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Authentic Relics or Shinsei-Busshari

Agon Shu venerates and worships the authentic relics of the Buddha(the Buddha’s sacred remains), the highest object of veneration in Buddhism and for all Buddhists. Let us examine the significance and meaning of these Shinsei-Busshari, or sacred relics of the Buddha.

Authentic Buddhas and Idols – Excerpts from “Meitoku-Kuyo to Get Guardian Spirits” Japanese Mahayana Buddhists worship various Buddhas, ranking them according to the superiority or inferiority of the sutras ascribed to them. This is, however, a mistake. There is another more fundamental issue at hand.
In other words, the issue here addresses the existence of true and false Buddhas, which immediately brings up this question, as strange as it may be, “How can there be true Buddhas and false Buddhas? I wouldn’t think that false Buddhas could possibly exist.”
I can understand how someone might think that, but the answer stands that false Buddhas do exist. Do you think I am telling a lie? Granted, the word false might be an exaggeration. However, let us instead use the term non-existent, hypothetical, imaginary or conceptual. Most Buddhists in Japan are Mahayana Buddhists and all the Buddhas that Mahayana Buddhists venerate are hypothetical Buddhas. In other words, they are imaginary or conceptual Buddhas.
To further explain, let me offer an easy example to understand. Last year, a certain traditional Japanese Buddhist sect hosted a grand world summit of religion that took place at its main temple. Agon Shu did not participate whereas many other representative Japanese Buddhist groups did. A prayer service for world peace was scheduled to take place during the proceedings in the main sanctuary of the temple. The organizers of the summit expected the delegates who represented all the major religions in the world to willingly attend, as the event supposedly accorded with the principle of the gathering. However, many of the delegates objected.
Why was that?
The Christian and Islamic delegates registered the following complaint that, “Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajya-guru, The Medicine Buddha), who is venerated in the main sanctuary, is an idol. The tenets of our faiths forbid us from worshipping idols.”
Having no choice, the organizers quickly erected an outdoor stage and conducted the ceremony in the open.
I felt a great sense of pity upon hearing this story. I was also deeply embarrassed for Japanese Buddhism. Since the beginning, this has always been the number one criticism of Christianity towards Japanese Buddhism. It is a point that leads the Christian faith to conclude that Japanese Buddhism is a vulgar religion practicing "idol worship." Inevitably, this is a major fault in Japanese Buddhism. Dainichi Nyorai (Vairochana Buddha), Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Buddha), and Yakushi Nyorai, amongst others enshrined as main deities, are all statues of hypothetical Buddhas. They are all images of Buddhas who do not actually exist. Therefore, Christianity concludes that these forms of Buddhism are similar to undeveloped religions, as inferior faiths practicing “idolatry.”
Christianity worships Jesus Christ, who actually existed, and deified him as the son of God. Islam takes a similar position. Christians and Muslims are willing to sit down at the same table with Japanese Buddhists to discuss the issue of world peace. However, based on their religious beliefs, they hold Japanese Buddhism in disdain as an inferior, idolatrous religion.
I find this as a terrible shame.
Viewed from their perspective, one side of Japanese Buddhism can surely be seen as an idol-worshipping religion. However, jumping to the conclusion that this lies true for all Japanese Buddhism is not exactly correct. Of the Japanese Buddhist sects, one sect is not an idol worshipping religion, and that is Agon Shu. Agon Shu venerates the authentic Buddha, a true historical figure, not an idol. Agon Shu is the one Buddhist order amongst the numerous Buddhist groups in Japan that venerates the actual Buddha.
For Agon Shu, then, the misperception that all Japanese Buddhism is an inferior religion of idol worshippers is not only disturbing, but also regrettable. The Buddhism expounded by the Buddha contains absolutely no element of idol worship. In fact, this Buddhism goes to great lengths in order to eliminate any traces of such practice. The responsibility lies with Mahayana Buddhism, which transformed this original Buddhism into an idolatrous religion Christianity and Islam hold in contempt. It stands that most of the Buddhist orders in Japan are Mahayanist.
My heart desires that Japanese Buddhists amend this mistake and return to true Buddhism as soon as possible, and I so appeal to society. In fact, however, most Japanese Buddhist followers are not even aware of this issue. Did you know about this before reading it here?

Sacred Relics Capable of Manifesting Miracles There are no words to respond to Christianity's assertion that all Japanese Buddhism is a lower-class religion worshiping idols such as the hypothetical, imaginary and fabricated conceptual Buddhas. Likewise, why are Buddhists who venerate idols looked down upon with such disdain?
We can offer two reasons.

Reason One
Idol Buddhas are images of Buddhas who do not exist. These images of non-existent Buddhas are "false images." In short, false images of Buddhas are imitations. Can a sutra spoken by a false Buddha masquerading as the real Buddha be called the teaching of the true Buddha? No, it is not the teaching of the Buddha. Instead it is a teaching given by a human being pretending to be the Buddha. Regardless of his genius or intelligence, he is still, in the end, just a human being. He is not a Buddha.
This Buddhism venerates idols, or imitation images of the Buddha, and the reading of sutras of imitation Buddhas. No wonder these heavily rational Western religions are disdainful of Japanese Buddhism.

Reason Two
Is there any effect of praying to idols of Buddhas that do not exist?
Early Christians refer to the remains of Jesus Christ as “Holy Relics” and regard them as objects of the highest devotion. They also venerate the remains of other saints. For example, the right elbow of the well-known Saint Francisco Xavier is venerated as a holy relic in the main sanctuary of the Jesuit Order. In other words, we can say that the right elbow of Saint Xavier is a central object of veneration in the Jesuit Order. In the same way, the Holy Relics of Jesus Christ can also be considered a central object of veneration in Christianity.
So why do Christians hold holy relics in such reverence? It is because they manifest miracles.
Let me explain.
The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has a system of bestowing titles such as Blessed or Saint. Blessed is the title given to someone recognized as either a martyr or a confessor. A martyr is one who dies in defense of his or her faith. A confessor is one who avows his or her Christian faith in the face of opposition or who exercises a heroic degree of Christian virtue, then bringing about a posthumous miracle. The Vatican makes an official declaration only after it conducts an exhaustive investigation and completes a thorough deliberation based on strict predetermined criteria. In most cases, the Church elevates its blessed to saints after many more years of careful investigation.
This second phase of the investigation which determines sainthood is known as the canonical investigations. These official inquiries are even more stringent than the first.
One criterion for sainthood is that the candidate, either through a relic (a bodily remain or an object in his or her possession) or by direct intervention, must have produced another miracle after his or her beatification. Remember, holy relics are revered because of their ability to manifest various miracles.
Why, then, do relics have the ability to cause miracles?
The spirit of the saint, which lies in the spiritual world, responds to our prayers by descending into this realm through an object closely associated with it. We could also say that the object calls the spirit of the saint to itself. This is how saints advent to create miracles.
Corporeal remains of the saint such as flesh or bones are considered the most venerable relics. These produce the greatest miracles. The next are objects that he or she wore on his or her body. What happens when one worships hypothetical, imaginary Buddhas? When one venerates a real saint or the real Buddha, miracles occur. What happens when one prays to a false one?
Christians view Japanese Buddhists as poor figures, bowed in front of idols like uncivilized people intently praying for miracles. If we were to find an equivalent to the Holy Relics of Christianity in Buddhism, it would naturally be the sacred remains of the Buddha. The genuine remains of the Buddha are the holiest relics of Buddhism. The genuine relics of the Buddha should be the highest object of worship, or honzon, in Buddhism because they represent the real Buddha.
I previously noted that the dharma alone is insufficient while the Buddha is essential. True Buddhist dharma requires the Buddha and the dharma. When the genuine relics of the Buddha are properly venerated, they give power and divine protection to practitioners and believers. This is how true dharma is attained. It is impossible to realize Jobutsu-ho by oneself without this divine protection. Indeed, I was only able to achieve complete liberation through the divine protection of the Buddha.
There is no way an idol of the Buddha can manifest this sort of marvelous occurrence. To believe so is nothing more than emotionally blind faith. This is why Christianity and Islam look down on the Japanese Buddhism that prays before false images as an inferior religion of idol worship.
This seems like a logical conclusion.

The Vatican Knows Let me digress for a bit.
I find it disturbing that Christians look at all forms of Japanese Buddhism as inferior religions of idol worshippers. Still, this is not completely true.
The center of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, is aware that Agon Shu is a unique order within Japanese Buddhism. Most of the priests who reside at the Vatican are extremely erudite and very well-educated, most holding two to three academic degrees. They also studied Buddhism by reading the sutras in their original language, in Sanskrit, Pali or Magadhi, unlike Japanese priests, including myself, who study them in classical Chinese translation. The Vatican priests were fully aware that the only sutras that record the original doctrine of the Buddha are the Agama Sutras, and that all other sutras such as the Mahayana sutras are fabricated fiction.
During my visit, I had a conversation with a priest who said to me,
“Christianity is founded on the Bible. It is a Biblical faith. The Bible is the sole record we have of the words and actions of Jesus Christ and is similar to the Agama Sutras in Buddhism. They are the only record of Shakyamuni's words and actions. We know that Agon Shu is the only Buddhist sect in Japan founded on the Agama Sutras.”
Even though he spoke only of the Agama Sutras, I am certain that this priest was also aware that Agon Shu is a religion venerating the real Buddha, rather than an idol, as our honzon, or central object of veneration. He knew our spiritual practices were scripturally rooted in the Agama Sutras, and must have known therefore that our honzon would be Shakyamuni, Gautama Buddha.
I think that the following story occurred as a result of this. One day, I stood in a throng of 300,000 people at St. Peter's Square. I saw the august personage of the Pope walking towards me. As he neared, he broke ranks with his entourage and came up to me, the leader of a different religion. In an unprecedented move, he shook my hand.
Apparently, in the thousand year history of the papacy, this has never happened before or since. I think he greeted me this way because, even though Agon Shu is a relatively small organization, the Catholics feel it represents the real Buddhism.
From that point of contact, Agon Shu has joined hands with the Catholic Church in making efforts toward the achievement of world peace.