I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you all here at Hotel Campanile in Antwerp at the opening of the thirteenth European Shin Buddhist Conference. There was much lively discussion during the Tenth European District Conference of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies which was conducted through yesterday. For those who will be participating in this conference as well, I hope that it proves to be one of significance for you.
This conference is being conducted under the theme of “Nembutsu: Overcoming Secularism and Fundamentalism.” Shinran Shonin, who established Jodo Shinshu, widely diffused Buddha Dharma among the general populace. He states in his work Ichinen Tanen Shōmon (Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling), “That people of the countryside, who do not know the meanings of characters and who are painfully and hopelessly ignorant, may easily understand, I have repeatedly written the same things again and again. The educated reader will probably find this writing peculiar and may ridicule it. But paying no heed to such criticism, I write only that foolish people may easily grasp the essential meaning.” He wrote this in an easily understandable manner for the benefit of the common people. In this way, the teaching which Shinran Shonin made clear can be accepted by all who lead regular ordinary lives. It is not only for monks or scholars, but rather for everyday people who live in common society. At the same time, however, Shinran Shonin grieves and laments over the situation of Buddhist society in those days in the Hitanjukkaisan (Hymns of Lament and Reflection) of Shōzōmatsu Wasan (Hymns of the Dharma-Ages) as follows, “How lamentable it is that at present all the monks and laypeople of Japan, While following the Buddhist rules of conduct, Venerate gods and spirits of the heavens and earth.”
The teaching of Jōdo-Shinshū can be accepted by common people in their daily lives. However, at the same time, it does not mean that it should be secularised so that we can easily follow it. We should not interpret the teaching in a way which is to our own advantage, but rather we should sincerely accept the facts that are made known to us in the light of Amida Tathagata’s true working.
In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to Rev. Yuho Bruno Van Parys and Mr. Fons Martens and all those who have endeavoured to make this conference possible.
Antwerp, August 26th, 2004
European Shin Buddhist Conferences