Shinran and His Work, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
(§§ 47, 48, 49, 50, 51)
I read some months ago, in the Guardian, a short review of a small treatise on God by an author hitherto unknown to me. The author's argument was that God may, for practical purposes, be divided into two, the God whom we know, and the God whom we do not know. The God we know is God as we observe Him in the works of Nature, and as we learn of Him in the Revelation which He has been pleased to make to us. Rut when we have searched all the realms of scientific and metaphysical investigation, when we have mastered all theological Truth, when we have seen God reflected in the Face of Christ Jesus and have learned that he is a Trinity, there still remains, behind all, an immense area (if we may so call it) of the Godhead, about which we have no knowledge, and never can have. It is a region into which we have no means of entering and about which we can predicate nothing.
Had the author of the treatise in question had the advantage of an education in Japanese Buddhist thought, he would have called the "Unknown Area" of God Shinnyo Hōshō (#), a term which I will now proceed to explain.
Shinnyo Hōshō is the Real Substance (hontai) of the Universe, the acmè (gokuchi) of the Truth. It is the one true Substance (ichinyo) which permeates
the two Essences (ni-sha) of Matter and Mind in such a manner that Matter and Mind may be said to be the two forms or modes of its Being, if this terminology does not savour too strongly of Spinoza. It is unbounded in space, infinite in time. It is the warp and woof that form the texture of the Universe: as the one, it runs like a thread through Past, Present, and Future, as the other, under innumerable combinations and metamorphoses, it permeates the whole of Creation and is to be found in everything great and small. As an abstract Reality it is one, but it has two aspects. There is matter (butsu) and there is Mind (shin): there is no Third Thing such as the Reason (Ri) which some systems postulate. There is nothing But Matter and Mind, joined together in one primordial, everlasting, Substance, about which we are not in a position to predicate any thing whatever.
Hut Mind means movement (the very character by which the Japanese denote Mind, #, signifies and symbolizes movement), and the primordial movement of the primordial Mind in the primordial Substance of Shinnyo or Ichi-nyo, produces, from the very beginning, a distinction between the one and the other. Without losing its immanent character, Mind gradually distinguishes itself from Matter and assumes a personal form, which is, roughly speaking, what we should call God. In Japanese it is Hōshin (#), the Dharmakaya, or 'spiritual body,' assumed by the Mind of the Universe in the process of distinguishing itself from Matter. It is called the Body (# shin) of the Law (hō); the Law
which produced that spiritual Body is the same as that which operates constantly and uniformly in Matter,—the Law of Cause and Effect,—which commenced its operations from the moment when, in an unthinkable Eternity long ago, the primordial Mind began to stir itself in the primordial Matter in which it was immanent. It has produced, on the one hand, the phenomena of Nature, or Creation, * on the other, the gradual Revelation, to man, of God, as the Shinshuist knows Him.
The Hōshin is of two sorts. It is, in the first place, Hōshō Hōshin, the Spiritual Body of the Buddha, as He is, which is still considered as an integral part of Shinnyo Hōshō. This is formless, and incapable of description, and answers more or less exactly to God, as He is hinted at, rather than described, in certain passages in the Old Testament. But it is impossible for men, with their finite thoughts and still more finite language, to speak of God, except under some form with which they themselves are familiar. Hence we get, in the Old Testament, the anthropomorphic language about God,—his holy arm, his feet, finger, eye, ear, face. Such language a Japanese would call hōben, an accommodation of the Truth to the capacity of the hearer, and Buddhist Theology speaks not only of a Hōshō Hōshin, which it is
beyond the Power of Man to describe or comprehend, but also of a Hōben Hōshin, a Spiritual Body of God, accommodated to the capacity of Finite Man, and spoken of under a Human Shape.
Amitābha in the Shinshu Theology is conceived of as having been originally an integral and co-eternal factor in Shinnyo. In process of time (to adapt my language to the necessities of the case) he became Hōshō Hōshin and Hōben Hōshin, and it was as the latter, as God personified, that He built up His Paradise and residing there, attracts all those that believe in Him. According to Shinshu Theology *, Hōzō Biku must be looked upon as the Incarnation of Hōshin, of Dharmakaya, of the highest Form that the personified Mind of the Universe can take, as an Incarnation in other words, of God.
But the Incarnations of the One Buddha are of two sorts. I will mention the lower kind first. It is known in Japanese as Ojin (#) or Keshin (#), in Sanskrit, as Nirmanakaya. This is the material body assumed when Buddha is manifested upon earth for the salvation or help of man. Some Gnostic sects held (this is especially true of the particular sect from which I consider the Shinshu to have descended) that the Deity had often been incarnated in fleshly form, the Incarnation
of Jesus Christ "in the days of King Herod" being the last and most perfect one. Similarly, the Buddhists will tell us that there have been many Incarnations of Buddha in the Nirmanakaya, and they will instance Sakyamuni as the most perfect instance of this. The Shinshu believer will add another instance of an incarnation, which he holds to have been more perfect than that of Sakyamuni, the Incarnation of Buddha as 'very man' in the person of Hōzō Biku *, such as He was in the days of His humiliation, before He had attained to that glory which became His when He had fulfilled His Vow for the Salvation of Mankind and became Namu Amida Butsu.
Between the Dharmakaya, the Hōben Hōsshin, of Amida the Supreme, and the Nirmanakaya or Ojin of Hōzō Biku, is placed Sambhoga Kaya—Hōshin (#), the so-called "Body of Compensation." It is the Body in which Amida-Butsu, the glorified Saviour, who has worked out man's salvation, is now set forth as the personal object of worship for the Shinshu believer. It is, as it were, a counterpart of that glorified Humanity in which we believe that Our Risen Saviour Jesus Christ, having passed into the heavens, is sitting in His Mediatiorial Kingdom
[paragraph continues] "at the right hand of God," (this term being evidently a hōben, a figurative expression intended to be an "accommodation" of a great truth to our finite human language). *
Thus we may see that Amida is conceived of, in one aspect, as a Being whose Substance is absolute and unconditioned (zettaisha), in another, as an idealized, glorified, Being (ri-butsu), in another, as an actual tangible, material, Buddha, in that Incarnation which the Shinshu consider to be historical. He has three bodies, the one, absolute, invisible, intangible, only to be seen by the eye of Faith; another, fleshly, human, the body of Hōzō Biku whilst on earth, the third, spiritualized matter, glorified and exalted. The Body of Hōzō Biku was material, but it has passed away, the Compensation Body of Amida Butsu is localized in Paradise, and definitely distinct, though immaterial. The Dharmakaya of the Absolute is invisible, intangible, formless, and can only be apprehended when it veils itself under material substances behind which it dwells among us with a real but purely spiritual Presence. It requires but little ingenuity to see the important bearing which all this has on some of the most vital beliefs of Christianity.
85:* Of course, Creation is a word the Buddhist cannot use in its strictest sense. To him, as to the ancient Gnostic, there is no Creation, but rather a Development and gradual manifestation of God and of Material Phenomena. In writing this section I have made much use of the passages from older writers given in Shinshu Seikun pp. 390–400.
86:* It must be remembered that other Buddhist Sects do not accept this. According to the Shingon, Amida does not represent the Dharmakaya at all, but only the Sambhogakaya—Hoshin—the next lower forms of Manifestation. For them Vairocana, the Abraxas of the Gnostics, the Supreme God of the Manichaeans, is the Highest Manifestation of God.
87:* It was the Hōben Hōsshin which became man in Hōzō Biku. Hōzō therefore stands on a higher plane than Sakyamuni, who was merely Ojin or Keshin (Nirmana Kaya). To say that a man was a Keshin, of Amida, Kwannon, or Seishi, meant no more than what we say of a man, "The Spirit of God is in him"—It is in this lower sense that the term Keshin is used of men like Genkū, Shinran or Shōtoku Taishi. And according to the Shinshu there has, never been more than one Incarnation like that of Hōzō.
88:* The parallelism is so striking that I need not comment on it. I will content myself with quoting the exact words of Shinshu Hyakuwa § 49. Hōshin Butsu (i e. the Sambhogakaya). Kore we Shinshu (Jōdo mon) ni hanzon to suru Amida butsu no gotoki, in-i ni oite shutoku gyō dō no kō ni mukuite, arawaretaru kekkwa no Buddha wo sashite in no de arimasu. Dr. Anezaki, who has been kind enough to read these pages for me suggests that the Sambhogakaya of Buddha corresponds rather to the Holy Spirit in Christian theology. But the above quotation is very clear.