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A Vision of Shin Buddhism for Today

All of us here today have been impacted enormously from what Dr. Taitetsu Unno contributed to our understanding and appreciation of the Dharma through his teachings, writings and mere presence. We, along with all who are unable to join us today, acknowledge and are grateful for Dr. Unno’s contributions to Shin Buddhism in North America and beyond.

I am also deeply appreciative of what he has meant for me personally. In my early years of academic studies, he wrote me detailed handwritten replies to my questions. Dr. Unno gave me valuable advice, such as to study broadly in Mahayana Buddhism first in order to better understand Shin Buddhism. Of course, the final decision was mine, but it is noteworthy that I ended up doing my master’s program at Tokyo University and writing my Ph.D. dissertation on Chinese Buddhism, following in the footsteps that Dr. Unno had walked a couple of decades earlier.

I, thus, felt a profound debt of gratitude to Dr. Unno, which motivated me to facilitate the publication of his unfinished translation of a text, “A Treatise on Doctrinal Distinctions in the Huayan One Vehicle,” the object of his Ph.D. dissertation. With his son, Mark, and his colleague making the finishing touches, I am happy to report that the translation by Dr. Unno of this important work in the Huayan tradition will be published within one year. It will be part of the English Tripitaka Translation Series of the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism, with which I am currently involved.

I also wish to dedicate my presentation to Dr. Unno and to the entire Unno family, and particularly to Mrs. Unno for her lifelong support of her husband, her role as Dharma teacher in her own right, and for her uplifting smile, and to Rev. Tetsuo Unno (Dr. Unno’s younger brother), whose contributions to Shin Buddhism have been enormous as well and, in the area of humor, well, legendary! So, I am honored to be able to express my debt of gratitude to my sempais — my seniors — who preceded me and showed the way on this marvelous path.


I have entitled my talk, “Revisioning Shin Buddhist Teachings for Today: Thirteen Contributors to the Book, The Tide of Wisdom: Shinran’s Wisdom, Authentic Individuality and Social Engagement (New Horizon Seen from Shinshū Theology),” published in Japanese in 2017. This anthology is the outcome of a research project that I organized and served as its editor.

We, the 13 contributors to the anthology, were quite clear of our aim from the outset. We wanted to seek a greater balance in the heavy tilt toward what we are calling “traditional scholarship” (dentō kyōgaku), which has influenced our contemporary understanding of the teachings in Japan and in the West.

In particular, we felt that not enough attention was being given to the three dimensions of Shinran’s teachings. The three are: 1) wisdom (chi’e, prajñā); 2) authentic individuality embraced in wisdom and compassion (shutaisei); and 3) social engagement (shakaisei). Our hope is that our anthology will contribute in some small way toward a more balanced understanding of Shinran’s teachings and, thus, of Shin Buddhism.


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