Inconceivable Karma - And The Moment Amida Used

My dharma friend Jason writes this letter below, in response to a poem I wrote right after my daughter Jessie’s death, and then read at her memorial service.


Thank you for sending the poem. I feel honored that you would share it with me.

It’s heartbreaking…as is the fact of your daughter’s suicide. I have three kids (two daughters), and can’t imagine losing to suicide the flesh and blood that I would die for–maybe even kill for. I can’t imagine the heart-scorching pain you’ve suffered…

But now, I need to tell you something.

For some reason, the first few times I visited your blog, I never saw or read the “Jessie Checks In” post–which is strange, because you’ve got links to it everywhere. Anyway, I did read enough of your posts to learn about your daughter’s tragic death–and to decide that your “brand” of Shin wasn’t for me.

But for some reason, over a month after I’d stricken your blog address from my “favorites” list, I revisited SHIN UGLY blog. I saw the “Jessie checks in” link and read the post.

That was the moment that Amida used to turn my heart around; I swear, you could have knocked me over with a feather as I read about Jamie’s experience of Jessie’s manifestation…

It was then that I began to seriously question my previous assumptions about Shinran’s dharma. It was then that I first began to consider the possibility that the Pure Land was true IN THE WAY that the sutras and Shinran presented it.

It was not long after that I decided to write you.

There are still many things that I question/don’t understand about Shinran’s dharma. But these have become porous to the degree that they no longer hinder the spontaneous welling up of gratitude and joy whenever I remember Amida’s compassionate vows.

I no longer have any doubt that, for reasons I can’t comprehend or articulate, I’ve been embraced–NEVER to be abandoned.

For the first time in my life, I’m not trying to “earn” my way to the other shore.

Paul, you’ve been a huge part of this…and I suppose, by extension, has your daughter. I rejoice with you that she has ended her journey in samsara and is working together with Amida to bring us all to the realm of full awakening, transcendent wisdom and unhindered compassion.

“The workings of karma are inconceivable…” So said Shakyamuni to Ananda on Vulture Peak. For me, at least, your daughter’s tragic death was not in vain.

Namu Amida Butsu!

Since you too are reading the SHIN UGLY Blog, you have already been made a part of my karmic circle - listening to (or tolerating at least) my articulation of Shinran’s True Teaching about the Path of the Pure Land.

Here’s what I say today, directly to YOU - my reader, even through many tears that still come: My friend is correct. My beloved Jessie did not die in vain, nor has she been tossed into samsaric life once again, as all of us must be tossed, unless…unless…unless…

…unless Amida Buddha carries us to the Pure Land, where we can complete our journey and join countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the Great Work of awakening countless beings, and ending endless suffering at last.

That is what happened to my belove Jessie - believe it, or not.

In fact, she CONTINUES to manifest herself in ways that defy explanation - and sometimes nature itself - as we know it in this samsaric world. These incidents have continued happening publicly, in the presence of witnesses, like the incident in Sorrento, Italy described in Jessie Checks In.

It is a true “breadcrumb trail” that is bearing witness to her sister and a number of our personal friends. Her manifestations are provoking them to consider that this “strange and esoteric” teaching about Amida Buddha may not just be a grieving father’s pitiable babble - but THE REAL DEAL - the end of suffering at last.

And these people who are paying attention to what they cannot comprehend are unlike my dharma friend above. They have NO background whatsoever in Buddhism - or even eastern religion - that would prepare them to consider the claims of Shakyamuni and Shinran about the reality of Amida Buddha, the Pure Land, the Primal Vow, etc.

I’m no seeker of confirming “signs and wonders”. But these have been clearly given in order to help awaken beings to the TRUTH of Shakyamuni’s teacing (as the initial ones have awakened my friend above).

I have known that it would be right to share them on the SHIN UGLY Blog.

Now it feels to me like the time is ripe to do so. So stay tuned to the blog over the next several days, if you have even the slightest interest in The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way.

Read with skepticism and disbelief, if you must. I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you did.

As I keep saying, it’s not my job to convince anyone of ANYTHING. It’s all Amida Buddha’s business. My job - my PRIVILEGE - is simply to share the True Teaching of Shinran, our True Teacher, as best as I can - along with my own experience.


Here’s what I say to you, my reader, in the midst of everything that has happened, to you in your life, and to me in mine:

My dharma friend speaks truly and from the heart as he quotes Shakyamuni Buddha’s words to Ananda in awe and gratitude: “the workings of karma are inconceivable”.

That’s why I invite you to drop all intellectual pretense and emotional ego-based defense mechanisms - and listen deeply .

Listen deeply with your left brain and your right brain - with your head and with your heart.

Ponder, and be open. Ask Amida Buddha for HIS light and HIS life to light up your darkness.

The plain truth is this: because you are not a Buddha YET, your life is bound by ignorance and suffering - no matter what you do.

The plain truth is this: because you are not a Buddha YET, you can’t even begin to comprehend the vast canvas of reality that stretches past the farthest reaches of the universe that our instrumentation can discern. Indeed, our greatest physicists speak of such things in the vaguest of terms, sounding more like mystics than scientists - about the end of time - about parallel dimensions in the multi-verse - about a reality that is simply beyond us all.

Despite the vast reality that is forever beyond our ability to know as small finite beings bound by space and time, a window of understanding has been opened that is easy enough for even a child to comprehend.

That window of understanding is called The Larger Pure Land Sutra. My teacher Shinran says that Shakyamuni’s true mission in the world was to provide us with THIS particular teaching - THIS window into a reality that is otherwise beyond our conception.

I call that window SHIN UGLY - and invite you to gaze through it:

  • with Shakyamuni Buddha himself as he speaks to us in the Sutra about Amida Buddha (link HERE)
  • with his disciple Ananda, who was praised by Shakyamuni Buddha for asking the big question
  • with the thousands who gathered on Vulture Peak that fateful day to listen deeply to Shakyamuni - and then saw and heard INCONCEIVABLE things.
  • with all the Pure Land Masters, like Nagarjuna and Shan-Tao and Genshin
  • with Honen who responsible for opening Shinran’s eyes
  • .with Shinran - the Master Teacher of this dharma that is the only solution to suffering in the Age of Dharma decline
  • with Yuien, Shinran’s faithful student - who mourned with tears the abandoning of Shinran’s True Teaching by those who claimed to be teaching in Shinran’s name
  • with Rennyo the Great Restorer who brought the Shin Buddhist community back from the brink of self-inflicted death by trudging from town to town, sharing Shinran’s True Teaching tirelessly
  • with Professor Eiken Kobai - a Shin Buddhist scholar of the first rank - who transmits the Dharma with great depth and precision worthy of emulation by any calling themselves TRUE scholars of Shinran’s TRUE teaching. (Link HERE to download his two books - must reading for ALL who want to hear clearly the True Teaching of Shinran and of Rennyo.
  • with Reverend George Gatenby - a true servant leader of the Shin Sangha in Australia and around the world - who brings fresh dharma rain every week with his outstanding Notes On The Nembutsu
  • with the many True Teachers of Shinran’s teaching, past and present, who neither add to nor subtract from his dharma message
  • with countless others past and present who have taken refuge in the literal Person and Work of Amida Buddha
  • …and with my dharma friend and me.


Truly - to a non-Buddha, the workings of karma are INCONCEIVABLE.

The working of Amida Buddha to create the Pure Land are INCONCEIVABLE.

The experience of life in the Pure Land is INCONCEIVABLE.

The light of Amida Buddha that shines always and ever into every corner of the multi-verse is INCONCEIVABLE.

Amida Buddha’s gift of diamondlike SHINJIN is INCONCEIVABLE.

And yet it is all made so simple that even a village idiot in medieval Japan can listen deeply, understand, and respond with unspeakable gratitude and joy.

Even a village idiot…even me…and even YOU.

Perhaps, to you, that is the most INCONCEIVABLE of all.

That’s OK. Just keep listening, anyway.

Amida Buddha will do EVERYTHING else - just as he has done for my dharma friend, and for Jessie, and for me.

NamuAmidaButsu -

Paul R.

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