Japanese Ascetic Training: shugyōPosted: January 27, 2010 | Author: Doug | Filed under: Buddhism, Shingon, Shinto, Tendai | 4 Comments »
I’ve been inspired lately by reading a certain manga my in-laws gave me a while ago, depicting Japanese Buddhist founders and their lives. The manga, mentioned briefly before (see footnote), is in Japanese, and pretty difficult reading too, so it’s been slow reading as I have to re-read a certain page a few times, and consult online dictionaries even more so, but it’s still a fun read. Despite the difficulties in reading the manga, I am inspired by the lives of Saichō and Kūkai who sought to live austere lives in their youth in their sincere efforts to realize the truth. The term in Japanese for austere practices, or dedicated practice, is called shugyō (修行)1 and naturally varies depending on the Buddhist sect, and one’s ability, but the essence is the same. One sets asides the distractions of the world, and focuses on practicing the Dharma as much as one can.
Frequently one takes on a more restrictive set of moral precepts, like the Eight Precepts, for example. This act of undertaking the precepts is called jukai (受戒) and can be done in front of clergy or by one’s self before a Buddha image. Also, if feasible, takes a retreat somewhere. If you’re a lay Buddhist like me though, even if you have to go to work, you can still make the day a good opportunity for Buddhist practice right there at the office through hard work, good conduct (a la precepts), right speech, and taking time to study the Dharma.
As to why I want to do it, I am inspired by one of my favorite quotes from Roger Zelazny’s book, Lord of Light:
Demon: “So why do you consider my presence a pollution, a disease? Is it because there is that within you which is like unto myself? …If so, I mock you in your weakness, Binder.”
Sam: “It is because I am a man who occasionally aspires to things beyond the belly and the phallus.”
See you all Friday!
Namo Kanzeon Bosatsu
Namo Amida Butsu
1 The word shugyō actually is a pretty generic word, and exists in Shintoism as much as it does in Buddhism.