SHINJIN: Realization in the GUTS

Because the Shin Buddhist community has not stayed with the True Teaching of Shinran, confusion exists where it should not.

All of us who are of the same mind as Shinran should be committed to dispelling all doubts, correcting all mis-understandings, and clearing up all confusion.

Why? So people can respond to Amida Buddha’s call, and find the end of suffering at last.

This response to a friend is long, but it is worth reading if you are a person of SHINJIN (true entrusting) who cares about others- or are sincerely seeking to become a person of SHINJIN yourself.


Paul R


Friend: I have been going through Rennyo’s letters in the 80 Letter edition of the Gobunsho and I am taken with the simplicity of the teaching he indicates.

It is clear from letter after letter that ANY form of self-power is not true teaching.

Likewise any form of self-power eliminates the possibility of Shinjin and embracement by Amida.

I am so glad to hear this from you, my friend.

It seems to me you have come a long way since we first began to look more deeply at the heart of Shinran’s teaching. I don’t say that with condescension, but admiration for your willingness not to turn your back on Amida’s light when confronted with your various meme clusters - bundles of half-hidden beliefs shrouded in non-awareness.

I remember, for example, how concerned you were about getting “better” translations of the The Tannisho - Lamenting Divergences - convinced there was a linguistic secret that would open up if only you could “get” the Japanese more clearly.

How things have changed! Because you have been H.O.W. (honest, open and willing) during our sometimes difficult dialogue you are being led by Amida Buddha into the same SHINJIN as Shinran - and you are seeing how SIMPLE it all is.

Your experience is not atypical, in my observation and experience:

Because you have been involved with Shin Buddhism for some time, you THOUGHT you heard and understood Shinran.

Yet right NOW, you are finally HEARING DEEPLY what Shinran has been saying all along - through the voice of his true student Rennyo as you read his letters - and are STRUCK in a fresh way by the simplicity of what he teaches.

It seems to me you’ve been having an experience I call “the in-between state“. For many of us, it IS the hard part of the easy path. Our secret egotism wants something - ANYTHING - to hold onto. Something that isn’t as simple as simply giving up entirely!

To get the rug pulled out from under us like this can be VERY disorienting…and yes, VERY disheartening.

And yet it is the necessary preliminary - the preparation of the ground of our own hearts in for the seed of SHINJIN to finally take root.

Only when we come to realize, deep in our GUTS, the utter intractabily of our problem, the utter hopelessness of our efforts to clean up our act by any and every means - including the means of “practicing Shin Buddhism”, or any other kind of Buddhism, or any other kind of religious, spiritual or metaphysical practice - only THEN does the complete and total salvation offered by Amida Buddha make ANY sense at all.

Only then are we REALLY ready to take refuge in Amida Buddha from our own endarkenment - including our self-powered practices, beliefs, and thoughts - and really MEAN it. Only then does it hit us, HARD, that we are taking refuge from the terrible tsunami of our own egotism which engulfs us again and again - even when we are entirely unaware of it.

Only then are we truly ready to listen to what ourTRUE teacher Shinran has to say.

Only then do we see the USELESSNESS of the secret obsessions and worries that drive all our questions (and make us argue about answers) about religious practices of ANY kind whatsoever:

- how to bow
- how to sit
- how many times to recite
- what rituals to us
- what forms to use
- what language to use
- etc, etc, etc

Our secret religious obsessions are but the symptom of our hidden greed for SOMETHING to do - something that will make us feel good enough in the midst of knowing we’re not Buddhas and can’t become Buddhas. They are our secret CRAVING for some sense of karmic merit - some brownie points - some kind of a gold star.

Something - ANYTHING - to convince ourselves that we’re making SOME progress on SOME path somehow.

So now - what was hidden is truly revealed. Now - because of Amida’s light shining into our darkness, we begin at last to understand.

Friend: I am not entirely comfortable with Rennyo’s intensity about this subject because it seems to me to invite the follower to actively seek Shinjin which seeking becomes a form of self-power and therefore blocks what is given.

I invite you to confront this fact, my friend: Every single one of our TRUE teachers spurs on the members of the Shin Buddhist commuity to seek the same SHINJIN as Shinran and Honen both sought - and found.

Every one. Certainly SHINRAN does, over and over and over again.

So I would say - speaking honestly - that your discomfort is more about YOU than about the TRUTH.

Friend: Considering that Jodo Shinshu followers tend to be unsophisticated the nuance that Shinjin is given and arises naturally through acceptance can easily be missed.

That is not true at all, in my observation and experience.

It is not true at all - when TRUE TEACHERS concentrate on teaching the TRUE TEACHING - of which we have no better example than Rennyo the Restorer.

Or we can look back to Honen and Shinran themselves - who preached and taught the same way to similarly unsophisticated people. Our dharma heroes spoke plainly, boldly, bluntly - using the transmission of PLAIN TALK to spur on their unlettered hearers to actively seek the same SHINJIN as them.

The fundamental principle remains, same as it ever was: there is no practice in Shin Buddhism except for listening deeply (monpo in Japanese).

Therefore transmission DEPENDS on true teachers who can speak the true teaching clearly and with sincerity. That’s what Shinran said, and that’s what Shinran did.

So for you to worry about it is simply more of the same nemesis we all encounter - the nemesis Shinran calls “calculated thinking” - where we try to figure it all out by our light, on our terms.

My recommendation - for you, for me, and for all of us is this: let’s just stick with the program - and do what our true teachers did and instructed us to do as well - once we are settled in the same SHINJIN as them.

Friend: There are several members of the local temple who have been confused about this for quite some time and are having a great deal of difficulty trying to acquire Shinjin. And the more they read both Shinran and Rennyo’s writings the more confused they become.

I am personally committed to addressing such confusion - in plain, honest language - in the Shin Ugly Blog, as well as my one-to-one dialogue with Shin Buddhists, other Buddhists, and non-Buddhists alike.

So I will address it - right here, right now. And I will CONTINUE to address it - and invite others of the same SHINJIN to do the same.

The reason for this confusion, and the solution for it, is simplicity itself - though it is hard to hear: These students remain confused because they not encountering the TRUE teaching from the lips of TRUE teachers.

How do I know? Because if they were, they would be hearing, from live flesh and blood human beings, the same the forceful, direct, even BLUNT Shin Ugly truth that Rennyo declares over and over again in every one of his letters. Through living encounters with living teachers, these members in the temple would be led to encounter EXACTLY what you and I are being led to encounter as you read Rennyo and Kobai, and we continue to dialogue.

Lacking such piercing true encounters, these members - and so many more - get caught up in the knick-knacks of a religion - including the compulsion to study, study, study as a practice, practice, practice.

What they need is something ENTIRELY different: an authentic encounter with a true teacher who can point out their own existential predicament in a way that leaves them naked - and KNOWING that they cannot clothe themselves with ANY clothing - including the clothing of Shin Buddhism.

When someone invites me to share Shin Ugly teaching - Shinran’s plain talk for plain people about suffering and the end of suffering - this encounter with their own naked helplessness is often THE difficult part of dialogue - and the critical part as well.

When Amida’s light shines into our dark corners, our ego defense mechanisms - including our religiosity, our self-righteousness, our self-seeking, our endless judgementalism about self and others, etc, etc, etc are all EXPOSED.

It can feel as though we are being flayed alive.

That doesn’t happen to everyone that way - some are simply ready. But several friends who have become settled in SHINJIN have reported that such flaying - such stripping away - was in fact their experience as Amida’s light shined into the darkness of their hearts.

When that happens, it is very NORMAL to just want to RUN AWAY.

And running away to the religion of Shin Buddhism - and finding something religious to DO - works just as well as anything else.

So in my encounters - doing my very best to be a TRUE teacher because someone has been a TRUE teacher for me - it is CRITICAL that the listener experience this total exposure - this deep deconstruction of their layers of self-protective egotism - in the cradle of Amida Buddha’s all accepting compassion.

Cradled in that awareness - knowing we are seen in the light of Amida Buddha’s infinite non-judgmental compassion, the dialogue can truly unfold. The listener can begin to accept - with deep understanding of the truth - that his problem is intractable - insolvable - just as Shinran our our TRUE teacher says, and Yuien says, and Rennyo says, and Kobai says.

Because someone was a TRUE teacher for me, I in turn can be a TRUE teacher for the next person.

Because someone was honest enough to tell me, I can honestly tell the next person, with no hesitation whatsoever - the SHIN UGLY truth:

  • In this age NO ONE can clean up their act in a full and final way.
  • In this age, regardless of how good people look, talk and behave, we are ALL bound and constrained no matter WHAT we do - we are ALL defined and defiled by countless cravings and aversions - our endless blind passions - most of which we don’t even KNOW exist.
  • This is NOT just a personal problem - but the problem of this age - the age of Dharma Decline.
  • In this age, it is is the problem of every man - and every woman. It is the problem of the race.

Why do I say these things with such force - such bluntness - such directness? Because my TRUE teachers have been kind enough to say these same things to me - just as forcefully - just as bluntly - just as directly.

Their kindness, and their bluntness, is why I have been able to understand the only and only way to end my endless lives of rebirth in ignorance and suffering.

So now I have the same vocation - to offer someone else the same information - the same true teaching - so he or she can have the same opportunity to hear Amida’s call.

Plain and simple: no high-falutin’ Path of Sages talk, no endless yammerings about emptiness, no “samsara is nirvana”, no “pure land is pure mind”.

As Shinran teaches, although all those dharmas (teachings) are true - they are INAPPROPRIATE for this age of dharma decline. Let’s hear him together:

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; 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.

Already their time has passed; they are no longer in accord with beings.

And no fuzzy-minded mystical new age blather, either

Just the REAL DEAL - SHIN UGLY - bitter in the mouth (for many of us), but sweet in the stomach for ALL of us.

Because of the letters you have written me before about your own encounters with the minister of your temple - and your statements about language barriers and “mis-communication” - I am willing to bet that these other members have NEVER heard the Shin Ugly TRUTH with the same force and clarity with which we are now speaking it in our dialogue back and forth.

How do I know that? Because you’ve been going to the same temple, and and heard the same things they did. But you never heard it that way either - until we began talking and even struggling with the dharma - and then you were spurred on to listen more deeply - to Kobai and to Rennyo - and also to me as I pressed you to abandon your own opinions once and for all.

Because you said YES in your heart, you have understood - in your guts - our common teacher Shinran and his simple teaching of 100% other power for simple people who simply cannot save themselves.

By Amida’s grace, you now connect the SIMPLE dots. The simplicity of it all has STRUCK down all the knick-knacks of self-power religiosity. You are STRUCK by the realization - in your GUTS - that there is simply nothing to do - nothing you CAN do.

Only as you know that there is TRULY nothing you can do - that you TRULY are helplessly ensnared - can you finally understand that you MUST depend on Amida Buddha to do it ALL.

You are struck NOW by THAT realization: if you are to be saved, Amida Buddha must do it ALL.

As you continue to listen deeply - and to GRAPPLE with the CONTENT of what a true teacher like Rennyo or Kobai is saying - you come to that place of rest - the same SHINJIN - the same true entrusting - as Shinran.

You see, my friend, without this deep dialogue that IS the SHIN UGLY teaching of Shinran and all his true students - your friends in the temple could spin their wheels in their confusion, their IGNORANCE, for a long, long time.

The same confusion ruled in Rennyo’s day - for the same reason: the custodians of the temples weren’t doing the ONLY job that was theirs to do: preach and teach the same Shin Ugly teaching so people could listen deeply, hear clearly, and respond to Amida Buddha’s call.

That task - preaching and teaching the original Shin Ugly teaching of Shinran - became Rennyo’s lifelong mission - for the sake of people who were suffering through endless lives of darkness - and had no way to STOP suffering.

That’s why the Shin Buddhist community must “return to Shinran’s True Teaching“. There simply is no other way for ANY of us to hear deeply, and finally become people of the same SHINJIN - the same TRUE ENTRUSTING - as him.

That’s why Shinran didn’t give a HOOT about what happened to his body - but was FIERCELY INTENT that his words - and their simple meanings - be preserved AND transmitted after his death just as he transmitted them for 60 years of his life.

It’s important to acknowledge that these confused members in your temple have had Shinran’s writings at their disposal. So did the confused members of the temple in Rennyo’s day.

But as Rennyo said - the experience of a TRUE teacher is critical for moving through that in-between state - to the state of true entrusting - the same SHINJIN as Shinran.

And of course, it doesn’t matter WHO the true teacher is: whether it is Shinran, or Yuien, or Rennyo, or Kobai - or a plain person like you or me.

The ONLY thing that matters is that he or she transmits the TRUE teaching - and avoid like the plague a zillion other opinions and perspectives which can be all over the map.

A TRUE TEACHER doesn’t have to be an educated man.

A TRUE TEACHER doesn’t have to have any religious trappings.

A TRUE TEACHER doesn’t have to speak Japanese. He doesn’t have a language problem because Shinran’s Shin Ugly is SIMPLE and UNIVERSAL.

A TRUE TEACHER is simply a person

  • who has listened deeply to Shinran
  • who has recognized his predicament is the same as Shinran’s, for the same reasons Shinran teaches
  • who accepts the same gift of Amida Buddha’s salvation Shinran accepted
  • and is ready, willing and able to explain the True Teaching to someone else.

All your confused friends need - really and truly - is to encounter a TRUE TEACHER as they continue to listen deeply. Amida Buddha will do the rest - guaranteed.

For the person who remains honest, open and willing as he encounters a true teacher of SHIN UGLY, and who continues to listen deeply to the teaching, honestly reflecting and connecting it back to the naked reality of his or her life, SHINJIN - true entrusting - WILL arise because AMIDA Buddha wills it.

This moment, the dawn of SHINJIN awareness, IS the gift of Amida Buddha as his light pierces the darkness - the final barriers of self-justifying egotism in the depth of the human heart.

It IS salvation in the present.

It DOES seal the person for a destiny of Buddhahood in the next birth.

It DOES guarantee that he or she WILL awaken in the Pure Land - not some “mind construct” as some foolishly teach - but a REAL world system (as Shakyamuni teaches) presided over by a REAL Buddha named AMIDA - a place in space and time where there are no obstructions, no delusions, no obscurations, no blind passions, no cravings, no aversions - NOTHING that will keep us from becoming Buddhas ourselves - at last.

That single moment of TRUE entrusting - FULL entrusting - ABSOLUTE entrusting - entrusting without ANY doubt - DOES ensure that he (or she) will join Shakyamuni Buddha and Amida Buddha and countless other Buddhas as a TRUE Buddha also - as soon as his eyes close for the last time in this body, in this world.

In the Pure Land, now a TRUE Buddha, he will be ready, at last, to roll up his sleeves and get to the work of GREAT COMPASSION.

He will be ready, willing and ABLE to embrace countless beings in countless worlds with the endless Compassion and infinite Wisdom that only a TRUE Buddha can manifest.

As a TRUE Buddha, he will be able to return to countless sorrowful worlds like ours - and there lead countless suffering sentient beings to the END of suffering - at last.

That work, my friend, is the the GREAT COMPASSION that we have not yet known - even though we each may do our little bit of “small compassion” to light a candle or two in this endarkened world.

Because we are non-Buddhas, still constrained by our own cravings and aversions , we have not known YET what it means to give ourselves to others with such GREAT COMPASSION.

But as people of SHINJIN - of true entrusting - we will soon enough.

What can you or I - or ANY of us - say to all of this - really and truly - but THANK YOU AMIDA BUDDHA.

Thank You, Amida Buddha.

Namu Amida Butsu.

Paul R

PS: I invite your confused temple friends to read this post, and also these posts below- and email me if they want to have a deep and honest dialogue - a dialogue based around the TRUE TEACHING - a dialogue that will dispel ALL their confusion so they can listen deeply to Amida Buddha’s call,

Here are the other posts - plain talk for plain people to dispel confusion so they can simply let go of EVERYTHING as they hear Amida Buddha’s call.

Genshin’s AHA! Moment

Mission Impossible: Avoiding Self-Indulgence

The Easy Path to Buddhahood: Part 3 - Rely Completely on Amida Buddha

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