Sino-Japanese Ties Must Be Deepened

An Interview with Master Jue Xing,
Abbot of the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, and
Vice-Chairman of the Buddhist Association of China

Master Jue Xing was among the guests at a centennial celebration of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth in Tokyo last November. DHARMA WORLD met with Master Jue Xing at his hotel, and he spoke to us about the importance of friendly exchanges between Chinese and Japanese Buddhists and of self-examination by people of faith.

Chinese and Japanese Buddhism are joined together by a long history and strong bonds, the source of which is the fact that they share the same teachings of the Buddha. Although an unfortunate history of war also exists between our countries, our Buddhist ties are the ground on which the friendship of our two peoples can grow, and the evil roots of past war should not damage them. It is of the utmost importance that neither side forgets this history as such, and that great importance be placed on it as history. But we must look to the future as Buddhists without distancing ourselves from each other, and we must each deepen our friendship. I believe that we must continue to train ourselves assiduously, in the spirit of the "benefiting both oneself and others" which both of us share in the Mahayana tradition.

In the Interest of Chinese-Japanese Friendship

China and Japan are very close to each other geographically, and have a long history of interchange. Moreover, China and Japan are the two most influential nations in Asia, and friendship between our two countries can have a very large influence on the realization of peace not only in Asia but the entire world.

There was a strong bond of friendship between the late Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, and the late Rev. Zhao Puchu, former president of the Buddhist Association of China. Both men also always valued Chinese-Japanese friendship. Rev. Niwano devoted his energies to fostering friendly exchange between Japan and China, and he also worked tirelessly toward the participation of religious leaders from China in the World Conference of Religions for Peace and in the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace. Rev. Niwano made six visits to China after 1974, during which he met with Zhou Jianren, Liao Chengzhi, and many other Chinese leaders.

In May 1993, Rev. Zhao Puchu invited three religious leaders from Japan to Shanghai to celebrate their long lives. The three were Ven. Etai Yamada, head priest of the Tendai Buddhist denomination, who was ninety-nine years old; Rev. Niwano, who was eighty-eight years old; and Rev. Yasusaburo Tazawa, patriarch of Shoroku Shinto Yamatoyama, who was eighty years old. Around that time, Rev. Zhao had been appealing for deeper bonds between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Buddhists, and when he spoke to Ven. Yamada and Rev. Niwano about this they were both delighted and offered to help. This led to the creation of the "Golden Bond" of East Asian Buddhists, exchanges of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean Buddhism and culture.

Although both Rev. Zhao and Rev. Niwano have regrettably passed away, the new leaders of the Buddhist Association of China and Rev. Nichiko Niwano, who succeeded to the presidency of Rissho Kosei-kai, are working together to further strengthen the ties, and this gives me great pleasure. Even more than previously, we of the Buddhist Association of China are concentrating on promoting friendly relations between Japan and China. China's national leaders have also been interested in friendly exchange between Chinese and Japanese Buddhists. When Rev. Nichiko Niwano visited China in 1995, he had an audience with then-President Jiang Zemin.

The Importance of Self-Reflection for People of Faith

Hans Kung, the eminent Swiss theologian, has famously written, "There will be no peace among religions without dialogue among religions." For the faiths to respect each other, it is first essential that mutual misunderstandings be removed, that they understand each other, and that exchanges between them are deepened. There are five major religious traditions in China--Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Taoism. By conducting meaningful discussions about the features they have in common and matters of common concern and interest while stressing the importance of advancing communication and cooperation between them, we are currently promoting the realization of a harmonious world through the joint efforts of the religions.

During my visit to the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai in April of 2005, I saw Rev. Nikkyo Niwano's calligraphy of a T'ien-t'ai teaching, "Ichinen sanzen" (Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought). The depth of his knowledge of calligraphy struck me, and I gave some thought to the meaning of what he wrote.

At the time, a phrase that came to my mind was "Yiri sansheng" (Three Self-Reflections a Day). The basis of this phrase is "Three Daily Self-Examinations," from a passage in the Analects of Confucius: "I examine myself daily, many times, to determine if I have been sincere in dealings with others, if I have spoken my words while taking responsibility for them, and if I have understood a thing well before imparting it to others." It is very important to observe yourself intently every day and to reflect on whether there are any mistakes in your actions or speech; in that way, one can be made aware of unethical or immoral actions and correct them.

Before this, I had also seen calligraphy by Rev. Zhao Puchu in which he had written the phrase meaning "Three Questions Each Day." In this calligraphy Rev. Zhao is saying that you must ask yourself if your morals are improving, if your knowledge is deepening, and if your practice is progressing.

In Confucianism, self-examination and introspection have been highly valued, as was the admonition expressed in the aphorism Shendu, meaning correcting one's mind and being careful in one's words and deeds even when one is alone. This has had a large effect over a period of several thousands of years as people have purified themselves and undergone ascetic training in pursuit of a high morality. Even for those of us who now work at acquiring morality and setting out to perfect our characters, this remains one of the most important paths.

The religious leaders are charged with the role of saving people. In order to do that they must be very strict with themselves, and must have a sense of responsibility toward all living things. This requires thorough reflection, which at the same time is a practice that raises the self. I believe that we must lead the people so as to show them by example the path to improvement, and that this is the solemn duty of those who have entered the priesthood.

This article was originally published in the April-June 2007 issue of Dharma World.






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