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REV.

JOSHO ADRIAN CÎRLEA

JODO SHINSHU
BUDDHIST TEACHINGS

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,
România
phone: 0725854326
e-mail: josho_adrian@yahoo.com
yahoo id: josho_an
skype id: josho_adrian
blog of the author:
www.amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.com

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Dedicated to my love, Ioana.

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

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

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. lost from morning till evening in the fight for daily survival. who proofread the manuscript and gave me valuable suggestions. December 30th 2555 Buddhist Era 2011 C. I am grateful for the help of my Dharma friend Richard St. While other Buddhist methods talk about the ideal of Buddhahood and the possibility to attain it in this life. but for losers. Clair (Shaku Egen). 7 .E. for those who cannot attain by themselves anything stable in the spiritual life. Nothing special. Not the promise of purification. Jodo Shinshu is not a path for saints. It is a simple path for ordinary people like you and me. Josho Adrian Cîrlea Bucharest. but of salvation as we are is the essence of Jodo Shinshu. Jodo Shinshu starts with the sense of failure. no state of mind to be attained or developed. This book is an adaptation of some Dharma sermons given at Tariki Dojo and letters to my Buddhist friends all over the world. Namo Amida Butsu. Only faith in the Infinite Compassion of Amida Buddha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

businessman or anything you are in your private life. then you are indeed a disciple of the Buddha. To become a Buddha is not the same thing as being a good electrician. Put simply. but rather it is the only meaningful activity in our lives. but only in matters of attaining supreme Liberation. It means escaping from the endless sufferings of birth and death. These are two different things. If this is important to you.full of themselves are truly capable of recognizing their limitations and their incapacity to become a Buddha through their own efforts. 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. Walking the path to freedom from birth and death is not a hobby or an interesting cultural topic. 15 .

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

The ego’s unceasing run. which is still enslaved by illusions and ignorance. grows in water and stands up above the water untouched by it. Birth and death does not end until Enlightement or Awakening is attained. His existence in the Universe is supreme and beyond our thinking. because although the physical appearance of a Buddha may be human. brahman. He goes beyond birth and death. is followed by suffering. for example. Remember me. A Buddha is one who escapes from this maddening run. 17 . This is because the state he attained is higher than the human state of spiritual evolution. have transcended the world. led by desires and karma. escaping the chains of karma.” The state of human beings is limited by various kinds of delusions. the state which he has attained and in which he dwells is supreme in the whole universe. that is. as a Buddha. who was born in the world and grew up in the world. In particular. and I live untouched by the world. helping sentient beings to break free from birth and death. The word “Buddha” means “The Awakened One”. that Buddha is a human being. A Buddha has Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Compassion. so we are mistaken if we say. so too I. Both methods of speaking about a Buddha are false.“Just as a blue or red or white lotus born in water. Even some Buddhists say that Buddha was a human being in order to show that they don’t promote idols or god-worshiping. awakened to the true reality. some Christians accuse Buddhism saying that its Founder is just a human and is thus inferior to Jesus who was the son of 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. often called the Dharma body of ultimate reality or Dharmakaya.In Buddhism the situation is different from Christianity because there isn’t a Creator God. but his existence in the Universe is supreme. it is said that all beings.e. no matter their delusion or actual misery. is accessible to all beings who observe the path given by the Buddha. capable of true Compassion which is no longer enchained by the attachments or the illusions of ordinary beings. a human being. 18 . but unfortunately it doesn’t keep us very warm.. or a judge. they are completely nonexistent. or as Shinran5 said. Liberation or Nirvana. the Buddha nature and the possibility to become a Buddha. a ruler. have in themselves what is called Buddha nature. like an unknown jewel thrown in the mud. A very important doctrine in Buddhism says that we can become Buddhas because we already have in us this possibility or potentiality. 5 Founding Master: Shinran Shonin (1173-1262). the Ultimate Reality. Thus. Through Buddhism. a cockroach. All Buddhas attain the same ultimate absolute reality: this is why it is said that all Buddhas have the same essence or nature. He is just “The Awakened One” and he acts as a guide and Saviour. only the Path of faith in Amida remains the securely accessible method for attaining Buddhahood. because those who really come to liberate themselves from delusions and attain this state of a Buddha are extremely few in our time. Everything depends on karma: a Buddha is not a creator. the Founder of the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism. This is good news. nor a Judge. Therefore. a hungry ghost or a god. the potentiality to become Buddhas. It doesn’t matter if you are a worm. you have in yourself. etc. a dog. i.

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 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. Some people automatically change the atmosphere in a room by their presence. It is not at all impossible for the supreme Enlightenment of a Buddha to take various forms for the sake of unenlightened beings. the presence of a Buddha inspires and influences. This Pure Land of Amida is real and effective. we may say that we are in his “land” or his sphere of influence. 19 . when we are born in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha. When we are in the presence of a killer and are influenced by him. In the same way. Also. but this influence is one which brings Enlightenment or spiritually positive states of mind. These manifestations can take various forms to help unenlightened beings. These special and transcendent manifestations of a Buddha are called Sambhogakaya or the Body of Recompense. or a killer will create an atmosphere of fear and coldness. 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. known as “pure lands” where beings who entrust in them and create special links with them can be born after their physical death. we automatically arrive in his field whose influence makes us become ourselves Buddhas. for example a beautiful woman will surely make many men feel sexually aroused. every Buddha has multiple transcendent manifestations. Various Buddhas create spheres or fields of personal influences. visible only to those well trained in Samadhi or profound concentrated states of mind.Further.

when I attain Buddhahood. and an ultimate body (Dharmakaya) – without beginning and without end. with a beginning in the moment of the attainment of Buddhahood. a long time ago in another era than that in which we are living now. sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me. In the moment he becomes a Buddha. This body is named the “body of recompense” because it is the effect or the “recompense” of his practices and virtues. was a monk named Dharmakara. if Jim becomes a Buddha he will be called Buddha Jim. for example. and 20 . Next. Thus. which is the same with all Buddhas. Let’s say. but he will have different transcendent manifestations. the Buddha we call Amida. a transcendent body (Sambhogakaya). that a person named Jim begins to follow the Buddhist Path and he makes a vow to save especially the beings with physical disabilities. which is the result of his vows and virtues. different from those of other Buddhas. which is the same for all Buddhas. He made the aspiration to become a Buddha. say his Name and aspire to be born there: If. 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.Various Buddhas have different bodies of recompense. due to the vows they made when they engaged on the Path. and he will have a body of flesh (Nirmanakaya). but without end. of the special vows he transformed through his Enlightenment in effective methods of salvation. In the same way. the physical body in which somebody becomes a Buddha is called Nirmanakaya or the body of transformation. desire to be born in my land. he automatically has access to the ultimate reality (Dharmakaya). which has a visible beginning and a visible end. especially made to help that category of beings for which he made specific vows – that is. he will have a Sambhogakaya different from other Buddhas.

call my Name. So. in the northern part of India. even ten times. are recorded in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha. this faith being manifested in the saying of his Holy Name7 – Namo Amida Butsu.for those capable of some hard practices and virtues. will coincide with their attainment of perfect Enlightenment or Buddhahood. Faith (shinjin) is not something complicated. told by Shakyamuni (the historical Buddha) to his disciples and which we. once born there. only faith is neccesary to become a Buddha in Amida’s Pure Land. completely free of birth and death and capable to save other beings. Namo Amida Butsu is “I take refuge/homage in Amida Buddha”. Any Buddhist teaching can be considered authentic if it was approved or presented by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. but to all beings and especially to those who are incapable of any practice. among which. should not be born there. “Namo” means “I take refuge in” but also “homage/praise to”. considering his Primal Vow to be true and effective. they will themselves become Buddhas. the story of Amida. 21 . consider real and trustworthy. “Namo Amida Butsu”. is part of these teachings taught by Shakyamuni. In the moment Dharmakara became Amida Buddha. In accordance with his Primal Vow. but rather is a simple entrusting in Amida. Thus we may say that the Sambhogakaya of Amida Buddha is in his Pure Land. the Eighteenth is called the Primal Vow. where all beings can attain supreme Enlightenment no matter their capacities. The teaching about the path of faith in Amida Buddha and his Pure Land. that is. the Jodo Shinshu followers. 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. The 48 Vows of Amida Buddha. “Butsu” means “Buddha”. 7 Nembutsu is the saying of the Name of Amida Buddha. the vows and his Pure Land became real and effective for the salvation of sentient beings. This is. in short. This was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha on Vulture Peak.

Also. to help all beings. we aspire to become Buddhas through Amida’s Power. to help others. then we will become Buddhas in the Pure Land. Aspiration to become a Buddha for ourselves and others is central to Mahayana Buddhism and we. for example. I you have any thoughts on this. Those who have faith mixed with doubts will stay for a period in the borderland of the Pure Land. But. Only Buddhas can come to the Saha world whenever they wish and in whatever form they wish. So. then we are forced by our own doubts to 8 Honen Shonin was the Master of Shinran Shonin. I’d be happy if you share them with me.e. that they came from the Pure Land)? It seems Honen8. not our own. But if our trust is not complete. would they have some knowledge on this (i. 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. The reason for being born in the Pure Land is to become a Buddha. as Master Shan-tao said. 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). also have this aspiration.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. Birth in the Pure Land. 9 22 . if we entrust ourselves completely to Amida’s Power. only realized this (or mentioned it to his students) when he was about to die. 10 See the chapter “Three Vows of Salvation”.” Answer: Not all beings who are born in the Pure Land will immediately return to this world to help others. Jodo Shinshu followers. They are those born in the Pure Land through the 19th and the 20th Vows10.

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

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. 11 See the chapter “Shinran Shonin . It is not a destination. 24 . In my opinion. nor the end of the journey. Honen and Shinran were already Buddhas when they came into this world and preached the Pure Land teaching. 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 the end I wish to mention one more thing. a manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara”. and am sure that Shinran was not only a returner. but the beginning of our activity to save other sentient beings. We go there in order to return. Shinran never regarded Honen as an ordinary person and we can see this in his wasans (hymns). I myself go even further.

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

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

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

So. That is exactly why 14 Nirvana comes from the term „nirv” – „to extinguish”. but not in the mind of a Buddha. centered on yourself. 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.invited to share in it? The Enlightenment of a Buddha isn’t a selfish act. who is incapable of any virtuous practice and is full of various attachments. 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. everything being included in his Enlightenment. as Nirvana is not selfish in Mahayana. but for a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. he would have contradicted himself and the Bodhisattva spirit. after death. and is wrongly understood by many as becoming nothingness. the state of Nirvana or Buddhahood is to be attained in the moment of birth in the Pure Land of Amida. because Buddhism would otherwise seem pointless for a man like me. Seeing things from only one perspective. It cannot be any other way. 28 . or in accordance with the Bodhi Mind. In the Jodo Shinshu school. 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. that is. has Shakyamuni appeared in our world only for a particular category of people. If he did. Discrimination exists only in our mind. only for those able to reach Nirvana14 by themselves. 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. the vision is universally centered. is a limited vision and belongs to ignorant beings.

” More than this. rare and most excellent.15 Because this method of salvation is presented in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha. It is the conclusive and ultimate exposition of the One Vehicle.Shakyamuni preached the salvation offered by Amida Buddha and urged all beings. 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. Thus. the Name of the Buddha is its essence16. The central purport of this sutra is that Amida. by establishing the incomparable Vows. to rely on him. foolish beings. To teach Tathagata’s Primal Vow is the true intent of this sutra. Passages on the Pure Land Way 29 . wide and deep as the ocean. and full of compassion for small. 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. praised by all the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters. the teaching of the Pure Land way is found in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. It is the right teaching. selects and bestows the treasure of virtues. Shinran regarded it to be the supreme sutra among all sutras preached by Shakyamuni: “To begin. has opened wide the dharma-storehouse. It is the wondrous scripture. All beings in the evil age of the five defilements Should believe in the truth of the Buddha’s words”. 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. It reveals that Sakyamuni appeared in this world and expounded the teachings of the way to Enlightenment.

“Amida. who attained Buddhahood in the infinite past. 17 Nagarjuna (approximately 150-250). due to his works related with Amida Buddha. he himself. which may lead to the impression that nembutsu is for “lesser” beings only. he is considered by Shinran as one of the seven Patriarchs of the true Pure Land teaching (Jodo Shinshu). 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. Took the form of Sakyamuni Buddha And appeared in Gaya. He founded the school of Madyamika (Middle Path) dialectics. and an easy one. 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. I worship with my body. Also. also seeks refuge in Amida as he writes: “The Buddha of Infinite Light and Wisdom. In the chapter entitled “The Way of Easy Practice” from the volume “Dasabhumika-vibhasa-sastra” (“Commentary on the tenstages Sutra”). similar to a pleasant voyage sailing on water. The teachings of this school. Even though he recommends the easy way to those incapable of great personal efforts. whose body is like a mountain of genuine gold. 30 . a bodhisattva of high attainment. He will instantly enter the Stage of Assurance. he speaks about two types of practices: a hard one. considered by all Mahayana schools as the second in importance after Shakyamuni and one of their most important patriachs. Maybe most Buddhists know about Nagarjuna from his subtle writings on emptiness. Full of compassion for foolish beings of the five defilements. speech and heart by joining hands and bowing down toward him. If anyone is mindful of that Buddha’s infinite power and merit. similar to an arduous journey on land. based on personal power.” Nagarjuna17. based on the Compassion of the Buddhas. together with the Yogacara teachings are the basis of Mahayana theory and practice. also urged all beings to rely on Amida.

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

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.”

19

Famous Japanese Buddhist schools in the time of Shinran Shonin.

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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
explanations.
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
disciples.
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
extinct.”

33

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
34

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. 35 . there are three ages. The requirements and practices cannot be the same for them because their times and capacities differ. the teachings and the times were not in accord. but that their trying cannot be called observation of precepts. and among people. there are three levels..” 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 .a method combined with the development of wisdom and meditation as a mean to attain Enlightenment.close or far from the physical presence of the Buddha . .the wisdom and enlightenment of beings of the five five-hundred year periods after the Buddha’s demise differ. it would be difficult to perform practices and difficult to attain Enlightenment.there are no precepts20..is extremely important. Master Shinran explained this: “With regard to the Dharma. The instruction imparting the teaching and precepts flourishes and declines according to the age. The matter of accordance between the teaching and the beings to be taught and also the time in which they live in . Master Tao-ch’o said that: “if the beings. anymore. It is the same with having no pretention of healthy behavior from a terminally ill person with a chronic disease... and words of condemnation or praise are accepted or rejected depending on the person.

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. whether it is the period when the Buddha was in the world.is the only path that affords passage. Already their time has passed. not one will gain realization. it is the evil world of the five defilements. This one gate .” 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.“How can beings be saved by only one path?” . said Master Tao-ch’o in a well suited comparison.the Pure Land way . who have a different environment and different capacities? “It is like rubbing green wood to build a fire. fire cannot be made. semblance and the last Dharna ages.” The Jodo Shinshu path alone doesn’t discriminate between the capacities of beings and doesn’t depend on the time they live in. or the time when the Dharma 36 . they are no longer in accord with beings. for time is not right”.” Master Tao-ch’o comments on this last quote by saying: “This is now the last Dharma-age. the right. 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.how 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.

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

in the West only the provisional and accommodated (self power) teachings of Shakyamuni have spread until now.in fact. 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. etc.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. 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. 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”. The more we become aware of this truth. The established image of a Buddhist is a forever calm and smiling Buddhist monk or practicer. In fact. The possibility of attaining Buddhahood in this very life is the essence of most of the Buddhist schools that are widely spread in 38 . . Thus. but for Shinran. this is exactly what Buddhism is no more…. but rather he is a Savior. guiding sentient beings to entrust in Amida. This for many is Buddhism. following a path of self liberation and improvement. 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. with Shakyamuni being his messenger. Buddhism will not be well established in the West until the teaching about Amida’s salvation is known. 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. but not the teaching of his true intent of coming into this world. the better it is for all sentient beings.

or 2) because we are deluded. we think that somebody who shows more calm than us has already supposedly attained Buddhahood. 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). See the chapter “About Amida Buddha and his Pure Land” where the doctrine of the Three Buddha Bodies (Trikaya) is explained. 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. But to become a Buddha means a lot more than always showing a calm face and saying beautiful words of wisdom. 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. Any Buddha manifests himself in various forms according to the conditions and capacities of those he wishes to save. 39 . 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. in Sanskrit. One of the three bodies of a Buddha. Who does not want to see. News about famous Buddhist masters and their realizations are many and the number of disciples is growing. 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.Europe. 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. 22 Nirmanakaya.

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

41 . 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. Saints and stupid people can be saved equally. given our limited capacities. And then…I found Jodo Shinshu…which is the only reason why I am a Buddhist. Without Jodo Shinshu. 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. Shinran didn’t choose to teach the nice discourses of other sutras. I truly understand now why Shinran Shonin considered that preaching the Larger Sutra was the main reason for Shakyamuni’s coming to this world. 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. It is “the teaching in accord with the times and with beings” as he also said in Shozomatsu Wasan. but carefully selected the passages that were truly beneficial for himself and this world.. but because they are not truly useful for our attainment of Buddhahood. He had the courage to abandon his mask of a good smiling monk and looked deeply into himself and the true human capacities.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. 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.

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 kinds of good of the Path of Sages.000 Buddhist teachings25. The Pure Land teaching is the inconceivable Dharma-teaching” . 42 . Shinran said in the second verse of Shozomatsu Wasan: “…the teachings that Sakyamuni left behind Have all passed into the naga’s palace.” 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. This is because in Shinran’s explanations we find the true reason for the existence of Jodo Shinshu. because in this way we might offend other Buddhist schools with whom we are engaged in ecumenical talks. This wonderful teaching on the absolute reliance on Amida Buddha is not just another Buddhist method in the 84. the conceivable comprises the 84. but the most important teaching among all Shakyamuni’s teachings.so he clearly separated the Pure Land teaching from other Buddhist teachings and practices.

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
Vow,
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
43

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:

26

“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
explanations).
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.

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“Only by going forth and reaching Enlightenment can we benefit
others
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
Enlightenment.
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

45

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

Did he become a Buddha during his life on this earth that we all know from history. 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. he receives shinjin. the Founder of Buddhism in our world. in the incomprehensibly remote past? Or was he the manifestation of Amida Buddha? The answer depends on which sutras you choose to read.Life Span chapter). in others the second is taken as a profound truth (for example. 47 . lets think a little about Shakyamuni. meet with the Dharma. Some Masters have a visible life in which they are born. or had he attained Buddhahood countless lifetimes ago. the third is the one I choose27. In many sutras the first situation is presented. To me.Shinran Shonin – a manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara Before I enter this topic. Master Honen (Genku). which is faith in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. or in the case of Shinran Shonin. the Lotus Sutra. 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”. 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. . This is the visible life. do this or that. The same thing applies to many important figures in the Buddhist history after Shakyamuni’s passing. In the case of Shinran’s teacher.

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

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

the mother of our school. he never said about himself as being an extrardinary person. despite the humbleness he always showed in what he wrote and preached. but only an ordinary person filled with blind passions entrusting totally to Amida Buddha. So. Eshinni. and to the west of the lanterns in front of the building there were [two] Buddhist 50 . He didn’t even describe himself to be the founder of a new school. My interest is to the second vision that I personally share about Shinran Shonin. It seems that there was a dedication ceremony for a temple building. 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]. 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. 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. The teaching he left to the world is outstanding and unique. however. and it was apparently on the eve of the ceremony. We should clearly understand this.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. On this basis I accept openly the testimonies of others who themselves have shared the same vision as myself. The building stood facing east. Here is what she wrote to her daughter Kakushinni. 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. but always considered himself as a disciple of Honen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but rather they intended to 59 . Neither Shinran Shonin nor any patriarch of our school ever said. don’t engage in sexual misconduct. lie. don’t lie. etc. 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.. These concepts may have some significance in other schools but in Jodo Shinshu they have no significance at all. don’t drink intoxicants.”. 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 a Jodo Shinshu follower does is to delete once and for all the words “personal merit” or “personal virtue” from his Buddhist vocabulary. “kill. don’t eat meat. so be relaxed in this matter. etc. Your success or lack of success in voluntarily observing precepts has no connection with your Enlightenment. This is the difference between Jodo Shinshu and other Buddhist schools. but never relate this to your attainment of Buddhahood which comes only through Amida Buddha’s Other Power. cheat on your wife. which can include not to hurt anybody directly or indirectly. we do not say that followers of this school should not try to observe precepts or to lead a moral life. don’t steal.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. not to our own efforts in observing precepts or in doing such and such practices. steal. We are not against precepts.

Thus.say: “even if you don’t kill. think and talk. don’t lie. perfect wisdom and perfect compassion is achieved. Everything unenlightened beings do in the three ways of action41 is poisoned by ignorance and egoism. 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. precepts are as good as non-existent for the last goal of Buddhist practice which means the attainment of Buddhahood. so they can’t be called 41 With mind. this doesn’t mean that we should kill and steal as we like. don’t cheat on your wife.. We can read about them and see how the Buddhas wants us to behave. etc. This is because our capacities to truly observe the precepts both in letter and spirit are as little as non-existent. don’t steal. speech and body. So we say that Jodo Shinshu doesn’t believe in the spiritual capacities of unenlightened beings. but doing so no longer constitutes a merit or a means to advance on the path to Enlightenment. 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.” This should be very well understood. The expression. so we should try to guide our lives by them as well as we can. it doesn’t mean that you are a good person capable of attaining Buddhahood by yourself. This is why we do not insist on precepts. 60 . Also even if it is said in the sacred texts that in the last age of the Dharma precepts do no longer exist. precepts are as good as non-existent for the last goal of Buddhist practice. “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. I repeat.

if you fail in perfectly observing the precepts. and I am certain that you will fail.Jodo Shinshu is not an encouragement to immorality.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. 61 . . Don’t transform your trying to observe precepts into an obstacle blocking the nondiscriminating Compassion of Amida Buddha. do your best in your everyday life to live according to the precepts but rely only on Amida for the attainment of Buddhahood. That being said. Attachment to our so-called goodness is just another illusion among the many that we inherit from the distant past. Also. don’t ever feel that you are excluded from Amida’s salvation.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.pure or good actions useful for attaining Buddhahood. . I ask you again. In short.

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

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

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

If shinjin (faith) has been received into your heart. 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). At the level we are now on. The goal of both Dharma gates is the same: supreme Buddhahood and Nirvana . More than this. A Pure Land follower should never ask guidance in matters of his attainment of Buddhahood from masters and teachers who follow the Zen path. for example. no matter how much we read and talk about this. Only a Buddha who has transcended all methods and is completely free from delusion can play with various practices and understand them fully. all these will come naturally. we cannot truly understand the “Oneness of all things”. it should not be changed or preached in such a way as to accommodate the Path of Sages. so we should stay humble and embrace the dualistic vision of the 65 .and both gates were preached by Shakyamuni Buddha. 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. It is very sad. because this will only cause great confusion in his mind. that nowadays some try to transform the simple. but unenlightened beings cannot and should not imitate the behavior of the Buddhas until they have become Buddhas themselves. they should not misinterpret the meaning and characteristic of these two separate Dharma gates. 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. but until then. Theravada (Hinayana) methods. 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. or any other method that implies or teaches in one way or another some sort of reliance on personal power.

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

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

and I wish to you a warm “welcome to the club!” I repeat. in the middle of sufferings and miseries of any kind. 68 . then this teaching would be of much help. Jodo Shinshu starts with the sense of failure….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 is the path for spiritually sick people. Jodo Shinshu is especially for people who cannot abstain. I said to him: Just entrust to Amida as you are. then be an alchoholic who entrusts to Amida. So please. But if you are able. it is for the sake of your own well-being to give up your bad habits. and it is useful to try. Be a bad Buddhist who entrusts to Amida. 69 . this would be good for your health. It’s not that they especially want to be like this. It’s the path for alchoholics. 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. come as you are. If you tried and cannot give up. who are incapable of any practice . for people whose minds are too sick to recover from their problems. and deviations. Its okay and normal to be like that. but their habitual karma is too strong for them to overcome. drug addicts. and all kind of people with strong attachments. Be an alchoholic nembutsu follower. If you can abstain. He had a hard time trying again and again to give up taking drugs but he always returned to his bad habit. but if you cannot.for those for whom any advice or any treatment is useless. for those with no hope. don’t worry. anxieties. All are equally accepted by the Compassion and Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.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.

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

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

” 72 .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.

not to mention even practice anything. hungry spirit or hell dweller. 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. from eons of drinking the poison of ignorance and of evil deeds. hungry spirits or hell dwellers often appear in my mind and in the mind of others. I know that some virtuous practicers might interpret my hurry as laziness in spiritual matters or as lack of patience. It means to not be aware of the subconscious karmic energies which come from the distant past. and to not know what it really means to become a Buddha or a Free One. thoughts resembling those of animals.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. 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. or at least not yet entered in a stage from where you cannot retrogress. 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. not even 49 Birth as an animal. because I am in a hurry to become a Buddha. 73 . To have patience on any spiritual path where personal power is important is not at all a virtue but an illusion. 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. I feel that I do not want to assume any risk of failing to quickly become a Buddha for once and for all. unaware that there is a path to escape birth and death.

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

filled with satisfaction: “how I love these virtuous practicers!” 75 . then you may already have lost this chance of being reborn a human.. look you are almost there!. likes to play with the minds of virtuous practicers and often whispers in their ears: “do not be afraid.until one day. death comes suddenly and unexpectedly like a thief and you die the same person. and the time seems always enough to do anything both material and spiritual.spiritual sensations and many illusory Nirvanas when you rely on your own power. be patient. rely on yourself alone and make another effort…. think how many wonderful spiritual experiences you had this week…” . Mara would certainly smile. Mara. In such an outcome.. maybe a better one –a small drop of water in an ocean of poison and illusion – but still not enlightened and not free. and to die unenlightened and not free is the most dangerous thing that can happen to you. If you lack the sense of urgency and you are patient in the grave matter of birth and death. Every day in which you do not become a Buddha is the day you may die. you have enough time.. incapable of doing something for yourself and others. 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
Bodhisattva50.
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
50

See the chapter “Equal with Maitreya Buddha”

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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
it.

77

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,
etc.
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.

78

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

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

that he cannot save himself from birth and death (deep awareness of his limitations) and 81 . “I entrust in Amida Buddha for myself to attain Buddhahood in his Pure Land”. When someone entrusts to Amida for the first time.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. Thus. etc. which is a sad reality across most of the world except for Japan. without any doubt or hesitation. in our school there are neither gurus nor masters who can give or confirm the receiving of faith in the heart of the practicer. They are like mother and child.) 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. Answer: Fortunately. He knows. By having faith in Amida he becomes aware of two simple things: 1. he/she knows or becomes aware of this faith. 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. Jodo Shinshu is a personal and exclusive relation between Amida Buddha (a real and living Buddha) and the person who has faith in him.

while asking Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin to guide you and protect your understanding. 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. there is no need for another person to say “now I certify that you have shinjin”. Also. Nothing special has to happen inside the mind of the practicer or outside of him when he receives shinjin in his heart. Various ceremonies and receiving of a Buddhist name are beautiful and can be performed if the follower has access to a temple or sangha. that Amida will do this for him .he accepts Amida’s salvation (expressed in his Primal Vow) as being real and trustworthy. but if the conditions are difficult and you cannot meet anybody in particular. Or if you don’t trust in any living teacher. to have this Dharma dialogue. 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. He or she is somebody who encourages you to entrust in Amida. 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. 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.2. Alone or in a group. then use every means necessary. all that matters is that you understand the Dharma and receive shinjin. the internet for example. The teacher is important in Jodo Shinshu but only as a messenger of Amida’s salvation. There is no need to feel anything special. 82 . then he should not ask for such ceremonies. just read the sacred texts by yourself.

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

being convinced that his Primal Vow is true and reliable. But at the same time as being the expression of gratitude. Both aspects. Only because I entrust in Amida. 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. and one can find the same Master Rennyo using for example. Amida Buddha.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. “Namo” from “Namo Amida Butsu”. as her children lost in the dangerous streets of samsara. which expresses gratitude and also “to take refuge” which expresses faith (shinjin). nembutsu as the expression of faith and nembutsu as the expression of gratitude appear in Master Rennyo and Master Shinran’s texts. It is due to the power of the Mother’s call and her love that the child is able to answer and say. It is logical that one cannot feel gratitude to Amida if he has not received faith in him. Namo 84 . for example. the nembutsu is also the expression of faith. 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. It’s a correct understanding. to whom we. means “homage to”. answer immediately. It is natural because in reality both faith (shinjin) and saying of the Name (nembutsu) comes from Amida. am I able to feel gratitude. It is natural because it is not forced by my will and not created by my own power. This is why I always explain the nembutsu as the natural expression of faith and gratitude. a wrong view that holds the better or longer you recite the Name. the more chances you have to be born in the Pure Land.

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

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

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

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

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

90 . 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. Nothing else is needed. may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.If. desire to be born in my land. good or evil. old or young. However. sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me. when I attain Buddhahood. have faith and recite the Name. which is faith or the entrusting heart (shinjin). There cannot be any true nembutsu – i. should not be born there. Let us consider these words: All sentient beings that entrust to Amida. they remain attached to the idea of merit accumulation even if they also rely on Amida. 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. 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. the Vow by which Amida Buddha saves all who entrust in him. will be born there. Thus. Just wish to be born in the Pure Land. 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. male or female. calling of the Name. faith and 3. These three aspects: 1. the nembutsu of Other Power – without genuine faith. 2. wishing to be born. even ten times. No mentioning of merit or things that the practicer should add to the power of Amida.e. are in fact three manifestations of the same thing. Saying of the Name (nembutsu) is the natural expression of faith and is the same as faith. Namo Amida Butsu means “I take refuge in Amida Buddha” and to take refuge is to have faith. desire to be born in his Land and call his Name. This is the case with the 18th Vow. and call my Name.

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

The followers of the 20th Vow make another important step further into the Light of Amida Buddha. This is the difference between them and other Buddhists and this difference makes them to enter Amida’s influence and guidance.e. So they transfer the merits they think they accumulated through a good recitation toward birth in Amida’s Pure Land. What we see from reading these two vows. So.Shakyamuni. because among all Buddhist practices recommended by Shakyamuni. They are still dependent on their own power and their faith in Amida is not absolute. the recitation of the Name is supreme. 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. 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. to “plant roots of virtue” mentioned in the 20th Vow means to recite exclusively the Name of Amida. In the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) the recitation of the Name of Amida is called the root of all virtues. They do not stop at meditative and non-meditative practices. 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. They change the direction of their Buddhist practice toward Amida Buddha. 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. Amida especially finishes these two vows with the promise that the 92 . i. but among all practices they chose only one which is to say the Name of Amida Buddha. Like followers of the 19th Vow. to choose among all practices only this practice. 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. the 19th and the 20th.

and for Buddhas there are no categories in which they can be classified. Not all are equal. 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 higher level of the highest grade. The more the virtues. 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 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. But no mention is made there about those who enter Amida’s Pure Land through faith alone as in the 18th Vow. and so on.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”. 93 . 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. the middle level of the highest grade. until the lowest level of the lowest grade. the better the place one occupies in the Pure Land. the lower level of the highest grade. then the higher level of the middle grade. for example. the middle level of the middle grade.

Then. 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. The 18th. 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 Contemplation Sutra where visualization of Amida. we heard about Amida’s Pure Land and we stopped aspiring to attain Enlightenment in this life but wanted to be born there. are provisional means for those who still can’t rely exclusively on Amida Buddha. but practicers actually keep themselves there by their doubts and clinging to their own power. 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. the womb like palace. the city of doubt. Birth here is not a punishment. 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. Many people go through these three vows of salvation consciously or unconsciously in their Buddhist practice. 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. Because these three Vows – and especially the 18th – are mentioned in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha. etc. doubting that birth in the Pure Land is so easy. Still. who have absolute faith or still cling to their so called power and merit but wish to be born in the Pure Land. while the other two are Vows of indirect entering.The 18th is the Vow of direct entering into the true Pure Land. we 94 . 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. It is like a house with three doors.

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

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. 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. My question is. whether practices like that mentioned in the sutra above are allowed to practicers of the Jodo Shinshu sect.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. 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. 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. I mean. isn’t it Amida who makes the visions possible to us? A man of shinjin for example. could practice visualization methods to have a look of Amida Tathagata and his attendants. 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 .

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. It’s just to entrust in Amida. and many interpretations. could I for example. 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. I leave them alone and rely exclusively on Amida Buddha.” Do not try to create a special state of faith in your mind. But if one thinks that by practicing a certain meditation or visualisation he is gaining merit. and don’t work on that special state of faith. but Shinran’s view is unique among all. Listen again and again to the Dharma as explained by Shinran Shonin. then this is not in accord with the Jodo Shinshu teaching. improves his chances of being born in the Pure Land or even thinks that he improves his shinjin. There are many sutras and sacred texts about Amida Buddha. fears or doubts arise and leave your mind. In Jodo Shinshu faith is something very simple. No matter what other thoughts arise in my mind or fears or doubts. 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. 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 Tannisho. 97 .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. If it helps you. Yuien-bo encourages us to adhere only to Shinran’s explanations of the sutras.

yet others to recite the Name with right concentration.In the sutras. set aside the provisional and adopt the true is the Master’s fundamental intent. The Larger Amida Sutra (Bussetsu Muryoju Kyo). You must under no circumstances misread the sacred writings.” This means that the teaching about Amida’s salvation is presented in various ways depending on the sutras. “that we abandon the accommodated and take up the real. They are not direct means of entering the Pure Land. 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. What does this mean? It means. which Shinran considered to be the most important sutra preached by Shakyamuni.”And he continued. others to keep precepts and do good deeds in addition to aspiring for birth in the Pure Land. Shinran said. 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. We can say that he tries visualisations for fun. 98 . according to Shinran. 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. presents the Primal Vow in which only saying of the Name in faith is all that matters. Some sutras encourage people to practice visualisations. No other requirements or other practices like visualisation or meditation and following precepts are mentioned in the Primal Vow (18th Vow). “the true and real and the accommodated and provisional are mixed. 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. but practicing such methods shows a lack of shinjin and an attachment to one’s own power.

This is simply because he has already received shinjin – a simple. All that matters is whether there is the presence of shinjin (simple faith) or the lack of shinjin (lack of simple faith). In its ultimate sense shinjin is the gift of Amida and is not dependent upon or strengthened by any visualisation. But I also do not deny that after seeing Amida with their own eyes. Of course. 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. 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. uncomplicated faith in Amida Buddha. I am not against visualisations but against the wrong attitude of mind that does the visualisations.You can also give it a try if you are in the situation of the person described above.” Yes. 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. but those without faith and who rely on their own power do not realize this. But if something like transference of merit is involved and suggested in the technical description of performing that visualisation. It is very important to know that shinjin does not become stronger through visualisations and does not depend on visualisations. then you. in the end. Only the person described above is not going against Jodo Shinshu teaching if he practices visualisation. should bypass that part. any success of Amida’s visualisation is due only to Amida’s Power and influence. as one who knows that you have no merit. this is true. 99 . So. It is an error to think that shinjin is the product of a successful visualisation or it is strengthened by it. 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.

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

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

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

the follower can have doubt related with many things. 103 . To have shinjin means. even his own self. the burden of becoming a Buddha by himself. the follower who has faith in Amida should not expect to feel special things or become a better person. doubt and shinjin cannot coexist with one another. his friends. He certainly knows. but deep inside. but he is safely kept in his mother’s embrace. but he never doubts in ultimate matters like his own birth in the Pure Land and subsequent attainment of Buddhahood. being frightened of various things he sees and hears around him. Of course. in terms of his personal daily life. 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. to acquire qualities that he hasn’t had until then. So. delusions and difficulties might continue to coexist with this faith. he remains an ordinary person filled with delusions and attachments even after receiving shinjin. Simply stated. in the words of Shinran. 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. Generally speaking. like his relations. He knows all these. or to overcome his ordinary problems and fears. fears of various kinds. 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.A person who has received shinjin cannot doubt Amida’s salvation. The child continues to cry. with no doubt. 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.

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

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

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

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.

attachments and blind passions that cover all his body and mind. attachments and his so called “merits” accumulated in this life. However. Usually such people try many types of practices. don’t we?… And this dream continues as he practices in self power for 20. about Buddha-nature. After all. always feeling comfortable with this searching. etc. Buddha-nature. etc.I was a good Buddhist Many Buddhist practicers are like a man staring at the sun. They enjoy good books and good meditation. “I’m still searching”. Here the sun represents the ideal – Buddhahood to be attained through his own power. until he finally dies like an ordinary unenlightened person. he likes to dream about Enlightenment: he sometimes even thinks that this is something that can be attained in this very life. we all have Buddha-nature. The hole of excrement is his true reality in the here and now. They are always full of wise quotes from Buddhist masters and sages of the past from various schools. 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. they say. but with his body in a hole full of excrement. I said that they “suddenly die” because when death comes to them is 108 . 40 years or more. always going here and there. he might ask. 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. emptiness. that we are all Buddhas-to-be. never being totally satisfied with any school or teacher. going to the next life with all his karma. behaving as though they have all the time in the world. his limitations. until they suddenly die. emptiness. 30. his deep karmic evil.

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

that is. 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. To hear Amida’s call is to listen to the teaching. This how I understand Jodo Shinshu teaching. there is no time!” This is what we mean when we talk about Amida Buddha’s call. To let myself be lifted by the rope dropped to me by him is shinjin (entrusting to his Primal Vow) and also nembutsu – “Yes. they do not need to climb themselves on it. I rely on you and I am grateful that you have saved me. to the intention of his Primal Vow. 110 .” Entrusting myself to Amida Buddha and being grateful to him is Namo Amida Butsu.immediately. 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.

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

but it is only one aspect of it. etc. Rennyo Shonin also said: 112 . How can we. but still in the realm of self power? The answer is because I felt that I could not rely on myself. Since then I continue to experience this truth every day. Shinjin is sometimes received on the deathbed. read. At least that is how it was in my case.always felt like I had a lot of time to practice meditation. This is why nembutsu from that moment continues even now. because my first nembutsu was the nembutsu of a dying person. Master Rennyo said: “The teaching of Buddha Dharma is the teaching of non-ego”. for it means not to include any personal calculation in matters that concerns our birth in the Pure Land. In the moment of my conversion I felt that I could not be a refuge for myself and that Amida became my only refuge. But in that moment I felt that I had no time. 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. ignorant people. 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. be wise. one cannot praise himself with his personal capacities. But why was my conversion from a self power practice towards a practice based on Other Power? Why not to “a better practice”. 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 Buddhism. This is true. 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.

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

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

3) consciousness of smell. 7) impure (mind) consciousness. be overcome by strong desires. 5) consciousness of touch. 8) the alaya (storehouse) consciousness. Let us examine this consciousness: We take this alaya consciousness with us in all our births in the various realms of existence. The meaning of the first five consciousnesses is easy to comprehend. being the only consciousness which comes along with every birth. The consciousness of mind integrates the perceptions of the five senses in concrete images and makes decisions concerning the exterior world. aversions and obsessions. 4) consciousness of taste. Because of the karmic seeds contained in the alaya consciousness one may die a premature death. be stricken with unexpected disease or inexplicable misfortune. 6) consciousness of mind. and can think 115 . 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. so I will not dwell upon them.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. 2) consciousness of hearing. 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. It contains the seeds of various types of karma. This consciousness influences at the same time the workings of the other seven consciousnesses. and it is the storehouse of the habitual evil karmic tendencies that we have cultivated for eons.

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

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

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

appears in Jodo Shinshu in the form of the entrusting heart (shinjin).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. 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. The first refers to the fact that Amida transfers his entire store of karmic merit to us. aspire to your and other beings’ Liberation by relying on the Compasion of Amida (his Primal Vow). the obligatory condition in Mahayana of attaining the supreme Enlightenment. This mind is given us by the Other-Power. The Diamond-like Mind is the Bodhi-Mind. Shinran Shonin said in the “Hymns on Patriarchs”: “Faith is One Mind One Mind is the Diamond-like Mind. making us capable of attaining Buddhahood in the Pure Land. So. is made capable of returning to this world in order to save all beings. Shan-tao said: “Awake your Bodhi Mind to Amida’s Compassion”. 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) . that is. Since this 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. 119 .” The One Mind represents the cause of Enlightenment.

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

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

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

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

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

not our working. 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.” 125 .Fortunately. our birth in the Pure Land is the working of Amida. 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. It is precisely because we have such a changing mind filled with illusions that we are saved by Amida.

The mother is the one who actually feeds and makes the child grow. Similarly. the love of the mother which manifests in him. The faith of the child is in fact. and the faith in Buddha is not due to our power but rather what the Buddha plants in us. Because of Amida. 126 . It is a miracle if a Chandana tree grows in an Eranda forest. This is another important aspect of the Jodo Shinshu teaching. we entrust in Amida and say nembutsu. the Compassionate Mother of all beings. 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. not to the power of the child. The same thing happens when saying the Name expresses faith and gratefulness. Trees from Asia with beautiful smelling flowers. In the same way. just like a child who faithfully answers his mother’s calling. Everything comes from Amida and manifests like an echo in our souls and on our lips. A mother calls her child and the child answers immediately. it is a miracle if faith in Buddha flourishes in the people’s hearts. A child is nothing 60 61 Trees from Asia which have poisonous fruits.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. shinjin (entrusting heart) is not our own creation. Only because the mother always sends unconditional love to her child. can he trust in and rely on her. 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. It is said that in an Eranda60 forest grow only Eranda trees and not the famous Chandana61 trees with their fine fragrance. The answer of the child is due to the mother’s call. but the natural answer to the call of Amida Buddha.

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

There is another image. although Amida’s Light Compassion) is always shining on you. 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. you cannot feel his or her love. But a covered bowl of water cannot reflect the moon. In the same way. So.Why some are saved by Amida and others are not? “There is no heart far from Amida. as taught by Shinran. but some bowls are covered. you can become open or closed to the message of the Primal Vow of Amida. which it was also used by Master Rennyo63: the moon is reflected in every bowl full of water. but because your eyes are closed.” 128 . 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”. but a covered bowl of water cannot reflect the moon. The love of that person is always upon you. but some people are simply not opened to his call. Amida Buddha does not chose “between those he wants to save now and those he doesn’t want to save yet”. 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. but you do not care. while some others are open. the moon is not guilty that her image is not reflected in the covered bowl. Master Rennyo answered him with the poem: “There is no heart far from Amida.

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

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

Yama, the king of the dead, reveres us,
And the officers who judge the beings of the five courses of
existence
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.”

131

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:
Question:
“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?”
Answer:
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

67

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.

68

132

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
133

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

So.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. we are protected from rebirth in the unenlightened states of existence. and the 135 . All Buddhas are witnesses of this truth and praise the wonderful salvation work of Amida. no being (visible or invisible) can destroy our faith or divert us from the Buddhist path. This is why Jodo Shinshu followers can’t be influenced by those who follow nonbuddhist paths. 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. with shinjin. We may also say that the protection of the Buddhas means that since the moment we receive shinjin. 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”. you will no longer be subject to birth and death. we safely go into the direction of Buddhahood. but because my faith (shinjin) is not my creation. That which gives power to our faith is its origin – the Heart and Mind of Amida Buddha. It is not by accident that in Jodo Shinshu we often meet the expression “diamond-like shinjin”. we should not make any confusion and think that after we receive shinjin we should always be happy or always experience happy circumstances. Since. 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.

But sees and reveres it and greatly rejoices in attaining it That person is my true companion. making us understand our life’s events as they are explained by the Dharma. as Shakyamuni himself recognizes.’’ . Amida’s Light causes us to profoundly realize our limitations and how reliable the Primal Vow 136 .” Also it is stated in the Contemplation Sutra: “Know that the person who says the nembutsu is a white lotus among people. looking to them as to future Buddhas. The passage declaring the fulfillment of the Vow states: ‘‘Such people are praised by all the Buddhas and rejoice. In the Larger Sutra.attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land is guaranteed – these are the ways through which this benefit of all Buddhas’ protection manifests itself. 5. 6. 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. All Buddhas praise those who entrust in Amida. It means that Amida always illuminates us. Here we see that the protection is a spiritual one. Praised by all Buddhas (shobutsu shyosan). Protected by the Buddha’s spiritual light (shinko jogo) I think this benefit is in close connection with the fourth. It is wonderful that we have come to entrust in a teaching so hard to be accepted in faith. he said: “The one who hears and never forgets this Dharma.” Shinran Shonin explained in one of his Letters (Mattosho): “Further.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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). the person who has attained true shinjin is taught to be equal to Tathagatas. The fire will necessary produce smoke even if the fire is not the same with the smoke. This is called the stage of non-retrogression. The cause of perfect Enlightenment is definitely settled when faith in Amida arises in the heart of the followers. both come about through being grasped. In the same manner.So.” 143 . 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. Whether we speak of the settling of true shinjin or the settling of the diamondlike shinjin. Faith is the cause of Enlightenment. the stage of the truly settled. so he is already known as Maitreya Buddha. In this manner. but is not a Buddha yet during this life until death.” 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. 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. never to be abandoned. 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. Thus is awakened the heart and mind that will attain the supreme Enlightenment. and the stage equal to the perfect Enlightenment. because they receive the benefit of being grasped. Although Maitreya has not yet attained Buddhahood. never to be abandoned.

the person of true shinjin is said to be equal to Buddhas. So. it is the custom in various schools to speak of him as Maitreya Buddha”. He is also regarded as being the same as Maitreya. since Maitreya has already become one who is certain to attain Buddhahood.” […. You should have no doubts about this. Shinran said: “…the moment they realize the diamondlike mind (shinjin). In letter 18 of Mattosho. who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood.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. Thus. By this we know that the person who has already realized shinjin that is Other Power can be said to be equal to Buddhas. he is called Maitreya Buddha. they are said to abide in the stage of the truly settled and to attain the same stage as Bodhisattva Maitreya73. explained Shinran. they are equal to Buddhas. exactly as Shakyamuni did in the past.] “Further. 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.” 73 “Since Maitreya is already close to Buddhahood.” 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. Since persons of true and real shinjin are of the same stage as Maitreya. 144 .

Thus. who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood. This is also indicated in Sakyamuni’s statement about those who realize shinjin and greatly rejoice: ‘The one who sees.” There is also the 17th Vow of Amida Buddha recorded in the Larger Sutra about which Shinran wrote: “Further.’ Sakyamuni’s words of rejoicing are found in the Larger Sutra: ‘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 . and attains [the dharma] and greatly rejoices . the person of true shinjin is said to be equal to Buddhas. 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. and attains [the Dharma] and greatly rejoices . close companion’.” As you see. and they proclaim.that person is my excellent. reveres. “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.“…all Buddhas feel great joy when such a person rejoices in the realization of true shinjin. thus he teaches that the person who has attained shinjin is equal to Buddhas. He is also regarded as being the same as Maitreya.that person is my excellent. close companion’. 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’. 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’. ‘This person is our equal. reveres.

etc. It is like a person flying in the air by his own power (Maitreya) and another one (us) carried by a plane.” 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. the first by self power and the latter by Other Power (Amida’s Power). Shinran said in his letter 15 of Mattosho: “To think in self-power that one is equal to the Tathagatas is a great error. enter this stage and are assured of becoming Buddhas in the Pure Land. we who entrust in Amida will become Buddhas after this life is ended. We are not equal to the Tathagatas and to Maitreya just because we deserve it or have great merits and virtues. how can self-power enter into it? Please consider this fully.through his own power while those who have shinjin become truly settled through the Power of Amida. 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.) both will reach their destinations. If he has to wait many more billions of years until he is born into this world and become a Buddha.” Due to Amida grasping us are we made capable to receive faith. but they travel by different means. but rather because Amida made us to become so. Both are flying (are in the stage of non-retrogression/assured of Nirvana or the stage next to Buddhahood. 146 . There is also another difference between Maitreya and us. But it is because of the shinjin of Other Power that you rejoice. This is the meaning of “they receive the benefit of being grasped.

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

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

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

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

manifested in his Vow and Name. something called “change of heart”. I changed my mind and I impose some hard conditions that you won’t be able to cross”. the effects of those offenses are annihilated by the Endless Compassion that is received in the believer’s heart through the awakening of faith. in the same time. especially those who committed the five grave offenses and slandered the right Dharma. something like: “I will save you all even if you just say my Name ten times . has committed at least once one of these offenses. Something appears though in the moment of the awakening of faith. permanently driven by the tendencies of our negative karma and always capable of committing any act. but also of the salvation and indiscriminate working of Amida. this “exclusion” actually shows that even the worst beings are included in the salvation of Amida. it would be absurd to abandon them because of their ignorance. driven by our illusions or blind passions. 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. 151 . the Vow coming from the profound contemplation for five kalpas has no meaning. 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. that is the fully understanding of the hopeless spiritual situation we are in. A Buddha can’t make a statement and immediately after. I think that the mentioning of these gravest offenses is a clue that they are not wanted in the disciples’ behavior but..” In Shinran’s opinion.gentleness and forbearance. each of us.. Probably.but actually. deny it or state its contrary. in our past lives or this life. This attitude would be against the Bodhi Mind and the most elementary Mahayana vows.

’ The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life states. Because a person has not slandered the right Dharma. ‘Those who have committed the five grave offenses and the ten transgressions. to the supreme Nirvana. nothing is said of slandering the right Dharma. ‘Those who aspire for birth are all brought to attainment. a person is unable to attain birth.In the moment we start to rely on Amida Buddha we experience this “change of heart”. “Question: The Sutra of Immeasurable Life states. Here Shakyamuni Buddha tells Ananda and Vaidehi that a man lying on his death bed that committed the five grave offenses. he attains birth. making it straight. the ten transgressions and every kind of evil acts. 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. and who are possessed of various evils also attain birth.’ 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. Because of committing both these two kinds of evil act. listens to his advices and recites Namo Amida Butsu even ten times. can be born in the Pure Land if he meets a good spiritual teacher. 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. 152 . 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. Although in the Sutra of Immeasurable Life appears the “exclusion” mentioned above. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right Dharma. independent of its illusions.

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

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

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. completely separated by the old man from this life or the past lives. 155 . the person who stays now in front of me is not the same as the one offending me yesterday. because he is now a new man. but the next day he felt sorry and asked for forgiveness. Going before him. he kneeled and asked forgiveness. Buddha said: “Get up. 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.

We also honor and take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha as the Teacher who showed us the path of Amida Dharma. no matter their spiritual capacities. he/she says these refuges together with Ryogemon (Jodo Shinshu Creed) in front of the altar and in the presence of the sangha. 156 .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. 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. the Blessed One. At our dojo we recite the traditional “Vandana”: NAMO THASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMA SAMBUDDHASA (Homage to Him. his main reason for coming into this world. 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. especially Shinran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin. It is the Dharma contained in the sacred texts of 74 When someone becomes a Jodo Shinshu follower in the Romanian sangha. This is addressed to Shakyamuni Buddha in his position as a messenger and Teacher of Amida Dharma. the fully Enlightened One) before reciting the Three Refuges.

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

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

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

among all Shakyamuni’s teachings we choose only the nembutsu of faith in Amida Buddha. So. Buddhism is the medicine prescribed to us by the Buddha. Next. 79 Shinran quoted this passage from the Sutra of the Vows of Medicine Master Buddha.Also we must not mix the Buddha Dharma with various religious systems from the past or present. we abandon all non-Buddhist teachings and select the Buddha Dharma. 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 .

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

a fictional character. 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. etc. the more chances you have to be born in the Pure Land. without thinking on Amida or not being in a good state of mind. your karmic destiny is fixed and you are sure to become a Buddha in the Pure Land. In that exact moment (not when you die) you become saved. not even the smallest virtue or merit. 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. 81 If one thinks that Amida is a symbol. The saying of Amida’s Name is just the expression of faith and gratitude because Amida saves you without asking anything from you. or if you imagine that you can gain merit by this recitation which can be transferred to your birth in the Pure Land. You remain an ordinary person as you have always been until the moment of your death.. you will still go in the Pure Land because you are already saved from the very instance of your first moment of faith (shinjin). 80 For example if you think that the better you recite it. or a metaphor. 162 . and even if you die unexpectedly. just entrust in Amida and all is assured for you. then this Ryogemon is useless. etc. So don’t worry about anything. 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. improve or destroy your chances to be born in the Pure Land. Even the saying of Amida’s Name can be placed in this category if it is done while relying on personal power80. Nothing which follows this moment of the emergence of faith can in any way influence. as some deluded modern scholars interpret him. or that the number of recitations and the concentrated state of mind are important.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.

like for example. Shinran Shonin himself forbade worshiping of the kami and various gods. So they all. we simply do not rely on them or entrust ourselves to them”. so we do not need to worship and take refuge in them. His successors who were faithful to his teachings and further spread them to the later generations. they should be fruitful if they are practiced just as they were expounded. 81 from Rennyo Shonin Ofumi (The Letters of Rennyo). he never spoked in his writings about kami as manifestations of Buddhas. 53. 40. We know that in Buddhism.You met the Dharma of Amida’s salvation because of Shinran Shonin’s appearance in this world and of his explanations. manifestations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.do not denigrate the kami (gods of Shintoism)84 82 References to these rules can be found at pages 20. also provided you with the conditions to meet this wonderful teaching. 34. in general. 77. In this last Dharma age. As Master Rennyo pointed out in many of his letters. people like ourselves are not equal to the teachings of the various sects of the Path of Sages. 32. 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. 84 We do not rely on the kami. especially Shinran Shonin. but this does not mean that we denigrate them. 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. deserve your gratitude and appreciation. gods are just one type of unenlightened beings among others. unlike Rennyo. 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. however. 47. 41. 35. so we must not conclude that Master Rennyo tried to make us see all gods from various 163 .do not belittle other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas . by receiving faith in Amida. As the teachings were all given by Shakyamuni during his life time. Thus. we fulfill their wishes and aspirations. 27. therefore. They are reformulated by me here: . 71. published by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center Translation and Research in 1996.respect other Buddhist schools and do not denigrate their teachings or followers83 . Master Kakunyo or Master Rennyo. I would not go so far as to say that the important figures of all religions are in fact. Also. but he also never said we should denigrate them or their followers. 50. 74.

this does not apply to laws that are inhumane and criminal. speak only when it is truly necessary and at the right time. store Other Power faith deep in your hearts and take the principles of humanity and justice as essential86. but in doing this we respect other people’s religious decisions and do not denigrate them.do 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. be discrete. Also. respectfully. Of course. do not denigrate or slight government and local authorities because you have faith and they don’t . all is related with Shintoism and its divine figures. the emancipation of Buddhist ways is called eternal”. but to be sure that we make no mistakes and do not come to worship unenlightened spirits or gods. with your convictions and faith in Jodo Shinshu. mythologies or important figures of major religions as being Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Shinran himself quoted Nirvana Sutra in his Kyogyoshinsho. . 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 manifestations. 85 Act accordingly with the laws of the state you live in. So we abandon all non-Buddhist ways and follow only the Buddha Dharma. especially in the public. In his letters he specifically made reference to Shintoist kami which other Japanese Buddhist schools also considered as having a link with the Buddha Dharma.do not be proud and do not become noisy.meet your public obligations and duties in full without fail take the laws of the state as your outer aspect85. where it is clearly stated that: „the emancipation of non Buddhist ways is called impermanent. we should never look to Shintoism and especially to other religions as being the same with Buddhism. 86 Try to be compassionate and treat all people equally no matter their differences.. it would be a mistake to view all spirits. all kami and all figures of Japanese folklore as being Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. and enjoy your faith in silence and humbleness. in general. Jodo Shinshu followers should concentrate exclusively on Amida Buddha and leave aside. 164 .do not put on airs of a high spiritual person – be humble . act normal. Generally speaking.

Thus. 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. then this Ryogemon becomes useless and no salvation from birth and death can be possible.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. please be careful when you talk about Jodo Shinshu or when you try to transmit it to others. If one destroys or modifies Amida Dharma. you accept that the Shinshu Dharma is the wonderful medicine given by Shakyamuni and the Masters to save people from birth and death. This is a rule of conduct which you automatically and naturally accept when you enter this path. so take it as essential when you enter the Shinshu sangha. 165 . It’s just common sense. So. Indications about this general rule of conduct are to be found everywhere in the teachings of Shinran and Rennyo.

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

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

Those who don’t like or cannot accept this path are free to leave it or forget it. 168 . metaphors and hidden meanings.being a living and active Buddha? Please use your mind and simple logic. 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. so that you do not fall into such illusions and wrong understanding as theirs. The true Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is not a rambling metaphysical system. 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. filled with symbols.

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. is not in accord with the Pure Land teaching of Honen and his Dharma heir. Shinran Shonin.. 87 The Pure Land of Amida Buddha is sometimes called the Pure Land of the west. his teachings have different interpretations. Honen Shonin said: “Although there is one Amida Buddha. his Pure Land too is not inside us. The Pure Land school. a myth. Because Amida is not something inside our heart or mind. 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). they do not admit his existence outside of one’s heart. etc. a symbol of one’s own Enlightened nature or one’s own heart and mind.Honen Shonin on Amida Buddha In the Dialogue on One Hundred Forty-Five Topics. is not “here and now” and is not “our own pure mind” as some might say. The Shingon school teaches that Amida Buddha resides in one’s own heart. See the chapter „The reason for the western location of the Pure Land and its wonderful description in the sutras”. however. I especially chose this quote to show that any presentation of Amida Buddha as being a metaphor. These two viewpoints reflect great differences between the two schools”. teaches that Bodhisattva Dharmakara realized Buddhahood and became Amida Buddha and now resides in the west87. 169 .

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

The exaltation with which Shakyamuni describes the Pure Land of Amida in the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) without even being 171 . It’s the same with the expression “Pure Land of the West”. It is as though I speak to you about a beautiful park I would like you to visit. in the west of the town” and I start describing it to you. “it’s there. then you will have no doubt about its existence and you will wish to see it. Shakyamuni Buddha wants to emphasize its actual existence as a place where sentient beings should aspire to be born without worry and doubt. the land is given a direction and is described in great details in the sutras.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. If I tell you. 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. 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. but a real place in which people can actually aspire to be born after death.

by presenting the history of Amida Buddha. his entire body appeared serene and glorious. 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. Shariputra. repeating the name of his main listener. 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. which is a proof of the importance of the teaching about Amida Buddha. Shakyamuni begins every description with great enthusiam. and his august countenance looked most majestic. the whole gathering listening to the discourse. 172 . including Ananda.” After Ananda asks him about the reason for these wonderful manifestations. 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. 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. In the same sutra. not in response to a question. not symbols or fictions. telling him the wonders of the Pure Land and the uniqueness of Amida Buddha among all Buddhas. which is further proof that Shakyamuni speaks about real things. In this discourse. 88 The Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) is a sutra spontaneously delivered.asked to do it88. had a vision of Amida Buddha and his Pure Land.

can speak about the unity between samsara and Nirvana for days and nights. these two are different. but from the perspective of an unenlightened person. 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.” 2. ignorance makes us see samsara (the world of illusion. I wish to know what some Buddhists mean when they say there is no distinction between the two. No matter how much I speak about this. suffering. Only from the Buddha’s perspective (the absolute truth). Their understanding is not just an intellectual one. birth and death) as different from Nirvana. 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 still don’t become a Buddha. However I. samsara and Nirvana will remain different as long as we are not Buddhas. 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. Also. as an unenlightened person.Pure Land is NOT here and now Questions: “1. no matter how much we speak about unity. and why I was attracted to it. but I use only mere words and still remain caught in my limited mind. For me this is what I thought was the essence of Shinran’s teaching. because they became enlightened. Thus. are Nirvana and samsara one. I think it has to be here and now or it is nowhere. 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. 173 .

” 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. that is. so it’s an expression of faith and gratitude. so that the mind set upon saying the nembutsu arises within you. There is no other meaning related to the nembutsu in our Jodo Shinshu teaching. which you will attain in the moment of your death. What is meant by the stage of non-retrogression? It means that the root of your karma is cut. “‘Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida’s Vow. when you are born in the Pure Land. your karma cannot plant further seeds into another life in samsara.” So. 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. Namo means “to take refuge” and also it means “homage to”. this is the teaching I received. one entrusts oneself to the Primal Vow in this life and realizes Enlightenment in the Pure Land. never to be abandoned. 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. you are now assured of Buddhahood. never to be abandoned. You are established in 174 . Because of the merit transference from Amida. you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida.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. I shall realize birth in the Pure Land’: the moment you entrust yourself thus to the Vow.” This means that you enter into the stage of those assured of Nirvana or the stage of non-retrogression.

“here and now” means only samsara. 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 90 KI MYO JIN JI PO MU GE KO NYO RAI – Homage to the Tathagata of Unimpeded Light Pervading the Ten Quarters.this stage of non-retrogression. or assured of Nirvana. The Name was not created in order that we be led to understand the Pure Land as here and now. 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. We should not forget that the Name is made to be easy to recite. For us unenlightened beings. not by yourself. 175 . the world of illusion and suffering. This represents the deep mindfulness of human nature just as it is. but by Amida (“being grasped by Amida”) who will never abandon you (“never to be abandoned”) – this is what is mean by non-retrogression. and it doesn’t have any hidden meaning. 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. 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. That is not why the Name was created. 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. Nembutsu being the same with shinjin (this is why I always call it “nembutsu of faith”). Master Rennyo used the six-character name (NA MO A MI DA BUTSU). whether esoteric or some “Zen meaning”.

when through faith in Amida Buddha we are born the “birthless birth” in the Pure Land and become Buddhas.” “emptiness”. will we understand what our present minds and senses can’t understand – the unity between samsara and Nirvana. touch or smell. the “nonarising of all phenomena. automatically doesn’t exist. Nowhere in the writings of Shinran or Rennyo is there to be found such an interpretation. etc. 176 . are the only criteria upon which we can judge what is real from what is not real in the universe. Only in the moment of death. 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. It is as if they are deludedly saying that our eyes. But why do some followers insist on spreading false views like “the Pure Land is here and now” or presenting Amida as a symbol. 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. what we don’t see. So. etc. or our limited minds. 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”.2. not to mention anywhere in the Three Pure Land Sutras about Amida. This represents the wholeheartedly reliance on Amida Buddha’s Compassion. and because they are blinded by their own limited and illusory opinions to which they try to adapt the Jodo Shinshu teaching. which are the words of Shakyamuni Buddha himself. myth or fictional character? The answer is simple – it is because they cannot accept in their hearts the words of Shakyamuni and the Masters. as you see. and further.

for example. which was later transmitted to Japan. the Jodo Shinshu teaching recognizes the existence of many transcendental Buddhas who preside over many realms or Buddha-lands and that it is possible. Chih-i even spoke of Amida Buddha and his Pure Land as elements of one’s consciousness to be realized in the mind. the last mentioned of which is the best land to be born into by those who wish to attain Buddhahood quickly. 177 . advocated the idea that the Pure Land „exists in one’s mind”. the land of Tara Bodhisattva. Various examples of such Buddha-lands are. Essentially speaking. a teaching belonging to a diferent Dharma gate than the Pure Land92.The Pure Land in the teaching of Jodo Shinshu Chih-i (538-597). to be born in one of these after death. the Pure Land was understood by many Tendai masters of the past as existing only in one’s mind. This can be found in the Vimalakirti Sutra. We need to understand very well that contrary to the theories of “mind only” or “pure land is pure mind”. by various methods. Bhaisajyaguru (Yakushi) Buddha’s land and Amida’s land of the west. Nowadays. the founding master of the Tendai Buddhist school in China. 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. Maitreya’s Tusita Heaven. Akyobhya’s land. 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. 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”.

and of Amida as a real and living Buddha. Shinran and others who clearly instructed us to aspire to be born only in Amida’s Pure Land. Shan-tao. They all embraced the idea of the Pure Land from the viewpoint of the next life (raisejodo). Honen. which means it is to be attained after physical death. the Sage. who is revered by humans and devas. 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. 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’. Surrounded by innumerable children of the Buddhas. 178 . How far they are from the words of faith spoken by Nagarjuna: With reverence I bow my head to Amida. due to their own lack of faith in Amida Buddha and their lack of a sincere aspiration to be born in his Pure Land. The Most Honored One. and they disparage the true realization of Enlightenment in the Pure Land way”.school. including Nagarjuna. You dwell in the wonderful Land of Peace and Bliss.

we shall live expressing our gratitude without depending on petitionary prayer and superstition”. success in love affairs. or to think that by reciting it in a certain manner will bring good luck and good fortune. like wealth. should not do. possessions. One cannot be a Buddhist and believe in luck or good fortune which comes from other sources not related to personal karma. as Jodo Shinshu followers.About petitionary prayers In the Kyosho (Essentials of Jodo Shinshu) it is said: “. etc. So. I think the above sentence from the Kyosho was especially promulgated to prevent Jodo Shinshu followers from falling in two wrong views: 179 . any religious method which implies asking a higher being. 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. 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. while the karma implies that everything has a cause.. a Buddha or a god.. Luck it is said to appear from nowhere. 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. Here we see that petitionary prayer is linked to superstition as both are put in the same category of the things we.

One cannot ask me to suddenly have no fear of death after I entrust to Amida. 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. and 2. 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. this fear is exactly what assured him even more of Amida’s salvation.1. and understands our need of protection. like a child calls his mother when he feels sad or when he is in danger? Can this be considered wrong. But what if we cry to Amida Buddha. as ordinary people are always capable of experiencing fear. too? For example. 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.” I think it’s all right to do this. Amida and Avalokitesvara and any Buddha we call is always present. Instead of putting him outside the Dharma. Of course. to discourage wrong dependency upon various gods and higher beings. can hear our cries. it is not the fault of Amida that I suffer and have to pass through many kinds of dangerous situations. To be free from fear in this life means to no longer be in the category of ordinary people. I am an ordinary person who is afraid of death. I simply didn’t care then if this was a petitionary prayer or not. I am afraid of this or that…. and in times of great sorrow or fear I may cry to Amida or Avalokitesvara: “please help me. Due to my heavy karma 180 . and I also think that Amida was not upset with me. And Amida Buddha especially saves ordinary people.

Through the nembutsu of faith one receives only the assurance of attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land. or think we can obtain material wealth ignoring the law of cause and effect by praying to higher beings and Buddhas. protect me”. 181 . As I said previously. 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. 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. It should be very well understood that nembutsu is not a magic formula to solve one’s problems in daily life. 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. nothing else.from the past I deserve to experience any injury – this is the law of cause and effect. But in the exact moment of being injured. but only the manifestation of faith in Amida which causes our attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land. But surely we are helped and supported even if our minds can’t understand how a Buddha helps us. It’s really impossible for me to never say “Please Amida. or that through petitionary prayers we are born in the Pure Land or we become more worthy to go there. 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. 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.

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

then he can die in any circumstances. 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. as he will surely go to the Pure Land after death. These two have no connection with one another. what Shinran tried to do when he chanted Amida-kyo in that specific situation was transference of merit. 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. But into my opinion. I am sure that faith and the nembutsu of faith can co-exist with some cries of help in the middle of great suffering. and he stopped. while to be saved as we are from birth and death is due to Amida’s Power. was not a transference of merit but just a cry of help in the hour of suffering and fear.special meaning to one’s last moments. In comparrison with this. what I did when I prayed to Amida and Avalokitesvara in that dangerous situation. but not in Jodo Shinshu because we think only Amida. If one has shinjin. To chant sutras and transfer the merits thus gained is a custom in many Buddhist schools. Amida will not be upset. when Shinran saw the immense suffering of peasants from an area devastated by hunger. 183 . In concluding this chapter I wish to mention one more thing. as a Buddha. He hoped to achieve merits by sutra recitation which he intended to be transferred to those in need. He then realized this attempt is not in accord with the Pure Land teaching. 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. has true merits that can be shared with others. 93 It is said that one day.

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

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

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

filled with blind passions and illusions. 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. He dies like an ordinary person but is reborn as a Buddha in the Pure Land of Amida. 187 . 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.

It is indeed wonderful. evil karmas. While every unenlightened sentient being has to pass through bardo when they die. while I also experience the manifestations of my own karma and delusions. Tibetan Buddhism promises. 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. in accordance with the Bardo Thodol. but in the very moment of my death. but looking to the teaching and practice of Jodo Shinshu. 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. because of the fears. Enlightenment in 16 lives maximum. if one is not capable of attaining it in this very life. This is extraordinary because even if you have a practice and concrete instructions to follow in the bardo. the Jodo Shinshu practicers don’t experience this intermediate state.Immediate Buddhahood for ordinary people. Some practices are hard and dangerous like those of the tantras. Jodo Shinshu deserves its place among the most advanced Mahayana teachings and practices. it might still be difficult to accomplish it. or even in the bardo. attachments and delusions that manifest in that state. like Tibetan Buddhism. if well practiced. where I still have to practice something based on my own power. Through its methods. The power of every thought and 188 . 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. I know that in Tibetan Buddhism. without passing through bardo Although it is not so well spread outside Asia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

196 .