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The Cycle of Life:

The Role of Kyosei in Changing Society


Ryojun Sato

Taisho University


Abstract:

Contemporary society is facing numerous critical social problems, such as the environmental crisis and the great changes due to technological innovation. The European way mode of rationalistic dualism can no longer handle the tremendous complexity of the globalized world. This paper will outline an Asian Buddhist perspective, specifically the concept of kyosei or gco-livingh, which may offer a new way of understanding and living in the world. The concept of kyosei, specifically outlined by the Jodo Shu priest Benkyo Shiio, also is a way to reform Buddhism from its largely individualistic concerns for salvation. Benkyo Shiio lead a movement within Jodo Shu at the beginning of the 20th century to pursue social liberation as well as individual liberation through gco-livingh. Through adopting such ideas, Japanese must urgently confront todayfs social problems.


Today I am going to talk about the role of kyosei, or what I call gco-livingh. This talk is based partly on my 42 years of teaching experience at Taisho University and 30 years of teaching kindergarten. We are now facing a time of moral and religious crises. At this time, it is necessary to provide a proper education for the younger generation, who will play an important role in the future.


gThe Message from the Jodo Shu to the 21st Centuryh (hekito-sengen) says:


The self-awareness of ordinary folks

The light of Amida Buddha in our homes

Compassion in society

Co-existence in the world.


From this message, I understand that no human being can live alone. Whether you live in a deep forest or in a dusty city, you live within networks of power.

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Now we see human beings enjoying rich and prosperous lives all the time. However, at the same time, this is an age of disorder and chaos. Many parts of the world are seriously suffering from nuclear problems, air pollution, international terrorism, and poverty.

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At this time, the ideas of co-living, co-existence, and symbiosis are of essential importance in the coming century. From the Buddhist point of view, the idea of co-living first appears in the Amida Sutra written in Sanskrit as early as the 1st century C.E. in India. Mention is made of the people in the Pure Land wishing gto meet and live together in one place, the Pure Land.h

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Later, Shandao (613-681) of China composed the Hymns in Praise of Birth (Ch. Wangsheng lizan, Jp. Ojo raisan), in which he wished to be Born in the Pure Land with all sentient beings. Genshin (942-1017) of Japan wrote the Collection on the Essentials for Birth (Ojoyoshu) in which he mentioned gaspiring to be Born in the Pure Land together.h

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In 1923, Professor Rev. Benkyo Shiio, who was President of Taisho University and Chief Abbot of one of Jodo Shufs seven Main Temples, Zojo-ji in Tokyo, initiated a new movement called the Co-Living Buddhist Association (tomo-iki bukkyo kai or kyoseikai). The principle notion of the Kyoseikai is stated in the Kyosei Kyohon (Tokyo: Kyoseikai, 1962, pp. 8-9), as follows:


We, the followers of the same faith, should join hand in hand to empower the people to live a true life. There are no boundaries between nations or races.


We follow the teaching of the Buddha, becoming one with others, to achieve this goal. Exert yourself so that whatever you do, it is done with harmony. None are rich or poor in society. Men and women are all equal.


Every existence in the universe has been born by the law of cause and effect. It is our ardent wish to establish the pure society of co-living where the wise and the ordinary people, the physically weak and the strong, should all help each other.


With the blessing of the Infinite Light of Amida Buddha, we should stand up on our own feet to realize the true belief faithfully. Here the wise and the not-wise, able-bodied and disabled, should help each other.


By virtue of Amida Buddha, the afflictions in our minds, such as stubbornness, stupidity, dullness, and meanness will be eliminated. As a result, we shall live a real life of co-living.


Historically, in the Buddhist way of life, emphasis was placed on the salvation of the individual person. In the time of the Buddha, leaving the life of the householder, one spent the life of the wanderer in the forest or mountainous area, eating a minimum of food, sleeping under the trees, and wearing a rough robe. Mendicants strived to conquer the gsufferings of dukkha,h rooted in onefs inner self.

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On the contrary, Rev. Shiio placed emphasis on religion with relevance to society. According to orthodox Pure Land doctrine, kyosei means gto be born in the Pure Land together,h while Rev. Shiio interpreted this phrase to mean gto live a life in the community.h He believed that religion must be worked out in society. The idea is similar to gugo (‹€‹Ζ), deeds of the community, as opposed to fu-gugo, deeds of the individual person.

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In the contemporary world, this idea is interpreted as gliving together in the here and now among human beings and nature.h Furthermore, this idea is applied to the relations between different cultures, politics, economic systems, and the fields of arts.

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The idea of co-living has been inherited and advocated by the architect Kisho Kurokawa, who happened to be a student of Tokai High School in Nagoya where Professor Shiio was once the principal. Instead of gco-livingh or gco-existence,h Kurokawa uses the word gsymbiosis.h The use of symbiosis derives from the scientific term used in the field of biology, but Kurokawa interprets the word in a broader sense.

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I quote from the English translation of his book, the Philosophy of Symbiosis (London: Academy Editions, 1991):

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As an architect, Mr. Kurokawa believes that the task assigned to the architect is to make a plan for a vessel in which human beings can live their daily lives. For this purpose, one should consider: What is a human being? Why are people alive? What is the purpose of life? How should one conduct onefs social life? What is the community in which human beings are living? What are towns and cities? Which direction are people heading in the 21st century?

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Under such circumstances, the rationalistic dualism of Europe is at a deadlock. When we follow the European concept, every existence in the universe is understood dualistically. Looking at the relationship between human beings and nature, in the pastoral stage and agricultural stage, human beings were afraid of the violence of nature such as storms, extended dry weather, heavy rain and floods. Gradually, we have managed to control nature, and now nature is under the control of the human will. According to the European concept, nature should be conquered by man. Even the dangerous dark night has turned to bright daytime in modern lighting.

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Kurokawa points out that European gardens were planned in an artificial geometric pattern. In contrast, the Japanese garden is part of nature itself. Artificial elements are covered with natural scenery.

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There is no doubt that recent technical innovations make our life happy and comfortable. Since human beings have discovered the use of fire, we have experienced the industrial revolution and the peaceful use of atomic energy. In this century, the progress of information technology has totally changed out social structure. Human relations through the internet have become a world of virtual reality. Real-self and virtual-self are difficult to distinguish.

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Facing this critical age, we must find the ideal way of life. We are apt to think that we live by our own will and energy. It is true that without a strong desire to live we cannot survive, but as I mentioned at the beginning, we cannot live alone. We are alive in a natural and social environment.We are born from a father and mother. We have countless numbers of ancestors in the past. The poet Mitsuo Aida composed the following poem called gBaton of the Life Cycle:h


Two are onefs parents.

Four are onefs parentsf fathers and mothers.

Eight are onefs great-grand parents.

After ten generations, the total becomes 1,024.

Twenty generations back,

There are 1,000,000 ancestors in your family.

You receive the baton of life.

This is your life, this is my life.

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In order to maintain our lives, we have to take the life of others. Everything in the universe has life. We should not waste this given life. We must firmly strive to live with others peacefully and harmoniously in the coming century.
Japanese Buddhists might be slow to react to rapidly changing society, but it is urgent that we take immediate action.


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