The Golden Paradise in the West

In Susami, we had a “sunset break” in every evening, and go to the seaside to watch the setting sun. It is said in Buddhism that there is the world of Amitâbha Buddha far in the west. It is a paradise called Sukhâvatî in Sanskrit and Gokuraku in Japanese. There is a palace shining in gold where the Buddha lives. Watching the setting sun, Japanese people associate the paradise of the Buddha. The gold of setting sun is the reflection of the golden palace.

In scientific words, the setting sun is gold because blue rays on the short wavelength are absorbed by the air, while red rays on the long wavelength reach our eyes. “The absorption of blue rays” and “the Buddha’s golden paradise”; both are stories. Is a scientific story right, and a mythical story wrong? It depends upon the situation. The scientific stories is convenient to think about the material world, but not convenient about the human world. Rather the mythical stories have stronger power in human problems.

In “Konjaku Monogatari Shû“, a collection of Japanese legends edited in the twelfth century, there is a story:

A hooligan happened to hear a sermon of a monk. The monk said, “Everybody who calls Amitâbha‘s name, the Buddha will come to him when he is dying, and accept him into his paradise.” “Where is the Buddha?” the hooligan asked. The monk answered, “He lives in a palace over the western sea”. As soon as the hooligan heard it, he walked to the west calling for the name of Amitâbha. At last he came to the seashore. He climbed a tree by the seaside and continued calling the name of the Buddha watching the golden sunset. He died before long, but a lotus flower bloomed from his mouth. People recognized that even such a bad person would be accepted to the paradise by the compassion of the Buddha.

The biggest problem of the natural science is that it is a story based on the view of the world made up from dead things. To treat dead matters, it is good, but to treat living human beings, it is often destructive. Unfortunately, the same principle as the natural science was applied on the social science. Furthermore, it was applied into the actual politics and economy. As a result, the politics and economy were going to handle people in the same way as matters. The colonialism, the capitalism, the fascism and the militarism were possible when we treat a person as a kind of a thing. When a person is treated as a thing, it is called “alienation”. Karl Marx proposed the socialism to transcend alienation. However, because his theory was based on scientific materialism, it makes alienation in larger scale. It is a big irony that a theory to transcend alienation has created much severer alienation. As far as Marxism is scientific, it inevitably alienates human beings.

The gold of the setting sun is the reflection of the paradise, and ray threads coming down through clouds are guiding lines from the Buddha who accepts dying people into his world. The world with this kind of mythical stories is, at least, much more peaceful.