During the Meiji, Taishō, and early Shōwa eras, Japanese Buddhists faced the task of reestablishing Buddhism as a modern religion. Their efforts in meeting the challenge included reading major sūtras from new viewpoints, as exemplified by the study of the Huayan Sūtra by Inoue Enryō, Sasaki Gesshō, and D. T. Suzuki, among others. This paper examines Akegarasu Haya’s reading of the Huayan Sūtra, focusing on his booklet “The Purport of the Huayan Sūtra” (華厳経の帰趣). Akegarasu saw the idea of ‘turning’ (転, parivarta) found in the Asaṅkhyeya Chapter (阿僧祇品) as the gist of the sūtra, arguing that it signifies the impermanence of all phenomena (諸行無常). He went on to claim that an authentic way of life is to adhere to the Huayan teaching of ‘non-basis’ and ‘non-dwelling’ (無所依, 無所住) and to embrace the truth of impermanence and flux, both of all phenomena and the very self, concluding that one must live each moment as an independent being (独立者) making constant efforts (精進) to be true (正直) to oneself. Although his interpretation may easily become a pretext for indulgence and self-righteousness, his singular reading of the Huayan Sūtra provides us with insights into its essence often forgotten in traditional, doctrinal hermeneutics.
Why did the Buddha not answer the ten questions (four on life after death, four on the end and limit of the world, and two on the relation of body and soul) asked by other religious thinkers? His reason has not been clear yet.
A most popular opinion is that Buddhism is a way of empirically pursuing enlightenment, and thus it does not play with metaphysical questions. But Buddhism analyses all dharmas (things/matters), including imaginary ideas. Metaphysical aspects are naturally included.
Some scholars understand that avyākata means silence or the cessation of judgment to the ten questions as they are unknowable. But the Buddha allowed his disciples to name him sabbaññu (the omniscient). Is it plausible that there remained somethings unknowable to him?
On the contrary, the Buddha often preaches to his disciples that the ten questions do not make sense. That would mean that the ten questions themselves do not logically stand up from the Buddhist viewpoint, which consists of the three aspects: all constituent matters are unstable, all constituent matters are meaningless, and all matters are unsubstantial.
From the Buddhist viewpoint, the four questions on life after death do not understand the point that a “person” does not exactly exist, but mental and physical activities dependently originate.
The four questions on the end and limit of the world do not stand either, because perception of the world is the world for sentient beings. One can perceive nothing beyond his/her perception. The end and limit of the world means the end and limit of his/her perception.
Finally, because an eternal and unchangeable “soul” does not exist, such an imaginary concept cannot be subject to speculation.