Friday, June 26, 2009


Here in the United States, Buddhism is mostly associated with sitting meditation. If you are a Buddhist your main "practice" is to sit. Pure and simple. It is thus iteresting to note that the largest sect of Buddhism in Japan is Jodo Shinshu. Which does not have sitting mediation as part of it's tradition. Often referred to as Shin Buddhism, this sect remains relatively under the radar in this country. Shin Buddhism developed with an emphasis on "other power" (Tariki) and opposed to the "self power"(Jiriki) that is the basis of schools, like Zen, that emphasize meditation practice. The founder of this school was Shinran Shonin (1173-1263) who, after spending 20 years in fruitless meditation at a monastery, left and then had an awakening that led him to espouse the way of "faith alone". The faith being in Amida Buddha, the mythical Buddha of infinite light and life.

It would be too long an essay to put forward an adequate characterization of this spiritual path here, but just a few words about the implications of a path based on "Tariki". The essential point as I see it is that when one walks a path of empowerment by "other power" it seems, by all reports, to be very liberating. One can relax into their life without the pressure of maintaining some level of spiritual performance. The food we eat, the water we drink, this is not self-generated. Our very existence is contingent on a whole host of factors that have nothing to do with our little "self". So, looked at in this fashion, everyone, yes even you, are saved/sustained by "other power.

Of course the concept of Tariki is not unique to Shin. Hindu's speak of Indra's net. Christ teaches "the Kingdom of God is within you". But I think the most fascinating aspect of this, and perhaps it's the reason I write these words, is that scientists too are talking about "other power". Especially when you get in to the area of relativity and quantum mechanics. I will mention two books for those who may be interested in exploring this connection. "The Tao of Physics" by Fritjof Capra, and "Belonging to the universe" also by Capra and co-authored by a Catholic monk named Brother David Steindl-Rast.

There was also a really cool movie that came out in 2004 called "What the bleep do we know!?" which was quite entertaining and deals with this whole science/spirit thing.

1 comment:

theswearingchef said...

I don't know about "other power" relating more to relativity or quantum physics more than say Newtonian physics, other than it's less accessible to most since it exists in realms that we don't personally experience in everyday life, and it's mysterious, especially if you haven't formally studied it.

I also don't know if learning to be thankful every day is related to "other power", but it does seem helpful towards my general goal of thinking more outside of myself.