KGSS Chapter 1: Let Us Be Clear About This

As 2005 draws to a close, a small band of Shin Buddhists, including clerics, scholars and laypeople, look forward to 2006 with a firm sense of great purpose.

That purpose is nothing less than to restore the dying Shin Sangha by propagating, once again, the True Teaching of Shinran Shonin.

Authentic propgation of the True Teaching was no small task in Master Shinran’s day. It was no small task in Master Rennyo’s day. And it is no small task in our day either.

In Shinran’s day the great enemy was active opposition from other Buddhists who were threatened by a dharma path that leaves us nothing to do except listen deeply - and is just as easy for illiterate “sinners” to find as it is for “holy” monks. Both Honen and Shinran were exiled, and several of their companions were executed for their efforts to transmit SHINJIN by propagating the Dharma of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow clearly, honestly, deeply.

In Rennyo’s day, the great enemy was apathy and lethargy within the Shin Sangha itself.

Our day is much more like Rennyo’s than like Shinran’s. Our enemy is apathy and lethargy, as well as the confusion and delusion that makes so much of the leadership of the Sangha simply blind to the True Teaching.

One of my dharma friends and mentors, George Gatenby, is of the opinion that the darkness within the Sangha will only deepen over the coming decades. It is a sign of being in the age of MAPPO - the age of dharma decline.

George may well be right. But he and I, and our other dharma friends, all know that it is not given to us to figure out whether our efforts at propagation will bear fruit…or not.

All that is given to us is to preach and teach the dharma as Shinran did - clearly, honestly, deeply - so that we too may be links in Amida’s golden chain. It is Amida who uses the words of accurate dharma teaching to break through the delusions and obscurations, and lead beings to the same true entrusting - the same SHINJIN - as Shinran himself.

As people of the same SHINJIN as Shinran, our work is to speak the Dharma. Amida’s work is to cause the dharma to be HEARD.

That was Honen’s perspective, and Shinran’s, and Yuien’s, and Rennyo’s. That is Eiken Kobai’s perspective, and George Gatenby’s, and mine as well.

It is all for one purpose: so that people would come to authentic SHINJIN - the same TRUE ENTRUSTING as Shinran himself.

For plain people in the age of dharma decline, this is the ONLY way to deal with the problem of suffering - not just for one lifetime - but for countless lifetimes. For plain people in the age of dharma decline, this is the ONLY way to deal with the intractable problem of our karmic burden acquired from one flawed life after another, and another and another.

Authentic SHINJIN is the only solution - the only dharma transmission that will work to bring us to the end of suffering in this age - the age of MAPPO - the age of Dharma Decline.

So for Shinran - and for those of the same mind - one question of utmost importance remains:

  • How does authentic dharma transmission of TRUE SHINJIN occur? Said another way - how can people come to SHINJIN - not the semblance of SHINJIN - but REAL SHINJIN - the same SHINJIN as Shinran himself?

Shinran’s answer is this: Transmission of authentic SHINJIN depends on accurate propagation of the True Teaching. That’s how it was transmitted to him, through the agency of Honen’s preaching and teaching - and that’s how he was used to transmit the same SHINJIN to others.

I invite you to listen deeply as he makes that point clearly and directly as he begins the chapter on TRUE TEACHING in the KyoGyoShinSho:

If I am to reveal the True Teaching, it is the Larger Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life.

The outline of this sutra is: Amida (when he was still Bodhisattva Dharmakara) brought forth the Vow, by which he widely opened the Dharma-store. Out of compassion for the ordinary, inferior people, he chose from amongst the Dharma-treasures the jewel of merit and freely endows it to them.

Shakyamuni appeared in the world and expounded various teachings of the Way; but he wished to save multitudes of beings by endowing them with true benefits.

Therefore, to expound the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata is the central theme of the Larger Sutra, and his Name is its essence.

In the rest of this seminal chapter in the KGSS, Dharma Master Shinran offers one quote after another, from the Larger Sutra, and from distinguished Pure Land teachers, to prove what he has just asserted above in his introduction.

Finally, Shinran closes the chapter on True Teaching with this statement:

The above quotations afford clear testimony of the fact that the Larger Sutra IS the True Teaching.

  • The Larger Sutra IS indeed the correct exposition of the Dharma for which the Tathagata appeared in the world.
  • The Larger Sutra IS the wonderful scripture, rare and supreme
  • The Larger Sutra IS the ultimate doctrine of the One-Vehicle teaching
  • The Larger Sutra IS the golden words which make possible quick attainment of perfect and all-merging truth
  • The Larger Sutra IS the sincere words praised by all the Buddhas in the ten quarters
  • The Larger Sutra IS the teaching of truth befitting the time and the capacities of people.

Let us be clear about this.

As we begin 2006, the great failure of the Shin Sangha here in the west is found right here: most of those in the leadership are simply not clear about this at all. Lacking such basic dharma clarity about the Larger Sutra, the True Teaching is not propagated. Living faith in the salvation of Amida Buddha is replaced by the husk of ritual. The sangha falls apart.

What a loss for countless beings who would be ready to hear the dharma AS IT IS - but will not hear it at all as one Shin temple after another closes its doors - or compromises it’s sacred mission to transmit the dharma to become a center for metaphysical entertainment of one sort or another: Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi, non-Buddhist Book of the Month discussion groups.

How shameful. How tragic. How contrary to the will and intention of Shinran Shonin himself, the Pure Land Masters before him, and all the Buddhas.

And as the false teaching multiplies - with one absurd non-buddhic, non-dharmic idea piled upon another, how many of those who were being drawn, who were faintly hearing the call of Amida Buddha, finally turn away from the Sangha in confusion and go seeking answers to life’s most profound questions elsewhere?

Let us be clear about THIS…because accurate diagnosis must precede any attempts to find a cure for the current disease blighting the sangha. If we don’t understand the problem, we will not find a cure. If we don’t know what is WRONG with the Sangha, we will not figure out how to make it right.

Let us be clear about THIS: When the clerics and scholars who define, package and deliver the dharma message heard by the sangha return to the simple clarity of the True Teaching, the sangha will thrive once again.

  • Many many people will come to know the salvation in the present that Shinran defines and teaches - honestly, clearly, boldly, directly.
  • Many many people will come to know the simple gratitude of that salvation - because the True Teaching is being propagated clearly and without apology once again.
  • Many many people will come to say TRUE Nembutsu - the Nembutsu of simple gratitude - because the True Teaching is being propagated clearly and without apology once again.
  • Many many people will then look forward with supreme confidence to Buddhahood at the end of this life, regardless of their current lives.

When will this happen? It will happen when the Sangha returns to the True Teaching of our True Teacher - not before.

Let us be clear about THIS - just as Master Shinran was.

I personally know of a small number of Shin Buddhists who are committed to being clear about this in 2006. Working together, and working alone, we are going to do everything we can to bring dharma clarity to the current confusion.

Limited though our numbers are, we are committed to doing the work of TRUE propagation - the work of Shinran, and Yuien and Rennyo - the work of re-calibrating the faulty compass that is leading the Shin Sangha off the true dharma path of Shinran into the tangled forest of false dharma, path of the sages dharma, and non-dharma.

A number of us are committed to doing this work publicly - in plain view of everyone - using the internet as a tool of communication and propagation. We’re not doing it for the sake of controversy, challenge and confrontation - but for the sake of CLARITY.

We’re doing it for the sake of all beings who have been suffering for endless ages and will suffer for endless ages more - apart from hearing the dharma of Amida Buddha’s primal vow as Amida means it to be heard.

Let us be clear about this - as 2005 draws to a close, and 2006 begins.

My best wishes to each of you for the New Year. May we each and all come to know the wonderful reality of SHINJIN in the midst of this current darkness

  • The diamond-like certainty that we each are grasped entirely by Amida Buddha
  • The unshakable conviction that we will never be abandoned by him
  • The sure knowledge that at the end of this life we will be taken immediately to his own Pure Land and take birth there ouside of this terrible samsaric realm
  • The joyful anticipation that once we are there we will quickly complete our journey - and become Buddhas at last.
  • The very same inconceivable SHINJIN as Shinran himself


Paul R.

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