Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Can Asians Share Common Ideals in Their Religions? ― A key to the Formation of Asian Community ―
ICHIMURA Shinichi  / Professor Emeritus of Kyoto University

December 15, 2006
Many argue that to cope with NAFTA and EU the formation of Asian Community is desirable. Let me consider what is needed for Asia to develop such a community. Basically a sense of community will gradually have to be developed. As Asian nations are dramatically achieving economic growth and increasing their various interchanges, it may not take too long for many Asians to have a sense of community among themselves. For this purpose, peaceful political relations in Asia is essential by maintaining a degree of balance of power between Continental countries like China or India and the rest of Asia-Pacific oceanic and peninsula countries. Particularly of crucial and urgent importance is the friendly relation between China and Japan, since it requires a solution of difficult issues pertaining to Taiwan and North Korea within reasonable time.

It seems to me, however, that above these socio-economic and political requisites there is another cultural dimension of reconciliation to form the Asian community; namely, how to share the common ideals in their different religions and civilizations as well as the political organizations fostered through history. The colors of Asian civilizations are as abundant as the colors of tropical fish. The reconciliation among these civilizations would be realized only if they are awakened to the fact that the fundamental ideals of their religions have much in common.

Do Chinese and Indian civilizations have any ideal in common? If so, what is it? With this question in mind, Okakura Tenshin propounded the common ideals of the East in his immortal literary work: The Ideals of the East. This book has been much misunderstood due to its famous opening phrase 'Asia is one.' What he meant thereby was that the compassionate spirit permeating both to the 'veda', love in its ideal shape, of Buddhism-Hinduism of the Indian people and to Confucian benevolence of the Chinese people may combine Asian nations in one entity, in spite of the high peaks of the Himalayas that have separated the two peoples. We, Japanese, may add to this the
spirit of 'wa': harmony of the Japanese people.

As is well-known, in Southeast Asia two or more civilizations of Indian, Chinese and other origins do exist side by side. Take Indonesia for example. From time immemorial Hinduism, Buddhism, then Islam and Christianity came to their shores in succession. If they had tried to unify their religion by a single faith, their land would have been bloodied by religious wars like in the Balkans. Instead, the founding fathers of the present-day Indonesia like Sukarno, Hatta and others advocated the idea "unity in diversity" and thereby tried to unite the peoples as a new nation. This slogan clearly shows the way in which East Asian nations must orient themselves in the future. It requires reconciliation among various religions or peaceful co-existence among religions. This reality and the tasks of religions in Asia do not seem to differ much from those facing the whole world.

It is said that the religions are to be classified into either monotheism and polytheism. In the Western world religion in Greek mythology is polytheism, while Judaism, Christianity and Islam are polytheisms, sharing the same origin. In the meantime, all principal Asian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Shintoism seem to be polytheisms. An interesting difference between Greek gods and Asian deity is, that while in both polytheisms the water is ruled by Water God and the fire by Fire God, in Asia these gods are incarnations of one central Deity and in Greek mythology they are separate gods. In both Shintoism and Buddhism, however, it is believed that one Deity is incarnated into various gods. This is a Pantheistic belief that J. W. V. Goethe and F. Schelling placed high reverence as a religious creed.

I, for one, believe that if an Asian community is to be formed, religious leaders and populace must accept the peaceful co-existence among religions, a pantheistic state of the world in the most serious meaning. Metaphorically speaking, the ascent of Mt. Fuji may be achieved through various routes. Even the Catholic Pope lately advocates the need for tolerance and, mutual understanding among all religions. The peace in the world surely requires this creed, and in Asia peace and prosperity may only be achieved by this ideal.

The world in which Muslims fight against Hindus and Buddhists against Christians means, in the historical Japanese context, to turn back the clock by over thousand years and return back into the olden times when the Mononobe Family holding traditional Shintoist gods fought against the Soga Family revering the then-newly-arrived Buddhism. The contemporary Japanese reject such futile fight, as the Japanese have achieved the living-together between Buddhism and Shintoism, taking over thousand years. Likewise, influential Japanese Christians in Meiji Japan harmonized with their Shintoistic environment by developing Christian faith through the idea of non-church Christianity.

The most serious matter for this spiritual question is the future of Chinese peoples' mind. I believe that the Chinese people must be reawakened to the traditional spirit of benevolence, by overcoming communism, the spirit of the founding fathers of the contemporary China. However difficult it would be, there would be no other escape route to save the Chinese civilization. This return to the traditional national spirit in China is quite same as the Russian return to traditional Russian Orthodox Church negating Leninism and Stalinism. Such restoration of tradition is required to a lesser extent for Indonesians, the Philippines, Thais and Malays as well. I am deeply convinced that the final key to open the East Asian Community rests with the religious reconciliation by East Asian peoples.

The writer is Professor Emeritus of Kyoto University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

市村眞一 / 京都大学名誉教授

2006年 12月 15日
東アジアに何らかの共同体が形成されるためには、いかなる条件が必要か。それには、アジア諸国間の相互交流が飛躍的に拡大して、次第に共同体意識が芽生えることが基本的であり、政治的にも、日中関係の友好的安定や北朝鮮・台湾問題の解決、さらには中国と海洋国家群との間にある程度の力のバランス 生まれる必要がある。

しかし私には、それ以上に大事なのは理想の共有による多様な文明の融和であると思われる。アジアには多種多様な宗教が共存し、東洋文明の色調は、熱 帯魚のごとく豊富であるが、その融和は、各宗教がそれぞれの根本理想においては互いに共通していることに目覚めれば実現しよう。

中華文明の理想、インド文明の理想の間に共通点はないか。あるとすれば、それは何か。そこに着目して「東洋の理想」を語ったのが岡倉天心であった。 彼の名著『東洋の理想』は、その冒頭の一句「アジアは一なり」によって誤解を受けたが、その真意は、ヒンズー教=仏教の理想の愛(ヴェーダ)とシナの儒教の仁慈に共通する慈愛の精神が、両国を分かつヒマラヤの峻峰にもかかわらず、アジアを一つにつなぐと言ったのである。 私たちは、 それに日本の「和」の精神を加えてもよい。






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Can Asians Share Common Ideals in Their Religions? ― A key to the Formation of Asian Community ―