SADAMI TAKAYAMA, SHINRAN'S CONVERSION IN THE LIGHT OF PAUL'S CONVERSION
It was said by the renowned historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee that one of the most important events of the twentieth century would be the meeting between Buddhism and Christianity. And now, especially on the eve of the twentieth-first century it is a meaningful undertaking to study Shinran's conversion in the light of Paul's conversion. Shinran (1173-1262) is the founder of the J˘do Shinshű (or True Pure Land Sect) which is said to have over thirteen million believers today. The life of Shinran was that of a pilgrim in which he gradually deepened and purified his faith in Amida Buddha. His life was marked by "conversion(s)", which he had existentially experienced, and by which a new world opened up before him. It was a way of conversion from jiriki (self-power) to tariki (Other Power).
Paul's conversion in or near Damascus was precisely his "proto-experience" which determined his whole life. His encounter with the risen Jesus was none other than a "revelation" (apokalypsis). Paul describes this experience in his letters (1Cor 9:1; 15:8; Gal 1:16). By reflecting on this proto-experience, Paul systematized his profound thinking.
It is a difficult task to develop an adequate methodology to compare Buddhism with Christianity, since each has its own world view and different horizon. In studying the texts dealing with Shinran's conversion and Paul's conversion, the author has employed the hermeneutic approach taken up by Luis Alonso Sch÷kel, Paul Ricoeur, Hans-Georg Gadamer and others. This approach has served in a special way to bridge the two different worlds and to clarify Buddhist and Christian theologies. In other words, the originality of this work consists in its reading of the Buddhist and Christian texts, by following the hermeneutic approach, in order to discover some structural similarities between the two conversions.
SADAMI TAKAYAMA was born in Fukui, Japan, in 1955. After undergraduate studies in law at D˘shisha University in Kyoto, he joined the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in 1978. After theological studies (at Nanzan University in Nagoya) and ordination, he studied spirituality at the Gregorian University and gained his doctorate in theology from the same university. He is at present teaching in the anthropology department at Sophia University in Tokyo.
(C) PUG 2004