Does a real ‘Zenjishiki’ Exist?

In Japanese, the term Zenjishiki literally means ‘true teacher’. One who is responsible for guiding you spiritually on the path to enlightenment. In my opinion, there are two qualities that every Zenjishiki must have:

1: A Zenjishiki MUST have received other power faith and received the vow of Amida Buddha. How can one who has not experienced enlightenment guide other people to seek the same?

2: MUST have a good moral and ethical compass, and act in the interest of the true dharma. That is to say, wont accept things purely for money, attachments, fame, etc.

Although the intent of this website is merely to follow notes about Buddhism, scriptures and pure land teachings, I felt that qualities of a Zenjishiki are important to note. One reason is that, we live in the age of the five defilement’s, according to Shinran Shonin, and what these are, are lust, greed, rage, attachment and ego. Unenlightened beings only seek to satisfy and commit these five defilement’s, or evils. That is why it is important to watch out if you are seeking enlightenment and are wanting to do so under a teacher.

Religion is a big business. First and foremost, religion seems to be a big business these days. No matter where you go or what you do, religion is everywhere. You can’t escape it! There are as many churches as there are McDonald’s, and filled to the brim with donation efforts and boxes for people to stuff their hard earned cash in. Yes, it can be argued that there are operating expenses for those fancy buildings and religious paraphernalia, however, a true teacher would not operate in such a lavish setting in the first place!

One who has achieved enlightenment should be free of attachments, and so money to them would be as worthless as a candy wrapper. So if you have joined a denomination, and they are asking for money, donations, or to buy products, study books, etc. you should be weary of them and steer clear. Also, what goes along with this are often shady accounting practices and cult-like behavior. Real Buddhism is not a cult, and no where near the definition of a cult to begin with, so watch out if a religious denomination claims that an ‘all-knowing’ leader is the only one who can lead them to salvation, and that all other scholars and books are wrong, and that you should only buy their books and study with them. Actually, it’s more common than you think. Tens of thousands of people every year join cults based on real religions, donate thousands of dollars, and are unknowingly being led away from the white path, and away from the true teachings. Religion to these cults are nothing more than a shelter.

One example that I can think of, and probably one of the most biggest examples in the pure land sect is the Shinrankai Organization. The organization was started in 1958 by Rev. Kentetsu Takamori in Toyama, Japan. Today, Shinrankai is probably the second largest Jodo Shinshu Pure Land Buddhism denomination in the world, next to Honganji. Shinrankai boasts HUGE buildings featuring lavish artwork and halls, and owns literally the entire mountain they are headquarted on. In addition, Shinrankai also owns various businesses which make up its revenue. Shinrankai owns an organic foods company, two publishing companies (ichimannendo/ Tulip K), a medical device company, a Buddhism school (Kenshin Gakuin, which is not certified by the Education Ministry), and a Bento restaurant (Anshin Bento).

The founder’s leader, Kentetsu Takamori, claims that all these things were built for the people, and to study Buddhism, but at the same time lives a lavish lifestyle himself featuring fancy cars, private rooms and elevators, and even a personal tea maid! The followers of Shinrankai, also, simultaneously believe that Rev. Takamori is the only one in this world who can guide them to the true teachings and to enlightenment. From the beginning, Shinrankai recruits members out of colleges and campuses and spreads out to the various branches of Japan, United States, Brazil, China and Korea. Also, the followers of Shinrankai are taught not to read anything other than Shinrankai published material, as they ‘claim’ that other sources are wrong and are not the true teaching. Shady accounting practices follow as well when they accept donations – they rarely give a receipt, and when they do, it only says ‘happiness’ on it (which, I assume is to avoid tax and revenue claim). In addition, there are membership fees, donation fees, food fees, book fees, well, pretty much everything has a fee! Needless to say, there is a lot of dirt online about the follower and his family, scandals, adultery, coverups and so on. However, I won’t bore you with those details, you can do a very simple Google search to find out. Planting bad seeds only leads to bad consequences, and that is perhaps why this organization is receiving this kind of treatment among the community.

So, that is one example of a religious cult. There are also other, smaller organizations based around the world not only in terms of Buddhism, but other religions. Not quite a cult, but a sect by itself is the ‘Nichiren’ sect which believes solely in devoting practices to the Lotus Sutra, and does not believe in attainment of other power faith by Amida Buddha. They don’t say the Nembutsu (or, Namu Amida Butsu), and if I remember correctly they believe that is evil. Such a sect is based off of the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha (in terms of the Lotus Sutra), however, they ignore the primal vow of Amida Buddha, which upon faith is based, and salvation is granted. Practicing the Lotus Sutra is nice, however, this is not the act which leads one to be born in Amida’s pure land. I do not know too much about the Nichiren sect, however I do know that it is worldwide, encompassing various organizations and denominations.

So, in summary, watch out if you are seeking enlightenment and wish to do so through a denomination or teacher. There are a lot of tell-tale signs to watch out for, but the main thing is never to be oblivious to what is going on. Often, these types of organizations cover up and modify the teachings/ take things out of context to suit themselves and at the same time present it in a way that no one would notice or question it. Stay alert, and be aware of what is going on around you, and don’t be afraid to question shady practices you see or hear. Better late than never, for life is limited in itself, and the time which we have to attain salvation is also limited. Make the best of it.


One Response

  1. […] is an important chapter that actually goes in accordance with a previous post I made entitled Does a Real ‘Zenjishiki’ Exist?. By the way, that is the most popular article on this website, and it is good that it is because it […]

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