In an effort to reestablish Buddhism as a modern religion, Japanese Buddhists of the Meiji and Taishō eras studied major Buddhist sūtras, including the Huayan Sūtra, from new viewpoints. Focusing on “An Outline of Buddhism” (Bukkyō gairon 仏教概論) published in 1919 by Kaneko Daiei (金子大栄,1881–1976), a Shin Buddhist priest and scholar of the Huayan Sūtra, this paper examines how Kaneko criticized as removed from reality the traditional interpretation of the doctrine known as ‘non-difference of the mind, Buddha, and sentient beings’ (心仏及衆生三無差別説) found in the Huayan Sūtra.
Kaneko pointed out that the interpretation of the above doctrine by the Huayan school patriarch Fazang 法蔵 (643–712), based on his theory of ‘perfect interfusion’ (円融) of all phenomena, was too theoretical and abstract, leading to uncritical approval of the status quo.
In contrast, Kaneko appraised the more ‘real’ appreciation of the doctrine by three different traditions: the Shingon school’s esoteric and physical understanding centered on the Buddha, a strongly proactive understanding centered on the mind by Zen masters, and the Pure Land teaching’s focus on sentient beings’ atavistic fundamental awe towards Infinite Power (大いなる力). On the possibility of forging a ‘real’ interpretation of the doctrine from a Huayan perspective, Kaneko found the Samantabhadracaryā 普賢行 promising. This will be a topic for further examination by the present author.