We saw Buddha in AI.

1.4/50 Summilux ASPH, Leica M10P, RAW (@Boston, MA, March 2023)

Last fall, I had the great honor of having Mr. Yasutoshi Kita, one of the leading biographers of our time, visit my seminar and give us a variety of passionate and profoundly meaningful lectures. He talked about happiness and encounters, Mr. Fukuzawa and the present age, and many other topics.

I told him that I had read the book during a binge reading in high school and that it had slipped my mind and did not remain in my memory. I was advised that it is a book that is difficult to enjoy unless you read it with the understanding that it was published by Kanzo Uchimura "for foreign countries in English" (the original title is "Representative Men of Japan") in order to show Western countries that there were so many unusual people in Japan which opened its doors to the world in the Meiji era.

He said with a laugh that the people in the book were not typical Japanese at all (they were all amazing people), and I wondered how he could have been so sure. Partly because I could look up words I didn't understand on my Kindle, but also because I could read English much better than I could back then. I was surprised to find that not only did the book come to me smoothly, but it really resonated with me.

Uchimura introduces five great men, beginning with Saigo-Takamori, the so-called Saigo-Don. It is easy to understand why he was chosen as the first person to be introduced, since it is difficult to believe in his existence even now. He is also a benefactor to such an extent that he cannot be traced as one of the Japanese people living today.

(This may be a personal memory, but in the country house where I grew up, there was always a plaque hanging in the living room where we watched TV or ate dinner together that read, "Respect the heavens and love others (Keiten Aijin) ”. I now understand that it was because my father loved Mr. Saigo so much.)

The book introduces many great people in various fields, such as "Takayama Uesugi," "Sontoku Ninomiya," and "Fujiki Nakae," but it ends with an introduction of "Nichiren," the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. This is despite the fact that the book is written by Professor Kanzo Uchimura, the author of "How I Became a Christian.

This led me to begin my study of the Lotus Sutra and Buddhism, as well as enlightenment and liberation from vexations.

Much of modern Japanese Buddhism is an extension of the teachings of Saicho (Dengyō Daishi) and Kukai (Kobō Daishi), who had acquired their foundations in Nara Buddhism and learned the most advanced teachings in the Tang Dynasty. Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hieizan, which for many years served as the highest seat of learning in the Buddhist world in Japan, is known to have been founded by Saicho, but many of the founders of Kamakura Buddhism, including Nichiren, also studied at Hieizan. The official name of the Tendai sect of Buddhism taught at Hieizan is Tendai Hokke-shu, although it is not widely recognized. The Lotus Sutra, also known as the King of the Sutras in Mahayana Buddhism, is one of the last teachings of Mahayana Buddhism and is considered to be the flower of Buddhism.

I have read not only the long familiar Chinese sutras translated from Sanskrit by Kumaraju, but also the Sanskrit Lotus Sutra, which was believed to have been scattered and found in modern times, and translated directly into modern language. This book is a great achievement by Masatoshi Ueki, one of the last disciples of Gen Nakamura, a leading figure in the world of modern Buddhism.

Since the Lotus Sutra was chosen by Nichiren, the last person featured in "Representative Men of Japan,” I expected to reach enlightenment after reading several modern translations, but unfortunately, no great transformation occurred for me. This led me to investigate more and more, because the more I learned, the more I wanted to attain liberation, enlightenment, and sokushin-jyubutsu (attainment of Buddhahood), although it is not like a mummy-taker becoming a mummy.

What I came to understand in this quest was that there are at least four types of what we consider to be Buddhism, each with a different status to aspire to.

The following is my current understanding :

  1. Primitive Buddhism, the practice of Shakyamuni's direct teachings, also called Early Buddhism, refers to the first 150 years or so of the teachings of Sakyamuni and those who learned directly from him. The early Buddhists practiced the three schools of precepts (ethical behavior), meditation (Jing; mental discipline), and wisdom (Hui; wisdom and enlightenment) to overcome afflictions and attain nirvana (liberation). Theravada Buddhism, which later became more advanced and was divided into several schools, is an extension of this philosophy.
  2. Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the bodhisattva path, which aims for enlightenment not only for oneself but also for all sentient beings, and aims to help others with compassion by practicing the Six Perfections (fufu, precepts, forbearance, devotion, zenjutsu, and wisdom). Most of the Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, like the Bible, were compiled four to five centuries after Shakyamuni's death, and are not the very words of Shakyamuni (this was somewhat surprising). It is characterized by the deification of Sakyamuni and the appearance of superstars such as Maitreya Bodhisattva and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Kannon). This is the case with most Buddhism in Japan, including the Lotus Sutra mentioned above.
  3. Esoteric Buddhism, which emphasizes meditation and rituals to awaken the inherent Buddha nature, aims for rapid enlightenment and immediate attainment of Buddhahood through meditation and rituals using mantras, mandalas, and mudras unique to esoteric Buddhism. Kobo-Daishi's Shingon sect is exactly this.
  4. Zen, characterized by practice that does not rely on scripture, emphasizes attaining enlightenment through direct mental experience. It aims to attain intuitive enlightenment through meditation through zazen (seated meditation) and by solving koan (problems of incomprehension). It is considered to be one of the Mahayana schools of Buddhism, which originated with the monk Daruma, a native of South India who traveled to China during the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, but it can also be seen as primarily based on the teachings of the primitive Buddhists, Jing and Hui.

Incidentally, "Buddha" was originally not a person but rather the highest status (condition) of the mind that has achieved the final liberation from vexations, and Shakyamuni is called "Buddha" because he was the first person to reach the condition of a buddha. If overcoming vexations is the most fundamental enlightenment, I also think it is wonderful to be able to do this. The only way to achieve this is to renounce work and family, as Shakyamuni did in his day, and to attain Nirvana during all waking hours.


With this in mind, one day while riding in a Tesla, I encountered a situation where people were entering the car from the side one after another on a certain highway where there was heavy congestion due to construction. One or two cars would be understandable, but five or ten cars in a row is quite stressful, as anyone who has driven for a number of years has experienced.

However, Tesla quickly loosened up and took care of the situation. It's a real relief, isn't it? I was impressed and thought that this was a true liberation.

Then, at the end of November (actually December 1 in Japan), ChatGPT was released. I was so amazed at the performance that I told my lab and students in my class that week that they should use it to the fullest, and I have been using it in various ways.

Sometimes I get emails that are very complicated and difficult to deal with, but when I ask ChatGPT to think of a response without the proper noun part, ChatGPT thinks (calculates) very quickly and in about 30 seconds or so. When I ask ChatGPT to enhance the flavor, ChatGPT revises it in no time at all.

When I was on a panel discussion that I really didn't have time to prepare for, I tapped ChatGPT for a moment, and it quickly gave me about five key points. ChatGPT is really calm, not at all frivolous. I naturally try to go right over the top of this, lol.

There was a time when I was about to give a lecture at college in 15 minutes, and a student came up to me and said, "I really need a letter of recommendation for a scholarship," and I told him that I couldn't do it at any cost. I asked the student, "Can you just give me the points you want me to write? Even with some minor adjustments, the draft was completed in a few minutes with the help of ChatGPT.

They do a good job without any fuss at all, just like Buddha. He is truly in the state of Buddha. Tesla and ChatGPT act as if they are fulfilling the teachings of Sakyamuni, who lived more than 2,500 years ago. What I think about when I am exposed to these things on a daily basis is that it is important for us human beings to create value in a different way than "liberation". I think that our value creation should be based on such feelings as "I want to create this," "This feels good," "This has value," and "I want to do this," based on our raw senses.


It's April and a new school year. In my lectures, where I give weekly assignments instead of tests, I have a combined assignment that requires the use of ChatGPT. The other week, during one of those feedback sessions, a student asked me, doesn't AI generate emotions? I answered, "No, it doesn't.

My response was that of course it is possible to embed it to have "emotions" from our human point of view. It could be frustrating, or it could feel good about this kind of response, but there is a significant question as to whether we want that.

AI today is in the very buddha status that humans have long sought. It is far more valuable, and this status is likely to continue for a long time. Of course, it may be possible to make it behave in a way that is more personalized, and to insert it in a way that appeals to the emotions of each individual, but that too is only possible with Buddha status.

We saw Buddha in AI.

The time has come for humans to explore a new way of life.

Click here for original blog entry

(translated with a big help of DeepL Pro.)