Archive for the ‘Dharma for Dummies’ Category

Aspiration to become a Buddha – The Most Important Matter

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

(Paul’s note: This outstanding article was written by Rev. Josho Adrian Cirlea, the only Romanian Jodo Shinshu Priest. It appeared originally on his blog, AMIDA-JI RETREAT TEMPLE ROMANIA.)

The goal of Buddhism is to become a Buddha.

Not to paint this life in different colors, not to become a smart or interesting kind of Buddhist, but to become a Buddha.

The Buddhist path is not a method of relaxation or a tablet for headache, something like “how can we become happier and calmer people” or a recipe for momentary happiness, but a road to Buddhahood or complete Freedom for us and all beings. (more…)

Two Visions of Reality

Friday, October 17th, 2008

If we’re going to speak of orthodoxy of the Mahayana, and the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way (Shin Buddhism) it is very important to say this: there is nothing that makes one body or manifestation of a Buddha any more or less “absolute” than another. The truth is, living as plain people in the Age of Dharma Decline, we have no direct experience of what “absoluteness” might be like from a Buddha’s perspective - or even the perspective of a Bodhisattva who has reached the stage of non-retrogression.


What is the meaning of NAMU AMIDA BUTSU?

Friday, August 8th, 2008

As Shin Buddhists - or inquirers looking for enlightenment and exploring Shin Buddhism as a possible path - it is good and useful to ask the question, “What is the meaning of NAMU AMIDA BUTSU”?

I have to be honest, that for a long time, I couldn’t answer that question clearly, because I was reading indiscriminately from many so-called teachers of Shin Buddhism who had all sorts of strange and esoteric ideas.

I tried - I sincerely tried - to understand what they were saying. But often what they said didn’t make sense - or one contradicted another - or seemed to contradict what I thought I was understanding from reading Master Shinran’s writings.

And I wasn’t alone. I’ve met a LOT of people who are just as confused as I once was. (more…)

Shinran Speaks: The Most Difficult of All Difficulties

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

On July 2, I posted a passage from Master Yuan-chao - quoted by Master Shinran in his Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho - stating that the Dharma of Amida Buddha’s person and work was the most difficult thing in the world to accept by faith.

Here is Master Shinran - in his own words this time - speaking the same thing in his HYMNS OF THE PURE LAND:

It is difficult to encounter a time when a Tathagata appears in the world,
And difficult to hear the teachings of the Buddha.
It is rare to hear the excellent dharma for bodhisattvas,
Even in a span of countless ages.

It is difficult to meet true teachers,
And difficult to instruct.
It is difficult to hear the teaching well,
And more difficult to accept it.

More difficult even than trust in the teachings of Shakyamuni’s lifetime
Is the true entrusting of the universal Vow.
The Sutra teaches that it is “the most difficult of all difficulties”,
That “nothing surpasses this difficulty”.


The Most Difficult Thing In The World To Accept In Faith

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

(Note: This is cross-posted from the True Shin Buddhism Yahoo! Group.

Master Shinran’s great work - the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho (True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way) is about 90% quotes from other sources, all held together with Shinran’s own exposition. As such, it is filled with Dharma Gems. Here is a profound passage from Master Yuan-chao, quoted by our Dharma Master Shinran (emphasis in caps is my own): (more…)

An Example of Authentic Shinjin

Friday, February 24th, 2006

The experience of authentic SHINJIN is the gift of Amida Buddha to those who listen deeply to the True Teaching of Shinran Shonin. It is without parallel in all of Buddhism.

Dharma Master Shinran calls it INCONCEIVABLE.

Here is the testimony of a man who has been given the gift of SHINJIN - a man of the very same SHINJIN as Shinran himself. (more…)

Which Sutra is Buddha’s Ultimate Truth? Which Is Not?

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

Dear Mr Kobai -

I would like to asked you some input about the disscusion I’ve been having with my friends about the teachings of Nichiren.

They tell me that I am following a provisional Buddhism (Jodo-Shinshu), and not following the lotus sutra which Nichiren said that is the right path (Dharma) for the Mappo time.

Please can you help?

in gassho with Respect and Makoto.

Sebastian. (more…)

Two Year Anniversary

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

Today is the two year anniversary of my daughter Jessie’s death on November 8, 2003.

Beginning exactly one year ago, on November 8, 2004, a series of manifestations began. (more…)

Walking the Code-Talkers Into the Pure Land

Friday, October 28th, 2005

When I consider the abysmal state of much of the Shin sangha - how so many of the clerics and scholars have left Shinran’s plain teaching behind, just as Shinran’s own son Zenran did - I’m reminded about Shakyamuni’s dialogue with Maitreya, recorded in the Larger Pure Land Sutra. (more…)

The Longest Distance In The World

Wednesday, October 12th, 2005

My dharma friend Jason writes:

I must confess that I walked away confused from our last conversation. The whole issue of doubt in Shinran’s teaching continues to plague me.

I have moments of what one could call doubt on a semi-regular basis — much of it stemming, I think, from my own psychological makeup, family conditioning and pressures, as well a mind that’s been conditioned by Academia to doubt everything that comes my way.

So, since I am a person of Shinjin, must I still bear the “consequences of doubting,” as you said in our last conversation?

Or, as you wrote to me in a blog post, does it simply not matter what happens post-Shinjin? Honestly, this is a point on which I find Shinran ambiguous.

My heart tells me that I’ve been grasped, never to be abandoned — no matter what my mind coughs up.

As a serious person, Jason asks a profound question. Here is my best reply: (more…)

Shinran Speaks: HOW He Teaches - and WHY

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Shinran lived in a day when most people he encountered were “painfully and hopelessly ignorant”.

They were illiterate. They simply could not read.

They had little or no knowledge of the Dharma.

There was no one willing to take them in hand, and be a good teacher of the dharma for them.

They had been abandoned.

Listen with me to our Dharma Master Shinran, as he describes the WAY he teaches these people, and the REASON for it: (more…)

How to listen like Shinran - and how NOT to

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

Shinran Shonin, whose distinct karma is was to be THE Dharma Master for this singular “path of the foolish”, was all about coming to a state of deep receptivity to Amida’s call - a receptivity that opens the door to the mystery of SHINJIN.

Let’s listen deeply to his words - together: (more…)

9/11 or Nirvana?

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

It’s the fourth anniverary of the destruction of the Twin Towers - a place I used to work - a mile from where I grew up, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My mother was still living there - and she actually saw the second plane go in. A few short weeks ago, it was the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima. And as we watch, the destruction of New Orleans unfolds before our eyes.

All are examples of what we call “The First Noble Truth” taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. It is the truth that life is, ultimately, not satisfactory - that it is marked by suffering. (more…)

A Dharma Friend Says: “To Let Go Utterly Is Very Hard”

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

A dharma friend wrote to me yesterday, and said:To let go utterly is very hard.

Here’s my reply. (more…)

Woody’s “Silly” Question

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

Hello dharma friend Paul,

I re-read the three steps on the Easy Path to Buddhahood and needed to ask a question: When do I know if I have expressed true faith in Amida’s vow? (more…)

Woody’s Hard Time With COMPLETE Other Power Teaching

Sunday, August 21st, 2005


I have a hard time with complete other-power teaching considering that Shakyamuni himself in the Pali Canon said over and over again that there expectations of both monks, nuns and laypersons.

If “true entrusting” is all there is, what about the vinaya pitaka? What about the 5 and 8 precepts? Is there no call to morality and goodness? Is there no room for these things in true entrusting”? (more…)

The Openess That Is Free of Self-Power

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

I invite you to listen deeply with me, as George Gatenby shares the True Teaching with depth and wisdom. Here is an excerpt from his Commentary on Shozomatsu Wasan 64: (more…)

A Dharma Friend’s “Difficult Question”

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

My dharma friend Jason writes:


Your recent blog quotation of Shinran’s order to Yuien-bo to kill a thousand people in order to attain birth brings to mind a question I’ve often wondered about. (more…)

Is A Person of Settled Shinjin Capable Of (Fill in the Blanks)?

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

My dharma friend Jason, who has newly experienced SHINJIN, writes this:


So there I am, walking to work early one morning last week, when out of a cloudy, depression-laced gray sky comes the thought: “I’m not sure I believe any of this at all. It’s all just too fantastic, too incredible to be literally real.”

Once again, I ask you: Is a person of settled shinjin capable of such a thought–a thought, I might add, that arose as spontaneously as the overwhelming gratitude that supposedly marks out those who are grasped, never to be abandoned? (more…)

Blogging Shinran’s Dharma - How It Feels and Why I Do It

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

Hi Jason -

I just wanted to let you know that I have not forgotten our conversation, nor my promise to share with you some more - both about my own life’s journey, and about my thoughts on settled SHINJIN.

Please bear with me. I find that after I have written for the blog, I sometimes need to take a break for several days, even when I know exactly what I want to talk about next.

Blogging the dharma touches the deepest places in me, in opposite directions: (more…)

Inconceivable Karma - And The Moment Amida Used

Sunday, August 7th, 2005

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. (more…)

Shin Ugly: Manifesto and Celebration

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

The last several blog posts are a good example of the two sides of the SHIN UGLY dialogue that has defined authentic Shin Buddhism from the beginning. (more…)

How Shin Dharma Transmission Works - And How It Fails

Friday, August 5th, 2005

The task of the Shin Sangha - both for itself and for a world lost in delusion - is simple: (more…)

Freedom in SHINJIN - Part II

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

This is a continuation of a dialogue that started HERE.

A dharma friend writes:

I’m not sure whether the freedom of shinjin has any concrete implications for our continued existence in samsara, or functions mainly to assure us of Pure Land birth.

After all, personal “transformation,” or any kind of Path of Sages agenda is moot, right? No sort of personal change is to be sought after or expected.

Thanks for helping me sort all this out.

Good question. Here’s my answer. (more…)

The Task of those who feel gratitude for the Dharma

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

In his latest installment of Notes on the Nembutsu, George Gatenby writes:

We have already seen that ‘awakening faith and causing others to awaken it’ is the task of those who feel gratitude for the Dharma; the gratitude that cannot be contained.

I love hearing a person of the same SHINJIN as Shinran speak out clearly as George is speaking here.

Let’s listen as he continues: (more…)

Shinran Speaks: “Above All, No Calculation”

Sunday, July 17th, 2005

Shinran never demanded, nor expected, that anyone be an Shin Buddhist intellectual. Why? Because most of us just CAN’T be that smart, or that learned.

That’s why Shinran NEVER pushed the sangha in that direction. NEVER.

He never demanded, or expected, that anyone be a Shin Buddhist mystic. Why? Because most of us just CAN’T be that spiritual, or that mystical.

That’s why Shinran NEVER pushed the sangha in that direction, either. NEVER.

If you’re smart, ok. If you’re a natural mystic, ok. But if you’re not either, that’s JUST as ok! Shinran’s Dharma is plain talk, for plain people about suffering and the end of suffering. No more, and no less.

So what DID Shinran push, prod, poke and provoke the Sangha towards, anyway - over the course of 60 years of preaching and teaching? (more…)

What ALL The Buddhas Say - And Why They Say It

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Let’s listen deeply, as Shinran Shonin teaches what all the Buddhas say - and why they say it. (more…)

“Because of others our faith is destroyed”

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

These are not my words, but the words of Shinran Shonin…the man who was given stewardship of the only teaching that can lead us to complete and final liberation from suffering in this Age of Dharma Decline.

Let’s listen to Shinran together: (more…)

Who’s Shinran, Anyway? Why Listen To Him?

Monday, July 4th, 2005

A dharma friend writes me (in part):

Who is or was Shinran? He was one interpreter of the sutras, the sukhavati sutras in particular, among many others.

Well, the sutras are there for whoever wants to read them. I don’t see why Shinran should have the last word at all.

There’s Honen, there’s Shan-tao, and more important, there’s you, me and whoever takes the time to read by herself or himself.

You have chosen Shinran as the authority to interpret the sutras related to Amida. OK, your choice. Still you have to say, Why him? Not from a sentimental point of view, but why him scholarly?

Thanks for writing. Here’s my answer. (more…)

Many Useless Things - and One Useful Thing

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

A while back I wrote a response to a question from Rev Al Bloom of Shin DharmaNet, who asked me

Is it necessary to be a know-nothing to be a person of SHINJIN?

Here, in a letter to a dharma friend who is not a Shin Buddhist - I explore the same question, more deeply from the standpoint of both Path of the Sages Buddhist teaching, and my own personal experience.

As you read it, please understand that I am not disparaging the classic expositions of the Buddha-dharma - not in the least - and neither is Shinran. (more…)