A New Interpretation of Religion (which Suzuki also called The True Meaning of Religion in his introductory remarks), was published in 1896 by Baiyōshoin when Suzuki Daisetsu was 26 years old; it was Suzuki’s earliest published work. In terms of the work’s development, certain aspects are newly clarified from Suzuki’s letters to Yamamoto Ryōkichi, contained in Suzuki Daisetsu’s Unpublished Letters (Zen Bunka Kenkyūjo, 1989). Newly understood information includes the following: Suzuki initially co-authored the work with Shaku Sōen, its first title was Shūkyō Chakuhōgen (The Eye That Discerns True Religion), and the work’s publication funded Suzuki’s trip to the United States in 1897.
Content-wise, we must pay keen attention to Suzuki’s statement, “The true marrow of religion is boundless compassion. However, the attainment of virtue lies in fulfilling duties” (Zenshū, vol. 23, p. 113); Shaku Sōen’s emphatic marks are added to this sentence. Also, Suzuki quotes from Carrying Out the Power of the Vow in the Treatise on the Inexhaustible Lamp of the [Zen] School, written by Hakuin’s dharma heir, Tōrei Enji (1721–1792):
As for the four bodhisattva vows, these are, first, to save all sentient beings, then to clarify self-nature and eradicate the roots of afflictions, to learn all methods and means, and to awaken bodhisattva conduct and fully perfect compassion and wisdom: we call this the Buddha Way. You should know this: that the basis of realizing buddhahood is truly great compassion. (Zenshū, vol. 23, p. 80)
Shaku Sōen was said to have given lectures on the Treatise on the Inexhaustible Lamp of the [Zen] School, but the Matsugaoka Bunko does not possess these records. Thus, the relationship between the Treatise on the Inexhaustible Lamp of the [Zen] School and the Shinshūkyōron is one issue to consider.
Leaving that aside, I will trace the circumstances under which the Shinshūkyōron emerged―which the “Commentary” of Outlines of Māhāyana Buddhism (Iwanami Bunko, 2016) addresses―and will question how great an influence Shaku Sōen exerted on the development of Suzuki’s Shinshūkyōron. At the same time, I will suggest that the basis of Suzuki’s religiosity was stable from that point onward.