The Most Fundamental Desire

The aspiration for Buddhahood is the most fundamental desire for conscious sentient beings like us.

Often it’s hidden - “sublimated” is the word Freud would have used - so it appears as something else. But all beings yearn for freedom from the bondage of egotism - from fear, anger and sadness - from cravings and aversions - from blind passions.

Buddhism in general, and Shin Buddhism in particular, is cradled in this aspiration…and so are all the other major religious paths. If we call it “aspiration for Buddhahood”, it can sound strange and esoteric. But if we call it freedom from fear, anger and sorrow - we are dealing in the common coin of human experience.

People can go through their entire lives - and many do - without ever experiencing that aspiration directly. Delusion and obscuration can hide it entirely. But at some point, in some life, every being experiences this call - and thus the journey on the path to enlightenment begins, in all times and all places.

The first duty of Shin Buddhist preachers and teachers is to communicate in such a way as to help others awaken their aspiration. We can do this best by talking in the plainest possible language -language that is free of jargon and accessible to the ignorant as well as the learned.

Then, as our listeners awaken their aspiration, we can help them understand what it is they are aspiring towards. It doesn’t require that either we or they understand everything it means to be a Buddha, because we can’t yet understand fully. Certainly in his own ministry, that’s not how Shakyamuni Buddha taught…nor is it how Master Shinran taught either.

But both of them taught that there is bondage, and there is freedom; there is suffering and there is the end of suffering; there is endarkenment and there is enlightenment. And in speaking thusly, the Buddha-fire that burns in the hidden depths of every begin began to burn more brightly in the hearts of those listening - and they began to awaken their aspiration for Buddhahood.

This is the teaching of Bodhi mind, which occupies so much of Shinran’s attention in the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho. It must occupy our attention in the same way.

This is what we are ALL looking for - underneath everything else - and if the Shin Sangha cannot provide it, why would people stay? Many who have left the Sangha, have sought this freedom, this enlightenment, this refuge in other paths - both in Japan and here in the West -because they simply couldn’t find it in the Sangha.

If the Shin Sangha does not return to this most basic of understandings and teachings - it will wither and die.

Anyone who is a person of the same SHINJIN as Master Shinran, and who understands the simple basics of his teachings, can offer the very same opportunity to attain enlightenment that Master Honen offered to Master Shinran himself. You don’t have to be a priest, or a scholar. You don’t have to be Japanese. You don’t have to be conversant with all the esoterica of the 84,000 paths of the Dharma. You don’t have to be conversant with all the details of Shin Buddhist thought either.

The fact is, you don’t have to know a whole lot - in terms of intellectual knowledge.

All you have to know is that you too are grasped, never to be abandoned - that your karmic debt is paid in full - that the karmic merit of Amida has been given to you - that regardless of what this life holds for you, it is your last life as a non-Buddha.

If you don’t know this - or aren’t quite sure you know it - or would like to know it but struggle with some sort of doubt - then I invite you to join us in our online Sangha. It’s a place where we honor Amida Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha and our Dharma masters by having authentic Dharma dialogue. People have come as sincere seekers, engaged in dialogue with us, and have come to their own experience of settled SHINJIN as well.

Here’s the link for our online Sangha:


Paul R

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