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August 06, 2005


Fredrich Ulrich

Greetings: thank you so much for your excellent essay. It shows great insight. I am a Jodoshinshu minister of a small temple in Winnipeg Manitoba, Alberta.

I find it interesting that your essay mentions Jodoshinshu so infrequently. It is after all one of the largest 'faith communities in Japan' It too participates in the characteristics you mentioned above. There is an interesting statue of Shinran dressed in a Soto Zen costume. There are many connections between Dogen and Shinran, although sectarianism in Japan often blocks such connections, connections that the Buddhist Churches of America and a few in Buddhist Churches of Canada are exploring and developing.

Why is it that Western writers avoid the "problem" of Jodoshinshu? The Gutenberg project has translated Shiran's works as if they were a kindergarten of Christainity. I wonder why these two extremes, i.e., neglect and a kind of absorption with disintegrated forms of Jodoshinshu. It was just as much involved in tea, flower arranging, go and swordsmanship and ritual and art as the other schools. Would its inclusion modify your conclusions? Perhaps Jodoshinshu is a needed bridge between Christianity (I was once a Methodist pastor.) and Buddhism in a dynamic way and enriches both, so that Christianity would find no need to convert Buddhists and Buddhists on their part would find much inspiration from the energy of agape in Christianity. Shinran in using the combination jihi in the Kyogyo shinsho was moving in the direction of agape. I believe that the meeting of Buddhism and Christianity is of great importance to both. You talked about Christian change. There is a need for Buddhist change too. In North America we are trying to recapture the personal transformational and social transformational nature of Shinran's approach. Two of our temples in Canada are already 25% Euro-Canadian. We are having a great time with the spiritual energy generated by this non-conversional, non-confrontational approach to the two religions, mainly because many of our families are bi-religious now. Finally, do you know of the book by Mullins, Christianity Made in Japan? I have met him and spent some time with him. In a very real way it is also a book about Buddhism/ Jodoshinshu.

Thanx again for your fine work.

Spirit of Vatican II

Thanks for your kind comments. I know Mark Mullins well, and he is now a colleague here in Sophia University. For Jodoshinshu I learn from Ken Tanaka who talks about it at Gene Reeves' Buddhist Discussion Group every so often. The Shinshu-Zen connections are indeed fascinating, and I hope to learn more about them, but of course the insular denominationalism so rife among Japanese Buddhists has been an obstacle, as well as a certain fear of demythologization no doubt.

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