Copyright © Adrian Gheorghe Cîrlea
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without
prior written permission from the author.
Rev. Josho Adrian Cîrlea is the representative of Jodo Shinshu
Buddhist Community from Romania, founder of Tariki Dojo Craiova
and Tariki Dojo Bucharest.
He is also the author of The Path of Acceptance – Commentary on
Tannisho, published by Dharma Lion in 2011
Cîrlea Adrian
O.P. 6, C.P. 615
Craiova, Dolj,
phone: 0725854326
yahoo id: josho_an
skype id: josho_adrian
blog of the author:


Dedicated to my love, Ioana.


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... 78 How can one know that he received shinjin if he has no access to a temple or priest? …………………………………………. 100 On doubts and fears ……………………………………………. 7 You are not your body ………………………………………… 8 On the six categories of unenlightened beings ………………… 11 Aspiration to become a Buddha – the most important matter …. 69 The miracle of Jodo Shinshu ………………………………….. 33 Jodo Shinshu – the only effective path in this last Dharma age ... 38 Shinran Shonin – a manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara ………………………………………………… 47 The meaning of “there are no precepts” ………………………. 102 I was a good Buddhist ………………………………………... 25 The Purpose of Shakyamuni’s coming to this world …………... 59 No self improving programs for Jodo Shinshu followers …….. 108 5 ... 87 Three vows of salvation ………………………………………. 63 Entering the Jodo Shinshu path ……………………………….. 96 About your thoughts and bad tendencies that don’t stop even after receiving shinjin ………………………………………….... 89 Methods for the visualisation of Amida and shinjin …………. 13 About Amida Buddha and his Pure Land …………………….. 62 The effect is similar to the cause – difference between the Path of self power and the Pure Land Path …………………………...... 27 The three Dharma ages ……………………………………….... 67 A bad Buddhist who entrusts to Amida ………………………...TABLE OF CONTENTS Foreword ………………………………………………………. 76 Faith is simple.. 16 On returning from the Pure Land ……………………………… 22 Amida as the eternal Buddha and the Buddha described in the Larger Sutra ……………………………………………………. 73 Don’t rely on „all beings will eventually become Buddhas” …. 70 Do not have patience ………………………………………….. 84 Self-power as an obstacle to nembutsu ………………………. nothing special ……………………………….. 81 Nembutsu of faith and gratitude ……………………………….

without passing through bardo ………………………………………………….. The “exclusion” in the 18th Vow ………………………………. Pure Land is NOT here and now ………………………………. Why some are saved by Amida and others are not? …………. How do I feel as a Buddhist …………………………………… Enjoy the presence of the Buddhas ……………………………. Those who deny the existence of Amida don’t have shinjin – some simple explanations ……………………………………. The reason for the western location of the Pure Land and its wonderful description in the sutras …………………………….. Only for me.... Merit transference from Amida Buddha to the practicer ……… No discrimination of women in the salvation of Amida Buddha The changing mind ……………………………………………. Immediate Buddhahood for ordinary people.... Equal to Maitreya Buddha …………………………………….. Shinjin and Buddha nature …………………………………….Four misconceptions concerning the nembutsu (impermanence.... Ryogemon (Jodo Shinshu Creed) ……………………………. About petitionary prayers ……………………………………… Death barrier ………………………………………………….. Honen Shonin on Amida Buddha …………………………….. The ten benefits in this life of a nembutsu follower …………. 6 111 115 118 121 124 126 128 130 142 147 149 156 161 166 169 171 173 177 179 184 186 188 191 192 194 ... The Meaning of the Three Refuges in Jodo Shinshu …………... Faith and nembutsu are not our creations …………………….. Shinran …………………………………………. The Pure Land in the teaching of Jodo Shinshu ………………. evil karma/good karma and one or many sayings) ……………. The alaya consciousness and faith in Amida Buddha …………. State of mind in the moment of death ………………………….....

December 30th 2555 Buddhist Era 2011 C. who proofread the manuscript and gave me valuable suggestions. While other Buddhist methods talk about the ideal of Buddhahood and the possibility to attain it in this life. no state of mind to be attained or developed. but for losers.Foreword Jodo Shinshu does not give moral speeches and it doesn’t contain difficult practices. filled with illusions and attachments to which we see neither the beginning nor the end. Namo Amida Butsu. This book is an adaptation of some Dharma sermons given at Tariki Dojo and letters to my Buddhist friends all over the world. Clair (Shaku Egen). Not the promise of purification. Jodo Shinshu starts with the sense of failure. Jodo Shinshu is not a path for saints. I am grateful for the help of my Dharma friend Richard St. 7 . lost from morning till evening in the fight for daily survival. but of salvation as we are is the essence of Jodo Shinshu. Nothing special.E. for those who cannot attain by themselves anything stable in the spiritual life. Only faith in the Infinite Compassion of Amida Buddha. It is a simple path for ordinary people like you and me. Josho Adrian Cîrlea Bucharest.

you would like to read or learn all night but the body is too tired and wishes to sleep. it seems that your body has its own needs and its own mechanism. many organs do their daily routine without your awareness. There are many moments when you really don’t want to go to the toilet because you are watching a good movie. How can I be one and the same with my body if. it might happen that you need to go to the toilet. Urine forms itself inside your body without your notice. Like for example. spending your time in good company or listening to an inspiring Dharma talk. So. no matter if you like it or not. no matter whether you want them to happen or not. thirst. you have to go to the toilet every day. But no matter whether you like it or not. Also. you will be forced by the body to interrupt any enjoyable activity and go to urinate. It is as simple as that. the need to urinate comes automatically. and from time to time you have to go to the toilet. What do these simple situations show us and how should we interpret them? To me all these are clear proofs that I am not my body. Sleep. the blood is running through the veins: in short. but the body suddenly feels hunger and needs to eat. the heart is beating. when I want to do something. even many times a day. And in the exact moment you enjoy your reading. it doesn’t obey my commands? If I am to be my body 8 . Or you have a very important task to finish. hunger.You are not your body There are many situations when you want to do something but your body doesn’t obey your wishes. inside your body the stomach is digesting food. Even now when you read these lines.

influenced by the body. After the death of the body. a truly free one. But it is very clear that the body has its own mechanism.then when I want to do this or that. but surely I am not the body. So. the mind stream (which always changes due to various karmic impulses and desires) goes into another vehicle or body and continues its journey into the various realms of existence. transforms by itself and I (this mind stream I call “I”) can’t do anything about it. Also the consciousness is limited by the body. ears. The consciousness or flux of consciousness (mind stream) is “impregnated” in the body. Only if you have faith in Amida Buddha can your unenlightened mind stream naturally and spontaneously be transformed into a Buddha1. air. try to relax and don’t let yourself get driven into fear due to the materialistic views and philosophies that are now prevalent in the world. This machine has needs like any other machine that must be sheltered against rain or other physical elements. for example. No matter if I want it to last for eternity. I may have my own plans and wishes but the body just follows its own course. 1 See chapter „Amida Buddha and his Pure Land” 9 . Fear of death appears because of attachment to the body and identification with it. as long as “I” am in the body my vision will be limited by the eyes. this will never happen. water. The body is just a machine which works automaticaly if it is given fuel consisting of food. carried by the body. etc. The simple truth is that my mind stream is just covered by the body. But this period when you have this form and are carried by this vehicle is only a small part of an endless change. So. I should do it without any impediments. this is why I feel the pain of the body or its pleasures. nose. etc. It grows from childhood to maturity and old age by itself. is the duration of the body from its birth to its death. it develops by itself. This is very logical. Life. in the general acceptance of the world.

because attachments are hard or impossible to be cleared away due to many past lives spent in ignorance. you are ready to understand further Buddhist teachings on rebirth and karma and awaken the aspiration to Buddhahood. liberation from birth and death. When your vision is no longer that of a prisoner of materialistic ideas. And this small step is very important on any religious path. the fear of death might remain inside your mind even after accepting the difference between you and the body. 10 . But at least you have made an important change at the intellectual level.Just observe your body and you will naturally realize that you are different from it. i.e. Of course.

These are the beings born as hungry ghosts (pretas). under the slavery of false views. and after their life is ended they will be born in places where they are devoured by their own hate and the effects of their evil actions. Even since this present life they are though being burned by fire. 2 Karma means any action by thought. But even if water or food can be found their bodies are so much distorted that they cannot digest it.On the six categories of unenlightened beings Unenlightened beings are of many types. Any action done by a being drowned in illusion and motivated by attachment gives rise to karma2 and suffering or passing states of wellness. Our view of reality is corrupted by many attachments of which some are hidden deep in our unconscious. living as they are never satisfied. with no further aspirations related to higher spiritual goals. These are the beings born in hells. After death their mind stream. As long as one acts with an unenlightened mind. food and drink. Everything is cause and effect. Other beings are consumed by a never ending hunger and thirst for various possessions. Limited as they are to their instincts they will be born in their next life as animals. the effect is a little or more unsatisfactoriness or happiness of limited duration. deed and word which one day (in this life or future lives) will produce an effect. will take a form (body) similar with it and will wander in places without food or water. Next there are beings that have their minds focused only on sex. 11 . Thus there are beings that are always motivated by hate and constantly do deeds of cruelty. which is impregnated with this obsession. The fear they experience and the tensions created by instincts are so great that they live almost entirely to satisfy themselves. but what they all have in common is various kinds of illusions and ignorance.

dying and leaving that place to be born somewhere lower. The two spheres of existence which are immediately higher than the human realm are by no means without suffering. Right above humans are the asuras (demigods or fighting spirits). Thus. in many forms. depending on other types of karma gathered in previous existences. illusions or attachments. but these can be found in smaller quantities than those on the human or lower levels. The karma which manifested at their previous death was not so bad as to go to the lowest level of existence. The more good karma this reservoir has. which are beings in whom jealousy and a competitive spirit still remain very powerful. no state is permanent. the happier the next life in various forms of existence will be. as this reservoir will become empty sooner or later and the person will fall in the end from the good state he dwells now. but also not so good as to go higher than the human realm. until Buddhahood or complete freedom is attained. 12 .Humans are beings in which the various tendencies are somehow in the middle. Pain and suffering follow him always. It is very important to know that these states of existence generally described above and the beings born there are not free or enlightened. he is never free and secure. but rather are only owners of a better or worse karma. Above the asuras are the devas or gods – whose merits and virtues they accumulated in previous lives manifested in the form of birth in heavenly realms. But there is a warning here. Imagine something like a reservoir of good or bad karma – the result of various good or evil acts which is waiting to manifest itself. No matter whether one is on the low level or the upper level of the wheel of life.

the Dharmic vision perceives the world and personal life through the perspective of the Buddhist teaching (Dharma) where. containing limited explanations of the world and without being interested in the sense of human existence or something which is beyond the life of the here and now. 13 . Without this aspiration there is no true Buddhism. but rather to become a true. If we don’t want or don’t feel the urgency to attain complete freedom from the many sufferings of repeated births. and the need for freedom is especially emphasized. fully enlightened Buddha. so to speak. but rather a road to Buddhahood or complete freedom for us and eventually all beings. two visions one can have about himself and the world: one is the ordinary vision depending on his cultural education or his daily concerns.Aspiration to become a Buddha – the most important matter The goal of Buddhism is to become a Buddha: not to paint this life in different colors. then Buddhism will remain for us only an object of study. It is vital for those who enter the Buddhist path to have the aspiration to become a Buddha. On the other hand. not to become a smarter or more interesting kind of Buddhist. for example. the other is the Dharmic vision. The Buddhist path is not a method of relaxation or a pill for a headache. everything is explained in terms of impermanence and the law of karma. The first vision represents what is considered normal in various times. The immediate utilitarianism is fundamental in the non-Dharmic vision of the world. an interesting lecture of mythology or an intellectual delight. In other words it is not something like “how can we become happier and calmer people” or a recipe for momentary happiness. Also what is truly important is defined in a different way from immediate utility. There are.

in the moment you realize not only that you cannot. one can come to understand why it is necessary to become a Buddha. but to be successful in attaining Buddhahood will require effort and spiritual qualities infinitely greater than your ordinary capacities. you start to know yourself better and especially your spiritual limitations. By engaging more and more in the study of the Dharma. To aspire to become a Buddha is fundamental. Then. but the only disadvantage it has is that few Buddhists who are nice and 3 See the chapter „Amida Buddha and his Pure Land”. many of your mental constructions which you had considered to be solid and unbreakable will break down: the world will start to empty itself of the false colors projected on it and be taken as the true reality. This stage – the awareness of your spiritual limitations in comparison with the effort of becoming a Buddha – is extremely important and especially emphasized in Jodo Shinshu.By reading. you reach the point where you receive what we may call the “Dharmic vision” or “Dharma eye”. So. listening to and always reflecting on the explanations and light that the Dharma throws on the world and human existence. but that it is impossible to attain this state through your own power. but this aspiration remains just an unfulfilled wish like many others if your personal capacities cannot lead you to this goal. you become more intimate with your own karma. Walking the Buddhist path with the aspiration to become a Buddha and having the Dharmic vision on your side. 14 . It is not necessary to become a saint or a special kind of person in order to have the aspiration to become a Buddha. that is. you are ready to hear the message of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha3. This message is not a sophisticated or a hard to understand one.

It means escaping from the endless sufferings of birth and death. businessman or anything you are in your private life. Put simply. but rather it is the only meaningful activity in our lives. Walking the path to freedom from birth and death is not a hobby or an interesting cultural topic. If this is important to you. These are two different things. who is ready to recognize himself as powerless? It is very important to understand that Jodo Shinshu doesn’t require people to consider themselves incapable in their daily activities. To become a Buddha is not the same thing as being a good electrician. 15 . but only in matters of attaining supreme Liberation.full of themselves are truly capable of recognizing their limitations and their incapacity to become a Buddha through their own efforts. then you are indeed a disciple of the Buddha.

brahman. In a well known dialogue. First of all. brahman. brahman…’ When asked. who Amida Buddha is and how we should understand the Pure Land. their root destroyed. ‘No. made like a palm tree stump. ‘Are you a human being?’ you answer. ‘No.” “Are you a yakkha? “No. what is a Buddha not? A Buddha is not somebody like us. no longer subject to future arising. 16 . are you a god?” “No.About Amida Buddha and his Pure Land I try to explain here.’ When asked. brahman…’ When asked. again in easy terms.” “When asked. ‘Are you a yakkha?’ you answer. their root destroyed. what is a Buddha – or more exactly. brahman…’ Then what sort of being are you?” “Brahman. the defilements by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a god: those are abandoned by me. ‘Are you a god?’ you answer. brahman. made like a palm tree stump. The defilements by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be an angel… a yakkha… a human being: those are abandoned by me. although at some point in his history he was. no longer subject to future arising..” “Are you a human being?” “No. ‘No. a brahman named Dona asks Shakyamuni Buddha4 who he is: “Sir. ‘Are you an angel?’ you answer. ‘No.” “Are you an angel?” “No. 4 Shakyamuni is the historical Buddha. brahman. brahman.

for example. so too I. He goes beyond birth and death. the state which he has attained and in which he dwells is supreme in the whole universe. Birth and death does not end until Enlightement or Awakening is attained. Both methods of speaking about a Buddha are false. 17 .“Just as a blue or red or white lotus born in water. escaping the chains of karma.” The state of human beings is limited by various kinds of delusions. Even some Buddhists say that Buddha was a human being in order to show that they don’t promote idols or god-worshiping. In particular. The word “Buddha” means “The Awakened One”. A Buddha has Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Compassion. brahman. that Buddha is a human being. led by desires and karma. awakened to the true reality. helping sentient beings to break free from birth and death. which is still enslaved by illusions and ignorance. Remember me. so we are mistaken if we say. A Buddha is one who escapes from this maddening run. The ego’s unceasing run. because although the physical appearance of a Buddha may be human. and I live untouched by the world. who was born in the world and grew up in the world. grows in water and stands up above the water untouched by it. some Christians accuse Buddhism saying that its Founder is just a human and is thus inferior to Jesus who was the son of God. that is. is followed by suffering. This is because the state he attained is higher than the human state of spiritual evolution. as a Buddha. His existence in the Universe is supreme and beyond our thinking. have transcended the world.

18 . Everything depends on karma: a Buddha is not a creator. the potentiality to become Buddhas. capable of true Compassion which is no longer enchained by the attachments or the illusions of ordinary beings. a dog. a human being. Therefore. often called the Dharma body of ultimate reality or Dharmakaya. or as Shinran5 said. the Buddha nature and the possibility to become a Buddha. a hungry ghost or a god.. because those who really come to liberate themselves from delusions and attain this state of a Buddha are extremely few in our time. like an unknown jewel thrown in the mud. the Ultimate Reality. the Founder of the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism. or a judge. nor a Judge. Liberation or Nirvana. you have in yourself. i. a cockroach. He is just “The Awakened One” and he acts as a guide and Saviour. etc. no matter their delusion or actual misery. it is said that all beings. Thus. Through Buddhism. but his existence in the Universe is supreme.In Buddhism the situation is different from Christianity because there isn’t a Creator God. a ruler. Any Buddha is completely free and continues to manifest himself in various ways and forms in order to guide others to Liberation.e. 5 Founding Master: Shinran Shonin (1173-1262). All Buddhas attain the same ultimate absolute reality: this is why it is said that all Buddhas have the same essence or nature. they are completely nonexistent. a Ruler. only the Path of faith in Amida remains the securely accessible method for attaining Buddhahood. have in themselves what is called Buddha nature. A very important doctrine in Buddhism says that we can become Buddhas because we already have in us this possibility or potentiality. but unfortunately it doesn’t keep us very warm. is accessible to all beings who observe the path given by the Buddha. It doesn’t matter if you are a worm. This is good news.

being the manifestation of Amida’s Enlightenment in a form that we can accept and in which we can aspire to be born after death. please try to remember how it is that in the presence of some peoples you suddenly feel better or worse or sometimes more excited or more tired. In the same way. These special and transcendent manifestations of a Buddha are called Sambhogakaya or the Body of Recompense. When we are in the presence of a killer and are influenced by him. 19 . when we are born in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha. but this influence is one which brings Enlightenment or spiritually positive states of mind. In order to better understand how things are with these pure lands or Buddha spheres of influence. Every man has something like his own sphere of influence – which is the natural manifestation of his inside states of mind – and can influence more or less the others. It is not at all impossible for the supreme Enlightenment of a Buddha to take various forms for the sake of unenlightened beings. known as “pure lands” where beings who entrust in them and create special links with them can be born after their physical death. This Pure Land of Amida is real and effective. These manifestations can take various forms to help unenlightened beings. we may say that we are in his “land” or his sphere of influence. Some people automatically change the atmosphere in a room by their presence. Also. visible only to those well trained in Samadhi or profound concentrated states of mind. every Buddha has multiple transcendent manifestations. the presence of a Buddha inspires and influences. for example a beautiful woman will surely make many men feel sexually aroused. Various Buddhas create spheres or fields of personal influences. we automatically arrive in his field whose influence makes us become ourselves Buddhas.Further. or a killer will create an atmosphere of fear and coldness.

sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me. a long time ago in another era than that in which we are living now. say his Name and aspire to be born there: If. for example. with a beginning in the moment of the attainment of Buddhahood. of the special vows he transformed through his Enlightenment in effective methods of salvation. due to the vows they made when they engaged on the Path. Let’s say. a transcendent body (Sambhogakaya). but what makes him so different from other Buddhas is that he made a special Vow6 which promises salvation (attainment of Buddhahood) not only 6 The Primal Vow of Amida Buddha promises birth in his Pure Land to all those who entrust themselves in him. but he will have different transcendent manifestations. but without end. especially made to help that category of beings for which he made specific vows – that is. which is the same with all Buddhas. which has a visible beginning and a visible end. and 20 . the physical body in which somebody becomes a Buddha is called Nirmanakaya or the body of transformation. Thus. he automatically has access to the ultimate reality (Dharmakaya). was a monk named Dharmakara. In the moment he becomes a Buddha. and an ultimate body (Dharmakaya) – without beginning and without end. This body is named the “body of recompense” because it is the effect or the “recompense” of his practices and virtues. the Buddha we call Amida. desire to be born in my land. In the same way. which is the same for all Buddhas. which is the result of his vows and virtues. He made the aspiration to become a Buddha. and he will have a body of flesh (Nirmanakaya). if Jim becomes a Buddha he will be called Buddha Jim. that a person named Jim begins to follow the Buddhist Path and he makes a vow to save especially the beings with physical disabilities. different from those of other Buddhas. he will have a Sambhogakaya different from other Buddhas. when I attain Buddhahood. Next.Various Buddhas have different bodies of recompense.

call my Name. they will themselves become Buddhas. 21 . but rather is a simple entrusting in Amida. the Jodo Shinshu followers. “Butsu” means “Buddha”. in the northern part of India. completely free of birth and death and capable to save other beings. consider real and trustworthy.for those capable of some hard practices and virtues. is part of these teachings taught by Shakyamuni. that is. considering his Primal Vow to be true and effective. the story of Amida. are recorded in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha. The teaching about the path of faith in Amida Buddha and his Pure Land. the Eighteenth is called the Primal Vow. “Namo Amida Butsu”. this faith being manifested in the saying of his Holy Name7 – Namo Amida Butsu. where all beings can attain supreme Enlightenment no matter their capacities. Faith (shinjin) is not something complicated. only faith is neccesary to become a Buddha in Amida’s Pure Land. the vows and his Pure Land became real and effective for the salvation of sentient beings. The 48 Vows of Amida Buddha. in short. among which. will coincide with their attainment of perfect Enlightenment or Buddhahood. once born there. “Namo” means “I take refuge in” but also “homage/praise to”. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. This is. In accordance with his Primal Vow. should not be born there. He promised the creation of a special Pure Land in which everybody can have access and. Birth in the Pure Land of those who entrust themselves in Amida without doubt. Thus we may say that the Sambhogakaya of Amida Buddha is in his Pure Land. Namo Amida Butsu is “I take refuge/homage in Amida Buddha”. told by Shakyamuni (the historical Buddha) to his disciples and which we. In the moment Dharmakara became Amida Buddha. Any Buddhist teaching can be considered authentic if it was approved or presented by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. 7 Nembutsu is the saying of the Name of Amida Buddha. This was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha on Vulture Peak. but to all beings and especially to those who are incapable of any practice. So. even ten times.

Those who have faith mixed with doubts will stay for a period in the borderland of the Pure Land. So. that they came from the Pure Land)? It seems Honen8. also have this aspiration. if we entrust ourselves completely to Amida’s Power. I’d be happy if you share them with me. only realized this (or mentioned it to his students) when he was about to die. Jodo Shinshu followers. Only Buddhas can come to the Saha world whenever they wish and in whatever form they wish. would they have some knowledge on this (i. we aspire to become Buddhas through Amida’s Power. for example. 9 22 . 10 See the chapter “Three Vows of Salvation”. But if our trust is not complete. The reason for being born in the Pure Land is to become a Buddha. then we will become Buddhas in the Pure Land.” Answer: Not all beings who are born in the Pure Land will immediately return to this world to help others. I wonder what the difference is between returning to this world from The Pure Land and returning to this world for an ordinary next life (without achieving Ojo9 first). They are those born in the Pure Land through the 19th and the 20th Vows10. to help all beings. Aspiration to become a Buddha for ourselves and others is central to Mahayana Buddhism and we.On returning from the Pure Land Question: “Do you think all beings who are born in the Pure Land will return to this world in order to help others? Or only some great teachers like Honen and Shinran? If all beings return.e. to help others. Birth in the Pure Land. then we are forced by our own doubts to 8 Honen Shonin was the Master of Shinran Shonin. But. not our own. I you have any thoughts on this. as Master Shan-tao said. Also. But those who enter the Pure Land through the gate of the Primal Vow (18th Vow) will immediately become Buddhas and they will be able to quickly return to this world in various forms.

because he is completely free from all bondages. Honen is recorded as saying in Tannisho that if one has the same shinjin as his – which is shinjin given by Amida (shinjin of the Primal Vow) – then he or she will go to the same Pure Land as he (Honen). isn’t it? Buddhas come to this world of birth and death out of their free and enlightened will to help others. There is nothing a Buddha does not know about himself or other beings. while unenlightened beings. Between birth in the Pure Land of an ordinary person and of a great master there is no difference if they have shinjin (faith in Amida’s Primal Vow). until those doubts are purged. The latter are slaves of their own karma. Both become Buddhas capable to return to the world of suffering to help others. And of course. they will suffer and make others suffer even when they wish to make them happy. their birth and Buddhahood is the same. 23 . and no matter where they are. So. And freedom from all bondages is what all of us Buddhists truly want to become. they do not choose where to go or where to be born.remain. who haven’t achieved Ojo (birth in the Pure Land) first. everybody who returns from the Pure Land as a Buddha will know it. but because they are born through faith given by Amida. This is because it is Amida’s Power that causes them to be born there. then there would be differences among them. because all Buddhas know their own and all other beings’ previous lives. in the borderland of the Pure Land. no limitation to his vision or power. If they were born in the Pure Land by their own virtues. not their virtues and personal merits. come due to their karma. one should first become a Buddha in the true Pure Land through simple faith in Amida’s Primal Vow if he or she wishes to help other beings attain Liberation and Buddhahood.

11 See the chapter “Shinran Shonin . a manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara”. and am sure that Shinran was not only a returner. One very important thing should be very well understood: Buddhas never live for themselves and the Pure Land is not a place to enjoy egoistic pleasures. 24 . Honen and Shinran were already Buddhas when they came into this world and preached the Pure Land teaching. but the beginning of our activity to save other sentient beings. It is not a destination. We go there in order to return. I myself go even further. but the manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara11. This means that they somehow became Buddhas in the Pure Land in the distant past and their life we know on this earth was in fact a returning from the Pure Land. In my opinion.In the end I wish to mention one more thing. Shinran never regarded Honen as an ordinary person and we can see this in his wasans (hymns). nor the end of the journey.

indescribable and beyond any form. In its ultimate sense or Dharmakaya sense. as the Buddha who has a form and Name. we should entrust ourselves to Amida as described in the Larger Sutra. that is. and who now resides in the Pure Land. This is my answer but I wish to go a little further. We cannot directly worship and entrust ourselves to Amida in his aspect of eternal Buddha which is beyond any form.” Answer: Dharmakara becoming Amida Buddha is the description in terms of cause and effect of the salvation work of Amida as eternal Buddha. who fulfilled the 48th Vows..Amida as the eternal Buddha and the Buddha described in the Larger Sutra Question: “…. that is Amida Buddha as described in the Larger Sutra. Amida Buddha is the eternal Buddha nature. In order to be born in the Pure Land and attain supreme Enlightenment there. It is how the eternal and supreme Buddha or Dharma body of Dharma nature. like Shaka Nyorai (Shakyamuni) is a manifestation of Amida in this world? I am a bit can Amida Buddha be the primordial (eternal) Buddha if he is Dharmakara who practiced aeons ago and had a starting point of existence in an other world? Is Dharmakara a manifestation of Primordial Buddha as Amida. and in Nirmanakaya terms it is said by Shinran that he emanated Shakyamuni Buddha to expound his method of salvation. becomes the Dharma body of compassionate means with form and Name.. Shakyamuni encouraged us in the Larger Sutra to take refuge and have faith in Amida as the Buddha who made the Primal Vow and so who has a 25 . in Sambhogakaya terms he is the result of Dharmakara vows and practices.

26 . Shinran Shonin also talked about Amida in ultimate terms but he encouraged people to entrust themselves to Amida as described in the Larger Sutra whose story told there he fully accepted. to call the story of Amida in the Larger Sutra or the existence of the Pure Land to be fictional. Thus. Only in Amida Buddha with a form and Name. One cannot have faith in the Dharmakaya. symbolic or mythical is equal with not having faith (shinjin) in Amida and to deny others the chance to receive it. that is. can one have true faith. This is what those who deny the reality of Amida in his Sambhogakaya or transcendental form and of the Pure Land do not understand. in Amida as described in the Larger Sutra. He didn’t tell us to have faith in the ultimate nature of Amida Buddha.form and a Name. In Dharmakaya one can only live when he becomes a Buddha because in that state there is a transcendence of subject and object.

What is in fact the profound signification of the Bodhi Mind related to the Mahayana13 teaching? Furthermore. There is no fear on the Path of the Buddha. do not try to understand it by means of your narrow mind. in thousands of volumes Are nothing but the Great Compassion” (Zuiken Inagaki Sensei12) Infinite Wisdom and Compassion are the essence of this universe. do not misunderstand Buddha’s Wisdom and Compassion. Mahayana represents a great number of schools which relies on the Sanskrit canon. but for the liberation of all sentient beings. don’t fool yourselves: for they are only in your head. And another thing: even though this ultimate reality transcends me. I can feel this: Buddhism has made me feel this. This is the only vision I accept. If these feelings do show up. that is.The Purpose of Shakyamuni’s coming to this world “All the scriptures. The Pure Land tradition. On this path. Mahayana or Buddhism of the Great Vehicle has the goal of leading all beings to attain Buddhahood. 13 27 . the ultimate reality beyond everything and everyone. the follower makes the vow of practicing the Dharma not only for himself. Shinran and Honen wondered what the purpose was of Shakyamuni Buddha’s coming to this world.the two ways of portraying Amida Buddha. is one of the main streams of Mahayana Buddhism. There is no loneliness perceived as alienation or abandonment. at the same time it envelops me and accepts me for who I am and what I am. which also contains many schools. what is the purpose of the Enlightenment of a Buddha? Isn’t the Bodhi Mind the aspiration to reach Buddhahood for the sake of all beings? And once this is reached. aren’t all beings 12 Zuiken Inagaki Sensei (1885-1981). Please. Do not use discriminative terms to explain the Infinite Light and the Infinite Life . they are not real.

the same level of Enlightenment as Shakyamuni? How many of us would truly follow the Buddhist way if this way made sense only for those who are spiritually advanced? Shinran and Honen believed that Shakyamuni never intended to exclude certain beings from his Path. So. as Nirvana is not selfish in Mahayana. after death. If he did. but not in the mind of a Buddha. everything being included in his Enlightenment. How many of us are truly capable of fulfilling the difficult practices of a monastery? How many of us are able to have a kind and virtuous behavior throughout our entire lives? How many of us can reach during our confused lives. that is. That is exactly why 14 Nirvana comes from the term „nirv” – „to extinguish”. Discrimination exists only in our mind. and is wrongly understood by many as becoming nothingness. that is his Enlightenment which envelops all beings no matter their capacities? Shinran and Honen thought that the latter is true because it is in accord with the Buddha’s Infinite Compassion. is a limited vision and belongs to ignorant beings. centered on yourself. or in accordance with the Bodhi Mind. the state of Nirvana or Buddhahood is to be attained in the moment of birth in the Pure Land of Amida. has Shakyamuni appeared in our world only for a particular category of people. because Buddhism would otherwise seem pointless for a man like me. he would have contradicted himself and the Bodhisattva spirit. the vision is universally centered. Seeing things from only one perspective. 28 . It cannot be any other way. but for a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. who is incapable of any virtuous practice and is full of various attachments. But „nirvana” means to extinguish the flame of blind passions and illusions and to awake to the true reality or Buddhanature which all beings possess. only for those able to reach Nirvana14 by themselves. In the Jodo Shinshu school.invited to share in it? The Enlightenment of a Buddha isn’t a selfish act.

Thus. Shinran considered that the true reason of Shakyamuni’s coming to this world is to preach Amida’s method of salvation: “The reason for the Buddha’s appearance in the world Is solely to expound the Primal Vow of Amida. It reveals that Sakyamuni appeared in this world and expounded the teachings of the way to Enlightenment.Shakyamuni preached the salvation offered by Amida Buddha and urged all beings. and full of compassion for small. The central purport of this sutra is that Amida. selects and bestows the treasure of virtues. the Name of the Buddha is its essence16. the teaching of the Pure Land way is found in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. Shinran considered Shakyamuni to be the manifestation of Amida Buddha and he clearly expressed this in Shoshinge: 15 16 Shoshinge. no matter their spiritual capacities. Passages on the Pure Land Way 29 . foolish beings. It is the wondrous scripture.” More than this. has opened wide the dharma-storehouse. to rely on him. Shinran regarded it to be the supreme sutra among all sutras preached by Shakyamuni: “To begin. It is the conclusive and ultimate exposition of the One Vehicle. All beings in the evil age of the five defilements Should believe in the truth of the Buddha’s words”. It is the right teaching. praised by all the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters.15 Because this method of salvation is presented in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha. wide and deep as the ocean. Assuredly this sutra is the true teaching for which the Tathagata appeared in the world. seeking to save the multitudes of living beings by blessing them with the benefit that is true and real. by establishing the incomparable Vows. rare and most excellent. To teach Tathagata’s Primal Vow is the true intent of this sutra.

Also.” Nagarjuna17. based on personal power. whose body is like a mountain of genuine gold. I worship with my body. Maybe most Buddhists know about Nagarjuna from his subtle writings on emptiness. due to his works related with Amida Buddha. considered by all Mahayana schools as the second in importance after Shakyamuni and one of their most important patriachs. which may lead to the impression that nembutsu is for “lesser” beings only. based on the Compassion of the Buddhas. He founded the school of Madyamika (Middle Path) dialectics. together with the Yogacara teachings are the basis of Mahayana theory and practice. a bodhisattva of high attainment. If anyone is mindful of that Buddha’s infinite power and merit.“Amida. Took the form of Sakyamuni Buddha And appeared in Gaya. 17 Nagarjuna (approximately 150-250). speech and heart by joining hands and bowing down toward him. he is considered by Shinran as one of the seven Patriarchs of the true Pure Land teaching (Jodo Shinshu). he himself. The teachings of this school. and an easy one. is dubbed the”father of Mahayana Buddhism” and is famous for his rejection of any affirmation about the ultimate nature of reality in the Mahayana doctrine of emptiness. Even though he recommends the easy way to those incapable of great personal efforts. similar to a pleasant voyage sailing on water. but they forget or they don’t know that he also sought refuge in Amida and was reborn in the Pure Land after passing away. also seeks refuge in Amida as he writes: “The Buddha of Infinite Light and Wisdom. Full of compassion for foolish beings of the five defilements. 30 . In the chapter entitled “The Way of Easy Practice” from the volume “Dasabhumika-vibhasa-sastra” (“Commentary on the tenstages Sutra”). also urged all beings to rely on Amida. he speaks about two types of practices: a hard one. who attained Buddhahood in the infinite past. similar to an arduous journey on land. He will instantly enter the Stage of Assurance.

in the end. there are many examples of spiritually evolved Masters18 who. and worship him. I take refuge in the Tathagata of Unhindered Light Shining throughout the Ten Directions. if even these wise masters relied on Amida’s Compassion. even though they followed practices based on personal power. in which he explains the theory and practice based on contemplation of Amida Buddha.” In Buddhist history. and the Bodhisattvas who dwell there. all people and gods seek refuge in him.So I am always mindful of Amida. still felt the need to recite the nembutsu and seek refuge in Amida. Shinran says in Tannisho: “Since it is extremely difficult to free oneself from blind passions and the hindrances of karmic evil in this life. Therefore. They recommended this practice to their disciples. even the virtuous monks 18 Another important figure well known in Mahayana Buddhist schools is Vasubandhu (approx. 320-400). saying “Namo Amida Butsu”. with singleness of mind. the Pure Land. thus showing how hard it is to become free from birth and death. And aspire to be born in the Land of Peace and Bliss. he wrote “The Hymn of Aspiring towards Birth: Discourse about Amida Sutra”. At the beginning of the hymn he addresses to Shakyamuni and expresses his devotion towards Amida: “O WorldHonored One. That’s why I also take refuge in him. turns out to be a universal practice. the nembutsu.” Thus.” 31 . exponent of Yogacara (“the practice of unifying meditation”) teachings which explain all plains of existence in terms of consciousness and teach the meditation about the relationship between personal conscience and the universe. for both the “inferior” and “superior” beings. how much more should we of this confused modern era and so full of attachments seek refuge in Amida. too. Buddha Amida’s Compassion does not draw a distinction between the two. As a Pure Land devotee. as well as reaching supreme Enlightenment by realizing the inseparable unity between the two. Again Nagarjuna writes: “All the sages and the saints.

who practice the Shingon and Tendai19 teachings pray for
enlightenment in the next life. In our case, what more need be said?
We lack both the observance of precepts and the comprehension of
wisdom, but when, by allowing ourselves to be carried on the ship of
Amida’s Vow, we have crossed this ocean of suffering that is birthand-death and attain the shore of the Pure Land, the dark clouds of
blind passions will swiftly clear and the moon of Enlightenment, true
reality, will immediately appear. Becoming one with the unhindered
light filling the ten quarters, we will benefit all sentient beings. It is at
that moment that we attain Enlightenment.”


Famous Japanese Buddhist schools in the time of Shinran Shonin.


The three Dharma ages
I will explain in this chapter, the teaching about the three Dharma
ages by using various quotes from the last chapter of Shinran’s
Kyogyoshinsho. These quotes are Master Shinran’s own words or
passages from sutras and commentaries that he himself used in his
Generally speaking, the doctrine of the Three Dharma Ages refers
to the gradual decline of the capacities of beings to practice the
Dharma and attain realization through it. Thus, there is a difference
between the time when the Buddha was in a human body and when
he influenced directly through his example and energetic field
(Buddha field) those gathered around him, and the periods far away
in time when only the teaching remains, but not the Teacher.
What a great chance it is to meet a Buddha in flesh and bones and
receive instructions directly from him, being constantly in his
presence and influenced by his Buddha field. How quick and safe the
spiritual development can be, just by seeing his face and having
devotion for him every day, not to mention the constant checking and
support he gives to your practice. Also, if you live in the period close
to the physical death of a Buddha, his influence is still felt and active
through the working of his closest disciples or the disciples of these
As it is stated in the Sutra of Mahamaya:
“During the first five hundred years after the Buddha’s
parinirvana, seven holy monks, sages all, including Mahakasyapa,
will uphold the right Dharma in succession so that it does not perish.
After five hundred years, the right Dharma will become completely


The first period of 500 years after the physical death of the Buddha
(parinirvana) is called the right Dharma age. It is an age
characterized by correct understanding and practice of the Dharma in
all its aspects (meditation, wisdom and precepts) with often the
attainment of emancipation.
The second Dharma age is called the semblance Dharma age,
which lasted 1000 years after the previous one. It was characterized
by gradual decadence in the determination by which followers, both
monks and lay, practice the Way. Self indulgence slowly takes place
and fills the minds and hearts of the followers. The breaking of
precepts becomes more and more common among monks and nuns
and “only a few attain the fruit of Enlightenment”.
The third and last Dharma age lasts for 10.000 years after the
second age. In it “only the verbal teaching remains”, while nobody is
capable of observing the precepts and of truly practicing meditation
or other Buddhist methods based on self power.
Words like, “the right Dharma will become extinct” or “the
teaching will be stored in the naga’s palace”, which can be found in
Mahamaya Sutra, Benevolent King Sutra and others, means that
although one can still find the written texts of the Buddhist teaching,
the Dharma of personal power teachings and methods is as good as
non-existent or practically non-existent because nobody can attain
Enlightenment through it. The requirements of the paths of self power
within the Buddhist teachings do not accord anymore with the
capacities of beings. This is the situation in the last Dharma age.
Also, even if we read about precepts in the sacred texts, nobody
can actually observe them. So it is said that in this period there are
no precepts. If there were people who at least have the capacity to
observe precepts in an imperfect manner, we could say that there is a
breaking of precepts, but since people can’t observe precepts at all, it
is said that precepts do not exist anymore. The capacities of beings in
this period are so low that no requirement is made to them, hence

The matter of accordance between the teaching and the beings to be taught and also the time in which they live in . and among people. there are three ages.a method combined with the development of wisdom and meditation as a mean to attain Enlightenment. but that their trying cannot be called observation of precepts. It is the same with having no pretention of healthy behavior from a terminally ill person with a chronic disease. the teachings and the times were not in extremely important. . The instruction imparting the teaching and precepts flourishes and declines according to the age.. Master Shinran explained this: “With regard to the Dharma. it would be difficult to perform practices and difficult to attain Enlightenment. Master Tao-ch’o said that: “if the beings.” A person living in the presence of the Buddha or close in time to it can easily follow the paths of self power practice in comparison with someone living 2500 years distant from the Buddha. They are not required to attain Enlightenment through leading a pure life because precepts and observation of precepts is exactly this . anymore..close or far from the physical presence of the Buddha .. The requirements and practices cannot be the same for them because their times and capacities differ.. there are three levels. and words of condemnation or praise are accepted or rejected depending on the person.there are no precepts20. How can beings be saved by only one path?” 20 No requirement in terms of precepts doesn’t mean that people of the last Dharma age should make no efforts in having a moral life or living in harmony with other beings.the wisdom and enlightenment of beings of the five five-hundred year periods after the Buddha’s demise differ. 35 .

the Pure Land way . they are altogether inappropriate for the times and beings of the semblance and last Dharma-ages and the age when the Dharma has become extinct. the right. Already their time has the only path that affords passage.” Master Tao-ch’o comments on this last quote by saying: “This is now the last can beings living in the last Dharma age attain Enlightenment through the means and practices given to those living in the presence of the Buddha or in the right Dharma age.“How can beings be saved by only one path?” . whether it is the period when the Buddha was in the world. Also Master Shinran said it very clearly: “Truly we know that the teachings of the Path of Sages were intended for the period when the Buddha was in the world and for the right Dharma-age. not one will gain realization. they are no longer in accord with beings. for time is not right”. said Master Tao-ch’o in a well suited comparison. This one gate . fire cannot be made. it is the evil world of the five defilements.” The Jodo Shinshu path alone doesn’t discriminate between the capacities of beings and doesn’t depend on the time they live in.” Thus the Great Collection Sutra states: “Out of billions of sentient beings who seek to perform practices and cultivate the way in the last Dharma-age. or the time when the Dharma 36 . who have a different environment and different capacities? “It is like rubbing green wood to build a fire. semblance and the last Dharna ages.

but through the Other Power of Amida Buddha.becomes extinct. 37 . which is changeable and not reliable. because it is the path that brings all to perfect Enlightenment. not through their personal power.

What a dramatic difference in the vision of what the Dharma truly is between Master Shinran and all other schools of self power Buddhism! We can say that in Shinran’s terms. the better it is for all sentient beings. Buddhism will not be well established in the West until the teaching about Amida’s salvation is known. with Shakyamuni being his messenger. But in this spreading and in the image that Buddhism has in the West a very important element is missing or is not so well understood. fact. In fact. Too many voices are heard in Western Buddhism that support some already established preconceptions like: “Buddhism is a path of Liberation by oneself” and “Buddha is only a teacher or the finger pointing to the moon”. . This for many is Buddhism. The established image of a Buddhist is a forever calm and smiling Buddhist monk or practicer. His life story and teaching shows another aspect of Buddhism which he considers it to be the real goal of Buddhism: the true Pure Land Teaching or Jodo Shinshu in which Amida Buddha is not the finger pointing to the moon. the best Savior of all the three worlds. this is exactly what Buddhism is no more…. but rather he is a Savior. in the West only the provisional and accommodated (self power) teachings of Shakyamuni have spread until now. Thus. The more we become aware of this truth. guiding sentient beings to entrust in Amida. The possibility of attaining Buddhahood in this very life is the essence of most of the Buddhist schools that are widely spread in 38 . it is our mission to understand and transmit correctly the only Dharma of Shakyamuni that is still functioning in this world of the last age.Jodo Shinshu – the only effective path in this last Dharma age – based on some verses in Shinran’s Shozomatsu wasan – Buddhism has spread widely in Europe in the last fifty years and this is indeed very fortunate. but for Shinran. following a path of self liberation and improvement. but not the teaching of his true intent of coming into this world.

and the one who although he has attained supreme Enlightenment or Buddhahood does not remain closed in it but continues to manifest himself in various forms in the world of suffering to help all beings (Bodhisattvas who are already Buddhas). News about famous Buddhist masters and their realizations are many and the number of disciples is growing. One of the three bodies of a Buddha. or 2) because we are deluded. Seeing all these “modern realizations” with the eyes influenced by the teaching of Shinran Shonin about the true capacities of beings in the last Dharma age. Shinran mentioned in Tannisho a few aspects of what it is to become a Buddha and what those smiling Buddhist faces of his days and ours do not have: “Do those who speak of realizing Enlightenment while in this bodily existence manifest various accommodated bodies22. 22 Nirmanakaya. we think that somebody who shows more calm than us has already supposedly attained Buddhahood. Any Buddha manifests himself in various forms according to the conditions and capacities of those he wishes to save.Europe. 39 . I think there are two possibilities about those who seem to attain Buddhahood in our times: 1) They might be Bodhisattvas21 in disguise who already became Buddhas in the past and come here to keep on the Buddhist path those who can’t yet have faith in Amida but continue to follow other Dharma teachings. See the chapter “About Amida Buddha and his Pure Land” where the doctrine of the Three Buddha Bodies (Trikaya) is explained. Who does not want to see. touch and be around somebody about whom it is said he is an incarnation of an ancient Master or even a living Buddha… But I myself cannot help looking with suspicion at all the so called spiritual achievements of today’s important figures of Buddhism. in Sanskrit. possess 21 The term „bodhisattva” is used to describe the practicer who aspires to become a Buddha for himself and all beings (bodhisattva in aspiration) and makes the vows of the Bodhisattva. But to become a Buddha means a lot more than always showing a calm face and saying beautiful words of wisdom.

as the human condition is just one of the many unenlightened states of existence.” A true Buddha knows all his previous births and the previous births of all sentient beings. I always have the feeling of futility. But unfortunately. beyond and superior to any being. 23 “Thirty-two features”. I read all those articles and feel like they talk for aliens. and many other wordy things…. Zen talks about emptiness and how we are already Buddhas and don’t need to worry about anything. refers to the thirty two physical marks attributed to a Buddha and to a Cakravatin (ideal universal king). and instead become easily impressed by anyone who shows more calm than they do. I think it is very important to understand that a Buddha is not a human being. He knows perfectly which method is better to be applied to every one meeting him.the Buddha’s thirty-two features23 and eighty marks24. These are minor features that accompany the thirty two important features. people often don’t read carefully in the sutras what a Buddha truly is. 24 „ Eighty marks” refers to the eighty important physical features of a Buddha. sophisticated articles. The inside Enlightened qualities of a Buddha manifest outside and are impregnated on his physical body. So many smiling monks. He knows all the causes and their possible effects. and the list of the Enlightened capacities of a Buddha can go on filling many pages…. thus being able to predict the possible future of any being. is something that cannot be done in this age. possessing such capacities as those enumerated above. To become a true Buddha. so both physically and mentally a Buddha is an extraordinary person. When I myself look to the various Buddhist magazines that are so popular nowadays. according to Shinran Shonin. and preach the Dharma to benefit beings like Shakyamuni? It is this that is meant by realizing Enlightenment in this life…. 40 . but surely not for me. practicers talking about how to overcome anger or jealousy.

There are teachings and practices preached by Shakyamuni that Shinran chose not to speak about and he did this not because those practices are bad. And then…I found Jodo Shinshu…which is the only reason why I am a Buddhist. To be of universal relevance means to be useful and effective both for the good and virtuous and for the evil beings filled with blind passions. but carefully selected the passages that were truly beneficial for himself and this world. It is “the teaching in accord with the times and with beings” as he also said in Shozomatsu Wasan. Without Jodo Shinshu.. given our limited capacities. I truly understand now why Shinran Shonin considered that preaching the Larger Sutra was the main reason for Shakyamuni’s coming to this world.Who are all those good Buddhists and how can their nice talks be of any help to me? Did the Buddhas came into this world only to teach these nice guys who are always calm and have such fulfilled lives through meditation? Then what am I doing here? Before coming to Jodo Shinshu I felt like in school when the teacher always talked with the good children and sent me in the back of the classroom with the bad children. 41 . Shinran didn’t choose to teach the nice discourses of other sutras. Saints and stupid people can be saved equally. Buddhism is just another nice discourse for the smart and good folks but with no relevance for the average person living in the real world. He had the courage to abandon his mask of a good smiling monk and looked deeply into himself and the true human capacities. but because they are not truly useful for our attainment of Buddhahood. Shinran said in his letters that some Buddhist teachings are of limited relevance while others are of universal relevance and that the teaching of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha is of universal relevance.

the conceivable comprises the 84. This is because in Shinran’s explanations we find the true reason for the existence of Jodo Shinshu. So what can we do? Why should they feel offended when so many other schools also claim they have the best practices and methods? Just look to the statements of the Tibetan schools when they speak about their specific teachings! My opinion on this matter is that it is extremely important to keep strictly to the explanations of Shinran Shonin and expound them as they were truly said without adding anything to them so as to satisfy the expectations of unenlightened people from other schools or other non-Buddhist religions of this deluded world.000 Buddhist teachings25. but the most important teaching among all Shakyamuni’s teachings. This wonderful teaching on the absolute reliance on Amida Buddha is not just another Buddhist method in the 84.” 25 Shinran said in Letter 8th of his Lamp of the Latter Ages: “Of the conceivable and the inconceivable Dharma.Some might think (and I heard such a statement at one of the European meetings) that we should not be so radical as Shinran who says that only faith in Amida can make people attain Buddhahood. The Pure Land teaching is the inconceivable Dharma-teaching” .so he clearly separated the Pure Land teaching from other Buddhist teachings and practices. because in this way we might offend other Buddhist schools with whom we are engaged in ecumenical talks.000 kinds of good of the Path of Sages. Shinran said in the second verse of Shozomatsu Wasan: “…the teachings that Sakyamuni left behind Have all passed into the naga’s palace. 42 .

This means that all other Buddhist teachings are no longer
effective during these times. To “pass into the naga’s palace” means
exactly this – not being effective or only being as good as nonexistent.
Shinran is even more clear:
“Although we have the teachings of Sakyamuni,
There are no sentient beings who can practice them;
Hence, it is taught that in the last Dharma-age,
Not a single person will attain Enlightenment through them.”
“Not a single person will attain Enlightenment through them” is a
very strong statement! Not a single one – this should be very well
heard and understood. Not a single person can effectively practice the
Buddhist teachings other than the reliance on Amida Buddha.
Shinran said it clearly for those who are ready to hear it:
“Without entrusting themselves to the Tathagata’s compassionate
No sentient beings of these times - the last Dharma-age, and
The fifth five-hundred year period since Sakyamuni’s passing –
Will have a chance of parting from birth-and-death.”
Shinran’s words leave no trace of doubt about what we have to do.
There is no other Buddhist method which can guarantee Buddhahood
so quickly without asking anything from the practicer. All the nice
discourses and practices of other schools through which they claim
that everybody can become a Buddha in this very life are good in
themselves, but they are not effective for this age and for the people
living in it. So they are as good as non-existent – “gone into the
naga’s palace”.
In this age, any truly spiritual practices, (by “truly” I mean any
Buddhist practices and not the practices of other religions), which ask

even to acquire merit as little as a particle of dust from the practicer
are not effective practices. So we should abandon them, because we
cannot become Buddhas through them.
If we should abandon all other Buddhist teachings and practices as
being as good as nonexistent or gone into the naga’s palace, so much
more we should never follow non Buddhist teachings and practices
about which Shinran Shonin talks in greater detail in his
Kyogyoshinsho where he states, for example, quoting the Great
Nirvana Sutra:
“Good sons, there are two kinds of Enlightenment: eternal and
impermanent…. The Enlightenment of non Buddhist ways is called
impermanent, Buddhist Enlightenment is called eternal….. The
emancipation of non Buddhist ways is called impermanent, the
emancipation of Buddhist ways is called eternal.”
He makes reference again on non Buddhist teachings in
Shozomatsu Wasan about which we are talking now:
“The ninety-five non Buddhist teachings26 defile the world;
The Buddha’s path alone is pure.”
These words are immediately followed by these verses:


“Ninety-five non Buddhist teachings” (kujugoshu ) originally appear in the
Nirvana Sutra and others. It is said that at the time of the Buddha there were ninetyfive kinds of wrong teachings. They are views of the six philosophical masters
(rokushi gedo) and those of their disciples, fifteen under each master (Zuio Sensei
I also think that any spiritual teaching nowadays that contradicts the law of karma
as explained by the Buddha, denies rebirth, affirms the existence of a Creator and
supreme judge of the world, etc., can be considered in the category of non Buddhist
teachings that should be rejected. One cannot be a Jodo Shinshu follower and
believe in God or deny rebirth or the law of karma.


“Only by going forth and reaching Enlightenment can we benefit
In this burning house; this is the natural working of the Vow.”
which if they are compared with the statement about the two types
of Enlightenment (eternal and impermanent) quoted by Shinran in his
Kyogyoshinsho and presented above, we can easily draw the
conclusion that not through non Buddhist teachings, but through the
Buddha’s path which is pure, is one made capable of attaining
So, if we live in this last Dharma age with all its defilements and
difficulties, we should follow only the path of the Buddha and not the
various non Buddhist teachings which are themselves manifestations
of this defiled world. More than this, among all Buddhist methods we
should select only the teaching of the Primal Vow and abandon the
rest as being as good as nonexistent.
I especially think that these statements of Shinran Shonin about the
non Buddhist teachings and other Buddhist practices are very useful
in our days when it became a custom to mix things and find so called
synthesis of various religious beliefs. Many spiritual soups are
prevalent in our days, mixing elements of Christianity with Buddhism
and Hinduism.
But also in the Buddhist world mixing things is often met and even
in our international community there is for example, the tendency
among some followers to make Jodo Shinshu more Zen-like in order
to accommodate their personal visions and their incapacity to be open
to a salvation and totally faith-oriented teaching.
In rejecting non Buddhist views as not leading to Enlightenment
and also other Buddhist teachings as ineffective, Shinran Shonin
shows he is not interested in satisfying everyone’s ideas or in having
a nice and politically correct talk with all doctrines and religious


It’s your decision: no one can make it for you. For those who come to Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu only for intellectual delights or interesting discussions. In front of the two rivers of fire and water with death and danger waiting to strike at every moment. 46 . He says something like: “Do you want to escape birth and death? If you do. make a choice: escape this burning house or remain inside it. But for those to whom birth and death is the most important matter and realize their true capacities. So. Entrust in Amida Buddha and in no one else”. which is the most important thing in this life.views. but is concentrated in saving people from birth and death. the radical attitude of Shinran will always be embarrassing or not so politically correct. is all they need to hear. Shinran calls us to awaken and not lose the precious time we have. This is a burning house and not a place for unimportant talks and doctrines. All other methods are not real or they are ineffective. a world that needs the best medicine ever to be found in all religious history. And he clearly sees no other way than entrusting in Amida Buddha. Shinran is interested only in showing us the path to escape from birth and death. the clear message of Shinran and his way of rejecting that which is not true or effective and selecting that which is true and useful. and the rare chance of having another human life so hard to find. then this is the way to follow and no other. It is Shinran’s message to a terminally ill world in the last Dharma age. He is clear in his explanations like a doctor who prescribes exactly what a patient needs to save his life. spending your time with false or futile practices. dear friends.

in the incomprehensibly remote past? Or was he the manifestation of Amida Buddha? The answer depends on which sutras you choose to read. meet with the Dharma. In the case of Shinran’s teacher. 47 . Some Masters have a visible life in which they are born.Shinran Shonin – a manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara Before I enter this topic. do this or that. the third is the one I choose27. which is faith in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. . The same thing applies to many important figures in the Buddhist history after Shakyamuni’s passing. but an invisible one or hidden truth about them might be revealed by their own words or actions on various occasions or by the testimonies of their closest disciples who had revelatory dreams or visions about these Masters. Did he become a Buddha during his life on this earth that we all know from history.Life Span chapter). To me. the Founder of Buddhism in our world. lets think a little about Shakyamuni. Master Honen (Genku). This is the visible life. or had he attained Buddhahood countless lifetimes ago. the Lotus Sutra. in others the second is taken as a profound truth (for example. The Pure Land sutras are interpreted by Shinran Shonin to clearly show the third situation in which the true reason for the appearance of Shakyamuni in the world was to teach the Dharma about Amida Buddha’s salvation. practice it and one day attain the most important thing –supreme Enlightenment. or in the case of Shinran Shonin. he receives shinjin. In many sutras the first situation is presented. Shinran sometimes described him not just as an ordinary person who received 27 See the chapter „The purpose of Shakyamuni’s coming to this world”.

” 28 The Larger Amida Sutra was preached by Shakyamuni Buddha on Vulture Peak. I practiced austerities with other sravakas And guided beings to the Buddhist path. Emperors and ministers venerated him. The conditions for teaching having run their course. manifesting form in this world. He returned to the Pure Land.” He then. Our teacher Genku (Honen) said.” Genku himself said. Or again. And the ordinary people in the capital and the countryside revered him. 48 .shinjin during his earthly life after struggling with hard practices. but also in the following terms: “It was said among the people That the original state of our teacher Genku (Honen) Was Master Tao-ch’o.” Genku appeared as Mahasthamaprapta. Master Shan-tao. “Formerly. I was among the assembly on Vulture Peak28. “This is my third time to be born in the Pure Land. Appeared as our teacher Genku. He also recorded Honen’s own words about who he actually was during his life on earth: “When the moment of death approached. It is especially easy to accomplish. And also as Amida. explains again his own interpretation of who his Master truly was: “Amida Tathagata.

so that the most suitable Dharma for this age (Amida Dharma) is being spread in the world and has become accepted by many.” Master Honen returned to the Pure Land. 49 . he met Honen Shonin and entrusted himself totaly to Amida Buddha.. look to Honen Shonin. On the twenty-fifth day of the first month. which means it was not the first time when he was born there – this is how Shinran Shonin regarded his Master. whom he also regarded not as an ordinary person. failure. I think. we may think of Shinran as an ordinary person filled with blind passions who struggled for twenty years as a monk to attain Enlightenment through his personal power and after being confronted with failure.[. but as a manifestation of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Also well known is the opinion of Shinran Shonin about prince Shotoku29. in early spring. too. This is how I. Now lets move to the actual topic of this chapter and refer to the case of Shinran Shonin about whom.] “The death of our teacher Genku Came in 1212. Or we may think of Shinran as the manifestation/emanation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara who took the apparent form of an ordinary person filled with blind passions. and promoted Buddhism. First. my Master. He returned to the Pure Land. we can have two visions that are equally argued. remaining an ordinary person until his death when he was born in the Pure Land and became a Buddha himself. conversion and birth in the Pure Land. a disciple of Shinran. I myself look to Shotoku Taishi in this way. so as to be in accord with Shinran. 29 Shotoku Taishi (574-622) was a prince who led the campaign to unify Japan.. going through struggle. wrote the imperial constitution.

In front of the building there were lanterns [burning] bright. And who were these persons that also regarded Shinran Shonin as being the manifestation of Amida and/or Avalokitesvara? First it was his own wife. and it was apparently on the eve of the ceremony. My interest is to the second vision that I personally share about Shinran Shonin. he never said about himself as being an extrardinary person.The first vision about Master Shinran is sustained by the fact that he never described himself in his written texts as being a manifestation of anybody. the mother of our school. On this basis I accept openly the testimonies of others who themselves have shared the same vision as myself. So. We should clearly understand this. Eshinni. The teaching he left to the world is outstanding and unique. and to the west of the lanterns in front of the building there were [two] Buddhist 50 . however. The building stood facing east. It seems that there was a dedication ceremony for a temple building. but always considered himself as a disciple of Honen. despite the humbleness he always showed in what he wrote and preached. I don’t insist on this first vision as there are so many quotes from Shinran’s own words that can be used as a proof for it. He didn’t even describe himself to be the founder of a new school. Here is what she wrote to her daughter Kakushinni. what is the basis for my vision of Shinran Shonin as being the emanation/manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara? I don’t deny that my own feelings play a crucial role in this. after Shinran’s passing: “Also I recall a dream I had while we were at a place called Sakai village at Shimotsuma in Hitachi [province]. but only an ordinary person filled with blind passions entrusting totally to Amida Buddha.

“That is [the Bodhisattva] Kannon31. In the other. is one of the attendant Bodhisattvas of Amida Buddha together with Kannon (Avalokitesvara). even if he used more often the name. Eshinni] to be true. 31 Bodhisattva Kannon (Kanzeon) or Avalokitesvara.images suspended from the horizontal part of what seemed to be a shrine gate (torii). I asked what Buddhist images these were.e. I have heard that such things are not to be spoken to other people. But I did tell my husband [Shinran] the part about Master [Honen]. “Among dreams there are many different types. He is the Bodhisattva Seishi30. He represents wisdom. and I realized that it had been a dream. but this dream must be true. Shinran. Zenshin can be found in some parts of his writings. 51 . but only a core of light. He said. There are many [other] instances of dreams in which people have seen Master [Honen] in one place or another as a 30 Bodhisattva Seishi (Daiseishi) or Mahasthamaprapta. he said. for they may not think such things spoken by this nun [i. In one there was no face to the Buddhist image. distinct features could not be seen. “The one that is only light is none other than Master Honen. I [have remained] silent. and the light was the only thing there. there was a distinct face to the Buddhist image. Upon hearing this I was shocked [out of my sleep]. and the person [who answered] – I have no recollection who the person was – said. Kannon is often depicted with a small representation of Amida Buddha on his crown. as if it were the radiance of the Buddha’s head. 32 Zenshin is a clerical name adopted by Shinran during his six year period of study unde Honen’s guidance in Kyoto. is the Bodhisattva of Compassion and one of the attendants of Amida Buddha together with Bodhisattva Seishi. not telling other people [about this]. When I asked who the other was. Therefore. That is none other than the priest Zenshin32 [Shinran]”. In China and Japan he is often portrayed in feminine form as Kwan Yin.

hopeless sentient beings. together with her daughter Kakushinni. Shinran was 33 This long passage about Eshinni’s dreams is paraphrased in Kakunyo’s Kudensho. Thus. The Bodhisattva Seishi is the ultimate in wisdom. but in my own mind I never looked upon him from that time forward in an ordinary way. You should ponder these things well33. 52 . Such far my gratitude and devotion to her goes in my mind. She is a part. We indeed live in the last Dharma age in which no one is capable of attaining anything permanent from the spiritual point of view. I am amazed when seeing with eyes of devotion the working of the Buddhas.. To me..manifestation of the Bodhisattva Seishi. 34 The quote and most of the footnotes are from Letters of the nun Eshinni.”34 We see that Shinran Shonin accepted as true the dream of his wife. Things are profound and beyond our capacities to understand using our limited minds... so he [appeared simply] as light. Eshinni is very important and her apparition in human form as a consort of Shinran Shonin is not accidental.” I did not say anything about my husband being Kannon. but exactly in this age Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are very active using a lot of methods to make us aware of the Amida Dharma. of Amida’s salvation work. printed at University Hawai’i Press in 2004. without being informed about the part related to him.Dobbins. but I certainly feel with my heart the wonderful Compassionate work of many Buddhas and their manifestations who are always active in order to make us.. The image that suddenly appears in my mind is that of Buddhist paintings where some Buddhas are pictured together with their consorts. you should have no doubt [concerning Shinran’s birth in the Pure Land] however his death may have been.. to entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha. This is something to reflect upon. by James C.

at night at the hour of the tiger37. 36 At that time. 35 This is even in our present time the official biography of Shinran Shonin recognized by the Hongwanji-ha branch of Jodo Shinshu.the most important part of Amida’s working. We read in Hongwanji Shonin Shinran Denne (Godensho35). it is clear that Shonin. So he was not a nobody. He came to Kyoto and lived with Shinran. the Patriarchal Master. and in my opinion he could not be an ordinary person in his true nature.” Shaku Ren’i (or Ren’i-bo) was a native of Hitachi Province (present day Ibaragi Prefecture). following a long line of Masters which started with Shakyamuni Buddha himself. 37 About 4 o’clock in the morning. 53 . attending to him in his last years. Now let’s read other testimonies in which Master Shinran appears as an emanation/manifestation. the third chief abbot of Hongwanji (the son of Kakushinni and grandson of Shinran): “On the ninth day of the second month in the eighth year of Kencho (1265)36. was an incarnation of Amida Tathagatha. but a very close disciple.” Hence. All quotes and footnotes that follows are from Zuio Hisao Inagaki’s English translation printed by the Horai Association in 2009. Shaku Ren’i had a vision in a dream: Prince Shotoku bowed in worship to Shinran Shonin and said in verse: “Adoration to Amida Buddha of Great Compassion! You have appeared in this world (as Shinran Shonin) to spread the excellent teaching. the biography of Shinran Shonin written by Master Kakunyo Shonin (1270-1351). You lead people of the evil world in the evil period of the five defilements To definitely attain the supreme Enlightenment. Shinran was 84.

which corresponds to the older term ‘risshi’.’ So I asked: ‘Who is this incarnated one?’ The priest replied: ‘He is the founder39 of the Zenkoji Temple’. statue.’ After the exchange of these words. and thought to myself in the dream. the lowest of the three higher ranks of priesthood. I prostrated myself on the floor with my hands joined together. Shonin said to him. The holy priest I saw in the dream is exactly the same person as I now see before my eyes. As I now see the Shonin’s august countenance at this hermitage.” With profound joy and awe. Please make one. used as a title of honor for medical doctors. an abbreviation of ‘hokkyo-shonin-i’. Jozen came at once as requested. the rank of the Master of of Dharma-bridge. “You can ask the Dharma-bridge38 Jozen [who lived in Shichijo] to portray me. hongan no onbo in Japanese. Nyusai-bo. and so on. ‘He must be a living incarnation of Amida Tathagata’. The moment Jozen saw the Shonin. poets. he continued. 54 . he said. I deeply revered and paid homage to him. here hongan does not mean ‚primal vow’. painters. but rather‚a founder or promoter of a temple. 39 Founder. Nyusai-bo invited the Dharma-bridge to the Shonin’s abode. “Last night I had an inspired dream.” 38 The Dharma-bridge: ‘Hokyo’ in Japanese. originally. cherished the desire to have a portrait of Shonin. Jozen. it is not a bit different from the holy priest that I saw in the dream. The priest added: ‘A portrait of his face will be enough. “Two noble priests came to visit me. One of them said: ‘I wish to have a portrait of this revered incarnated one made. Later. I awoke from the dream. or a Dharma meeting. Knowing this.We also read in the Godensho the following testimony: “The Shonin’s disciple. Feeling my hair standing on end.” Elated by the Shonin’s suggestion based on deep observation.

” Master Kakunyo commenting on this last testimony said: “Jozen portrayed the Shonin’s face only. Jozen shed tears of great joy. “Let my portrait be just as you saw in your dream.” Here is another incident from Godensho which shows that Shinran Shonin was not an ordinary person in his original nature. but kept adoring the Primal Vow in his heart. he went there without observing the Shinto prescribed manner concerning such a visit.he reached Kumano without any incident. furthermore.. Let us revere and entrust ourselves to his teaching.. Amida holds up the brilliant lamp of undefiled wisdom to disperse the darkness of delusion in the world of defilement. When Heitaro of Obu village in Nakanosai County in Hitachi Province was obliged to make a visit to Kumano Shrine (a Shinto shrine) due to his public duty. The Shonin remarked. .”40 He then concludes: “As I deeply contemplate this miraculous and portentous event. Heitaro had a vision in a dream: the door of the shrine was opened and a layman in proper ceremonial dress and hat came in and said to 40 This corresponds to 1242. 55 . As the story goes. didn’t put on the mask of a wise person and did not purified his body with special rituals. I clearly see that the Shonin was an incarnation of Amida Tathagatha. he showers the rain of Dharma everywhere in order to moisten the dried-up hearts of ordinary and deluded beings in the distant future. On that night.So saying. It follows then that the teaching he promulgated was most likely Amida’s direct exposition. Jozen had this dream in the night of the twentieth day of the month in the third year of Ninji.

together with my own feelings. He came to this world and 56 . Eshinni. prove to me that Shinran Shonin was in fact an emanation/manifestation of Amida Buddha himself and of Avalokitesvara. is considered even now to be the official biography of Shinran Shonin and is included in the canon of our school. Then Heitaro awoke. All these testimonies. It is always chanted in every Jodo Shinshu temple on the occasion of Ho-onko or Shinran’s memorial days (9-16 January) and on his 750th Comemoration we attended in 2011.” Thereupon. Master Kakunyo states: “Many miraculous stories were told about the Shonin. In reply the Shonin said: “That was good”. Ren’i-bo. He was struck with unspeakable wonder. His book. Juzen. this work is not an ordinary one. Godensho.” As we clearly saw. the layman held up his scepter in the proper way and bowed deeply to show his respect to the Shonin. At the end of Godensho.Heitaro. the painter. Heitaro paid a visit to the Shonin and told him what had happened. This was also an inconceivable thing. Kakushinni. the Shonin suddenly appeared before him and said “He practices the Nembutsu in accordance with Zenshin’s (Shinran) instructions. Heitaro and Master Kakunyo are only a few names of those who shared the belief that Shinran Shonin was the manifestation of Amida Buddha. but it is impossible to relate them all. Nyusai-bo. Master Kakunyo is the third abbot of our school (Hongwanji-ha and Otani-ha branch) and a very important figure in Jodo Shinshu history. without saying a word. I have presented only a selected few. So. unafraid of the deity?” At that moment. On his way home. “Why have you come here in such a defiled and impure state.

didn’t preach about precepts and showed that even hunters. He did all these and lived like an ordinary person filled with blind passions. prostitutes and all hopeless people can be saved only by faith in Amida Buddha. but was included in Amida’s plan of salvation. always guiding us in ways known or unknown. fishermen. At the death of his illusory body he came back to his original form. which is Amida Buddha. Shinran „experienced” failure in his spiritual life as a monk and a self power practicer in order to show that failure is accepted and we should not worry about it. we all have to agree on one point. Also I think that the lives of Kakunyo. That Pure Land is a real place and once born there through shinjin we become Buddhas. He intentionaly lived the life of an ordinary person. got married even if he was a monk. living the life of an ordinary person in the last Dharma age in order to show that Amida’s salvation is especially concerned about such people who can’t save themselves by any self-power method. taking many forms. took not only human form but also human problems and a human personality with its many difficulties and shortcomings. 57 . like any person of shinjin will become at the end of his or her life. gave up to them. I think that nothing in Shinran’s life happened accidentally. the emanation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara.took the human appearance of an unenlightened person who tried at first practices based on personal power. in order to show that Amida especially saves such beings as ourselves. Rennyo or other patriarchs were not accidental either. that he became a Buddha in the Pure Land of Amida. He is now dwelling in the Pure Land as well as here in samsara with us. received shinjin and preached the Dharma about Amida Buddha in such a unique and accesible way for everybody. Shinran. But no matter if all Jodo Shinshu followers share or not the second vision about Shinran Shonin that I myself share.

nothing else matters. Shinran finally gave his message to the world. it falls upon us to keep and transmit his message without modifying it. then you have fulfilled everything on the Jodo Shinshu path. We have enough reasons and arguments to chose each one of these visions about Shinran Shonin. If for you. Now. and in doing so he acomplished his mission. If you can listen openly to his teaching and entrust in Amida Buddha. Namo Amida Butsu Homage to Shinran Shonin. they have to listen and entirely accept his teaching so that they can receive the same shinjin as his. Shinran was just an ordinary person until death and birth in the Pure Land. the emanation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara! 58 . After all. the most important matter in Jodo Shinshu is to receive shinjin. so it depends on each one of us. but you totally accept his teaching and receive shinjin in your heart.Also. no matter whether Jodo Shinshu followers believe or not that Shinran was a manifestation/emanation of Amida and Avalokitesvara.

This is the difference between Jodo Shinshu and other Buddhist schools. “kill. We are born in the Pure Land and become Buddhas only due to Amida’s Power. My advice is this: as a voluntary choice and not a requirement try your best to live a moral life. What we say is that we should not think that trying to observe precepts creates personal merits or that by doing this we can add something to the salvation of Amida.The meaning of “there are no precepts” Question: “Why does Jodo Shinshu deny and discourage the observance of Buddhist precepts? Can I observe precepts and be a Shinshu follower? Why it is said in Jodo Shinshu that “there are no precepts”? Answer: In Jodo Shinshu we do not deny nor discourage anybody to try to observe precepts. don’t engage in sexual misconduct. but rather they intended to 59 . What a Jodo Shinshu follower does is to delete once and for all the words “personal merit” or “personal virtue” from his Buddhist vocabulary. but never relate this to your attainment of Buddhahood which comes only through Amida Buddha’s Other Power. lie. don’t lie. We are not against precepts. so be relaxed in this matter.”. etc. not to our own efforts in observing precepts or in doing such and such practices. we do not say that followers of this school should not try to observe precepts or to lead a moral life. don’t eat meat. These concepts may have some significance in other schools but in Jodo Shinshu they have no significance at all. etc. steal. cheat on your wife. which can include not to hurt anybody directly or indirectly. don’t drink intoxicants.. Neither Shinran Shonin nor any patriarch of our school ever said. Your success or lack of success in voluntarily observing precepts has no connection with your Enlightenment. don’t steal.

This is because our capacities to truly observe the precepts both in letter and spirit are as little as non-existent. So we say that Jodo Shinshu doesn’t believe in the spiritual capacities of unenlightened beings.” This should be very well understood. Thus. This is why we do not insist on precepts. 60 . Everything unenlightened beings do in the three ways of action41 is poisoned by ignorance and egoism. think and talk. Also even if it is said in the sacred texts that in the last age of the Dharma precepts do no longer exist. I repeat. perfect wisdom and perfect compassion is achieved. The expression. We can read about them and see how the Buddhas wants us to behave. precepts are as good as non-existent for the last goal of Buddhist practice. precepts are as good as non-existent for the last goal of Buddhist practice which means the attainment of Buddhahood. don’t cheat on your wife. “there are no precepts” means that people living in the last age of the Dharma are no longer capable of using precepts in order to advance to Enlightenment. this doesn’t mean that we should kill and steal as we like. don’t steal. etc.say: “even if you don’t kill.. don’t lie. speech and body. but doing so no longer constitutes a merit or a means to advance on the path to Enlightenment. But still we can read in the sutras and other Buddhist books about the precepts so we can’t say they have been deleted from our written or collective memory. so we should try to guide our lives by them as well as we can. Jodo Shinshu states that the minds and environment of beings living in this age distant from the physical presence of Shakyamuni are so much perverted that they cannot advance to Buddhahood by themselves using various methods of self improving until one day purity. so they can’t be called 41 With mind. it doesn’t mean that you are a good person capable of attaining Buddhahood by yourself.

and I am certain that you will fail. That being said. In short. don’t ever feel that you are excluded from Amida’s salvation. I ask you again.Jodo Shinshu states that Enlightenment comes through Amida Buddha and is not gained by the actions of unenlightened beings Jodo Shinshu believes that only Buddhas have true merits that can be shared with others. Attachment to our so-called goodness is just another illusion among the many that we inherit from the distant past. if you fail in perfectly observing the precepts. 61 .Followers of this school may try their best to lead a life based on non-harming Buddhist principles explained in the precepts. please do not misunderstand the teaching of our school: . irresponsibility or laziness. . Also. Don’t transform your trying to observe precepts into an obstacle blocking the nondiscriminating Compassion of Amida Buddha.pure or good actions useful for attaining Buddhahood.Jodo Shinshu is not an encouragement to immorality. . do your best in your everyday life to live according to the precepts but rely only on Amida for the attainment of Buddhahood.

I think. “go and kill everybody because you are saved by Amida”. its okay. and torture people”. nor can any good act equal the nembutsu”. Jodo Shinshu teaching does not say “rape. but even if they do all the evil things in the world. if I am a good partner or a bad partner. Birth in the Pure Land on one hand. and I do not say that we should do this or that good deed in order to be born in the Pure Land. Jodo Shinshu is not an encouragement to do evil. no matter if I am calm or burst into anger. As Shinran says in the Tannisho: “No evil act can bring about karmic results. too. nor can any good act equal the nembutsu”. This is the meaning of “no evil act can bring about karmic results. of trying to not hurt people when I become angered or not to cheat on my girlfriend when I meet with temptations. I am saved exactly as I am. This is. Why not try – to try is the key word. and on the other hand my efforts. But why not try to abstain from all these vices when no matter if I succeed or not. Shinran never said. sober or a drug addict. she still loves them and accepts them. in which he speaks about not encouraging people to intentionally do evil. If I change something within me even for a second its okay. or anything else. for example. or some letters written by Shinran. The Jodo Shinshu teaching is very clear on this issue. and if I fail.No self improving programs for Jodo Shinshu followers It must be very well understood that when I speak about trying to have good behaviour towards others in our daily lives. have no connection with one another. A mother never encourages her children to do bad deeds. the meaning of “don’t take a liking to poison just because you have the antidote” from Tannisho. I am still loved and accepted by Amida Buddha. 62 . I do not propose self improving programs for Jodo Shinshu followers. Although Amida saves evil people. kill.

so when the cause and origin of your practice is your unenlightened personality.The effect is similar to the cause – difference between the Path of self power and the Pure Land Path The effect is similar to the cause. Supernatural powers and visions can also appear to divert him from the right path. internal obstructions caused by his own mental states and attachments. thus stopping them from attaining true freedom or Buddhahood. the effect is always Enlightenment and Buddhahood. various obstructions appear. What one path requires. distracting their attention and offering them false sensations of spiritual fulfillment. the other doesn’t. illusions and blind passions. Similarly. Due to these two kinds of obstructions. They are so intense that in the mind of the practicer and others around him these may seem to be genuine. external obstructions caused by Maras42 and various spirits who try to hinder the practicer from attaining the ultimate goal. and vice versa. and 2. the effect is delusion. We cannot really imagine how easy it is to fall under the seduction of these false powers and achievements! The Path of Sages or the path of personal power and the Pure Land path are two separate Dharma gates into the supreme Buddhahood. In Zen Buddhism for example. When one relies on his own power. 63 . These are: 1. when the cause and origin of your practice is Amida Buddha. Mara also tried to stop Shakyamuni from becoming a Buddha. This should be very well understood. which means that if during meditation a 42 Mara (often pluralized as “Maras”) is a celestial demon who plays with practicers minds. false spiritual achievements may occur. one often hears sayings about “killing the Buddha”. They should never be thought of in the same way.

If a vision appears. i.Buddha image appears into your mind. Thus. Because we rely on Amida (the cause) and not on ourselves. and nothing can stop you from attaining birth in the Pure Land of Amida and ultimate Buddhahood. Nothing can harm you. nothing can make you retrogress. one relies on emptiness or the ultimate nature of things. In such circumstances. we are not in any danger of being misguided or influenced by internal or external obstructions. Please do not have any fear if you have entered the Pure Land gate of settled faith in Amida Buddha. on Dharmakaya without form. this may be false and an obstruction to genuine spiritual realization. as we rely exclusively on Amida Buddha and have faith that all spiritual realizations come only from him.e. because with any of the methods of the Path of Sages (i. You are secure from the very moment you take your first step on this path. the result (effect) is a manifestation of Amida. on the Pure Land path we accept forms and are guided by Amida Buddha in his transcendental (Sambhogakaya) manifestation. what can be an obstruction on the Path of Sages is a help on the Pure Land path. Also. but rather we take an indirect road to Buddhahood through the nembutsu of faith and birth in the Pure Land. Why is that? Because. To the contrary. On the Pure Land path. self-power Buddhism) you rely on your own effort to meditate. 64 . this is genuine too. as the effect is similar to the cause. not of our own unenlightened mind. We do not rely directly on the ultimate Buddha nature. in the Zen path and any other form of self-power Buddhism similar to it. Thus.e. when such visions and forms appear you have to treat them as fabrications of the mind and go on aiming to achieve the formless ultimate Buddhahood. what appears in your mind can be misleading and may suggest an attachment to forms. various demons and Maras can take the false form of Buddhas in order to misguide you.

faith-oriented Jodo Shinshu teaching into a more Zen-like practice to make it acceptable to the so-called modern reader who has no taste for beliefs related to transcendental Buddhas.If shinjin (faith) has been received into your heart. that nowadays some try to transform the simple. they should not misinterpret the meaning and characteristic of these two separate Dharma gates. we cannot truly understand the “Oneness of all things”. or any other method that implies or teaches in one way or another some sort of reliance on personal power. it should not be changed or preached in such a way as to accommodate the Path of Sages. When followers of the path of personal power and those of Pure Land path become Buddhas they awaken to the same ultimate Buddha nature which is beyond any form and color. At the level we are now on. but until then. The Pure Land path of exclusive reliance on Amida Buddha should not be judged based on the criteria of the Path of personal power (also called the Path of Sages). It is very sad. A Pure Land follower should never ask guidance in matters of his attainment of Buddhahood from masters and teachers who follow the Zen path. but unenlightened beings cannot and should not imitate the behavior of the Buddhas until they have become Buddhas themselves. for example. The goal of both Dharma gates is the same: supreme Buddhahood and Nirvana . Mixing the two separate Dharma gates at the level where we are now as unenlightened beings is extremely dangerous and presents an obstruction on the Buddhist path. no matter how much we read and talk about this. all these will come naturally.and both gates were preached by Shakyamuni Buddha. Theravada (Hinayana) methods. because this will only cause great confusion in his mind. Only a Buddha who has transcended all methods and is completely free from delusion can play with various practices and understand them fully. More than this. so we should stay humble and embrace the dualistic vision of the 65 .

one who saves (that is. Amida Buddha) and those to be saved who have faith in him (that is. ourselves). 66 . This is all we need now as ordinary people caught in the suffering of birth and death.

the Jodo Shinshu sangha is like an “idiot’s club” or alcoholics anonymous. it is the teaching that makes no distinction between the good and the evil. you cannot see and enter the Dharma gate of birth in Amida Buddha’s Pure Land. As long as you still harbor in your mind the smallest thought of personal merit or “maybe I can” kind of things. But if you 67 . then you are ready for the Jodo Shinshu path. an important matter is the recognition of the possibility of every being to become a Buddha in this life like Shakyamuni. virtues and any kind of spiritual realizations. As Shinran said: “This is the way of easy practice to be followed by those of inferior capacity. incapable to heal myself”.Entering the Jodo Shinshu path Entering the Jodo Shinshu path is like becoming a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and recognizing: “Hello. the Jodo Shinshu path begins with the sense of failure. no special capacities. nor any other qualities.” Thus. then this is not the place for you. Amida Buddha’s Pure Land is like a country where everybody can emigrate without the least requirement: no visas. but “my name is Josho and I am full of blind passions. my name is Josho and I am an alcoholic”. While in other Buddhist schools. who believe they are always calm and ready to become Enlightened and the same with Shakyamuni. in comparison with the nice and good Buddhists. When you are 100% convinced that you cannot attain Buddhahood in this life. If you hope to find here some interesting quotes about detachment or how capable people are for goodness. Jodo Shinshu doesn’t state something like: “My name is Josho and I can become a Buddha”.

then this teaching would be of much help.recognize yourself more and more in the group of spiritual alcoholics or those incapable of any important practice which leads to perfection here and now. Jodo Shinshu starts with the sense of failure…. and I wish to you a warm “welcome to the club!” I repeat. 68 . in the middle of sufferings and miseries of any kind.

but their habitual karma is too strong for them to overcome. If you can abstain. It’s the path for alchoholics. for people whose minds are too sick to recover from their problems. for those with no hope. and it is useful to try. 69 .A bad Buddhist who entrusts to Amida Long time ago I was in correspondence with a drug addict who showed great interest in the Jodo Shinshu teaching. and all kind of people with strong attachments. I said to him: Just entrust to Amida as you are. Be an alchoholic nembutsu follower. and deviations. don’t worry. but if you cannot. this would be good for your health. then be an alchoholic who entrusts to Amida. Jodo Shinshu is especially for people who cannot abstain. After many years and even many lives of taking the drugs of ignorance and blind passions how can one think and act like a normal person? How can one practice Buddhism and become a Buddha by himself? I have met many times with alcholics and have told them the same if they asked me questions about Buddhism. It’s not that they especially want to be like this. Jodo Shinshu is the path for spiritually sick people. Its okay and normal to be like that. If you tried and cannot give up. it is for the sake of your own well-being to give up your bad habits. who are incapable of any practice . come as you are. He had a hard time trying again and again to give up taking drugs but he always returned to his bad habit. anxieties. But if you are able. drug addicts. Be a bad Buddhist who entrusts to Amida.for those for whom any advice or any treatment is useless. So please. All are equally accepted by the Compassion and Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.

.you the reader of this book and internet addict who like to read a lot about Buddhism. and becomes a Buddha in the moment of death. you might become happy and want to see that miracle for yourself. ‘It is nothing extraordinary. ultimate reality. reading a lot of good teachings and wise 43 Rennyo Shonin (1415-1499) was the eighth descendant of Shinran Shonin and Patriarch (Monshu) of Hongwanji. and virtuous Masters of the past. 45 According to the Jodo Shinshu teaching of Shinran and Rennyo. but always finding yourself incapable to be like them…. Nirvana.The miracle of Jodo Shinshu “Hokyo-bo said to Rennyo Shonin43. What is extraordinary is that an evil bombu44 becomes a Buddha through a single thought of entrusting to Amida45’. to hear that you. imagine that you will become a Buddha! Say you are sitting in front of your computer for many hours. an ordinary person with strong attachments and blind passions.. However. the mother temple in the Hongwanji-ha branch of Jodo Shinshu. ‘The Myogo (six character NA MO A MI DA BUTSU) you have painted has been destroyed by fire but it has become six Buddhas. a person who entrusts in Amida enters in the same moment in the stage of non-retrogression or the stage of being assured of Nirvana. 46 Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki Kikigaki (Thus I Have Heard from Rennyo Shonin) 70 .”46 If you hear that a Buddha or a saint performed miracles. when he is born in the Pure Land. 44 A bombu is a being full of illusions and blind passions and who cannot attain Nirvana by his own power. surfing the internet.. but you will always feel it is quite natural for such superior beings to perform miracles. it is nothing extraordinary.. Since the Buddha (that the Name represents) has become a Buddha. some of them known only to yourself and kept hidden with shame in the depths of your heart where no one can see them. How extraordinary!’ The Shonin remarked. Buddha-nature.

I feel there is no greater miracle. Soon. You read all those pages and try to practice this or that. This is the wonder of all wonders. I go to be born in the Pure Land By entrusting myself to the Path of the Vow-Power. but never really being able to put them into practice for even 24 hours a day. Zuiken Sensei said: “Without being hindered by my evil karma.Buddhist quotes. after realizing this is true and not just a parable with esoteric and hidden meaning.” “Without severing evil passions. a little bit of that. and then you come back to the internet or books to read about the spiritual realizations of others. that ordinary people will become Buddhas. but in the end you return to your true reality – the every day misery of living with your own ego and fighting with the ego of others. I was struck with wonder and couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Meditation in Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism. You.. some zazen47. Since then. and not only to supermen. through simple faith in him. and realize that I myself will become a Buddha. you need nothing else than to entrust yourself completely to Amida! When I heard for the first time about the promise of Amida. imagine that you will become a Buddha! And to become a Buddha at the end of your life. you practice a little bit of this. From time to time. some vipassana48. 71 . I found myself saying: “What am I waiting for?” For the first time I felt that Buddhism was speaking to me. one will realize Nirvana’ (Shoshinge) 47 48 Zen Buddhist meditation. etc. every time I recall to my mind the promise of Amida’s Primal Vow that everybody who entrusts in him and recite his Name will become Buddha. as if I had seen or heard someone from another planet. who recognize yourself in my description.

Isn’t this the most wonderful thing in the world? This phrase makes us savor deep in our heart the wonder of the Power of the Primal Vow.” 72 .

To have patience on any spiritual path where personal power is important is not at all a virtue but an illusion. not even 49 Birth as an animal.Do not have patience I myself cannot find any satisfaction with Buddhist teachings and practices that doesn’t promise me a quick escape from birth and death. and to not know what it really means to become a Buddha or a Free One. It is not to be aware of the fragility of this life and of the possibility that death could come at any moment and could catch you unprepared. This why I entrust myself to Amida Buddha. What patience should I have when I confront myself with such dangers? What patience can I have with myself when I contemplate the wickedness of this world and my own inner darkness? When I see the state of mind of my close friends who do not read even a single Buddhist book. thoughts resembling those of animals. but when I deeply contemplate the rare chance of being born a human and how easy it is to fall again in the lower realms49 or when I see that even in this life. from eons of drinking the poison of ignorance and of evil deeds. or at least not yet entered in a stage from where you cannot retrogress. hungry spirit or hell dweller. hungry spirits or hell dwellers often appear in my mind and in the mind of others. It means to not be aware of the subconscious karmic energies which come from the distant past. because I am in a hurry to become a Buddha. unaware that there is a path to escape birth and death. It is to not be aware of one’s own lacking capacities and those of other beings living in this last Dharma age. I don’t deny anything. 73 . not to mention even practice anything. I know that some virtuous practicers might interpret my hurry as laziness in spiritual matters or as lack of patience. I feel that I do not want to assume any risk of failing to quickly become a Buddha for once and for all.

wife. that if you love your kids. lost even in this life? These are very important questions to me…. useful or not useful for them. who knows when. If you haven’t attained Buddhahood until now. But how can you really help them to receive true freedom from birth and death if you do not become a Buddha. when due to your own ignorance.wanting to escape it…when I ask myself where will these people go after death and worry that I myself might wander in samsara still unenlightened and not free. the support you give to them in this life. So. grandparents. do you allow yourself to wait many more lives until someday.. dear reader. husband. and how can you become a Buddha by relying on yourself? This is the most important question. possessing infinite wisdom and capacities? Indeed not only for you. when do you think you will attain it? Please. etc. friends. parents. incapable to help them or myself. or the gift of freedom from the suffering of repeated birth and death? How can you help others if you do not become a Buddha. you too ask yourself such questions. driven by the power of their karma? Where will my dog Rocky go. There are many false 74 . can you afford to be unsure about your own Enlightenment. how can I have patience? I ask myself: Where will my parents or my girlfriend go after death? Where are my dear grandparents now? What can I do for them? Where will my dear animal friends go. do you really know what is good or evil. you will attain something? Can you afford the risk of losing again or forever the beings you love? What is more important. but also for all beings. awaken yourself from the dream of self-satisfaction! The ego cannot overcome itself by any method. you should follow the Buddhist path. I am sure.

If you lack the sense of urgency and you are patient in the grave matter of birth and death. then you may already have lost this chance of being reborn a human. maybe a better one –a small drop of water in an ocean of poison and illusion – but still not enlightened and not free. death comes suddenly and unexpectedly like a thief and you die the same person. incapable of doing something for yourself and others. Mara. be patient. likes to play with the minds of virtuous practicers and often whispers in their ears: “do not be afraid.until one day. Every day in which you do not become a Buddha is the day you may die. think how many wonderful spiritual experiences you had this week…” . and the time seems always enough to do anything both material and spiritual.. you have enough time.. look you are almost there!. Mara would certainly smile. and to die unenlightened and not free is the most dangerous thing that can happen to you. rely on yourself alone and make another effort…. filled with satisfaction: “how I love these virtuous practicers!” 75 .spiritual sensations and many illusory Nirvanas when you rely on your own power. In such an outcome.. the celestial demon.

Don’t rely on “all beings will eventually become Buddhas”
To think that all beings will eventually become Buddhas is a
dangerous trap for ordinary, unenlightened people who thus might
strengthen the reliance on their false ego. It is another delusory
thought of those who “copy and paste” the words of Enlightened
Beings without discrimination.
“But the Buddha said this”, someone can argue....
Yes, he said it, but the meaning is that he as a Buddha will never
stop until all beings will also become Buddhas. It is not that ordinary
people will become Buddhas by their own power at some time in the
future, but that the Buddhas will do everything in their transcendental
powers to make this aspiration come true. That sentence is the wish
and aspiration of the Buddhas, not what people will actually do
without their help.
Only if we give up trust in our self power (the power of our
unenlightened ego) and entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha’s Power
(Other Power) will we become Buddhas. Otherwise, no one can
escape birth and death, with the exception of a few special beings
who are already very close to perfect Enlightenment but who have
struggled for this since timeless past, such as, for example, Maitreya
The time is infinite, but the Buddhas have enough patience to wait
and will always work to make all beings entrust to Amida so that all
will eventually be free from birth and death. This is because all
Buddhas sustain Amida Buddha, who is the one who provided the
best method (his Primal Vow) to make this wish come true: to bring
all beings to Buddhahood. Some methods require special capacities
on the part of beings, but the Primal Vow requires truly nothing – no

See the chapter “Equal with Maitreya Buddha”


virtue, no special quality or ability. This is why this method is
universal: both saints and idiots can be saved through it.
If Amida’s Primal Vow had not been made then the beings
wouldn’t have had any chance for Liberation and the sentence that
“all beings will eventually become Buddhas” would have been
spoken in vain.
The Buddha, as the Supreme Doctor, knows that some are too sick
to recover: because he has infinite Compassion he does not wait until
they become capable to emerge by themselves from deep hells or
other lower realms. What mother would do such a thing – to let her
child sink into hell and wait for him on the edge of the abyss until he
finally recovers? But what if he does not recover? And in fact, what
chances does anybody have to recover by himself if he sank in the
ocean of immeasurable pain of the lower realms. No Buddha whose
essence is compassion, would wait and see without doing anything.
This is why Amida made his Primal Vow and established his Pure
Land, because he didn’t want to stay and wait until sentient beings
will eventually become Buddhas by their own efforts. It would have
been stupid and compassionless had he done that. He wouldn’t have
been a Buddha had he done this.
So, dear friends, please do not rely on words that you cannot
understand, but keep in mind the thought of impermanence: the
impermanence of your life which can end anytime, and the
impermanence of your so-called spiritual realisations based on self
power. Please bear in mind that in the ocean of birth and death there
is no “you” alone who will eventually become a Buddha. The road to
the lower realms is always open for those who rely on their personal
power. There is no real spiritual evolution for an unenlightened being
like you, no “today I learned someting new and made a new step
forward”, no hope, nothing, just Amida’s helping hand. Please accept


Faith is simple, nothing special
I noticed that some practicers from other traditions or with previous
experience in other schools, who sometimes talk with me about Jodo
Shinshu, perceive shinjin (faith in Amida Buddha) like a special state
of mind that must be attained by them and which is hard to attain.
Maybe this tendency comes from the practices they are used to within
their traditions, where something has to be attained, felt or visualized,
But shinjin is different. It doesn’t necessarily imply a special state of
mind, or special thing to be felt or experienced. It is simply to
entrust in Amida Buddha.
I rely on Amida for my attainment of Buddhahood in his Pure Land.
That is all.
People, in general, are hungry for special feelings and sensations,
thinking that if they don’t feel something special then maybe they
have no true spiritual realisation. But in matters related to shinjin and
the salvation of Amida Buddha, no special state of mind is necessary
in your daily life.
When faith is first experienced, the follower experiences a great
burden has been taken off his shoulders, in the sense that he no longer
needs to rely on himself to become a Buddha - a truly free One. The
burden of his liberation is carried by the Buddha called Amida, who
already crossed the Path for him.
You can be happy or feel relief when you first entrust yourself to
Amida Buddha, if attaining Buddhahood or final liberation from birth
and death is the most important matter for you, but this doesn’t mean
that hour to hour, minute to minute, second to second, you will think
on Amida or feel a continuous joy as to jump in the air. Our lives are
in such a way that we can always be overwhelmed by daily problems
and worries. But its okay, it’s simply okay to be like this.


On the Jodo Shinshu path we are relaxed because we don’t need special states of mind or special qualities. the salvation of Amida is always present. I often say that faith. becomes like breathing. to make you become a Buddha. To be relaxed in Jodo Shinshu is to leave everything to Amida. it is not reliance on ourselves. but because of the Other Power of Amida. for example. don’t think that something has to happen with you after you rely on Amida. recitation of his Name is effective not because of us. Despite this. we don’t need to be different than we already are in our daily lives. in the One who is already a Buddha. This is because Amida does EVERYTHING…. Refuge in Amida. as our simple faith in him remains with us since we first received it in our hearts. we don’t need to be wise … in short we need to be nothing else than we already are.We are not compelled to always jump with joy because we are saved by Amida. It’s the problem of Amida to save you. Faith in Amida is faith in Amida. of a certain state or quality we should develop. on our own feelings and states of mind. that is. becoming a better or wiser 79 . It’s faith in the Other. such as. caught in attachments of every kind. ordinary people will attain Buddhahood through him. always being there although you don’t realize it consciously every moment. Also. faith in Amida. and Amida has already accomplished this for you many kalpas ago when he fulfilled his Primal Vow. (as I am not writing this chapter by accident but because of my experience with some people who I think need it) don’t think of something special in relation to faith. Once you realize this you can be relaxed. on what we can do. once received. a completely free One and who promised that all unworthy. I repeat.

and you yourself will become a Buddha. Jodo Shinshu is first intended for people that remain unchanged in their delusions and blind passions all their lives. I told him: “Relax. when you die. it’s not something you should create or construct in your mind.” The human mind is so complicated…but shinjin is just simply to rely exclusively on Amida for the attainment of your Enlightenment. Amida does EVERYTHING and asks NOTHING from you. It’s normal for ordinary people filled with blind passions to remain ordinary people filled with blind passions. The Buddha has no expectation from the people for whom he made his Primal Vow.… Or if it seems that you truly did something good or useful to someone after entrusting to Amida. Don’t busy yourself with virtue or non-virtue: just entrust in Amida and do what you can in your daily life. Somebody told me that he can’t sleep. relax and stay as you are. think this is due to Amida’s influence. just entrust in Amida. Let go of the idea of feeling or creating something.person. Everything is okay. you will be born in the Pure Land or Amida’s sphere of influence. for yourself or for others. Doing so. shinjin means just to rely on Amida. You don’t need to construct anything in your delusional mind. But until then. but not that you are a better person because of being saved by Amida. 80 . making efforts to attain shinjin. Don’t stress yourself. Just entrust.

By having faith in Amida he becomes aware of two simple things: 1. without any doubt or hesitation. Thus.) how can that seeker know he/she has indeed received shinjin and attained the rightly established state?” This question above assumes that the person or persons referred to has no physical access to a Shinshu Buddhist temple or priest. he/she knows or becomes aware of this faith. in our school there are neither gurus nor masters who can give or confirm the receiving of faith in the heart of the practicer.How can one know that he received shinjin if he has no access to a temple or priest? Question: “Because nothing physical happens or is done to the person receiving shinjin (baptism /Dharma transmission. which is a sad reality across most of the world except for Japan. the Mother (Amida) is always sending her love to the child and she knows if the child entrusts to her while the child (the follower) knows that he is loved and has faith in the Mother. They are like mother and child. that he cannot save himself from birth and death (deep awareness of his limitations) and 81 . Answer: Fortunately. When someone entrusts to Amida for the first time. Jodo Shinshu is a personal and exclusive relation between Amida Buddha (a real and living Buddha) and the person who has faith in him. He knows. “I entrust in Amida Buddha for myself to attain Buddhahood in his Pure Land”. etc.

although the follower may experience something like a heavy burden being lifted from his shoulders – the burden of having to reach freedom from birth and death by himself. 82 . there is no need for another person to say “now I certify that you have shinjin”. Or if you don’t trust in any living teacher. all that matters is that you understand the Dharma and receive shinjin.2. then he should not ask for such ceremonies.he accepts Amida’s salvation (expressed in his Primal Vow) as being real and trustworthy. Also. that Amida will do this for him . Reading the sacred texts (with or without access to a priest or sangha) is also listening the Dharma as now there are many good translations that can be found everywhere in the libraries or on the internet. Alone or in a group. There is no need to feel anything special. but if the conditions are difficult and you cannot meet anybody in particular. just read the sacred texts by yourself. He or she is somebody who encourages you to entrust in Amida. Various ceremonies and receiving of a Buddhist name are beautiful and can be performed if the follower has access to a temple or sangha. the internet for example. then use every means necessary. but if he is living in a place too far from them or he simply doesn’t want to be an official member of a certain group or denomination. It would be better if you have face-to-face access to a true teacher and a true sangha so that you can always ask questions to clear your doubts and misunderstandings. while asking Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin to guide you and protect your understanding. Nothing special has to happen inside the mind of the practicer or outside of him when he receives shinjin in his heart. The teacher is important in Jodo Shinshu but only as a messenger of Amida’s salvation. to have this Dharma dialogue.

The most important thing is that you know for yourself that you entrust in Amida Buddha51 for attaining Buddhahood in his Pure Land. Your first moment of entrusting and the later moments when you continue to savour your faith during the entire life represent your personal and intimate relationship with Amida Buddha. or if you remain the last human being on the planet. Even if the whole world is filled with false teachers and no true sanghas exist. metaphor or a fictional character like some deluded priests and teachers are trying to present him. You entrust in Amida and he receives you. not somebody else. 83 . letters or telephone. Then you will know that you indeed rely on Amida Buddha and have faith in him. Metaphors. Only with a real and living Amida Buddha one can have a relation of faith and be saved. you have nothing to worry about. because Amida addresses each and every individual in particular. This is also what Shinran himself felt. The others can see or not see this change in your heart. no matter whether you do it by face-to-face meetings or by internet.Dharma dialogue and Dharma listening is very important. See the chapter: „Those who deny the existence of Amida don’t have shinjin”. This is all that matters. can shinjin (faith) arise in the heart. He is having a personal relation with every one of us: it is as if only you or only I are the only beings to exist on this planet. 51 Amida as a real and living Buddha. openness toward Amida’s message of salvation. symbols or fictional characters can’t save anybody and faith in them is not true faith but a cultural and intelectual game of the mind. not a symbol. All sentient beings in particular can say that the Primal Vow of Amida was made especially for him or her. You have to know this. because only by first understanding with the head the content of the teaching. but their opinions are really not important.

It’s a correct understanding. It is natural because it is not forced by my will and not created by my own power. Namo Amida Butsu. It is due to the power of the Mother’s call and her love that the child is able to answer and say. the nembutsu is also the expression of faith. But at the same time as being the expression of gratitude. This is why I always explain the nembutsu as the natural expression of faith and gratitude. Both aspects. which expresses gratitude and also “to take refuge” which expresses faith (shinjin). and Master Rennyo especially emphasized this aspect in his letters in order to help people not to fall into the wrong view of considering nembutsu as a self power practice – such as. am I able to feel gratitude. Only because I entrust in Amida. It is natural because in reality both faith (shinjin) and saying of the Name (nembutsu) comes from Amida. to whom we. answer immediately. “Namo” from “Namo Amida Butsu”. words like “recitation of the nembutsu arising from True Faith” in his Goichidaiki Kikigaki (Thus I Have Heard from Rennyo Shonin). Nembutsu is the calling of our mother. for example. Namo 84 . Amida Buddha. being convinced that his Primal Vow is true and reliable. means “homage to”. a wrong view that holds the better or longer you recite the Name. nembutsu as the expression of faith and nembutsu as the expression of gratitude appear in Master Rennyo and Master Shinran’s texts. It is logical that one cannot feel gratitude to Amida if he has not received faith in him. and one can find the same Master Rennyo using for example. as her children lost in the dangerous streets of samsara.Nembutsu of faith and gratitude We often speak in our tradition about nembutsu as being the expression of gratitude for the assurance of birth in the Pure Land by Amida Buddha. the more chances you have to be born in the Pure Land.

since the first time you entrusted in Amida Buddha and you were born as a person of faith. The child’s answer is the mother’s call that manifests like an echo in his heart and he answers. we are fascinated by the clear air of the mountains or of a beautiful morning and we take long and deep breaths. But the breath has always been there with you since you were born. But there is no problem with this. Faith does not increase or decrease because we say the Name often or seldom in the same way gratitude to our physical mother does not increase or decrease because we say „I love you. going to toilet. Namo Amida Bu52. The number is not important. but they mean the same thing. being a part of yourself. while the next day we might say it a few times.Amida Butsu. sober or drunk. No matter what you do in your every day life. while some other time we are too hurried and busy in our daily life to concentrate on it. being sad or happy. Namo Amida Bu. If you allow me another comparison which I use – we don’t always feel our breathing. the faith is there and cannot be destroyed (once fully 52 Bu is the shortened form of Butsu. sleeping. 85 . inside you. The gratitude and faith in your mother is there in your heart. There is no difference between Bu and Butsu. thus taking refuge and expressing gratitude. spending time with your girlfriend or boyfriend. eating. thank you” often or seldom. Sometimes we feel it better when. The faith is there. no matter how often you express it verbally. used sometimes in reciting the nembutsu. for example. One day we say nembutsu often. Don’t worry. The same applies to faith and nembutsu. but this doesn’t mean that our breathing doesn’t exist. even though you don’t experience it consciously every minute. Sometimes in reciting the nembutsu Namu is used instead of Namo. * Now there is another matter that troubles some people in relation with the Nembutsu.

From time to time you express this faith and your gratitude to Amida Buddha by saying vocally or in your mind. Namo Amida Bu. So. Namo Amida Bu. not even by the worst of your blind passions. Amida doesn’t keep a record of how many times you say his Name  86 . relax and enjoy saying the nembutsu of faith and gratitude whenever you like it.settled) by anything. don’t worry about anything.

Self-power as an obstacle to nembutsu Question: ”Quite often it seems that we want it both ways. because in reality. When it is said in the sacred texts that nothing obstructs the nembutsu this means that no matter how heavy your karma. They have nothing to do with our daily activities related with work. etc. the vehicle that takes you to the Pure Land is Amida’s Power. your illusions or blind passions cannot be an obstacle to the nembutsu.’our power’ and Other Power. business. You rely on Amida Buddha or not. but in matters related with 87 . a good doctor. Mixed faith is not true faith. In this sense.. We also have to understand clearly the meaning of the terms “self power” (jiriki) and “Other power”(Tariki). ‘self-power’ is an illusion that exists within Other Power. In everyday life one can make efforts to be successful. This is why self power is an obstacle for the nembutsu.. To rely on your own power will obstruct the nembutsu and your birth in the Pure Land. family. you are saved by Amida if you fully entrust in him. a good engineer or teacher. It’s as simple as that. But self power simply means that you do not rely at all or not exclusively on Amida for your attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land. to be a good husband. Could we think about it this way. To rely on your own power cannot lead you to Buddhahood in the Pure Land. They are related only with the ultimate goal of becoming a Buddha in the Pure Land. In the true Other Power faith there is no trace of self power. not your own power. etc. health. and even this illusion cannot obstruct the nembutsu? Answer: I think we should not complicate our minds.

especially not on himself. 88 .Buddhahood one should rely only on Amida Buddha and on nobody else. with Other Power your becoming a Buddha is the doing of Amida. not you. To put it in the simplest terms.

can have true merit. They can also be transferred or directed by the practicer toward various goals. This exclusive reliance is described in the 18th Vow found in the Larger Sutra. and he said that the true merit transference actually takes place from Amida Buddha to the devotee who has faith in him.Three vows of salvation Generally speaking. etc. including his future Enlightenment. Amida promises: 53 Tibetan Buddhism. non-meditative practices Meditative practices include various types of meditation and visualization that we can find in all schools of Buddhism from Theravada to Mahayana and Esoteric Vajrayana53. Thus we should give up any thought of generating or accumulating merit and instead rely exclusively on Amida Buddha’s Power of salvation. Amida Buddha. This is especially true in the period of the last Dharma age (Mappo) in which we now live. abstaining from evil or doing various good acts. called the Primal Vow. meditative practices 2. and of course. Buddhist practices taught by Shakyamuni can be classified into two groups: 1. saying that as long as we are not enlightened and our minds are darkened by ignorance. we cannot generate genuine merit. But Shinran disagreed with this. These non-meditative practices are said to generate merit or positive karmic energy that help the practicer attain higher rebirths or spiritual states. Non-meditative practices include chanting sutras. Shinran considered merit transference from the practicer toward Enlightenment as being futile. In it. Only the Buddhas. observing precepts. 89 .

the situation is that not all practicers are able to give up entirely the attachment to their personal power in reaching birth in the Pure Land. wishing to be born. They simply cannot rely exclusively on Amida but think there is still something they need to add to his Power so that they will deserve to be born in the Pure Land. Thus. old or young. No mentioning of merit or things that the practicer should add to the power of Amida. have faith and recite the Name. when I attain Buddhahood. However. Namo Amida Butsu means “I take refuge in Amida Buddha” and to take refuge is to have faith. Let us consider these words: All sentient beings that entrust to Amida. which is faith or the entrusting heart (shinjin). Nothing else is needed. male or female. This is the case with the 18th Vow. should not be born there. Just wish to be born in the Pure Land. are in fact three manifestations of the same thing. 2. sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.If. We wish to be born in the Pure Land and say the Name of Amida because we entrust in Amida’s power to bring us there. This is because there cannot be any desire to be born in the Pure Land or a saying of the Name if one doesn’t believe in the existence of Amida Buddha and his capacity to make us be born there. faith and 3. and call my Name. they remain attached to the idea of merit accumulation even if they also rely on Amida. There cannot be any true nembutsu – i. These three aspects: 1. calling of the Name.e. the Vow by which Amida Buddha saves all who entrust in him. Saying of the Name (nembutsu) is the natural expression of faith and is the same as faith. desire to be born in my land. good or evil. the nembutsu of Other Power – without genuine faith. even ten times. desire to be born in his Land and call his Name. will be born there. 90 .

. (20) If. should not eventually fulfill their aspiration. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. see me appear before them surrounded by a multitude of sages. having heard my Name. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.This kind of faith mixed with reliance on their own merit and personal power is not in accord with the 18th Vow. whenever they do a visualization or contemplation of Amida in accord with the Contemplation Sutra or even when they do other meditation techniques. concentrate their thoughts on my land. For example. and sincerely transfer their merits towards my land with a desire to be born there. like 91 . when they observe precepts. when I attain Buddhahood. Let’s read and understand these Vows: (19) If. Especially for those who are not capable to rely exclusively on him. What does Amida say in the 19th Vow? That those who do various meritorious deeds in order to be born in the Pure Land will see Amida Buddha at their death surrounded by many sages. at their death. when I attain Buddhahood. should not. but still wish to be born in his Pure Land. sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters. etc. who awaken aspiration for Enlightenment. The various meritorious deeds mean they continue to practice many kinds of meditative and non-meditative practices. do various meritorious deeds and sincerely desire to be born in my land. abstaining from meat. but still such people are not abandoned by Amida. they think this will help them to be born in Amida’s Pure Land and actually transfer the merit of these practices (meditative or non-meditative) toward their future birth there. Usually followers of various schools do meditation practices or observe precepts. sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who. etc. welcoming them in the Pure Land.. plant roots of virtue. do a good deed like saving a life. in order to become a Buddha in this life. Amida created the 19th and 20th Vows.

They do not stop at meditative and non-meditative practices. to choose among all practices only this practice. So they transfer the merits they think they accumulated through a good recitation toward birth in Amida’s Pure Land. is that people following them are also born in the Pure Land of Amida and escape once and for all from samsara or birth and death. What we see from reading these two vows. The expression “hearing my Name” from the 20th Vow means to become aware of the Name of Amida and to say it both in mind and with one’s mouth. to “plant roots of virtue” mentioned in the 20th Vow means to recite exclusively the Name of Amida. i. but practicers of the 19th Vow change the goal of these meditative and non-meditative practices to become a Buddha in the Pure Land of Amida. So. the 19th and the 20th. those of the 20th Vow are also not free of doubts and do not rely exclusively on Amida’s Power to be born in the Pure Land but consider this Name recitation to be their own virtue and a practice that depends on their own capacities to be done correctly. Like followers of the 19th Vow. the recitation of the Name is supreme. The concentration of thoughts on the land of Amida and the desire to be born there is done this time through recitation of the Name. The followers of the 20th Vow make another important step further into the Light of Amida Buddha.Shakyamuni. because among all Buddhist practices recommended by Shakyamuni.e. They change the direction of their Buddhist practice toward Amida Buddha. They are still dependent on their own power and their faith in Amida is not absolute. but among all practices they chose only one which is to say the Name of Amida Buddha. In the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) the recitation of the Name of Amida is called the root of all virtues. Amida especially finishes these two vows with the promise that the 92 . This is the difference between them and other Buddhists and this difference makes them to enter Amida’s influence and guidance.

and so on. the higher level of the highest grade.practicers fulfilling the requirements contained in them will definitely be born in his Pure Land and if this will not happen then it means he does not deserve to be called a Buddha or he is not a Buddha – “may I not attain perfect Enlightenment”. the middle level of the highest grade. 93 . But if we read the Contemplation Sutra on Amida Buddha we see that among those born in the Pure Land through directing their merit in one way or another there are various grades and differences. the middle level of the middle grade. The more the virtues. The various levels are established only according to the personal virtues of the practicers in their previous life when they transferred the merit acquired through various meditative or non-meditative practices and through nembutsu recited in self power. the better the place one occupies in the Pure Land. But no mention is made there about those who enter Amida’s Pure Land through faith alone as in the 18th Vow. Not all are equal. until the lowest level of the lowest grade. the lower level of the highest grade. for example. But those who are born in the Pure Land through the gate of the 19th and 20th vows do not immediately become Buddhas but due to their clinging to personal power they continue to stay there in an unenlightened state of mind until they overcome their doubts and attachments to the so called merits and virtues and entrust entirely to the Power of Amida Buddha. then the higher level of the middle grade. and for Buddhas there are no categories in which they can be classified. What does this mean? Why are those born through faith alone not mentioned in any of these categories? Shinran said this is because they immediately become Buddhas when they are born in the Pure Land.

the city of doubt. Many people go through these three vows of salvation consciously or unconsciously in their Buddhist practice. are provisional means for those who still can’t rely exclusively on Amida Buddha. Then. doubting that birth in the Pure Land is so easy. This anteroom or waiting room to perfect Enlightenment in Amida’s Pure Land is called the borderland of the Pure Land or the realm of indolence and pride. while the second and third door are leading to an anteroom or waiting room where you have to stay for a while until having access to him. but practicers actually keep themselves there by their doubts and clinging to their own power. Birth here is not a punishment. One door is the main one which leads directly to the owner and in his presence you become like him (a Buddha sharing the activity of Amida). Shinran considered its deliverance to be the main reason for Shakyamuni’s appearance on earth. Because these three Vows – and especially the 18th – are mentioned in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha. Still. the 19th and the 20th Vows are the three Vows of salvation which give deliverance from birth and death to all beings that rely exclusively or partially on Amida Buddha. who have absolute faith or still cling to their so called power and merit but wish to be born in the Pure Land.The 18th is the Vow of direct entering into the true Pure Land. the womb like palace. etc. It is like a house with three doors. while the Contemplation Sutra where visualization of Amida. while the other two are Vows of indirect entering. we 94 . transference of merits and the nine grade of aspirants are mentioned and the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) where the recitation of the Name alone is encouraged as the root of all virtues. The 18th. we heard about Amida’s Pure Land and we stopped aspiring to attain Enlightenment in this life but wanted to be born there. Many of us had a time when we practiced other Buddhist methods to become a Buddha in this life after we abandoned various religious paths or didn’t have any religion at all.

the Master of the Pure Land. Then. we heard that nembutsu is the greatest practice among all Buddhist practices. after listening again and again to the teaching. contemplating our true capacities and the Compassion of Amida. for the first time we heard the 18th Vow in which no special virtue or capacity was mentioned in order to be born in the Pure Land. the nembutsu we continued to recite was no longer the nembutsu based on self power. but the nembutsu of faith and gratitude. without waiting until they become perfect.felt we need to do something in order to deserve it. but still we felt this is too easy. the root of all virtues. and we received faith. where we too become Buddhas and forever join his salvation work. 95 . so again attachment to our own power kept us prisoners of doubts. With this nembutsu of faith and gratitude we enter directly into the presence of Amida. And finally. and we start reciting it. So we continued to follow various practices to feel we are better people than others. we realized he is like a mother who wishes to save her children quickly from the danger of fire and death. Then. So.

Methods for the visualisation of Amida and shinjin Question: “I was reading about the practice described in the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra and I was really impressed by the idea of experiencing the presence of Amida Nyorai and the other Buddhas. isn’t it Amida who makes the visions possible to us? A man of shinjin for example. such practices could be useful in strengthening the experience of shinjin and I do believe that the results of these visualizations and practices are made visible to us by the Other Power and not our personal power. whether practices like that mentioned in the sutra above are allowed to practicers of the Jodo Shinshu sect. I mean. could practice visualization methods to have a look of Amida Tathagata and his attendants. I also read that this sutra contains one of the earliest mentions of Amida Tathagata so I would like to ask you about such practices. My question is. It is true for me that some times I feel my faith becoming strong and settled in my mind while some other times it becomes weaker so there is still work for me till I experience true and pure shinjin in Amida Nyorai and the Vow. 96 . Is it okay if someone tries to visualise Amida in addition to chanting the nembutsu (I do not mean chanting as a way to gain merit but having in mind the Shinshu doctrine that it is an expression of gratitude for Amida’s Power of salvation)? Are visualizations of Amida Nyorai and the 90 days practice in Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra examples of reliance on jiriki? In my opinion. The Contemplation Sutra which I have not yet studied is said to contain ways to visualise Amida and in Chinese Pure Land school this kind of visualisation was widespread among priests and monks.

There are many sutras and sacred texts about Amida Buddha. fears or doubts arise and leave your mind. improves his chances of being born in the Pure Land or even thinks that he improves his shinjin.” Do not try to create a special state of faith in your mind. I leave them alone and rely exclusively on Amida Buddha. visualise Amida and the Pure Land?” Answer: A Jodo Shinshu follower can do any practice he wants if by that practice he doesn’t think he adds something to the salvation of Amida. then this is not in accord with the Jodo Shinshu teaching. could I for example. If it helps you. and many interpretations. If one has firm faith in Amida Buddha and thinks that only through the Power of Amida he is born in the Pure Land and becomes a Buddha then he cannot deviate no matter whether he sometimes does some meditation or visualisations. maybe you can say this to yourself: “From now on I rely exclusively on Amida for my birth in the Pure Land and attainment of Buddhahood. but Shinran’s view is unique among all. Listen again and again to the Dharma as explained by Shinran Shonin. It’s just to entrust in Amida. and don’t work on that special state of faith.If I keep in my mind that the visualisations are a gift of the Other Power and are experienced only with the help of the Other Power. No matter what other thoughts arise in my mind or fears or doubts. 97 . Yuien-bo encourages us to adhere only to Shinran’s explanations of the sutras. Just rely on Amida in a simple manner and let other thoughts. Listening deeply to the Dharma opens us to Amida and prepares us to receive shinjin. In Jodo Shinshu faith is something very simple. But if one thinks that by practicing a certain meditation or visualisation he is gaining merit. In Tannisho.

Such methods practiced without shinjin can lead only to the borderland of the Pure Land and not to the true fulfilled Pure Land where one becomes immediately a Buddha. What does this mean? It means. But for one who has received shinjin in his heart and knows surely that he is born in the Pure Land only by faith in Amida and through Amida’s Power. We can say that he tries visualisations for fun. They are not direct means of entering the Pure Land. “that we abandon the accommodated and take up the real. yet others to recite the Name with right concentration. Some sutras encourage people to practice visualisations. that the methods related to visualisations presented in some sutras are only provisional methods for those still incapable of relying exclusively on Amida Buddha in accordance with the Primal Vow. which Shinran considered to be the most important sutra preached by Shakyamuni. he may enjoy such visualisations if he wishes because he knows that success or lack of any success in visualisation does not add something to the salvation of Amida. according to Shinran. others to keep precepts and do good deeds in addition to aspiring for birth in the Pure Land. No other requirements or other practices like visualisation or meditation and following precepts are mentioned in the Primal Vow (18th Vow).” This means that the teaching about Amida’s salvation is presented in various ways depending on the sutras.”And he continued. set aside the provisional and adopt the true is the Master’s fundamental intent. “the true and real and the accommodated and provisional are mixed. but practicing such methods shows a lack of shinjin and an attachment to one’s own power. Shinran said. The Larger Amida Sutra (Bussetsu Muryoju Kyo). You must under no circumstances misread the sacred writings.In the sutras. 98 . presents the Primal Vow in which only saying of the Name in faith is all that matters.

You can also give it a try if you are in the situation of the person described above. Only the person described above is not going against Jodo Shinshu teaching if he practices visualisation. You said: “I do believe that the results of these visualizations and practices are made visible to us by the Other Power and not our personal power. in the end. It is very important to know that shinjin does not become stronger through visualisations and does not depend on visualisations. All that matters is whether there is the presence of shinjin (simple faith) or the lack of shinjin (lack of simple faith). should bypass that part. So. Shinjin is just the simple entrusting to Amida that comes after hearing and accepting the Primal Vow in which only faith and the nembutsu of faith are involved. then you. some self-power practicers might become aware that it is only Amida’s working who does all things and end up relying exclusively on Other Power.” Yes. It is an error to think that shinjin is the product of a successful visualisation or it is strengthened by it. This is simply because he has already received shinjin – a simple. But if something like transference of merit is involved and suggested in the technical description of performing that visualisation. But I also do not deny that after seeing Amida with their own eyes. 99 . any success of Amida’s visualisation is due only to Amida’s Power and influence. as one who knows that you have no merit. In its ultimate sense shinjin is the gift of Amida and is not dependent upon or strengthened by any visualisation. Of course. but those without faith and who rely on their own power do not realize this. this is true. uncomplicated faith in Amida Buddha. I am not against visualisations but against the wrong attitude of mind that does the visualisations. and because they cling to their so-called realisations and not on the Power of Amida they are not born directly into the true fulfilled Pure Land but in the borderland of the Pure Land.

so don’t worry. say the nembutsu. not the various thoughts that wander in your mind. He knows who you are and that you need him. they come from emptiness and go to emptiness. Thoughts belong to nobody. in the sense that it will not become an obstacle to our attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land. Just notice them and let them pass. So. If you experience bad moments. say the nembutsu. If you experience good moments. Don’t expect not to experience bad thoughts after receiving shinjin (faith). identify yourself with them and you try to fulfill them. They are your karma. your karmic tendencies. special. This is also the meaning of “we attain Buddhahood without destroying blind passions”. as this can bring mental problems. It is not in your power to stop them and is not even recommended that you stop your thoughts. asking nothing from you. There will always be something to happen to you or appear into your mind. Take refuge in Amida Buddha and say his Name no matter the state of mind you are in. conscious or unconscious. The object of your attention should be Amida’s promise from his Primal Vow. just leave them alone: you don’t need to insist on acting on them or modifying them. He is your best friend. Amida doesn’t care that you are in a good. impermanent and transitory. This is why Master Rennyo said that for the person of shinjin our negative karma is as if nonexistent. 100 . but in reality they are like clouds in the sky. If bad thoughts arise in your mind. Your salvation has nothing to do with them. or bad state of mind. just as Amida doesn’t. Just rely on Amida and say the nembutsu.About your thoughts and bad tendencies that don’t stop even after receiving shinjin… Don’t busy yourself with them. let them pass. I say they are “yours” because you are attached to them.

recite Namo Amida Butsu.Here is a wonderful poem by Senmyo Wajo: “When you are alone and hurt. but it’s a Call between parent and child. Namo Amida Butsu is for this ignorant person full of blind passions. I hear Namo Amida Butsu with my ears. not good or bad. Namo Amida Butsu. recite even for ten times and sleep in peace! If you suddenly die. whenever and wherever you are. When you feel the loneliest man in the world and you are depressed. When things are as they should. Namo Amida Butsu is not recited for other people’s ears. again recite Namo Amida Butsu.” 101 . Namo Amida Butsu I answer with my voice and my heart. you are home in the Pure Land of Enlightenment. Namo Amida Butsu.

On doubts and fears Question: “How does the person of nembutsu. who has received shinjin.. the Dharma of our school of Buddhism. Could it be that ‘all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas praise the person of nembutsu.’ because of that person’s stubborn reliance on the Great Vow and belief in the sutras preached by Shakyamuni. and that Amida Buddha cannot doubt himself). At some level.heroes to all the beings of all the worlds? Are these children of Amida Buddha recipients of the ‘Present Benefits’ because they recognize their stupidity and know.. deal with the ‘demon’ of doubt that resurfaces after the believer has received and experienced the blessings of true entrusting from Amida Buddha? As foolish beings. because Amida recognizes the great need to embrace these hopeless. know they are ‘risking their very eternal lives’ (souls?) to receive.” (I realize that those who have shinjin have Amida’s own faith through his merit transference to us. Perhaps those who have doubt after receiving shinjin are loved all the more by Amida Nyorai. who are converts from some form of Christianity.. that the one thing they cannot do is save themselves from birth and death?” Answer: 102 . and possibly transmit. A Chinese Pure Land Master once said. helpless beings in their delusional state of doubt. That is part of our hopeless condition as a ‘fundamental’ level? Are people of shinjin. “You may not ever doubt Buddha Amitabha. most Westerners. our Saha world minds are prone to delusion and ‘doubt’. beyond any doubt.. you will doubt yourself. but.

Simply stated. doubt and shinjin cannot coexist with one another. in the words of Shinran. Shinjin or faith is an “outside element” in the heart of the believer because it is not his creation but rather what Amida has planted inside him. but he is safely kept in his mother’s embrace. But there is one big difference – he knows that from now on (from the moment of his first thought of full entrusting) a great burden has indeed been taken off his shoulders. his friends. being frightened of various things he sees and hears around him. the follower who has faith in Amida should not expect to feel special things or become a better person. to acquire qualities that he hasn’t had until then. He knows all these. Shinjin is also like the big and warm arms of the mother who carries the frightened child across the turbulent waters of a flooded river. with no doubt. 103 . Of course. like his relations. even his own self. The child continues to cry. but deep inside. in terms of his personal daily life. So. fears of various kinds. To have shinjin means. he remains an ordinary person filled with delusions and attachments even after receiving shinjin. or to overcome his ordinary problems and fears. the follower can have doubt related with many things. the burden of becoming a Buddha by himself. He certainly knows. Generally speaking. delusions and difficulties might continue to coexist with this faith. but he never doubts in ultimate matters like his own birth in the Pure Land and subsequent attainment of Buddhahood.A person who has received shinjin cannot doubt Amida’s salvation. to hear the Primal Vow of Amida without doubt. that he has become assured of birth and Buddhahood in Amida’s Pure Land when this life comes to an end.

It is said that in a forest filled with poisonous trees. faith in Amida cannot appear unless Amida causes it to appear. For example. In the ultimate sense. In the same way. but I would not call these fears the same as doubting Amida’s salvation. Without the love of the mother. he might be scared when he sees a big wave coming toward him or hears a thunderbolt in the sky or the rain pouring over his face. This is how I explain in 104 . It is the same with fear from being injured. So in the hearts filled with illusions and attachments. Fear is an instinctual habit which cannot completely disappear from our hearts and minds until we have become Enlightened. The calling of the mother echoes in the child’s heart and makes him respond with faith.Fears of many types are present but there is also entrusting in the mother. If we were asked to feel no fear in order to be saved by Amida. even when we are in a big and solid house we might fear for a moment when we hear a powerful thunder. there cannot appear any tree with good fruits. faith in Amida is not the product of our minds or hearts as unenlightened beings. Amida Buddha does not require us to be without fear as there is no mention in his Primal Vow of anything like this. then who would be saved? Who is free of at least one type of fear? So. For example. But it is the mother’s love which works inside the child to make him entrust to her. It is the same as the love of the mother who makes the child entrust to her. but he knows he is safely carried away by his mother to the other shore. Fear of death is the manifestation of our powerful attachment and identification with our bodies. we continue to fear death even if we know that when we die we go to the Pure Land and become Buddhas. If we read the Primal Vow we see that he only asks us to entrust in him (saying of the Name and aspiring to be born being the same as entrusting). just as it is with Namo Amida Butsu (which is the expression of faith). the child can do nothing.

I repeat. can do with our fears. because we are used to hearing many threats all our life since childhood. which is a metaphor of Amida’s embrace. while the latter originates from Amida and is the assurance that he saves you and accepts you as you are. in ultimate matters – that we are saved by Amida – there can be no doubts for one who has shinjin. The thunderbolts and heavy rain might sound frightful for a moment. he knows deep inside him. and delusions are different and apart from shinjin. Because shinjin comes from Amida it is called the diamond-like shinjin. sometimes good and sometimes bad or scared by various things. No matter what happens or how he feels. It is the same when watching a horror movie. it is like hearing thunderbolts and heavy rain from inside a big. attachments and problems. due to his faith. We can become scared. that he is saved by Amida and destined to become a Buddha in the Pure Land. There is nothing verbal terms the impossible to understand concept that shinjin comes from Amida and is not our creation. After all. Please do not forget that fear. that we have a simple faith in him and thus be sure that this is our last life as non-Buddhas. The first are the product of your own delusion. ordinary people. strong and safe house. nothing real. the reality is that we are safe with Amida Buddha and carried to his Pure Land where we’ll become Buddhas. so there is no need to worry that they may remain with us for the rest of our lives. Most important is that we rely on Amida. 105 . which means it cannot be destroyed by anybody. but in the end we know we are safe and that it is only a movie. attachments. be it a demon or a person from a different religion. but we remember that we are safe in the house. Even if we hear others tell us that because we left Christianity we’ll go to hell.

If you have the most important father or mother you can be certain that all Buddhas will praise you. we are not heroes.People of nembutsu are praised by all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas not because they made something special through their own power. Even if he doubts many times. Also it is one thing to see yourself as you are in the light of your own wisdom and another to realize your limitations once the infinite light of Amida enters your being through faith (shinjin). ask questions. or connecting to Amida’s Light. meditate on himself and on what he has heard. because it is Amida who works inside us. Shinjin. All one needs do is listen deeply to the teaching about the Primal Vow again and again. is what causes you to receive the ten benefits in this life and the praise of all Buddhas. because without Amida we can do nothing but end in hell or other lower realms. to be open to this Dharma. It is due to Amida that persons of shinjin are praised by all Buddhas. and one day he might well become open to and arrive at a 106 . but because they follow the most important teaching of all Buddhas by entrusting themselves to Amida. no matter how great or small their spiritual capacities. accept it. It is the difference between sitting in a dark room with a small candle on the one hand and illuminating it with lots of modern electrical devices on the other. if not the nembutsu of faith in Amida? So. We can rather say that we are the children with the most important father or mother in the universe. and causes us be born in his Pure Land. once we have entrusted ourselves to him. All Buddhas know the Amida Dharma is the supreme Dharma because it can save everybody. venerate it and say the nembutsu of faith is what all Buddhas praise even if the follower does not have anything special inside him. even though you are nothing special in and of yourself. The goal of all Buddhas’ appearance in the world is to save all beings. he should continue to listen. and what method is indeed saving everybody and corresponds to this goal. We are not heroes.

107 . Then he will be sure of his birth in the Pure Land no matter if his mind remains as ordinary as before.simple faith in Amida naturally arising in his heart.

The hole of excrement is his true reality in the here and now. attachments and blind passions that cover all his body and mind. However. always feeling comfortable with this searching. don’t we?… And this dream continues as he practices in self power for 20. that we are all Buddhas-to-be. 30. he likes to dream about Enlightenment: he sometimes even thinks that this is something that can be attained in this very life. attachments and his so called “merits” accumulated in this life. until he finally dies like an ordinary unenlightened person. 40 years or more. etc. They are always full of wise quotes from Buddhist masters and sages of the past from various schools. behaving as though they have all the time in the world. emptiness. After all. never being totally satisfied with any school or teacher. he might ask. emptiness. always going here and there. going to the next life with all his karma. Buddha-nature. Usually such people try many types of practices. This ideal is of course very beautiful and the practicer always likes to stare at it and to take delight in many beautiful words about Enlightenment. we all have Buddha-nature. Here the sun represents the ideal – Buddhahood to be attained through his own power. etc. but with his body in a hole full of excrement. until they suddenly die. They enjoy good books and good meditation. they say.I was a good Buddhist Many Buddhist practicers are like a man staring at the sun. “I’m still searching”. I said that they “suddenly die” because when death comes to them is 108 . his deep karmic evil. about Buddha-nature. I often meet with people that talk a lot about the fact that we all posses Buddha-nature and because of this there is nothing that we have left to do but just realize this truth in our mind. his limitations.

take this a surprise. He tells me not to be afraid and to have full trust in him. I cannot climb myself on it. This dark ravine in which I was lying helplessly is samsara (the world of birth and death). because he realizes that I definitely cannot do this. take it 109 . the next step would be to ask themselves in what state of mind death will find them if it comes not tomorrow. at this very hour and second. so he tells me just to tie myself to this strong rope and let myself to be lifted by him. But being so weak. Since then. without delay and in this very moment. I myself was a “good” Buddhist. but also of the fragility and impermanence of my practice based on personal power. In fact. If they were really aware of the inevitability of their own death and impermanence. I cannot deceive myself with my spiritual “realizations”. then they could feel the smell of the excrement they are in and awaken from the self-satisfying dream of beautiful words about Enlightenment. A good man sees me and throws a strong rope to me. His only intention is to save me immediately. If they were to ask themselves this question. In that moment I abandoned myself and took refuge in Amida. I suddenly became aware not only of the fragility of my life. He even says to me: “I beg you. I do this immediately and I am finally released from the dark ravine. staring at the sun until the awareness of my own death and impermanence hit me so powerfully and awoke me from my dream of self satisfaction. or encourage me to climb by myself up the steep and slippery walls. His intention is not to have a good chat with me about emptiness or Buddha-nature. I imagine myself like a man lying helplessly in a deep and dark ravine with walls so steep and slippery that they cannot be climbed given my weak body. the good man is Amida Buddha and the rope is his Primal Vow through which he tries to help me. they never seriously think about death: this is why they enjoy their “searching” for truth and the right practice. but today.

To let myself be lifted by the rope dropped to me by him is shinjin (entrusting to his Primal Vow) and also nembutsu – “Yes. This how I understand Jodo Shinshu teaching.” Entrusting myself to Amida Buddha and being grateful to him is Namo Amida Butsu. You probably know the kind of ropes that are launched from helicopters when injured people are saved from various dangerous situations – these kinds of ropes are made so that injured persons can be lifted up to safety. there is no time!” This is what we mean when we talk about Amida Buddha’s call. 110 . To hear Amida’s call is to listen to the teaching.immediately. to the intention of his Primal Vow. that is. The rope is so well secured that I only need to let my body be raised by it – I do not need to climb myself on it. I rely on you and I am grateful that you have saved me. they do not need to climb themselves on it.

Decay and death …. My conversion happened in the moment when the distance between me and my death was reduced to zero. His life could no longer be the same after these encounters. and the matter of once calling and many callings of the Name of Amida Buddha. All true practicers have analyzed and will analyze this life with the same seriousness Siddhartha treated the meeting with an old man. In the case of life. Until then. evil karma/good karma and one or many sayings) (A commentary on a fragment from “The Essentials of Faith Alone” by Master Seikaku) The four misconceptions concerning the nembutsu. maturity. bad karma. gives rise to suffering? This is the most important question. rather it is a life in which the moment of death is lived here and now. Especially these two must attract our attention in the same way we analyze a certain object: some qualities distinguish themselves from others and lead to the definition of the object. a sick person and a corpse. what we do with an object that has impermanence as its main quality? What is as slippery as an eel and very dangerous so that. The life of someone who is aware of the truth of impermanence is not divided in the present moment and the moment of death. I 111 . So. If we wish to understand a certain object we look to its qualities. decay and death. in this very second. good karma.Four misconceptions concerning the nembutsu (impermanence. growing. presented by Master Seikaku in the fragment I chose from the Essentials of Faith Alone. to the elements that make it up. What are the elements and fundamental qualities of life? A body and mind which are subject to an inexorable cycle of birth. refers to the wrong understanding of impermanence. when it is wrongly understood and used. impermanence is the fundamental characteristic.

But why was my conversion from a self power practice towards a practice based on Other Power? Why not to “a better practice”. In Buddhism. This is true. Because in the moment one feels the fragility of his body and sees with his own eyes the corpse of a friend or of a close relative. In the moment of my conversion I felt that I could not be a refuge for myself and that Amida became my only refuge. Not only the perspective of my death but also my own personal life are constant reminders of the necessity of getting free from myself in the embrace of Amida. This is why nembutsu from that moment continues even now. because my first nembutsu was the nembutsu of a dying person. ignorant people. one cannot praise himself with his personal capacities. Master Rennyo said: “The teaching of Buddha Dharma is the teaching of non-ego”. understand the teaching of non-ego? In what form do we find it emphasized it in Jodo Shinshu? To follow the teaching of non-ego also means to abandon once and for all any thought of merit or non-merit. At least that is how it was in my case. but still in the realm of self power? The answer is because I felt that I could not rely on myself. Shinjin is sometimes received on the deathbed. etc. Rennyo Shonin also said: 112 . How can we.always felt like I had a lot of time to practice meditation. for it means not to include any personal calculation in matters that concerns our birth in the Pure Land. But in that moment I felt that I had no time. be wise. Since then I continue to experience this truth every day. the teaching of non-ego is often linked with the image of Bodhisattvas who never think of themselves but are always dedicated to the salvation of all beings. but it is only one aspect of it. read.

For the person of faith. if not the escape from the dangerous traps of the ego that thinks itself to be the center of the universe? The ego tries in vain to lie that it struggles to transcend itself and attain Nirvana through its own efforts. the question of “how many times should we recite nembutsu” is also useless for someone who relies on Amida. Then. I wonder. Saichi said: 54 Tathagata means Buddha.” I see the two wrong views. putting more obstacles between it and the true Enlightenment. when in fact. 113 . It means not to hear the teaching but to hear the noises of our personal ego. about the influence of bad karma or good karma in the act that leads to birth in the Pure Land. It is useless for us to discuss matters concerning our karmic evil.e. in the light of the above two explanations given by Rennyo Shonin. i. Because what is in the essence. the Name is not separate from shinjin (entrusting heart). Seikaku demonstrates the futility of any attachment regarding the evil karma or good karma from the past. It is left up to Amida Tathagata54 whether he saves us after destroying our karmic evil or not. our birth in the Pure Land is definitely settled. it does nothing more than strengthen itself in a more subtle way. To worry about our karma means to be blinded by ourselves and not to see the Buddha. how can the ego overcome itself while still relying on itself – how can we make a mirror through polishing a brick? These are fundamental questions in Jodo Shinshu. our practice of reciting with faith the Name of the Buddha.“When a single thought of faith is awakened in us. What concerns us is that Amida saves those who entrust themselves to him. We must not become complicated but search to understand the essential. corrected by Master Seikaku. In the same way.

And we must do this today. In the same way. of course we will feel the need to say nembutsu in the future. Then. It would be really stupid to think that a cold manifest itself only through a single cough. To remain aside and look from afar at the Primal Vow.“When someone is catching a cold he cannot abstain not to cough. on the “deathbed of today”. as Rennyo said. when we rely for the first time on Amida. But of course. here and now. that is. It means to see them from the outside. is not something else but to philosophize on cold or love. 114 . I like this simple explanation about the relation between shinjin and nembutsu. we cough many times. even if we became aware of its existence when we coughed for the first time. I caught the cold of Buddha’s Dharma and I cannot stop coughing the nembutsu. that is.” Nembutsu does not appear before the awakening of faith in the same way coughing does not produce a cold. asking yourself how many times you must say nembutsu. because we became “infected” with shinjin. Namo Amida Butsu! – I take refuge in Amida! – this is something very natural. when we catch a cold. we say nembutsu spontaneously. a manifestation of it. as an expression of faith. We must truly let ourselves be embraced by the nembutsu. but is an expression. To think “how many times must a man cough who has caught a cold” or “how many times must say ‘I love you’ for a man who is in love”. to rely completely on Amida and not be concerned about anything else. when every useless question ceases and nembutsu appears spontaneously. it means that you still haven’t “clung to Amida’s sleeves”. It is very simple to deduce from here that the number of nembutsu recitations is not important.

The meaning of the first five consciousnesses is easy to comprehend. 2) consciousness of hearing. The impure (mind) consciousness is the source of clinging and so the origin of the sense of ego as well as of the other illusions which are born from the fact that the man takes as real something which is merely apparent. be stricken with unexpected disease or inexplicable misfortune. 8) the alaya (storehouse) consciousness. 6) consciousness of mind. so I will not dwell upon them. 7) impure (mind) consciousness. It contains the seeds of various types of karma. Because of the karmic seeds contained in the alaya consciousness one may die a premature death.The alaya consciousness and faith in Amida Buddha In Buddhism we speak about the Eight Consciousnesses which are generated when our senses encounter their objects: 1) consciousness of sight. 5) consciousness of touch. This consciousness influences at the same time the workings of the other seven consciousnesses. and can think 115 . be overcome by strong desires. aversions and obsessions. and it is the storehouse of the habitual evil karmic tendencies that we have cultivated for eons. The alaya consciousness or storehouse consciousness is the place where all the actions and experiences in this life and the previous lives generated by the seven consciousnesses are stored as karma. being the only consciousness which comes along with every birth. Let us examine this consciousness: We take this alaya consciousness with us in all our births in the various realms of existence. 3) consciousness of smell. 4) consciousness of taste. The consciousness of mind integrates the perceptions of the five senses in concrete images and makes decisions concerning the exterior world.

2. but in 116 . nor the manifestation of a karmic seed from alaya counsciousness. Here are two questions and answers related to alaya consciousness: 1. etc. . When Shinran is recorded as saying in chapter 13th of Tannisho: “a person may not wish to harm anyone and yet end up killing a hundred or a thousand people”. We can’t purify this consciousness during our lives. Thus we can no longer speak about alaya after we become Buddhas in the Pure Land. but it comes from Amida Buddha’s Mind. Because it is not our creation and it does not have its source in the alaya. he is in fact referring to the influence of past karma contained in the alaya consciousness. it becomes water (Buddhahood). So strong is the influence of the alaya consciousness. it naturally melts and is absorbed in the Buddha nature. the seeds 55 It is important to realize that shinjin is not our creation.and do things that one should never even imagine.. the alaya consciousness as well as the other consciousnesses continue to exist as long as we are still in our bodies. Once the ice meets fire (birth in the Pure Land). By receiving shinjin55 during this present life. How can the influence of this alaya consciousness be annihilated in our case. as ordinary people? Answer: Only through the nembutsu of faith in Amida Buddha. What exactly happens with alaya consciousness after we receive shinjin (faith in Amida Buddha)? Answer: After we take refuge in Amida Buddha and receive shinjin. but due to Amida’s influence it becomes powerless and cannot accompany us in the next life. when we are born in Amida’s Pure Land or his sphere of influence. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. but at the end of our lives. It is as the comparison with ice and fire.

Or like the flower cut and put into a vase. shinjin cannot be destroyed by the forces of evil karma from alaya counsciousness. It may continue to influence the present life.of our karma contained in alaya consciousness are cut. It will still move for a while but it will surely die in short time. No other religious practices outside or inside Buddhism can destroy the karmic seeds of the alaya consciousness so easy as the Jodo Shinshu method. Our karma stored in alaya consciousness is like this. 117 . Amida’s Mind. never to arise again. It still preserves its color but will soon wither away. because we become Buddhas in the moment we die and are born in the Pure Land. This is because in Jodo Shinshu we become totally connected to the enlightened karmic energy of Amida Buddha who takes care of everything related to our attainment of Buddhahood. but cannot accompany us into the next life. It is like the struggle of the fish after it was taken out of the water.

” Master Rennyo emphasizes here another important aspect of the Jodo Shinshu teaching – Amida Buddha’s transference of merit towards us. when the human life-span as a whole decreases – according to the sutras.Merit transference from Amida Buddha to the practicer Master Rennyo said in one of his Letters: “Attaining the entrusting heart (shinjin) lies in understanding the Eighteenth Vow. that is. “making aspiration and directing virtue” is implied. the transference of merits takes place from Amida Buddha to the person of shinjin. 118 . when one takes refuge. or the stage of the truly settled. 3) the defilement of human condition. But in the case of the Other Power way. perverse thoughts and ideas are predominant. 4) the defilement of life-span. And so. To understand this Vow means to understand what “Namo Amida Butsu” is. when it is less or close to one hundred years. when all kinds of transgressions are exalted. when war and natural disasters are rife. in Amida in one thought-moment. This means that Amida Tathagata directs virtue to us. Virtues indescribable. when people are usually dissatisfied and unhappy. In the practices based on personal power the practicer “earns” virtues which he transfers for his own Enlightenment. 5) the defilement of the world-age. 2) the defilement of passions. This transference of merit is what makes the follower capable of attaining Nirvana. when incorrect. So it follows that all the karmic evil and blind passions which we have given rise to since the beginingless past are completely extinguished by the inconceivable Vow-Power. There is a hymn by Shinran Shonin which says: “When sentient beings of this evil world of the five defilements56 Entrust themselves to the selected Primal Vow. “namo”. inexplicable. This is taught in the Larger Sutra as ‘bringing all sentient beings to the attainment of virtues’. we dwell in the stage of non-retrogression. Hence. and inconceivable 56 The five defilements are the five marks of decay of the world we live in: 1) the defilement of views. foolish beings.

Shan-tao said: “Awake your Bodhi Mind to Amida’s Compassion”. and the second one means that the person who has thus become a Buddha by sharing the same Enlightenment as Amida. the Awakening of the Bodhi Mind. Shinran Shonin said in the “Hymns on Patriarchs”: “Faith is One Mind One Mind is the Diamond-like Mind.Fill those practicers. it has two aspects57: 57 The two aspects of the Bodhi-Mind are to aspire to the attainment of Buddhahood for himself and others. The Diamond-like Mind is the Bodhi-Mind. The Awakening of the Bodhi Mind – the aspiration to attain Budhahood for saving oneself and all beings – is fulfilled in the Awakening of Faith in the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.” The One Mind represents the cause of Enlightenment. the obligatory condition in Mahayana of attaining the supreme Enlightenment. that is. 119 . The first refers to the fact that Amida transfers his entire store of karmic merit to us. making us capable of attaining Buddhahood in the Pure Land. is made capable of returning to this world in order to save all beings. This mind is given us by the Other-Power. Since this is the Bodhi-Mind. So. aspire to your and other beings’ Liberation by relying on the Compasion of Amida (his Primal Vow). appears in Jodo Shinshu in the form of the entrusting heart (shinjin). The merit transference from Amida to the practicer has two aspects: 1) the merit transference of going forth (Oso-Eko) and 2) the merit transference of going back to this world (Genso-Eko) .

120 . the Master of Discourse58.” 58 “Discourse on the Pure Land” (Jodoron).” “The mind aspiring to become Buddha Is the mind seeking to save sentient beings. a work whose author is Master Vasubandhu.“To take refuge with One Mind in the Buddha Of Unhindered Light Shining throughout the Ten Directions Is the mind aspiring to become Buddha. The mind that seeks to save sentient beings Is True Faith endowed by Amida’s Compassion. So says Vasubandhu.

he might come to the conclusion that there is a prejudice against women: “If. So.” 59 Gobunsho or Ofumi. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. rejoice in faith. they must realize they will never be saved in regard to the afterlife. 121 . we naturally “renounce” our womanhood or manhood – that is. should after death be reborn again as women. Apart from this. this Vow does not look down on women. awaken aspiration for Enlightenment and wish to renounce womanhood. Here are just a few quotes: “Let all women living in the present age deeply entrust themselves with singleness of mind to the Amida Tathagata. whatever teaching they may rely upon. when I attain Buddhahood. contrary to some texts which promote the idea that women have fewer chances than men to become Buddhas. like “manhood” is just a limited form for us living in samsara or the world of delusion and suffering. but it shows that women are equally treated as men by the salvation of Amida Buddha. By birth in the Pure Land we become Buddhas and go beyond the limitations of being a woman or a man.” “Womanhood”.No discrimination of women in the salvation of Amida Buddha If one reads the 35th Vow of Amida Buddha without carefully understanding its meaning. women in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters who. so upon birth in the Pure Land of Amida where we attain Buddhahood. we do not define ourselves by these terms. In reality. having heard my Name. as though there is something wrong with being a woman. In his Letters59 Rennyo Shonin often especially addresses women. our true nature or Buddha nature is not of women or men.

“Women who have renounced the world while remaining in lay life and ordinary women as well.” “All women – if they are concerned about the afterlife and have a sense of reverence for the Buddha Dharma – should simply entrust themselves deeply to Amida Tathagata. If this mind is free of the slightest doubt. she will unfailingly go to the land of utmost bliss and become a splendid Buddha. which he calls “the Vow of Women’s Attainment of Buddhahood”: “Amida Tathagata himself made the supreme great Vow concerning women who are abandoned by all other Buddhas. bringing them to Buddhahood in the afterlife.” Especially in the letter “On Women Attaining Buddhahood”. Rennyo Shonin speaks about the 35th Vow of Amida Buddha. should realize and have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that there is deliverance for all those who simply rely deeply (single-heartedly and steadfastly) on Amida Buddha and entrust themselves to that Buddha to save them. cast off the sundry practices. Namo Amida Butsu”. undergoing practices for numberless 122 . and rely single-heartedly and firmly on Amida to save them [bringing them to Buddhahood] in the afterlife. and with the single thought that Amida saves her in regard to the afterlife) a woman will readily become a Buddha. Once they have realized this. they should simply repeat “Namo Amida Butsu. when they then feel thankfulness and joy at being saved in regard to the afterlife. the Vow of Amida Tathagata. “If I do not save women. “By just entrusting herself solely to Amida Buddha (with no double-mindedness. which of the other Buddhas will save them?” Resolving to go beyond all other Buddhas and save women. he meditated for five kalpas. with steadfast. They should have no doubt whatsoever that such women will be born without fail in the land of utmost bliss. This is the Primal Vow of Other Power. thinking.

he wanted to make another Vow to be sure that nobody will ever ever say that women are not included in his salvation. he made the all-surpassing great Vow. Amida wants to reassure them that in his case. women who deeply rely on Amida and entrust themselves to him to save them in regard to the afterlife. Thus. 123 . Although his Primal Vow already made no discrimination among sentient beings. will all be born in the land of utmost bliss. they need not worry about anything.kalpas. including women. “Women’s Attainment of Buddhahood”. For this reason. Especially because other practices or religious systems might discriminate women. Thus it is Amida who originated the incomparable Vow.” All these passages prove that there is no discrimination against women in the salvation of Amida Buddha. we may say that the 35th Vow supports the 18th Vow by emphasizing that all beings. are born in the Pure Land and become Buddhas if they fully entrust themselves to Amida.

The changing mind “What state of mind do you want? Even if you attain the state of mind you want. we will lose ourselves in a false Enlightenment.” – Zuiken Sensei Impermanence is the fundamental law of the world we live in and of our spiritual “realizations”. we take refuge in Amida Buddha in order to attain the true Enlightenment (birth in the Pure Land).” Answer: “Last night you wanted to go to the Pure Land so quickly because you felt very bad. that I wanted to be born in the Pure Land as quickly as possible. It will change again. we will lose ourselves in it. Namo Amida Butsu *** Discussion at the dojo: “… Last night I felt so bad. in our tradition. If we believe in the permanence of our spiritual “realizations” based on the false ego. If we believe in the permanence of this world. you do not wish to go there too soon. but today. This is why. Do not depend on the mind which keeps changing. 124 . in our desires about it. when everything is okay. The ego cannot become free by himself. It is our changing and selfish mind that wishes to go sooner or later to the Pure Land.

We cannot attain Birth by relying on such a mind that today wishes to be born in the Pure Land and tomorrow doesn’t want this any more. The people who lack the seeds of Buddhahood and feel so hard to leave this world are exactly the people taken care of by the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. It is precisely because we have such a changing mind filled with illusions that we are saved by Amida. our birth in the Pure Land is the working of Amida.Fortunately. not our working.” 125 .

126 . Because of Amida. The answer of the child is due to the mother’s call. Similarly. It is said that in an Eranda60 forest grow only Eranda trees and not the famous Chandana61 trees with their fine fragrance. the love of the mother which manifests in him. can he trust in and rely on her. the Compassionate Mother of all beings. and the faith in Buddha is not due to our power but rather what the Buddha plants in us. The mother is the one who actually feeds and makes the child grow. How can it be possible that from human passions the faith in Buddha can be born? The answer is that this phenomenon is practically impossible. just like a child who faithfully answers his mother’s calling. That is why shinjin or the entrusting heart is called “rootless faith” for it has no roots in the man’s mind but in Buddha’s Compassion. not to the power of the child. This is another important aspect of the Jodo Shinshu teaching. In the same way. shinjin (entrusting heart) is not our own creation. The faith of the child is in fact. It is a miracle if a Chandana tree grows in an Eranda forest. it is a miracle if faith in Buddha flourishes in the people’s hearts. Everything comes from Amida and manifests like an echo in our souls and on our lips. Only because the mother always sends unconditional love to her child. but the natural answer to the call of Amida Buddha. A child is nothing 60 61 Trees from Asia which have poisonous fruits. The same thing happens when saying the Name expresses faith and gratefulness. A mother calls her child and the child answers immediately. we entrust in Amida and say nembutsu.Faith and nembutsu are not our creations The reason why in a nembutsu follower’s heart both the faith in the Primal Vow and his blind passions and illusions coexist is that this faith doesn’t belong to him. Trees from Asia with beautiful smelling flowers.

When one is in the mountains and shouts in a loud voice.without a mother. we refer to them as the shinjin of merit transference based on Buddha-centered power (tariki eko no shinjin) and the nembutsu of the merit transference based on Buddhacentered power (tariki eko no nembutsu. 127 . not his own power. I do not know if these images are the best. especially shinjin and nembutsu. Craiova. if you consider them useful. of the powerful call of Amida. it is beyond conceptual understanding. Romania. The power of her love makes him grow. Just please use them. This matter – that shinjin and nembutsu comes from Amida and are not created by us – is very difficult to explain in words. If you do not shout. Shinjin and nembutsu are the echo – manifested in us. automatically you can hear the echo. to understand this important truth – that there is nothing we can call to be ours and our creation. Just rely on Amida Buddha and don’t think on anything else. are absolutely not things that depend on our efforts. Eiken Kobai Sensei explains in his book Understanding Jodo Shinshu62: “The shinjin that is the acceptance of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow and the nembutsu that we recite with our mouth. I am using here images to cause my mind and heart. because they result solely from the Buddha-centered power.” 62 Published in 2007 by Dharma Lion Publications. there would be no shinjin and nembutsu. and the minds and hearts of the readers. In the same way. I do not use by chance the term “receive” and not the term “attain” when referring to shinjin. Rather. no echo can be heard. In fact. to abandon your thoughts of personal merit in receiving shinjin and birth in the Pure Land. if Amida would not compassionately call to us.

Master Rennyo answered him with the poem: “There is no heart far from Amida. the moon is not guilty that her image is not reflected in the covered bowl. In the same way. although Amida’s Light Compassion) is always shining on you. you cannot feel his or her love. but because your eyes are closed. you can become open or closed to the message of the Primal Vow of Amida. But a covered bowl of water cannot reflect the moon. does the Buddha choose between those he wants to save now and those he doesn’t want to save yet?” Answer: Imagine that somebody loves you unconditionally. which it was also used by Master Rennyo63: the moon is reflected in every bowl full of water. Once a friend asked me the following question: “Why is that one person is ready for the nembutsu and others obviously are not? And assumed the nembutsu comes only from the Buddha to us. So. There is another image. as taught by Shinran. The love of that person is always upon you. while some others are open. but some people are simply not opened to his call.” 128 . but a covered bowl of water cannot reflect the moon. Amida Buddha does not chose “between those he wants to save now and those he doesn’t want to save yet”.Why some are saved by Amida and others are not? “There is no heart far from Amida. but you do not care. but some bowls are covered. Some might ask: what do we have to do in order to receive shinjin? 63 It is said that Zen Master Ikkyu sent the following koan to Master Rennyo: “Amida has no mercy since Amida only saves those who says His Name”.

by Dharma Lion Publications. Then faith. The Buddhist teaching begins and ends in hearing. As my nembutsu friend. 64 Thus I Have Heard from Rennyo Shonin (Rennyo Shonin’s Goichidaiki Kikigaki) . My opinion is that we should not complicate our minds. and one day. and the Nembutsu. Craiova.” If somebody does not listen deeply to the teaching but is filled with ideas of self power. Shinjin and nembutsu are not forcibly imposed in our hearts by Amida Buddha. and faith will be given. listening to the teaching is the most important practice.Master Rennyo said in Rennyo Shonin Goichidaiki Kikigaki (Thus I Have Heard from Rennyo Shonin)64: “Regardless of our doubts. if we listen intently with our entire being. he cannot receive shinjin. we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion. he cannot receive shinjin and nembutsu (which is the natural manifestation of shinjin).” So. in our tradition. The words “we will be given shinjin because of Great Compassion” shows that shinjin comes from Amida.An annotated translation by Zuio Hisao Inagaki. so if somebody does not show interest in the Buddhist teaching and especially in the teaching about the Primal Vow of Amida. Things are very simple and yet very profound. if we wish to receive the gift of faith from Amida. but listen to the Dharma again and again. Will naturally arise. but the first part “if we listen intently with our entire being” shows what we have to do. Jason Ranek said in his poem: “Uncover your cup To receive the Dharma rain. you will become open and you will receive shinjin. 129 . You have to listen again and again. Published in 2008.

day and night. Shinran Shonin said in “Hymns of Benefit in the Present”: When we say “Namo Amida Butsu. day and night.” The four great deva-kings together Protect us constantly. Protected by unseen divine beings (myoshu goji) This means that those who have shinjin are protected against various influences from external evil forces. day and night. black magic or evil spirits. day and night. Upananda.” The earth-goddess called Firmness Reveres and protects us constantly. Thus. the nembutsu follower has no reason to be afraid of sorcery. 130 . All the benevolent gods of the heavens Protect us constantly.” Nanda. Accompanying us always just as shadows do things. When we say “Namo Amida Butsu. and the other great nagas.The ten benefits in this life of a nembutsu follower Shinran Shonin speaks about the ten benefits a nembutsu follower receives in this present life: 1. revere And protect us constantly.” 65 Brahma is the creator God in Hinduism. but in Buddhism he is the Lord of the first Dhyana Heaven from the world of form.” Brahma65 and Indra66 venerate us. When we say “Namo Amida Butsu. When we say “Namo Amida Butsu. Along with the countless naga-gods. When we say “Namo Amida Butsu. And let no evil spirits come near. 66 Indra is the Lord of the heaven of the thirty-three gods (Trayas-trimsa).

Yama, the king of the dead, reveres us,
And the officers who judge the beings of the five courses of
All protect us constantly, day and night.
When we say “Namo Amida Butsu,”
We are protected by the great king of maras
Residing in the sixth heaven;
This he vowed to do in the presence of Sakyamuni Buddha.
The gods of the heavens and earth
Are all to be called good,
For together they protect
The person of the nembutsu.
There are many similar references in Kyogyoshinsho and other
writings of Shinran Shonin.
2. Possessed of the supreme virtue (shitoku gusoku)
It means that by entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha’s Primal
Vow we receive his merit and virtues that cause us to attain birth in
the Pure Land:
“When sentient beings of this evil world of the five defilements
Entrust themselves to the selected Primal Vow,
Virtues indescribable, inexplicable, and inconceivable
Fill those practicers.”
Shinran Shonin explained in his work “Passages on the Two
Aspects of The Tathagata’s Directing of Virtue”:
“Concerning the directing of virtue through the power of the
Primal Vow, the Tathagata’s directing of virtue has two aspects: the
directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land
and the directing of virtue in the aspect for our return to this world.”


The directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth means that
by receiving shinjin during this present life we are made to be born in
the Pure Land where we become immediately Buddhas67.
The directing of virtue for our return to this world means that as
soon as we become Buddhas in the Pure Land we return to this world
in various forms to help all beings.
Both these aspects are the transference of merit from Amida
Buddha to us which we receive in the form of shinjin (entrusting
heart) and nembutsu (saying of the Name).
In fact, every one of the benefits presented here are the
manifestation of Amida’s transference of his entire store of karmic
merit to us; they are all the gifts of Amida.
Here it is a question about the merit transference from Amida and
my answer:
“When I first experienced gratitude and said the Nembutsu, Paul68
wrote and said, “He (Amida) not only knows your name, but he has
given to you his own store of infinite karmic merit.” Does that
“karmic merit” only apply to what happens after this life?”
In the moment you receive shinjin, as Paul said, you also receive
Amida Buddha’s store of infinite karmic merit. This means that you
have entered the stage of non-retrogression in this life (see the 10th
benefit) and you become assured of birth in the Pure Land exactly as
you are. In this way Amida’s karmic merit applies in this life.
But this doesn’t mean that you are free of any suffering while still
alive. You can’t always experience happiness in this world


See the 10th benefit.
Paul Roberts, disciple of Eiken Kobai Sensei and webmaster of the Shin Ugly
Blog and the True Shin Buddhism Yahoo! group.



because your mind still remains unenlightened until you die, at
which time you are born in the Pure Land.
You ask questions like why are you not happy here and now since
you have shinjin, but the answer is that you are not happy because
you are not a Buddha yet! An unenlightened mind cannot be happy,
no matter what it has and what kind of pleasant circumstances it
encounters. On the contrary, you can experience bliss and lack of
suffering when you are born in the Pure Land – because then you
become Enlightened. Only an Enlightened mind can be truly happy.
Thus Amida’s Pure Land is called “The Land of Peace and Bliss”.
Jodo Shinshu is not a path of becoming a Buddha in this life, so
you cannot become perfectly happy here. Only a Buddha can be
perfectly happy in this world, because his mind is a Buddha Mind, an
Enlightened Mind, Awakened and Free. Anywhere he goes he is free
and happy.
However, with shinjin your unenlightened mind is assured of birth
in the Pure Land – this is the meaning of this second benefit.
3. Having evil turned into good (tenaku jyozen)
Due to the influence of Amida we can transform an unpleasant
experience into an opportunity to understand life as it is and the
Dharma. It doesn’t mean that we will no longer have problems, or
experience lack of material things, etc., but that we can understand
these unfortunate events as being the effects of our karma, using them
to become more aware that this is samsara, the world of suffering
from which we must escape once and for all. Bad events in our lives
can thus be transformed through the light of the Dharma into useful
ones – useful for our understanding.
Also this benefit refers to the fact that in the instant we receive
shinjin our karma is cut and cannot plant its seed in another life.
When shinjin enters our heart we receive the pure karmic energy of
Amida Buddha. Our evil is turned into good in the sense that it is no

Together with bodhisattvas countless as the Ganges’ sands or as particles. It is said in the “Hymns of Benefit in the Present”: “When we say “Namo Amida Butsu”. a thousandfold. Accompany us just as shadows do things. Protected by all Buddhas (shobutsu gonen) This benefit is again related with protection. Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta. Being an ordinary person of grave karmic evil brings us to the special attention of Amida’s Compassion. Countless Amida Buddhas reside In the light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light. The countless Buddhas throughout the ten quarters. 69 Manifestations of Amida Buddha which accords with the particularity of each being. Each one of these transformed Buddhas69 protects The person of true and real shinjin. our evil becomes as good as nonexistent once we receive shinjin. 134 .” Protection of the Buddhas can be understood not only in the sense explained at the first benefit.longer an obstacle for our attainment of Buddhahood at the end of this life. but also that shinjin can’t be lost once we receive it from Amida. Rejoice in and protect us. No matter what we did in the past or will do in the future due to our illusions and attachments. 4. like the first benefit. This is why it is said in chapter seven of Tannisho: “nonbuddhists present no obstruction”. Surrounding us a hundredfold. When we say “Namo Amida Butsu”.

we should not make any confusion and think that after we receive shinjin we should always be happy or always experience happy circumstances. but because my faith (shinjin) is not my creation. with shinjin. Since. Answer: In the moment you entrust to Amida Buddha your karma has its root cut off in the sense that it cannot plant its seeds into another life – that is. no being (visible or invisible) can destroy our faith or divert us from the Buddhist path. we safely go into the direction of Buddhahood. we are protected from rebirth in the unenlightened states of existence.How many Christians have tried to tell me that I will go to hell because of being a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist! Of course such attempts to frighten me fail not because I posses some special powers. It is not by accident that in Jodo Shinshu we often meet the expression “diamond-like shinjin”. We may also say that the protection of the Buddhas means that since the moment we receive shinjin. This is why Jodo Shinshu followers can’t be influenced by those who follow nonbuddhist paths. That which gives power to our faith is its origin – the Heart and Mind of Amida Buddha. So. All Buddhas are witnesses of this truth and praise the wonderful salvation work of Amida. you will no longer be subject to birth and death. But in this life you continue to experience the effects of your past actions from previous lives or of those actions you will commit until the moment of death. Here it is a question about the protection of the Buddhas in this life and my answer: Question: “I still don’t understand how a person is “protected” by these various Buddhas if a person’s karma can’t be changed in the present life”. and the 135 .

’’ .” Also it is stated in the Contemplation Sutra: “Know that the person who says the nembutsu is a white lotus among people. The passage declaring the fulfillment of the Vow states: ‘‘Such people are praised by all the Buddhas and rejoice. It means that Amida always illuminates us. he said: “The one who hears and never forgets this Dharma. Amida’s Seventeenth Vow declares that the Buddha will not enter into perfect Enlightenment if those who say the Name are not praised by all the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters. 5. But sees and reveres it and greatly rejoices in attaining it That person is my true companion.” Shinran Shonin explained in one of his Letters (Mattosho): “Further. making us understand our life’s events as they are explained by the Dharma.attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land is guaranteed – these are the ways through which this benefit of all Buddhas’ protection manifests itself. 6. as Shakyamuni himself recognizes. In the Larger Sutra. Amida’s Light causes us to profoundly realize our limitations and how reliable the Primal Vow 136 . looking to them as to future Buddhas. Here we see that the protection is a spiritual one. It is wonderful that we have come to entrust in a teaching so hard to be accepted in faith. Protected by the Buddha’s spiritual light (shinko jogo) I think this benefit is in close connection with the fourth. Praised by all Buddhas (shobutsu shyosan). All Buddhas praise those who entrust in Amida.

Having much joy in mind (shinta kangi) The receiving of shinjin is equivalent with escaping a great burden. This twofold awareness never disappears from us because we are embraced in Amida’s spiritual Light. never to be abandoned. It also means that we are protected from wrong understanding of the teaching. no matter that sometimes it is covered by the everyday difficulties and sorrows. sharing Dharma texts or helping Jodo Shinshu sanghas. We express this gratitude by saying nembutsu and by doing many kind of activities in the benefit of the Dharma. some people become teachers and preach the Dharma to others in order to help them receive shinjin. and supporting our teachers and fellow practicers are acts of repaying the benevolence of Amida Tathagata. Acknowledging His benevolence and repaying it (chion hotoku) We become aware of what Amida does for us. freeing us from birth and death. and we feel gratitude. Also. dojos and temples. That one year you are still in prison is of course difficult. We are able to feel this relief and joy many times in our life. False teachers can’t influence us and we’ll never distort the essentials of the Jodo Shinshu Dharma in our presentations.of Amida is. 137 . We know that we’ll become Buddhas no matter our present situation. 8. but you also know for sure that your day of freedom will soon come. Imagine that you are in a prison and somebody in whom you trust 100% assures you that you will be released in one year or a few years. no matter how hard your everyday life in prison still remains. So you are able to feel relief and joy remembering your assurance. For example. 7. Shinran said in the Hymns of the Dharma Ages: “Such is the benevolence of Amida’s great Compassion.

by receiving shinjin we become part of the salvation work of Amida or a link in Amida’s Great Compassion chain.” 70 This nembutsu is the expression of faith. Always practicing the Great Compassion (jyogyo daihi) This doesn’t mean that we act like Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in this very life. including ourselves. That we must endeavor to repay it. what is the benefit of always practicing Great Compasion? I think that although we do not act like Buddhas in this life. So. even to the breaking of our bodies. If these people encourage each other and bring others to say the Name. 9. Such is the benevolence of the masters and true teachers. without any doubt. If somebody gives the true teaching about Amida to others. then he indeed practices the Great Compassion in the sense that he acts as a messenger of this Great Compassion. 138 . To continue in the nembutsu without any interruption means to have a stable faith. We can understand others’ limitations and realize that everybody is accepted as they are.That we must strive to return it. even to our bones becoming dust”. they are all called “people who practice great Compassion. chapter three. In his Kyogyoshinsho. section on the true disciple of the Buddha. Especially we can benefit others by helping them to create connections with the Dharma of Amida. Shinran Shonin quotes this passage from The Sutra of Great Compassion: “What is ‘great Compassion’? Those who continue solely in the nembutsu without any interruption70 will thereby be born without fail in the land of happiness at the end of life. If we are already Buddhas and have Great Compassion then it means that we no longer need the Primal Vow.

(See the tenth benefit) 71 See my commentaries of the chapters four and five from Tannisho in my book. He knows that no matter how he dies or how he lives. Because we are in this special group we enjoy every other benefit. This is also called the stage of non-retrogression. Please read them carefully. assured of birth in the Pure Land. nor even how we die (suffering. not in the moment of death. For the free online edition check my blog at www. related to the benefits in this life. he will surely go to the Pure Land. 10.blogspot.e. The Path of Acceptance – Commentary on Tannisho. The tenth benefit is the wonderful news that people like us. I think we may also say that this benefit and all other benefits are given to us because of the merit transference from Amida Buddha to us (second benefit). Question: “… that feeling of safety doesn’t seem to apply to how we live life in this realm of samsara. At the end of these explanations I wish to present you with another three very important questions and my answers. pain etc) but to the next life and rebirth in the Pure Land . full of blind passions. published by Dharma Lion Publications in 2011. are saved just as they are – i.” Answer: The feeling of safety of a person of shinjin is that he feels assured he goes directly to the Pure Land.This clearly shows that practicing Great Compassion in this life means to encourage others to say the nembutsu of faith in Amida Buddha71. This is an assurance he receives in this life. Entering the Rightly-Established Group (shojyoju ni iru) By receiving shinjin in this life we enter the rightly established group or those assured of birth and Buddhahood in the Pure Land. Any karma he still creates in this life will no longer have an effect in terms of another birth in samsara. if we entrust ourselves to Amida 139 .

To receive the merits of Amida is like entering into an infinitely powerful stream of water. which means to let himself being carried by the ambulance of Amida and be sure that when he reaches the Hospital (the Pure Land) and meets the Doctor himself (Amida).But he also knows that the remaining part of this life is the life of an ordinary unenlightened being. Question: “ I am just confused about the entire premise of Buddhism leading a person beyond suffering in this world. The bee still suffers but she is carried to her true home and when she reaches it. It is like being a small and disoriented bee in the great hand of the Buddha. To receive the merits of Amida in this life through shinjin and to be protected by the Buddhas means that you are carried safely to the other shore. but when he reaches the hospital and meets the Doctor in person (birth in Amida Buddha’s Pure Land) he is healed for ever and he becomes a Doctor himself (becomes a Buddha and returns to this world to save others). she becomes truly happy. You remain as you are. It sounds like you’re saying the only way out of suffering for a Shinshu Buddhist is death.” Answer: The only way out of suffering for a Shinshu Buddhist is to entrust in this life in Amida Buddha. as long as he is not a Buddha. he still suffers because he remains an unenlightened being until his death. It can’t be any other way. he is cured. I repeat. The sick person still experiences pain on the road to the hospital (the rest of the life you have until death and birth in the Pure Land). while you remain as you are. an ugly piece of wood but you are carried by the stream of water to the ocean. Or it is like a sick man carried by an ambulance. he still suffers. Maybe this image will be helpful to you. so it’s normal that. 140 .

you can’t be 100% happy here because you are not a Buddha yet. go to the Pure Land and become a Buddha.this depends from person to person . And as I said previously. and only a Buddha can be 100% happy in all the worlds. because you can’t become a perfect Buddha while in this present body. I created all that happens in this life and that can’t be changed. you may arrange your time you still have here in samsara to be more pleasant. Can any actions in this present life change how past karma is manifested in this life? “ Answer: Yes you may alter your karma in many ways. become perfectly happy in this life).but what is most important is that you can’t heal all your wounds here (that is. Faith and assurance do not lead automatically to the absence of suffering from his life because he is not a Buddha yet. 141 . or you may not . Question: “From what I understand in your explanations. Jodo Shinshu doesn’t say you should do nothing to make your life more comfortable. I just grin and bear it until I die. but it says you cannot solve the great problem of birth and death by yourself and become perfectly happy here. as I explained before. even in hell.But this entrusting and sense of assurance that he is saved appears during the present life.

they are in the stage equal to the perfect Enlightenment. equal to all Buddhas and equal to Maitreya Buddha. and in the Sutra of the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life they are said to have attained the stage equal to perfect Enlightenment. are said to be in the stage of the truly settled. the “stage of non-retrogression”. This birth in the Pure Land will be immediately followed by the attainment of Buddhahood or perfect Enlightenment. 142 . was said by Shakyamuni to be a future great Buddha who will appear in this world after many billion years (5. Shinran Shonin explained this in letter 3 of Mattosho: “Since those who have realized shinjin necessarily abide in the stage of the truly settled. Equal to the perfect Enlightenment is the same stage as that of Maitreya. This means that since faith has been aroused in their hearts they are assured of the attainment of birth in the Pure Land which will occur at their death. Although they differ.” Those who entrust themselves to Amida Buddha in this life are said to be in the stage of the truly settled or the stage of those assured of Nirvana – or in other words. they are said to be the same as Maitreya. who is in the rank of succession to Buddhahood.000) from his era. the terms ‘truly settled’ and ‘equal to enlightenment’ have the same meaning and indicate the same stage. Maitreya.000. never to be abandoned. Since persons of shinjin will definitely attain the supreme Enlightenment.670. 72 Miroku in Japanese. In the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life those who have been grasped.Equal to Maitreya72 Buddha A unique teaching in Jodo Shinshu is that followers who received shinjin are equal to perfect Enlightenment. now residing in the Tusita heaven.

the person who has attained true shinjin is taught to be equal to Tathagatas. and the stage equal to the perfect Enlightenment. Shinran said to Joshin-bo in letter 7 of Mattosho: “You should understand that the moment of settling of those who entrust themselves to Tathagata’s Vow is none other than the settling into the stage of non-retrogression. This is called the stage of non-retrogression. Faith is the cause of Enlightenment.So. never to be abandoned. a follower who has faith in Amida Buddha is equal with the state of perfect Enlightenment because he will become a Buddha and has the seed of Buddhahood already planted in his heart. Thus is awakened the heart and mind that will attain the supreme Enlightenment. it is certain that he will. so both are equal in the sense that one is the effect of the other (as in there can be no smoke without a fire). both come about through being grasped. the stage of the truly settled. In the same manner. because they receive the benefit of being grasped. the stage of the truly settled or of those assured of Nirvana is equal with that of perfect Enlightenment in the sense that those belonging to the first state will surely attain perfect Enlightenment. never to be abandoned. Whether we speak of the settling of true shinjin or the settling of the diamondlike shinjin. but is not a Buddha yet during this life until death. In this manner. The fire will necessary produce smoke even if the fire is not the same with the smoke.” He also said in letter fifteen: “The Garland Sutra states that those who have attained true shinjin are already certain to become Buddhas and therefore are equal to the Tathagatas. so he is already known as Maitreya Buddha. The cause of perfect Enlightenment is definitely settled when faith in Amida arises in the heart of the followers. Although Maitreya has not yet attained Buddhahood.” 143 .

” […. explained Shinran. 144 .] “Further. since Maitreya has already become one who is certain to attain Buddhahood. he is called Maitreya Buddha. He is also regarded as being the same as Maitreya. they are said to abide in the stage of the truly settled and to attain the same stage as Bodhisattva Maitreya73. By this we know that the person who has already realized shinjin that is Other Power can be said to be equal to Buddhas.” 73 “Since Maitreya is already close to Buddhahood. it is the custom in various schools to speak of him as Maitreya Buddha”. So. who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood. exactly as Shakyamuni did in the past. Shinran said: “…the moment they realize the diamondlike mind (shinjin).The stage of the truly settled or of those assured of Nirvana is the same state in which Maitreya now dwells in the Tusita heaven where he is waiting for the right moment to be born in this world and attain Buddhahood. You should have no doubts about this.” Shinran explains further: “The Buddhas in the ten quarters rejoice in the settling of this mind and praise it as being equal to the hearts and minds of all Buddhas. Maitreya is sometimes called “Bodhisattva Maitreya” in the sense of a person who engaged himself in practices to become a Buddha for the benefit of himself and all beings or “Maitreya Buddha” because he will surely become one in his next life. the person of true shinjin is said to be equal to Buddhas. In letter 18 of Mattosho. Since persons of true and real shinjin are of the same stage as Maitreya. Thus. they are equal to Buddhas.

“The Buddhas in the ten quarters rejoice in the settling of this mind and praise it as being equal to the hearts and minds of all Buddhas. This is also indicated in Sakyamuni’s statement about those who realize shinjin and greatly rejoice: ‘The one who sees.” The only difference between Maitreya and the followers who have faith in Amida Buddha (and are now in the same stage as perfect Enlightenment like him) is that Maitreya has entered this stage 145 . reveres. the person of true shinjin is said to be equal to Buddhas. and attains [the dharma] and greatly rejoices . Shinran based his arguments on the words of Shakyamuni in the Larger Sutra or other sutras: “’Those who attain shinjin and joy are equal to Tathagatas’.” There is also the 17th Vow of Amida Buddha recorded in the Larger Sutra about which Shinran wrote: “Further.that person is my excellent. close companion’. and attains [the Dharma] and greatly rejoices . thus he teaches that the person who has attained shinjin is equal to Buddhas. close companion’.” As you see. He is also regarded as being the same as Maitreya. ‘This person is our equal. who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood. Thus. and they proclaim.“…all Buddhas feel great joy when such a person rejoices in the realization of true shinjin.that person is my excellent.’ Sakyamuni’s words of rejoicing are found in the Larger Sutra: ‘The one who sees. reveres. Amida’s 17th Vow declares that the Buddha will not enter into perfect Enlightenment if those who say the Name are not praised by all the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters. This is from the Garland Sutra and means that the person who rejoices in shinjin is the equal of all the Tathagatas. The passage declaring the fulfillment of the Vow states: ‘Such people are praised by all the Buddhas and rejoice’.

never to be abandoned. Until death and birth in the Pure Land we remain ordinary beings filled with blind passions but carrying in ourselves the settled cause for becoming Buddhas. how can self-power enter into it? Please consider this fully.” This clearly shows that ordinary people become equal to the Tathagatas (Buddhas) and equal with Maitreya not through their own power but through the Power of Amida Buddha. There is also another difference between Maitreya and us. Shinran said in his letter 15 of Mattosho: “To think in self-power that one is equal to the Tathagatas is a great error. but they travel by different means.) both will reach their destinations. etc. If he has to wait many more billions of years until he is born into this world and become a Buddha.through his own power while those who have shinjin become truly settled through the Power of Amida. enter this stage and are assured of becoming Buddhas in the Pure Land. This is the meaning of “they receive the benefit of being grasped. we who entrust in Amida will become Buddhas after this life is ended. 146 . Both are flying (are in the stage of non-retrogression/assured of Nirvana or the stage next to Buddhahood. but rather because Amida made us to become so. It is like a person flying in the air by his own power (Maitreya) and another one (us) carried by a plane.” Due to Amida grasping us are we made capable to receive faith. But it is because of the shinjin of Other Power that you rejoice. the first by self power and the latter by Other Power (Amida’s Power). We are not equal to the Tathagatas and to Maitreya just because we deserve it or have great merits and virtues.

and because Enlightenment means the attainment of Buddha nature. shinjin is the manifestation of Buddha nature via Amida Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form. How do you explain this?” Answer: First. as all beings have the same innate Buddha nature (Buddhahood) or the same potential to become a Buddha. shinjin is only the manifestation of Amida as a Buddha: it comes from his Enlightenment.Shinjin and Buddha nature Question: “In some writings of Shinran Shonin it is said that shinjin is itself Buddha-nature. “shinjin is itself Buddha-nature”. because this would mean that he himself should also be subject to change and not the “diamond-like shinjin” that Shinran was speaking about. having delusional personalities which are the product of various attachments. because we can’t receive anything directly from it in the state which we are in as unenlightened beings. Shinjin cannot be the product of our delusional personalities that change according to karma from life to life. But unlike a Buddha. ignorance and karma. due to the many layers of delusion and heavy karmic evils 147 . in reality this is not our propriety. Shinjin cannot come directly to us from the ultimate Buddha nature without the help of Amida Buddha. Amida is a Buddha. This is how I think we should understand the words. So. which means he is one who has became awakened to his Buddha nature. Second. His Buddha nature is the same with our Buddha nature. we are now living at the level of ignorant beings. but what Amida Buddha awakens in us. we can say that in ultimate sense. even if we say it in conventional language that we have shinjin (faith in Amida Buddha).

which cover our innate Buddha nature. This is why we need Amida Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form to take us. to the fulfilled Buddha nature or Buddhahood. 148 . but in Jodo Shinshu we think this is no longer possible due to the low level of beings in this dark age. If we receive shinjin in the present life. So. through shinjin. without the help of Amida? Answer: No. we first come to Amida’s sphere of influence or his Pure Land through shinjin. which is to be reached once we die and enter Amida’s Pure Land. we can’t. then when we die we are born in the Pure Land where our blind passions and unenlightened personalities are immediately transformed into fully enlightened Buddhas. which is the indirect step toward Buddha nature. without entering directly to our Buddha nature. In other Buddhist schools it is indeed said that followers can directly access the innate Buddha nature through various meditation techniques. Question: Can we access directly our innate Buddha nature.

the sentient beings of the ten quarters. when I felt as though I couldn’t handle my own life. 149 . It was like a lump.” Many people that come into contact with the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha experience two types of reactions: they are happy in finding the message that is full of hope in the first part. But is this the way things really are? th In my first days as a Jodo Shinshu follower. and now. I kept asking again and again. I had reached for Amida Buddha’s help in a very difficult time. when I attain Buddhahood. may I not attain the supreme enlightenment. so after all the 18 Vow is not quite universal. like I never managed to really enjoy my meeting with Amida. there are some people that aren’t received by the Compassion of Amida. should not be born there. when I still did not have a direct contact with anyone from our tradition I was trying really hard to understand the purpose of this “exclusion”. especially avoiding the last sentence. and saying my Name perhaps even ten times. with sincere mind entrusting themselves. I admit that I got really frightened every time I read that part. aspiring to be born in my land. but they become unsure right after reading the last sentence: “excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and slander the right Dharma”. “What if I committed one of those grave offenses myself?”. after the joy of a hope. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right Dharma. because I wanted to offer it a special chapter: “If. an “exclusion” still exists. Something seems wrong.The “exclusion” in the 18th Vow Until now I haven’t presented to you the Primal Vow in its entirety. I kept hitting against this phrase that was refusing to go away.

. that are always ready to make mistakes. Maybe we were afraid in that moment that she will leave us or who knows what she will do if we do not behave properly.if we were to die without going through a change of heart and without abiding in a state of 150 . but always welcoming us with her love. Amida Buddha’s Compassion is like a mother’s love. and the reader of the sacred scriptures must not stop at the words but should try instead to see beyond them.But it wasn’t long until the calm came into my heart: “everything is all right. trying her best to change us.. but a warning: “some actions are very serious. Shinran said: “Suppose that attainment of birth were possible only by going through changes of heart day and night with every incident that occurred.”. how could you doubt me?” seems that Amida would have said. So. no matter how we acted. We all have been admonished at least once by our mothers while we were kids and our behavior became unbearable. But that “or else.human life being such that it ends even before breath exhaled can be drawn in again . while correcting the erroneous view that nembutsu followers must go through a change of heart every time they get angry or do something bad. admonishing us. how could we ever gain freedom from birth and death?” In chapter 16 of the same writing.” remains unfulfilled because of the first part of the Vow that proves the unconditioned salvation of a real mother. and the “exclusion” in the Primal Vow is just an admonishment addressed to some stupid and crazy kids. do not commit them. In that case . The Buddhist teaching must be always understood in its spirit. what is the real purpose of the Primal Vow? Shinran said in Tannisho: “If it were only by observing precepts and upholding rules that we could entrust ourselves to the Primal Vow.. but in the end she was always there. It’s not an “exclusion” in its own way. or else .

I changed my mind and I impose some hard conditions that you won’t be able to cross”. that is the fully understanding of the hopeless spiritual situation we are in..” In Shinran’s opinion.but actually. each of us. Something appears though in the moment of the awakening of faith.gentleness and forbearance. this “exclusion” actually shows that even the worst beings are included in the salvation of Amida. manifested in his Vow and Name. would not Amida’s Vow that grasps and never abandons us be rendered meaningless?” Because Buddha has Endless Compassion and sees every being as his own child. but also of the salvation and indiscriminate working of Amida. Probably. Amida Buddha knows the true capacities of human beings and he didn’t create his Vows for those capable of reaching Enlightenment by their own power: “To destroy your blind passions means to become a Buddha and for the one who is already a Buddha. deny it or state its contrary. the effects of those offenses are annihilated by the Endless Compassion that is received in the believer’s heart through the awakening of faith. I think that the mentioning of these gravest offenses is a clue that they are not wanted in the disciples’ behavior but. something called “change of heart”. driven by our illusions or blind passions. A Buddha can’t make a statement and immediately after. in our past lives or this life. has committed at least once one of these offenses. in the same time. This attitude would be against the Bodhi Mind and the most elementary Mahayana vows. 151 . especially those who committed the five grave offenses and slandered the right Dharma.. the Vow coming from the profound contemplation for five kalpas has no meaning. permanently driven by the tendencies of our negative karma and always capable of committing any act. something like: “I will save you all even if you just say my Name ten times . it would be absurd to abandon them because of their ignorance.

In the moment we start to rely on Amida Buddha we experience this “change of heart”. can be born in the Pure Land if he meets a good spiritual teacher. Because a person has not slandered the right Dharma.’ The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life states. and who are possessed of various evils also attain birth. making it straight. nothing is said of slandering the right Dharma. Although in the Sutra of Immeasurable Life appears the “exclusion” mentioned above. an event that completely transforms our life’s direction. The other sutra speaks only of committing the evil of the ten transgressions and five grave offenses. Because of committing both these two kinds of evil act. to the supreme Nirvana. ‘Those who aspire for birth are all brought to attainment. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right Dharma. “Question: The Sutra of Immeasurable Life states. 152 . ‘Those who have committed the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions. Here Shakyamuni Buddha tells Ananda and Vaidehi that a man lying on his death bed that committed the five grave offenses. I will further present questions and answers from Kyogyoshinsho that will bring light upon this subject. in the Sutra of Contemplation the situation is completely different. the ten transgressions and every kind of evil acts. independent of its illusions. he attains birth. a person is unable to attain birth. listens to his advices and recites Namo Amida Butsu even ten times.’ How are these two sutra passages to be reconciled? Answer: The first sutra speaks of committing two kinds of serious evil act: the five grave offenses and the slander of the right Dharma. Why this sutra doesn’t mention the slandering of Dharma among the evil acts which can’t obstruct birth in the Pure Land? This is a very important aspect that must be well understood.

In the sutra. no Bodhisattva. Such a foolish person has already slandered it. if he aspires for birth. Further. The person who slanders the right Dharma falls into great Avici hell. he passes on into the great Avici hell of another quarter. no Buddha-dharma. Deciding on such views. is called slandering the right Dharma. How can it be deemed reasonable that he attain it? Question: What are the characteristics of slandering the right Dharma? Answer: Saying there is no Buddha.Question: Suppose a person has committed the five grave offenses but has not slandered the right Dharma. and when that kalpa has run out. he will definitely be unable to attain birth. this is like seeking ice that is not water or fire without smoke. How is this known? A sutra states that the person who has committed the five grave offenses falls into great Avici hell and fully undergoes their recompense for one kalpa. This is because slandering the right Dharma is an evil act of extreme gravity. whether through understanding thus in one’s own mind or receiving the ideas from others. how can it be reasonable to think that he would aspire to be born in the Buddha-land? Suppose the person aspires for birth merely because he craves to be born into happiness. will he attain it or not? Answer: Although he has only slandered the right Dharma and has not committed other evil acts. In this way he passes through a hundred thousand great Avici hells one after another. The Buddha does not indicate any time when it is possible for him to emerge. Further. it is granted that such a person can attain birth. 153 . the right Dharma is the Buddha-dharma. no Bodhisattva-Dharma. suppose there is a person who has only slandered the right Dharma but is free of the five grave offenses and other evil acts.

but the mind that changes its ways can not be the same as the old one. So. but that is not valid if slandering the Dharma becomes a mistake of the past. that person will attain birth in the Pure Land. It’s logical to be this way. wisdom. through a change of heart. “He already slandered it” refers to a slander that still goes on in that person’s mind. he understands the evil he did and repents about it. admits and feels sorry for his act.” I think the passage quoted above says it all about the so-called “exclusion” from the Eighteenth Vow. What pain and suffering does his act inflict on other sentient beings. Thus. but it does not refers to a situation when he slandered it in the past and now. how can it be reasonable to think that he would aspire to be born in the Buddha-land?”. how could we know of the existence of benevolence. a mistake which is now repented. then relies with sincerity on Amida Buddha’s Compassion. In Buddhism there are no eternal punishments except for a mind locked in mistake. that it should exceed the evil of the five grave offenses in seriousness? Answer: If there were no Buddhas and bodhisattvas to expound the mundane and supramundane good paths and to teach and guide sentient beings. propriety. 154 . and sincerity? Such mundane good would all be cut off. the person who slanders the right Dharma is involved in the gravest karmic evil.Question: Taking such views only concerns the person himself. You know only the gravity of the five grave offenses. Such a foolish person has already slandered it. and the sages of the supramundane would all perish. righteousness. It’s logical to say that a person who still slanders the Dharma in his mind can not have a sincere aspiration for birth in the Pure Land. the one who slandered the Dharma in the past but goes through a change of heart in the present time. and not that they arise from the absence of the right Dharma. I would though add one thing: both sutras talk about slandering the true Dharma in the present moment: “the right Dharma is the Buddha-dharma. which in fact punishes itself.

but the next day he felt sorry and asked for forgiveness. because he is now a new man. the person who stays now in front of me is not the same as the one offending me yesterday.This reminds me of a thing that happened during Shakyamuni’s time: A man deeply offended the Buddha. a born again person in the light of Buddha’s Compassion. he kneeled and asked forgiveness. completely separated by the old man from this life or the past lives. 155 . Going before him. throwing in his face every kind of harsh words.” The nembutsu follower who dwells in the true shinjin can not slander Buddha Dharma and has nothing to do with any of the acts he did before receiving faith. Buddha said: “Get up.

the Blessed One.The Meaning of the Three Refuges in Jodo Shinshu The Three Refuges74 are: I TAKE REFUGE IN THE BUDDHA Buddham saranam gacchami I TAKE REFUGE IN THE DHARMA Dhammam saranam gacchami I TAKE REFUGE IN THE SANGHA Sangham saranam gacchami The first line means to take refuge first and foremost in Amida Buddha who is the central Buddha in Jodo Shinshu. his main reason for coming into this world. It is the Dharma contained in the sacred texts of 74 When someone becomes a Jodo Shinshu follower in the Romanian sangha. Only through him can we attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land as he is the only Buddha among all Buddhas who made the Vow of saving everybody. 156 . We also honor and take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha as the Teacher who showed us the path of Amida Dharma. he/she says these refuges together with Ryogemon (Jodo Shinshu Creed) in front of the altar and in the presence of the sangha. the fully Enlightened One) before reciting the Three Refuges. To second line means to take refuge in the Dharma about Amida that was preached by Shakyamuni Buddha and further explained by the Masters of our tradition. At our dojo we recite the traditional “Vandana”: NAMO THASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMA SAMBUDDHASA (Homage to Him. This is addressed to Shakyamuni Buddha in his position as a messenger and Teacher of Amida Dharma. especially Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin. no matter their spiritual capacities.

which is. 157 . not the books of some scholar or priest. I repeat. of cause and effect. “Honen Shonin on Amida Buddha”. should look for the company of those who are firm in shinjin. While we respect all Buddhist methods as coming from Shakyamuni. listen to their explanations. we indirectly reject false views or opinions that contradict these sacred texts. like the denial of rebirth. those who misinterpret the Pure Land as being a state of mind to be attained here and now. We receive and transmit to others only the teaching left to us by Shakyamuni and the Masters of our tradition. and wish to become persons of settled faith themselves. 75 See chapters “Those who deny the existence of Amida don’t have shinjin”. etc75. metaphor. fictional character. “Pure Land is not here and now”. “The Pure Land in the teaching of Jodo Shinshu”. we consider them to be our fellow travelers on the path. The third line means that we take refuge in those (lay and priests) who have received shinjin in the present life and whose future birth in the Pure Land is thus assured. We reject such false views held today by many. the sutras and commentaries. Taking refuge in the Dharma means that we make the vow of putting the Dharma higher than our own unenlightened opinions and ideas. the teaching contained in the sutras and commentaries of the Masters. our brothers and sisters in the Amida Dharma. from this book. we follow only the teaching about Amida Buddha and only in it do we take refuge.our tradition. By taking refuge in them we wish to be like them. or those regarding Amida as being a symbol. By taking refuge in the true Dharma. Those who haven’t received shinjin yet.

there is no sangha. a „refuge” but also an engagement that from then on we will forever take refuge in Amida Buddha. if they sincerely aspire to shinjin and accept as true the teaching of the three sutras and comentaries of the Masters. too. they take refuge in this shinjin aspect of the sangha. When those who are not yet established in shinjin wish to enter the Jodo Shinshu sangha. Question: How should we look to other Buddhists that are not Jodo Shinshu followers? Answer: They are disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha. as the term implies. The true Jodo Shinshu sangha (community) is composed only of those who fully accept the teaching found in the sutras and commentaries of the Masters and who have received shinjin or sincerely aspire to shinjin76. Only in sharing and transmitting the true Dharma does the sangha have meaning. 76 Those who do not have shinjin yet can also become members of the sangha. the object of our refuge is the sangha in its aspect of shinjin. The sangha is the place where the true Dharma is shared and transmitted so that we can receive shinjin and become Buddhas in the Pure Land.We do not take refuge in those who share false views or views that are not in accordance with the words and instructions of the sutras and commentaries of the Masters. Without taking refuge in the living Amida Buddha and accepting the Dharma about him as it was taught by Shakyamuni and the Masters. just they follow other Buddhist methods than us. we will listen and accept the Dharma about Him. and we’ll become persons who entrust to Him. practitioners who already have a settled faith. The three refuges are. However. 158 . that is.

lucky days. propitious or unpropitious times. so to speak. but we specifically take refuge in the sangha of those who have faith in Amida Buddha. or venerate any divinities outside Buddhism. containing all Buddhists.”78 “Good sons and good daughters of pure trust must never serve gods to the very end of their lives. Buddhists of all schools are brothers and sisters in the Buddha Dharma and disciples of Shakyamuni. we should not despise those who practice other Buddhist teachings than the nembutsu of faith in Amida Buddha. Shinran quoted this passage from the Sutra of the Samadhi of Collecting All Merits. do not worship gods. Question: How should we look to other religions? Answer: “Respect but not follow” applies here. on the fact that the disciples of the Buddha should not take refuge in non-Buddhist teachings.In accordance with Master Rennyo’s instruction found in his letters. After all. should not rely on superstitions. must never take refuge in false spirits or non-Buddhist teachings. too. is the rule for treating other Buddhist schools and their disciples.”79 77 Shinran quoted this passage from the Sutra of the Ten Wheels of Ksitigarbha. freeing themselves from all delusional attachments and all concern with the propitious or unpropitious. Here are a few revealing passages: “Those who take refuge truly and wholeheartedly.. They are part of the general Buddhist sangha. Shinran Shonin insisted very much in the last chapter from his Kyogyoshinsho. 78 159 . etc.”77 “Do not turn toward other teachings. “Respect but not follow”. by quoting many sutras.

Also we must not mix the Buddha Dharma with various religious systems from the past or present. 79 Shinran quoted this passage from the Sutra of the Vows of Medicine Master Buddha. among all Shakyamuni’s teachings we choose only the nembutsu of faith in Amida Buddha. Buddhism is the medicine prescribed to us by the Buddha. who is supreme among all the teachers in the three worlds and it is a grave mistake to mix his teaching with those of other paths. 160 . Next. So. we abandon all non-Buddhist teachings and select the Buddha Dharma.

I have entrusted myself to Amida Tathagata with singleness of heart recognizing that he has resolved my crucial after-life problem once and for all. my deliverance from Samsara is settled with the assurance of birth in the Pure Land. and joyfully accept that recitation of the Nembutsu which follows is to express my indebtedness to Amida. composed by Rennyo Shonin. Shinran Shonin.” *** “Various practices and miscellaneous acts” which we abandon. How grateful I am that I have come to this understanding through the benevolence of the founder. These can be various meditations/contemplations or non-meditative methods. include all the religious practices. I understand that at the moment such entrusting Faith arises in me. but I prefer to use the following one. the eight Monshu of Hongwanji.Ryogemon (Jodo Shinshu Creed) Ryogemon is the creed of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teaching. who appeared in this country and of the masters of the succeeding generations who have guided me with deep compassion! From now on. observing 161 . teachings and actions through which people believe they achieve something. so we must fully understand its meaning. By taking refuge in the Three Treasures and accepting this profession of faith into our hearts we become Jodo Shinshu followers. In it we find all we need to know and accept in order to be born in the Pure Land of Amida. especially perfect Enlightenment and Buddhahood. There are a few English versions of Ryogemon. translated by Zuio Inagaki Sensei: “Having abandoned the mind of self-power to perform various practices and miscellaneous acts. I will abide by the rules of conduct all my life.

just entrust in Amida and all is assured for you. You simply realize that you are limited and incapable to become a Buddha by yourself and you accept that only Amida Buddha81 can help you in this and stop your endless wandering in the repeated cycle of birth and death. Even the saying of Amida’s Name can be placed in this category if it is done while relying on personal power80..precepts with the thought of transferring the merits thus gained toward Enlightenment. In the exact moment you entrust yourself to Amida you are assured of escaping from Samsara and simultaneously assured of your birth in the Pure Land. or that the number of recitations and the concentrated state of mind are important. In that exact moment (not when you die) you become saved. You remain an ordinary person as you have always been until the moment of your death. without thinking on Amida or not being in a good state of mind. or a metaphor. Nothing which follows this moment of the emergence of faith can in any way influence. Only those who accept Amida as a real and living Buddha in accordance with Shakyamuni’s description in the Larger Sutra can have true faith in him. then this Ryogemon is useless. So don’t worry about anything. or if you imagine that you can gain merit by this recitation which can be transferred to your birth in the Pure Land. improve or destroy your chances to be born in the Pure Land. and even if you die unexpectedly. a fictional character. the more chances you have to be born in the Pure Land. 81 If one thinks that Amida is a symbol. 162 . 80 For example if you think that the better you recite it. not even the smallest virtue or merit. etc. All these practices and acts are abandoned as is the very idea that you can do something by yourself to gain perfect Enlightenment and Liberation from Samsara. you will still go in the Pure Land because you are already saved from the very instance of your first moment of faith (shinjin). your karmic destiny is fixed and you are sure to become a Buddha in the Pure Land. The saying of Amida’s Name is just the expression of faith and gratitude because Amida saves you without asking anything from you. etc. as some deluded modern scholars interpret him. not denigrate the kami (gods of Shintoism)84 82 References to these rules can be found at pages 20. in general. manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. but this does not mean that we denigrate them. They are reformulated by me here: . As Master Rennyo pointed out in many of his letters. 77.respect other Buddhist schools and do not denigrate their teachings or followers83 . we simply do not rely on them or entrust ourselves to them”. 84 We do not rely on the kami. they should be fruitful if they are practiced just as they were expounded. published by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center Translation and Research in 1996. not belittle other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas . by receiving faith in Amida. unlike Rennyo. we fulfill their wishes and aspirations. In this last Dharma age. 50. so we must not conclude that Master Rennyo tried to make us see all gods from various 163 . deserve your gratitude and appreciation. 40.You met the Dharma of Amida’s salvation because of Shinran Shonin’s appearance in this world and of his explanations. especially Shinran Shonin. like for example. 41. 27. people like ourselves are not equal to the teachings of the various sects of the Path of Sages. Shinran Shonin himself forbade worshiping of the kami and various gods. 74. 32. As the teachings were all given by Shakyamuni during his life time. 35. The rules of conduct you engage to observe all your life when you enter the Shinshu sangha are to be found in Rennyo’s Letters82. also provided you with the conditions to meet this wonderful teaching. I would not go so far as to say that the important figures of all religions are in fact. 83 Rennyo said in one of his many letters referring to this aspect: „Within our tradition there must be no slandering of other teachings and sects. Master Kakunyo or Master Rennyo. His successors who were faithful to his teachings and further spread them to the later generations. 53. We know that in Buddhism. So they all. 81 from Rennyo Shonin Ofumi (The Letters of Rennyo). 71. therefore. however. but he also never said we should denigrate them or their followers. he never spoked in his writings about kami as manifestations of Buddhas. gods are just one type of unenlightened beings among others. so we do not need to worship and take refuge in them. Thus. some of the kami worshiped in Shintoism were in fact manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who tried in many ways to bring sentient beings to finally entrust in the Amida Dharma. Also.

mythologies or important figures of major religions as being Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. and enjoy your faith in silence and humbleness. this does not apply to laws that are inhumane and criminal. In order to accomodate Rennyo’s instructions with Shinran’s instructions the best thing to do is to consider that indeed some kami might be not put on airs of a high spiritual person – be humble . the emancipation of Buddhist ways is called eternal”. Generally speaking. all kami and all figures of Japanese folklore as being Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.. 85 Act accordingly with the laws of the state you live in. Jodo Shinshu followers should concentrate exclusively on Amida Buddha and leave aside. store Other Power faith deep in your hearts and take the principles of humanity and justice as essential86. we should never look to Shintoism and especially to other religions as being the same with Buddhism. but in doing this we respect other people’s religious decisions and do not denigrate them. all is related with Shintoism and its divine figures. speak only when it is truly necessary and at the right time. with your convictions and faith in Jodo Shinshu. where it is clearly stated that: „the emancipation of non Buddhist ways is called impermanent. it would be a mistake to view all spirits. especially in the public. act normal. Of course. Shinran himself quoted Nirvana Sutra in his Kyogyoshinsho. but to be sure that we make no mistakes and do not come to worship unenlightened spirits or gods. be discrete. Also. in general. 164 . respectfully. 86 Try to be compassionate and treat all people equally no matter their differences. do not denigrate or slight government and local authorities because you have faith and they don’t . So we abandon all non-Buddhist ways and follow only the Buddha Dharma. In his letters he specifically made reference to Shintoist kami which other Japanese Buddhist schools also considered as having a link with the Buddha not impose our faith to others of various religions or Buddhist schools be careful when you talk about Jodo Shinshu teaching with people who are not karmically mature and not open to understand and receive it – do not impose it on them. .meet your public obligations and duties in full without fail take the laws of the state as your outer not be proud and do not become noisy.

Also by becoming a Jodo Shinshu follower you automatically promise not to distort this wonderful teaching with personal ideas and opinions based on your unenlightened mind. so take it as essential when you enter the Shinshu sangha. and in order for it to be effective you must not change it or alter it in any way since you are not a Doctor or a Buddha yourself. This is a rule of conduct which you automatically and naturally accept when you enter this path. 165 . Indications about this general rule of conduct are to be found everywhere in the teachings of Shinran and Rennyo. then this Ryogemon becomes useless and no salvation from birth and death can be possible. you accept that the Shinshu Dharma is the wonderful medicine given by Shakyamuni and the Masters to save people from birth and death. please be careful when you talk about Jodo Shinshu or when you try to transmit it to others. Thus. So. It’s just common sense. If one destroys or modifies Amida Dharma.

the so called modern and progressive interpretations . The entrusting heart (shinjin) is the cause of our birth in the Pure Land and of our attainment of Buddhahood. I suppose he doesn’t believe that you exist.but which are in evident contradiction to the teaching of the sutras and the sacred texts. such shinjin is false or fictional just as how fictional the object of their “faith” is. nor Shinran Shonin or other masters of our tradition ever spoke in those terms about Amida and his Pure Land. Fictional is fictional no matter how you present it. or a fictional character.birth in the Pure Land. while the real is real. 166 . are a fictional character. symbol or something similar to these terms. This is why I always say that those who present Amida as a fictional character. a metaphor.Those who deny the existence of Amida don’t have shinjin – some simple explanations Unfortunately. metaphor. Only faith in something real and alive can be a true faith and have true results . Such interpretations prove the absence of the genuine shinjin from the hearts of those who support them. there are many false teachers in the international Jodo Shinshu community who support wrong interpretations of the nembutsu Dharma . One of the most widely distributed errors is the theory that Amida is a symbol. Not Shakyamuni. I have never heard nor read in the sacred texts about such presentations of Amida Buddha. It’s as simple as that. the reader of these lines. If somebody says that you. but how can faith in something fictional be called true faith? This is something easy enough for a child to understand. don’t have the experience of faith and salvation. It is simply impossible to have the experience of faith in Amida and in the same time to consider him a fictional character or a metaphor. On the contrary.

but their own words speak for themselves. Also our freedom from birth and death can’t be fictive. If shinjin comes from Amida and is the cause of our Freedom. life and death are not fictive. accepted the teaching about Amida Buddha as taught by Shakyamuni in the Larger Sutra. what kind of shinjin do they have who do not entrust in Amida as 167 . Both Shinran and Honen. A Buddha who is not alive and active in the world of suffering. Birth. It’s impossible that someone speaking and insisting in his entire work on such false teachings can have a real experience of faith and guide others to faith. but we too must accept the same teaching they accepted in order to receive the same shinjin as they. their disciples of modern times. experience and wisdom.It is said that trees are known by their fruits. They simply don’t know or don’t feel or don’t understand or don’t want to accept who Amida is (i. but also the other Masters. the real Amida Buddha. cannot help and guide us to the supreme. are also different in knowledge. This is the reason they had the same shinjin. We. who the sutras and explanations of the Masters say he is): so how can they have faith in him? Master Honen was recorded in the postscript of Tannisho to say that some people don’t have the same shinjin (faith) as his so they will surely not go to the same Pure Land he goes. unsurpassed Enlightenment. although their personal wisdom and knowledge of the Dharma differed. symbolical or metaphorical. the symbolic or metaphorical Amida. By listening to this teaching they received shinjin and became Buddhas in the Pure Land when their life here came to its natural end.e. after death. in a symbol or metaphor does not keep warm and cannot free anybody. His shinjin and the shinjin of Shinran both came from Amida Buddha. It’s not that I judge the faith of others. not the fictive Amida. symbolical or metaphorical. Faith in a fictive character.

and they should certainly never misrepresent it as being Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. but they should never try to change it so as to accommodate it with their personal ideas and lack of faith. but a set of clear and precise teachings intended to free all beings from birth and death through a simple faith in a living and active Buddha called Amida. Those who don’t like or cannot accept this path are free to leave it or forget it.being a living and active Buddha? Please use your mind and simple logic. The true Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is not a rambling metaphysical system. 168 . so that you do not fall into such illusions and wrong understanding as theirs. filled with symbols. metaphors and hidden meanings.

etc. Shinran Shonin. 169 . I especially chose this quote to show that any presentation of Amida Buddha as being a metaphor. Honen Shonin said: “Although there is one Amida Buddha. The Pure Land school. his teachings have different interpretations. a myth. however. The Shingon school teaches that Amida Buddha resides in one’s own heart. a symbol of one’s own Enlightened nature or one’s own heart and mind. Because Amida is not something inside our heart or mind. is not in accord with the Pure Land teaching of Honen and his Dharma heir. they do not admit his existence outside of one’s heart. These two viewpoints reflect great differences between the two schools”. is not “here and now” and is not “our own pure mind” as some might say. The words of Master Honen are very clear for those who have a sincere wish to understand who Amida really is and repent for spreading wrong views. teaches that Bodhisattva Dharmakara realized Buddhahood and became Amida Buddha and now resides in the west87.Honen Shonin on Amida Buddha In the Dialogue on One Hundred Forty-Five Topics. The right view that a follower of our school should have about Amida Buddha and teach to others is the one presented by Shakyamuni in the Larger Sutra: Amida is a real and living Buddha who resides in his Pure Land of the west (a manifestation of his vows to save all beings).. his Pure Land too is not inside us. See the chapter „The reason for the western location of the Pure Land and its wonderful description in the sutras”. 87 The Pure Land of Amida Buddha is sometimes called the Pure Land of the west.

is a real place outside us unenlightened beings who can never have a pure mind and heart. 170 .Because Amida is a real and living Buddha outside of us. But if we consider ourselves disciples of Honen and Shinran Shonin we should discard the latter and take refuge in the living Amida Buddha of the western Pure Land. In our own heart and mind there is nothing else than illusion. Only upon birth in the Pure Land. There are great differences in interpreting Amida between our Pure Land school and other Buddhist schools based on personal power. his Pure Land too. will we understand fully the ultimate nature of all things and the Pure Land. when we become Buddhas. so we cannot say that Amida Buddha or his Pure Land is to be sought there.

Some say that the direction “west” and the marvelous descriptions of the Pure Land are a proof for its non-existence or for its existence as a symbol or metaphor only. If I tell you. but a real place in which people can actually aspire to be born after death. But the truth is that by making the effort to describe in many words the wonders of the Pure Land and by pointing to a direction where to face the Pure Land when worshipping Amida. then you will have no doubt about its existence and you will wish to see it. It is as though I speak to you about a beautiful park I would like you to visit. It’s the same with the expression “Pure Land of the West”. “it’s there. The exaltation with which Shakyamuni describes the Pure Land of Amida in the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) without even being 171 . Shakyamuni Buddha wants to emphasize its actual existence as a place where sentient beings should aspire to be born without worry and doubt.The reason for the western location of the Pure Land and its wonderful description in the sutras Question: “Why is the Pure Land of Amida Buddha called “the Western Pure Land” or “the Pure Land of the West”? Why is the “west” so much emphasized in many of the sacred writings related with Amida? And also why is the Pure Land described in such a fantastic way in the sutras?” Answer: In order to show that Amida’s Pure Land is not a metaphor. in the west of the town” and I start describing it to you. the land is given a direction and is described in great details in the sutras.

the whole gathering listening to the discourse. his entire body appeared serene and glorious. by presenting the history of Amida Buddha. and his august countenance looked most majestic. Shakyamuni begins every description with great enthusiam. repeating the name of his main listener. In this discourse. including Ananda.asked to do it88. which is further proof that Shakyamuni speaks about real things. Shariputra. In the same sutra. had a vision of Amida Buddha and his Pure Land. the 48 Vows and encouraging sentient beings to aspire for birth in the Pure Land. Shakyamuni reveals to him the true goal of his coming to this world. 89 It is recorded in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha that when Shakyamuni was about to deliver it”all the senses of the World-Honored One radiated joy.” After Ananda asks him about the reason for these wonderful manifestations. telling him the wonders of the Pure Land and the uniqueness of Amida Buddha among all Buddhas. not symbols or fictions. 88 The Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) is a sutra spontaneously delivered. not in response to a question. are both an indication that his words were true and his listeners should accept Amida as a living Buddha and his Pure Land as a real place. 172 . which is a proof of the importance of the teaching about Amida Buddha. or the radiant light that emanated from his body when he delivered the Larger Sutra in which he expounded the story of Amida and his 48th vows89.

related to this and bringing it back to Jodo Shinshu: Is the Pure Land here and now or not? Or is it to be reached after death when we become Buddhas? Personally. and why I was attracted to it. and when Buddhas or Enlightened Masters talk about them as being in unity and not different they are truly able to manifest this ultimate truth. these two are different. but I use only mere words and still remain caught in my limited mind. As far as the nembutsu is concerned does it have a particular form? Or rather is it a door through which ignorance is cleared and we realize we have always been in the Pure Land?” Answer: Yes. I think it has to be here and now or it is nowhere. because they became enlightened. can speak about the unity between samsara and Nirvana for days and nights. For me this is what I thought was the essence of Shinran’s teaching. I sometimes think the central theme of Buddhism is that it all comes from Avidya (ignorance) and this makes us view the world as samsara rather than Nirvana. suffering. Thus. are Nirvana and samsara one. no matter how much we speak about unity. but from the perspective of an unenlightened person. No matter how much I speak about this.Pure Land is NOT here and now Questions: “1. Only from the Buddha’s perspective (the absolute truth). I wish to know what some Buddhists mean when they say there is no distinction between the two.” 2. 173 . ignorance makes us see samsara (the world of illusion. I still don’t become a Buddha. samsara and Nirvana will remain different as long as we are not Buddhas. birth and death) as different from Nirvana. However I. Also. Their understanding is not just an intellectual one. as an unenlightened person.

“‘Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida’s Vow. that is. Because of the merit transference from Amida. when you are born in the Pure Land. so that the mind set upon saying the nembutsu arises within you. I shall realize birth in the Pure Land’: the moment you entrust yourself thus to the Vow. You are established in 174 . There is no other meaning related to the nembutsu in our Jodo Shinshu teaching. so it’s an expression of faith and gratitude. although you continue to experience the results of past karma and to act as a being full of illusions and blind passions until the moment of your death. which you will attain in the moment of your death. Shinran says that in the moment you entrust yourself to the Vow (and because of this you say the nembutsu) “you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida. What is meant by the stage of non-retrogression? It means that the root of your karma is cut. this is the teaching I received.” To entrust in the Primal Vow of Amida in this life amounts to the same as saying the nembutsu – Namo Amida Butsu – with complete faith and gratitude in Amida. one entrusts oneself to the Primal Vow in this life and realizes Enlightenment in the Pure Land. never to be abandoned.” This means that you enter into the stage of those assured of Nirvana or the stage of non-retrogression. you are now assured of Buddhahood. Namo means “to take refuge” and also it means “homage to”.And about the Pure Land: Shinran Shonin is quoted as saying in chapter 15 of Tannisho: “According to the true essence of the Pure Land way. you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida. your karma cannot plant further seeds into another life in samsara.” So. never to be abandoned.

This represents the deep mindfulness of human nature just as it is. “here and now” means only samsara. although the ten-character Name90 and the nine-character Name91 are the same in meaning with the six-character Name because they express the same faith in Amida Buddha. 91 NA MO FU KA SHI GI KO NYO RAI – Homage to the Tathagata of Inconceivable Light. It simply means to entrust in Amida’s saving power. or assured of Nirvana. For us unenlightened beings. and 90 KI MYO JIN JI PO MU GE KO NYO RAI – Homage to the Tathagata of Unimpeded Light Pervading the Ten Quarters. it means to be aware of and to understand two very important things (“the doctrine of the the Twofold Profound Convictions or nishu jinshin)”: 1. and it doesn’t have any hidden meaning. the world of illusion and suffering. The Name was not created in order that we be led to understand the Pure Land as here and now. We should not forget that the Name is made to be easy to recite. The profound understanding of the fact that we are merely mortals influenced by our negative tendencies with no hope of salvation through our personal powers. 175 .this stage of non-retrogression. That is not why the Name was created. Master Rennyo used the six-character name (NA MO A MI DA BUTSU). We can be born in the Pure Land and become a Buddha even if we don’t understand the ultimate unity between samsara and Nirvana. not by yourself. Nembutsu being the same with shinjin (this is why I always call it “nembutsu of faith”). whether esoteric or some “Zen meaning”. but by Amida (“being grasped by Amida”) who will never abandon you (“never to be abandoned”) – this is what is mean by non-retrogression.

myth or fictional character? The answer is simple – it is because they cannot accept in their hearts the words of Shakyamuni and the Masters. Nowhere in the writings of Shinran or Rennyo is there to be found such an interpretation. are the only criteria upon which we can judge what is real from what is not real in the universe. will we understand what our present minds and senses can’t understand – the unity between samsara and Nirvana. The profound understanding of the fact that Amida’s Primal Vow will save us with no exceptions and that it is intended precisely for beings like us.” “emptiness”. as you see. the “nonarising of all phenomena. which are the words of Shakyamuni Buddha himself. etc. Such people think the Dharma must necessarily adapt to the materialistic or so-called “modern” visions of a world in which they are incapable of going beyond what they can see with the naked eye. etc.2. So. and further. or our limited minds. Only in the moment of death. touch or smell. what we don’t see. It is as if they are deludedly saying that our eyes. not to mention anywhere in the Three Pure Land Sutras about Amida. But why do some followers insist on spreading false views like “the Pure Land is here and now” or presenting Amida as a symbol. This represents the wholeheartedly reliance on Amida Buddha’s Compassion. automatically doesn’t exist. when through faith in Amida Buddha we are born the “birthless birth” in the Pure Land and become Buddhas. 176 . shinjin and the nembutsu of shinjin do not mean that “the Pure Land is here and now” or to “realize we have always been in the Pure Land”. and because they are blinded by their own limited and illusory opinions to which they try to adapt the Jodo Shinshu teaching.

The Pure Land in the teaching of Jodo Shinshu Chih-i (538-597). The real existence of such Buddha-lands and especially of Amida Buddha’s Pure Land was naturally accepted by the masters of our 92 See the chapter „The effect is simmilar to the cause – difference between the Path of self power and the Pure Land Path”. by various methods. Various examples of such Buddha-lands are. This can be found in the Vimalakirti Sutra. the Jodo Shinshu teaching recognizes the existence of many transcendental Buddhas who preside over many realms or Buddha-lands and that it is possible. and in which it is said that if one’s mind is pure then the land appears pure by virtue of the purity of the mind. many followers and so-called teachers of our school take this idea and integrate it in various ways into their own interpretation of the Jodo Shinshu teaching without knowing or without wanting to accept that such ideas are against the Pure Land teaching advocated by our Founding Masters. Bhaisajyaguru (Yakushi) Buddha’s land and Amida’s land of the west. Essentially speaking. for example. which was later transmitted to Japan. Nowadays. the land of Tara Bodhisattva. a teaching belonging to a diferent Dharma gate than the Pure Land92. the Pure Land was understood by many Tendai masters of the past as existing only in one’s mind. Maitreya’s Tusita Heaven. Akyobhya’s land. 177 . Chih-i even spoke of Amida Buddha and his Pure Land as elements of one’s consciousness to be realized in the mind. We need to understand very well that contrary to the theories of “mind only” or “pure land is pure mind”. advocated the idea that the Pure Land „exists in one’s mind”. the last mentioned of which is the best land to be born into by those who wish to attain Buddhahood quickly. the founding master of the Tendai Buddhist school in China. to be born in one of these after death.

Shinran and others who clearly instructed us to aspire to be born only in Amida’s Pure Land. You dwell in the wonderful Land of Peace and Bliss. the Sage. which means it is to be attained after physical death. Honen. How far they are from the words of faith spoken by Nagarjuna: With reverence I bow my head to Amida. including Nagarjuna. The Most Honored One. Shan-tao. and of Amida as a real and living Buddha. They all embraced the idea of the Pure Land from the viewpoint of the next life (raisejodo). Surrounded by innumerable children of the Shinran himself lamented in the third chapter of Kyogyoshinsho about those who embraced wrong views about Amida and his Pure Land: “The monks and laity of this latter age and the religious teachers of these times are floundering in concepts of ‚self-nature’ and ‚mind only’. and they disparage the true realization of Enlightenment in the Pure Land way”. It is unfortunate that many of today’s false teachers continue to lead people into confusion with concepts that are not to be found in our school. due to their own lack of faith in Amida Buddha and their lack of a sincere aspiration to be born in his Pure Land. 178 . who is revered by humans and devas.

One cannot be a Buddhist and believe in luck or good fortune which comes from other sources not related to personal karma.. possessions. any religious method which implies asking a higher being. I think the above sentence from the Kyosho was especially promulgated to prevent Jodo Shinshu followers from falling in two wrong views: 179 .About petitionary prayers In the Kyosho (Essentials of Jodo Shinshu) it is said: “. etc. or to think that by reciting it in a certain manner will bring good luck and good fortune. like wealth. should not do. to grant one’s worldly wishes or any divinatory practice that is believed to modify one’s destiny outside the law of karma is strictly forbidden in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in particular and in Buddhism in general. To believe in luck is in itself a superstition as this implies the denial of the law of karma according to which one reaps what one sows. So.. success in love affairs. But what does it mean to use the nembutsu as a petitionary prayer or superstition? Simply stated it is to say the Name of Amida in order to receive worldly benefits. Luck it is said to appear from nowhere.we shall live expressing our gratitude without depending on petitionary prayer and superstition”. as Jodo Shinshu followers. Here we see that petitionary prayer is linked to superstition as both are put in the same category of the things we. a Buddha or a god. while the karma implies that everything has a cause.

and I also think that Amida was not upset with me.1. like a child calls his mother when he feels sad or when he is in danger? Can this be considered wrong. Amida and Avalokitesvara and any Buddha we call is always present. it is not the fault of Amida that I suffer and have to pass through many kinds of dangerous situations. when I was in a plane and I was passing through strong turbulences I prayed to Amida and Avalokitesvara and asked them to protect my life. and understands our need of protection. One cannot ask me to suddenly have no fear of death after I entrust to Amida. Due to my heavy karma 180 . as ordinary people are always capable of experiencing fear. can hear our cries. this fear is exactly what assured him even more of Amida’s salvation. If we were supposed to have no fear after receiving shinjin then it would mean that Jodo Shinshu is not a path for ordinary people. to misinterpret nembutsu as a divinatory method or a petitionary prayer for worldly benefits. Shinran said to Yuien-bo in Tannisho that he himself was afraid of death and did not wish to go to the Pure Land soon. Of course. I am afraid of this or that….” I think it’s all right to do this. I simply didn’t care then if this was a petitionary prayer or not. But what if we cry to Amida Buddha. I am an ordinary person who is afraid of death. and 2. Instead of putting him outside the Dharma. too? For example. to discourage wrong dependency upon various gods and higher beings. To be free from fear in this life means to no longer be in the category of ordinary people. And Amida Buddha especially saves ordinary people. and in times of great sorrow or fear I may cry to Amida or Avalokitesvara: “please help me.

As I said previously. It should be very well understood that nembutsu is not a magic formula to solve one’s problems in daily life. I think that exclusion of petitionary prayers in Jodo Shinshu comes from fearing that some might misinterpret the nembutsu as a petitionary prayer or use it to transfer merits gained from a good recitation to this or that worldly gain. who can really have a calm state of mind and say to himself: “I am now experiencing the results of my heavy karma so I should stay calm and not cry to Amida for help”? I myself cannot really promise that when facing danger I will not pray to the Buddhas for protection. I think we should not be strict when approaching Amida in our daily lives or when we meet with problems. We can ask for help. 181 .from the past I deserve to experience any injury – this is the law of cause and effect. But surely we are helped and supported even if our minds can’t understand how a Buddha helps us. but only the manifestation of faith in Amida which causes our attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land. without becoming upset if due to causes and conditions unknown to our limited minds: we still suffer and apparently receive no help as we wished it. But in the exact moment of being injured. nothing else. My opinion is that there is no real Dharmic problem as long as we don’t think we can get money or other things through the nembutsu. Through the nembutsu of faith one receives only the assurance of attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land. or that through petitionary prayers we are born in the Pure Land or we become more worthy to go there. protect me”. It’s really impossible for me to never say “Please Amida. or think we can obtain material wealth ignoring the law of cause and effect by praying to higher beings and Buddhas.

and in the same way a Buddha never relates to an ordinary person like a Buddha. Our karma is like that flower after receiving faith. should be able to talk freely with them. I think there is a great difference between using the nembutsu for worldly means and crying for help in times of danger when we are overwhelmed by fear. although I wish this so much. can’t always abstain from becoming emotionally overcome with fear or sorrow and act without wisdom. to become a Buddha and to help others indefinitely. I know I will go to Amida’s Pure Land and become a Buddha myself. The latter is simply the child’s cry toward his mother (Amida Buddha) and no one can say it is not doctrinally correct for a child to cry to his mother. this is the natural outcome of nembutsu. facing death with bravery. Once we have received faith in our hearts and have started saying the nembutsu of faith. our karma is cut and we are assured of birth in the Pure Land. as their children. Having our karma cut means that it doesn’t plant its seed in another life filled with ignorance and suffering. a child of Amida. But no matter if in my last breaths I ask helplessly not to die due to my unconscious attachment to life. but as long as we live we continue to experience the results of our past actions from this life or the endless past. and we. Shinran said in his Letters that he gives no 182 . It is like a flower taken from the ground – it will soon wither away and die but still it preserves its colour for a few hours or days. so I cannot promise that I will die like a courageous person. not be allowed to call on him in times of great sorrow. and I finally die. We still suffer until we die and we are born in the Pure Land. I as a child. as Buddhas are our parents. How can I. Avalokitesvara or any Buddha. But a mother never judges a child like an adult. fear or danger? Of course. We should be relaxed in our relationship with Amida Buddha. but after death our suffering is 100% finished and we become Buddhas.To end all suffering. I do not know how my last moments of life would be.

To chant sutras and transfer the merits thus gained is a custom in many Buddhist schools. In concluding this chapter I wish to mention one more thing. but not in Jodo Shinshu because we think only Amida. he secluded himself and concentrated on chanting the Three Pure Land sutras many times in order to benefit them. To have fear or ask for protection and help from the Buddhas in times of great dangers and suffering is due to our own blind passions. He hoped to achieve merits by sutra recitation which he intended to be transferred to those in need. what I did when I prayed to Amida and Avalokitesvara in that dangerous situation. then he can die in any circumstances. has true merits that can be shared with others. as he will surely go to the Pure Land after death. I know that the example of Shinran’s giving up the recitation of the Pure Land sutras for the benefit of others93 is always shown as a proof against petitionary prayers and wrong interpretation of practice in Jodo Shinshu. and he stopped. These two have no connection with one another. But after a period he gave up this practice realizing it was a mistake to think that he could rely on his own power of chanting to save others. 183 . when Shinran saw the immense suffering of peasants from an area devastated by hunger. what Shinran tried to do when he chanted Amida-kyo in that specific situation was transference of merit. 93 It is said that one day. Amida will not be upset. He then realized this attempt is not in accord with the Pure Land teaching. In comparrison with this. But into my opinion. was not a transference of merit but just a cry of help in the hour of suffering and fear. as a Buddha. If one has shinjin.special meaning to one’s last moments. I am sure that faith and the nembutsu of faith can co-exist with some cries of help in the middle of great suffering. while to be saved as we are from birth and death is due to Amida’s Power.

when eating a good meal. You have to answer it. of the environment you live in. every moment. when you start your day in the morning. Be aware that you can die every day. Everything you have is fragile. but a very intimate question. what does it mean to you?”94 This question is like a koan. not a philosophical question. “Fragile” is a very good word. You have to put all your heart into this question. Ask yourself over and over again. what does it mean to me?” What does death mean to you? Do you really feel that you will die. 94 Zuiken Inagaki Sensei.Death barrier “Death barrier. when you go to bed in the evening. when you are satisfied…invite death to enter your mind and make you aware of its hidden presence. after having sex. Feel the fragility of your own body. and fear most about the place you might go after death. when it is your birthday or when you get marry. but not using only your rational mind. Fear most if you haven’t received shinjin (faith) yet. do you really understand impermanence? This question is addressed to you personally. when you are sad or when you feel happy. “death barrier. Don’t waste the time you have without solving the most important matters of death and what comes after death. it is not a general question. of your relations with others. It must become very personal. 184 . Take the thought of death in your everyday life. so feel this fragility. and do all you can to be sure that your destination is certain. and especially feel the fragility of your own so-called spiritual achievements.

even though they may understand eighty thousand sutras and teachings.Master Rennyo said: “Those who do not know the importance of the afterlife are ignorant. even though they may be unlettered men and women”. those who solved the problem of the afterlife are wise. 185 .

no matter if I feel good or bad. and we are born in the Pure Land where we become immediately Buddhas in the very moment we die. he just promised that those beings who trust in him. in his Primal Vow. This is because. for my own part. good or bad. and so abide among the truly settled.State of mind in the moment of death Shinran Shonin said in one of his Letters (Mattosho): “I. one of the most important statements of Shinran Shonin which gives me true relief and assurance in my moments of strong depression. if I smile and die peacefully with the appearance of a wise person or I cry because of pain or fear. no matter if I die of old age or in my youth. that is. the mind who wishes to be born in Amida’s Land and the mind who says nembutsu are in fact one mind. No matter if I die a happy one. in the very moment we entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha. In Jodo Shinshu we are saved here and now.” This is for me. the manifestations of the entrusting mind.even for those ignorant and foolish and lacking in wisdom . we enter in the stage of non-retrogression (“truly settled”) or the stage of those assured of Nirvana. or in the street like a homeless person. People in whom shinjin is determined do not doubt. in my bed. I am accepted exactly as I am and I will be born in the Pure Land because of Amida’s Compassion. 186 . For this reason their end also . attach no significance to the condition. Amida Buddha did not mention a special condition in which I have to die in order to be born in the Pure Land. These three minds – the mind who entrusts in Amida. wish to be born in his land and say his Name will be born there. no matter if my death makes a good impression or not. of persons in their final moments.

filled with blind passions and illusions. He dies like an ordinary person but is reborn as a Buddha in the Pure Land of Amida. But this very ordinary person is already “received and never abandoned” by the Compassion of Amida Buddha and in this way his end becomes a happy one. and we can die like ordinary people because of the problems of ordinary people.But even after we receive shinjin (faith in Amida Buddha) we continue to live our lives like ordinary people. because we are ordinary people. 187 .

Some practices are hard and dangerous like those of the tantras. Through its methods. while I also experience the manifestations of my own karma and delusions. if one is not capable of attaining it in this very life. where I still have to practice something based on my own power. While every unenlightened sentient being has to pass through bardo when they die. because of their reliance during their present life on the Infinite Power of Amida Buddha who embraces them and safely transforms them into Buddhas in the very moment of their death and birth in his Pure Land. like Tibetan Buddhism. Jodo Shinshu deserves its place among the most advanced Mahayana teachings and practices. The power of every thought and 188 . Enlightenment in 16 lives maximum. but some are easier like the practice of attaining Enlightenment in the bardo or the intermediate state between death and the next birth. there are methods for attaining complete Buddhahood quicker than in other Mahayana schools. I feel even happier that through faith in Amida Buddha I will attain supreme and complete Buddhahood in the very moment of death and birth in the Pure Land: not in the bardo. or even in the bardo. attachments and delusions that manifest in that state. I know that in Tibetan Buddhism.Immediate Buddhahood for ordinary people. the Jodo Shinshu practicers don’t experience this intermediate state. Tibetan Buddhism promises. but in the very moment of my death. because of the fears. it might still be difficult to accomplish it. in accordance with the Bardo Thodol. without passing through bardo Although it is not so well spread outside Asia. It is indeed wonderful. but looking to the teaching and practice of Jodo Shinshu. if well practiced. This is extraordinary because even if you have a practice and concrete instructions to follow in the bardo. evil karmas.

this might be true. no special capacities. People may say that other Buddhist methods also offer easy practices to attain Buddhahood. the method of complete entrusting to Amida Buddha is the safest. become Buddhas. no further obstacles to overcome! So. Let’s say you may overcome these difficulties. But there is no possibility for failure to become a Buddha in the Pure Land if you rely on Amida. but it depends on what one understands by “easy”. but what if you don’t? There is still plenty of room for errors. Faith in Amida Buddha is indeed the only method for ordinary people with no special capacities. say his Name and aspire to be born in his Pure Land (threefold faith). filled with heavy karma and incapable of any practice. Yes. This method is so easy that it is almost forgotten and not taken into consideration. and no personal merit. where they immediately attain complete Buddhahood and start benefiting all sentient beings through their newly acquired enlightened capacities. those who completely entrust themselves to Amida Buddha are born directly in his Pure Land at the moment of their death. We die. Because this is the Promise of a Buddha. Among all the Buddhas. which promises complete Buddhahood by birth in his Pure Land to all ordinary95 sentient beings who entrust themselves to him. Amida made the greatest Vow. we can’t doubt it. become supreme Buddhas and return to the three worlds to help all sentient beings. are born in the Pure Land. because there is not even the slightest trace of your own imperfect personal power involved in this process. as you see. And it is so simple that it becomes 95 The words “ordinary sentient beings” are most important in Jodo attain Buddhahood. easiest and fastest method to fulfill the aspiration to liberate ourselves and others (Bodhi Mind).delusion becomes ten times stronger when you are in the bardo. No visualizations are required nor the slightest special capacity. Jodo Shinshu really requires nothing from the practicer . As Master Shinran explained. That’s it – no bardo. 189 . no merit. It is the only method through which ordinary people. nothing .

thus receiving the infinite merit and virtues of Amida and entering the stage of non-retrogression while still remaining an ordinary person. because there is no possibility to fall back into samsara. leading to the same goal – to become a fully Enlightened Buddha. 190 . he becomes carried by Amida. This is Jodo Shinshu. Nothing can make him fall from his Mother’s embrace. In the moment he receives faith in Amida. It is also the safest way. like a child carried by his mother at her chest safely across the river. We may safely assume that Jodo Shinshu is the easiest method among all Buddhist methods for ordinary people.unbelievable to many. always active in saving sentient beings. But it is nevertheless a method preached by Shakyamuni in the Pure Land sutras. even faster than Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhist methods. which he himself acknowledged is hard to be accepted in faith. The Jodo Shinshu follower is assured of attaining Buddhahood in the Pure Land in the very moment he entrusts himself to Amida.

Shinran Shinran Shonin said: “When I deeply contemplate Amida’s Compassionate Vow. for example:“When I deeply contemplate Amida’s Compassionate Vow.” 191 . This is not a symbol. but the real truth. I realize it was made only for me. friendly and maternal relationship between you and Amida Buddha. Rennyo and all the patriarchs speak directly to you. Amida. addressing personally. to all the forms that suffering manifests in your life. I realize it was made only for me. Shinran. Adrian. and say.” If you don’t come to the point to think that the teaching is addressing personally to you. but addresses each one individually. Perceive the teaching as being an exclusive. intimate. Think that Amida Buddha addresses himself to your own personal suffering. Replace the word “Shinran”. with your own name. Shinran. He doesn’t treat sentient beings as numbers. so his relationship with you is like that between mother and child or between best friends. then it is all in vain. Think they are before you.Only for me. and that he wishes to heal you once and for all. Treat the Dharma as if Shakyamuni.

who melts the many layers of delusions that cover your innate Buddha nature. You trust that he can do this for you and that you can’t do it by yourself. In Jodo Shinshu. No matter how much you study all the religions of the world and even all other Buddhist methods. like a child. he immediately enters the stage of nonretrogression or assured of Nirvana and is born in the Pure Land of Amida at the end of his life. He is the One who makes you see the ultimate nature of all things. and brings you there. Once born through the gate of faith in the Pure Land of Amida or his sphere of influence. all these transformations occur instantly and naturally. Buddhahood is not to be gained or deserved.How do I feel as a Buddhist You don’t need to do anything in order to attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land of Amida. Unlike other paths outside or inside Buddhism. 96 In the moment one receives faith. You don’t go by yourself to Nirvana. and your journey as a Buddha begins when you are born in the Pure Land of Amida96 at the moment of death. here the final liberation from birth and death is not to be acquired by you. 192 . but Amida Buddha takes you by the hand. There is no other path like this one. Faith (shinjin) and saying of the Name (which is the expression of that faith) means that you simply let Amida Buddha bring you to Buddhahood. Your journey in this life as a prisoner in samsara is over once you receive faith. you will never find such a teaching that truly requires nothing from you.

Nothing can harm me spiritually. Once I was asked: “How do you feel as a Buddhist?” I answered: I feel loved and accepted. I feel as though I am surrounded by warm and huge gentle hands.This teaching of Shakyamuni about Amida Buddha’s salvation is the best expression of the infinite Love and Compassion a Buddha can feel for sentient beings. not even my own blind passions and evil karma. When seeing a statue of the Buddha I can touch his nose and cheeks and joke. I feel that the essence of the entire universe is great love and great Compassion. I feel I walk in the Light although I am impure. I feel the Buddhas never become upset with me. I can make jokes with the Buddhas. I see the smiling face of Buddhas everywhere. I feel embraced. No matter how I live or die my destination is certain. I can laugh with them. never judge me or abandon me. I feel secure. All problems have been solved for me. This is how I feel as a Buddhist. It is the medicine to be applied when all other medicines (methods) have proven ineffective for you. 193 .

Bodhisattvas and Masters are alive and active – this is a matter of extreme importance. Nagarjuna. but they are also saviors. Buddhas are in your room. in your car. while you are here to struggle alone following their example. then the Buddhas will seem very far from you. etc. Buddhas are not just teachers. 194 . so it is Shinran Shonin. Avalokitesvara. see you. Buddhas are indeed teachers and “fingers pointing to the moon”. In your times of sorrow or in your happy times. watching over me. If you think of the Buddhas only in this way. you may chose to speak with each one of them directly as though they are in front of you. Rennyo. active in your daily life. make plans how to make you understand important things. Buddhas. You can speak directly with the Buddhas. in your solitude when you find it so hard to endure your sorrow. in the train you are travelling with. in the bar where you drink a beer and enjoy good times with your friends. etc. Please remember this from time to time and I am sure that you will find great comfort in it. think of you. walking with me. with Shinran. Mahasthamaprapta. with Amida. Amida is always with you. seeing me in my daily life.Enjoy the presence of the Buddhas One thing that I especially like in Jodo Shinshu is the feeling of Buddhas being close to me. They walk with you. But this is not the single side of the coin. because they are indeed in front of you (this is not a metaphor). somehow secluded in their Enlightenment.

for example. Master Shinran said on his death bed: “If you alone rejoice in Nembutsu-Faith. too. hears every single cry of sorrow from the tiniest little insect to humans and gods. interpreting Buddhas only in their aspect of ultimate nature or Dharmakaya. because Buddhas.Don’t bother with what some people might say. Amida is the same. Shinran. remember that there is still another accompanying you. who is also a Buddha – have transcendent bodies of manifestation that can travel and be present everywhere. He always accompanies you together with all other good friends you have among Buddhas. If you two rejoice in Nembutsu-Faith.” Take these words literally and enjoy the presence of the Buddhas. Bodhisattvas and the Masters. your individual cries or your individual joys. remember that you are with someone else. am that other person. Avalokitesvara. you are never alone. but She really hears the cries of the world. Her name translates into “the One who Hears the Cries of the World” and this name is not just a metaphor or symbol of the Compassionate qualities that lies in the Buddha nature. my friend. like Amida – and Shinran too. I. 195 . So. and can hear and see everything. He knows everything. hears everything and sees everything.

196 .