -- from what was the Bungo province in eastern Kyushu -- documenting the monitoring and persecution of Christians, according to an article in the Vatican newspaper written by Msgr. Cesare Pasini, prefect of the Vatican Library.
"Because the simple prohibition of professing the Christian faith did not have the hoped-for effect of stemming the missionary fervor and zeal of the Christian population, the shogunate administration decreed the obligation of apostasy," or the public renunciation of the faith, Msgr. Pasini wrote.
The resistance of the local Christians and the Tokugawa shoguns' awareness that Christianity was not dying out can be seen in the fact that the apostasy order was issued in 1614 and again in 1635 and 1646. 
Residents of Christian villages were required to register as members of their local Buddhist temple, signing documents renouncing Christianity. The registry and the apostasy declarations were forwarded to the local government archive. 
The Bungo civic archive also received official reports about the annual "fumi-e" ritual, in which local residents were forced to step on a crucifix or images of Jesus or Mary to prove that they were not Christians. 
Father Marega's collection of documents from the Bungo archive "reminds us of the Christian martyrs, along with those who could not withstand the trials, and constitutes extraordinary documentation for the study of Christianity in Japan," Msgr. Pasini said. "In fact, experts on the subject know of no other collections of this size and breadth." 
Which leaves the question: Why didn't anyone do something with the documents before? After all, groups of Japanese martyrs were beatified and canonized as recently as 2008, demonstrating the interest of the universal church. 
Cardinal Raffaele Farina, retired prefect of the Vatican Library and himself a Salesian, said the documents at the Vatican were discovered "when the library was closed for restructuring from 2007 to 2010." 
"We began studying what kind of documents there were and how many -- at first we did not realize how much was there," Cardinal Farina told Catholic News Service Jan. 30, the eve of the feast of St. John Bosco. 
Cardinal Farina already was familiar with Father Marega's life as a selective and astute historical hoarder. 
As archivist of the Salesian order for a decade before moving to the Vatican, the cardinal said, "I did what I could" to gather papers from Father Marega that were stored at the former Salesian generalate in Turin, Italy, and at the Salesian University in Rome. The gathering and study of the Salesian collection took a leap forward as the order prepared for the celebration in 2012 of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of its Japanese province. 
Cardinal Farina credits Delio Proverbio, an orientalist at the Vatican Library, and retired Bishop Francis Xavier Mizobe of Takamatsu, Japan -- another Salesian -- for discovering just how extraordinary the documents at the Vatican were. 
The Vatican Library houses some 80,000 manuscripts, nearly 1.6 million books and approximately 8,400 incunabula (books and pamphlets printed before 1501). 
The Marega collection, written in a style of Japanese hundreds of years old, wasn't exactly a popular focus of scholars visiting the library, the cardinal said. 
So what led to the discovery of the importance of the Marega documents? 
"It was just their turn," the cardinal said.

More correctly or specifically, most of those documents had been kept in Japan.  Bishop Mizobe held them for many years, and then the documents were transferred to the Salesian seminar in Chohu, Tokyo.  These documents were discovered there in the summer of 2005.  And in the end of 2005, they were sent to Italy to establish the Marega Collection.

One thing important is that Father Marega did not provide all the documents he had collected to the Vatican in 1950s, though it was so believed for long.  He sent only the Material No. 342 to the Vatican.  So, it was in 2005 that the Vatican obtained the full 10,000 documents when it received most of the documents from Japan.

(Refer to'%E3%83%9E%E3%83%AA%E3%82%AA%E3%83%BB%E3%83%9E%E3%83%AC%E3%82%AC')

Anyway, it is said Japan under the samurai regime between the 17th and the middle 19th century forbade exhaustively Christianity with the greatest effort to find and punish Christians by scrutinizing detailed part of people's living.   This extent and degree of severity in the samurai effort has never been observed in any other places in the world since the Roman Empire before its adoption of Christianity.

*** *** *** ***

Act 3:1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
Act 3:2 And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
Act 3:3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
Act 3:4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
Act 3:5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
Act 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

"whether he would heal him on the sabbath day" - Before the Expected Death

Tokyo Ginza Street

Before the Expected Death

There is a novel in Japan

A man, 50 years old or so, found that he would die of a cancer in half a year.

But he had nothing to do.  He didn't really have nothing he wanted to do in six months till his diagnosed death.

One day he was in a bus as he returned from a hospital.  There he heard two old men taking about their health.  One of them said that he would kill some guys he really hated if he had been sentenced to death expected in months or a year for any illness; "I will kill my enemies and then I can die peacefully."  

So, the hero started to think whether he had such enemies he had to kill before he died due to cancer. And, the story went on...

One thing we have to associate this story with is the story or the life of Christ Jesus.

He must have known that He would be killed by henchmen of Satan sooner or later.  But He decided to make His best to save Israelites as many as possible till His death.

Indeed it is very unlikely that Christ Jesus thought that He would live for decades to conquer His enemies and liberate Isralites from the rule of Roman troops.  But He did not even order His disciples to record His deeds and miracles into a book.  Christ did not even instruct them to build a church.  He simply talked to and taught people, performed miracles, and faced brutal power of the Roman authority and wicked priests of Judaism.

Nonetheless it is likely that He knew beforehand that He would be restored to life in three days after the crucifxion.  If so, what did Christ Jesus really plan to do at the time?  To destroy Satan?

*** *** *** ***

Mar 3:1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
Mar 3:2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
Mar 3:3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
Mar 3:4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.