Essay on the Difference of Religions
I was born in 1941, and 9 months later, the Pacific War began. My family was catholic, and I was baptized when I was 1 month old. It was very significant, because of the situation. From the church to which we belonged, all the priests of enemy countries were exiled, and only the German priests and Italian priests were allowed to work.
But from the eyes of common Japanese people, all men with blue eyes seemed to be
" america-jin (American )" and they could not distinguish them as allies. They thought we were spies and treated us as enemies.
Later, one of my brothers expressed our situation "we were like West Berlin surrounded by communist countries."
Nobody can choose his or her family of birth. Without any will to choose, depending on the place of birth, we are called Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, or Islamic, etc. And they don't notice that it is quite unreasonable to fight among the people because of the difference of religion to which they belong without having chosen their religion.
They believe in each group’s God in the name they are used to, and call as the Final Being, but they don’t know what He is exactly.
My thought about religion began by realizing the situation that I was just born into a catholic family without any chance to express, and I had to meet every kind of difficulty which I myself didn't have any responsibility for.
Ｔhe Metaphor of ”blind people touch an elephant”
When people asked Gotama Siddhattha what Truth is, he told them a metaphor as below.
Depending on what he said, nobody could understand what the Truth is, Truth is so great that nobody can get its whole. The Truth that one could understand is just a small part, and the small part each one got can be right. But people who can get something believe that they could touch must be everything, and they fight between them arguing that only the part they could touch must be Truth.
It is just like blind men touching an elephant and fight between them saying the elephant must be this and that.
From this metaphor, I got one thing.
Every kind of religion in this world was established by blind people who touched a part of an elephant, saying that "my elephant is the only true elephant, yours is false". Depending on the place they were born, each of them calls his or her elephant, Yahweh or Allah, God or Dharma without knowing their elephant is nothing but a part..
I think, Yahweh or Allah, God or Dharma are not "name of the Truth" but a sign or a mark. If there is a difference, it is only the name depending on the group they are born.
I wonder why they don't show the definition of each name, Yahweh or Allāh, God or Dharma . The definition of Yahweh is final Truth being by itself. The definition of Allāh is final Truth being by itself. The definition of God or Dharma is final Truth being by itself.
Then why don't you call them by definition without putting its name depending on the place whose language is just different.
I suggest if they want to fight, fight whatever they want, but not in the name of Final Truth, but just because the difference of their color of skin, difference of language, difference of place they live in. Then they will lose all reason to fight. It is because they will notice a poodle can marry an akita-ken(dogs from Akita) just as I could with a Latin American guy.
kami and god
I’d like to speak about the difference between KAMI in Japanese and God in English.
The term KAMI is usually translated as "God" in English. But in my opinion, it is an unfortunate mistranslation which has caused misunderstanding of Japanese people all over the world. We Japanese think a great deal of the historical family of TENNOU, not because they are god’s family, but they are the family who carries the mystical tradition of Japanese native spirit.
God in English has its own definition and also KAMI in Japanese, because the concept of God is different in both cultures, the Christian and the Japanese.
God for Christians is the Creator of the universe who cannot be replaced by any other being. God is some kind of being with some mysterious power, while ordinary human beings don't have.
KAMI in Japanese, can be originally defined as any kind of "mysterious phenomenon" which could not be understood in ancient times.
For example, “UMASHI-ASHUKABI-HIKOJI-no-KAMI which is found in the first chapter of KOJIKI can be thought as “mold”.
In a few words, the clearest difference between the two could be as this; "GOD is a being who exists by itself" and "KAMI is the being which comes out from the mysterious phenomenon".
Later, in the middle age, a Portuguese ship was casted ashore at Tanegashima, they began to send catholic missionaries to Japan. They noticed the difference between Kami and God. They studied many religious words in Japanese and they published the dictionary called “NIPPO-JITEN”.
They understood that there was no suitable translation for God, so they dared not translate that word. They used “DEUS” which is GOD in Portuguese. Later they made a new word in Japanese , TENSHU(天主)sama. This word was used in the Japanese Catholic community until the Council of Vatican in 1962 to 1965. After that in the name of the movement of agreement, The Catholic church of Japan began to use KAMISAMA as the translation for God.
It is not good for all Japanese people, because Kami in Yasukuni is translated as “gods”, and then all Japanese people are misunderstood in all over the world that we all adore the soldiers who are worshipped in Yasukuni not as Kami but as Gods.
Usually, foreigners cannot understand that Japanese people have had a custom to make shrines even for the defeated people as TAIRANO MASAKADO, SUGAWARA MICHIZANE, the family of HEIKE, etc. They are called KAMI but not god.
The soldiers who are in YASUKUNI are not worshipped as gods but dedicated as Kami, as the spirit of soldiers killed in the war. When they are translated as gods caused the hatred towards the Japanese people by the Koreans and the Chinese for more than 70 years after the war.
But I think all the Japanese people can have a right not to worship but to thank the soldiers who contributed their lives for their fatherland although Japan was defeated in the second world war.