Sanzo claimed he wasn’t Buddhist at all.
Hakkai thought he was full of masculine bovine excrement, not to put too fine a point on it. So he didn’t follow Buddhist traditions. He ate meat, drank, swore, and generally acted like a bear who’d sat on a beehive: irritable and annoyed. He even killed in defense of self or others. He certainly didn’t exude the inner peace that meditation and Buddhist practice were supposed to provide.
But Buddha had said that doctrine and practice were supposed to be tested for efficacy. One should only continue those practices and recognize those doctrines which were effective. Sanzo nearly started a whirlwind when he recited a sutra on behalf of the dead to comfort the living, yet those listening felt better and more at peace with themselves afterward. He could wield that damn sutra that hung around his neck like a knife or his gun. In fact, the Maten Sutra was so much more accurate and efficacious than his gun, it was a wonder he used it so sparingly. Maybe he was afraid it would lose its power if it were used too casually.
Most of all, Hakkai knew Sanzo was lying to them, and probably to himself as well, because not only had he told Hakkai that the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it, Sanzo was instrumental in convincing the Sanbutsushin to let him, a cursed mass murderer, go free.
Compassion was not something Genjyo Sanzo demonstrated every day, or even on a regular basis – in fact, his usual demeanor was the opposite of compassionate – but he demonstrated it when it mattered. He demonstrated it when he’d killed and buried Cho Gonou and helped create Cho Hakkai. What he’d told Gojyo about it was cruel but necessary, and not really a lie. Because then meeting Hakkai in the marketplace was a miracle, not an everyday occurrence.
Face it, the man could deny he was Buddhist until the cows came home, but in his hands and in his voice, Buddhism worked. There was a reason the man bore the mark on his forehead that he preferred to hide under all that hair he wasn’t supposed to have.
As Gojyo would put it, Buddha was probably laughing his ass off at Sanzo’s badass version of Buddhism.A/N: I not only paraphrased what Sanzo told Hakkai rather than quoting from the manga, I borrowed from a different source: Joss Whedon, series creator and executive producer, as the author of the final episode of Season Five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The Gift”. “The hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it” are Buffy’s last words to her sister Dawn as she takes a swan dive to save the world, but more importantly, to save Dawn.