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This blog is devoted to the propagation of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, a 750-year-old Buddhist tradition.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pure Land Quote of the Week

"The Shonin said, 'When a single thought of Faith is awakened in us, our birth in the Pure Land is definitely settled. It is left up to Amida Tathagata whether or not he saves us after destroying our karmic evil. It is useless for us to discuss matters concerning our karmic evil. What concerns us is that Amida saves those who entrust themselves to him."

The Shonin in this quote is Rennyo Shonin (1415-1499), the second most influential person in Jodo Shinshu history aside from Shinran Shonin, who was his direct ancestor. He is often referred to as the "Second Founder" because of his great organizational and preaching abilities, which made the True Pure Land School a distinct religious and also a social and political power in medieval Japan. His 500th memorial service held in 1998 in Kyoto, Japan, was attended by thousands of Shin Buddhists from all over the world.

In this quote, we are reminded of the importance of shinjin, or entrusting to Amida Buddha, as primary among all Dharma matters. Although the ancient idea of karma is important in Buddhist doctrine, we should not excessively worry about it. Our karmic debt is like credit card debt - although we may "try" to make merit and acquire good karma, we could never truly be certain whether we have alleviated our karma, and of course we go on making more! It is easy to fall into depression and disillusion when considering this. Therefore, it is more reasonable to rely on Amida's Vow.

This quote comes from a collection of Rennyo Shonin's words, recorded by later Shinshu members, the Goichidaiki-kikigaki . There are two translations available in English: the most recent one (2008) is by Zuio Hisao Inagaki-sensei published by Dharma Lion Publications, and an earlier translation by Kosho Yamamoto, published by The Karinbunko Press in 1968 (out-of-print).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pure Land Quote of the Week

"It is saddening that so many people, both young and old, men and women, have died this year and last. But the Tathagata [Amida Buddha] taught the truth of life's transience for us fully, so you must not be distressed by it.
I, for my own part, attach no significance, good or bad, of a person in his final moments. People in whom shinjin is determined do not doubt, and so abide among the truly settled. For this reason their end also - even for those ignorant and foolish - is a happy one.
You have been explaining to people that one attains birth through the Tathagata's working; it is in no way otherwise. What I have been saying to all of you from many years past has not changed. Simply achieve your birth, firmly avoiding all scholarly debate. I recall hearing the late Master Honen say, 'The person of the Jodo tradition attains birth in the Buddha Land by becoming his foolish self.' Moreover, I remember him smile and say, as he watched humble people of no intellectual pretensions coming to visit him, 'Without doubt their birth is settled.' And I head him say after a visit by a man brilliant in letters and debating, 'I really wonder about his birth.' To this day these things come too mind.
Each of you should attain your birth without being misled by people and without faltering in shinjin. However, the practice in whom shinjin has not become settled will continue to drift, even without being misled by anyone, for he does not abide among the truly settled.
Please relay what I have written here to the others. Respectfully."

This is an excerpt from a letter to Joshin-bo, one of the followers of Shinran Shonin, the founder of the Jodo Shinshu. It can be read in English in the Mattosho, or "Letters of Shinran." This letter was written in 1260.

Reading these letters, particularly the excerpt above, I am struck by how timely Shinran's message is. We still have wars and natural disasters, and no lack of personal tragedy in our own lives. Shinran encourages us to be settled in shinjin, no matter what happens. He cautions us not to be misled by others, even if they have good intentions. Each one of us, regardless of how much we've studied, read Dharma books, or listened to charismatic teachers, is equal in Amida Buddha's consideration. No amount of meditations or meritorious activities are required: we do only need to humbly accept Amida's Power. I think perhaps this is the most difficult for us, living in the 21st-century, the concept of simply accepting.
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