The Task of those who feel gratitude for the Dharma

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:

It is this that clearly drove Shinran to write and teach, even though many tried to stop him; even though an arrogant elite tried to stop him.

I know what George is saying here, first hand. I have had people try to stop me as well…some of them Shin Buddhists!

George understands why we are COMPELLED to write about this SHINJIN - the true entrusting that is the gift of Amida Buddha.

In his words:

You cannot imprison joy, even though those whose hearts are built of clay illusions cannot understand it.

I would add this to what George has said here:

It is not only joy that moves us, but the same sense of purpose that Shinran felt to make this Dharma plain and accessible to ANYONE ready to listen deeply.

Why are we so moved? Because Amida Buddha has caused us to know the TRUTH of the human condition: that our suffering is endless, our delusions overwhelming, our ignorance unimaginable.

Amida Buddha has caused us to know the TRUTH that we are all strapped to the wheel of birth and death, transmigrating from wretched life to wretched life, with no hope of escape.

And - here is where the joy comes into the picture - Amida Buddha has caused us to know the TRUTH of the salvation that HE offers - a salvation that is NOT available in any other way within all the 84,000 dharma gates of Buddhism - or in the 95 non-Buddhist paths.

Amida Buddha has caused us to know the TRUTH of simply entrusting HIM entirely with our karmic destiny, once and for all, because of HIS primal vow.


Talking about Shinran’s use of the Wasan (poem) form to transmit the True Teaching to the common people, George writes:

…it is clear that Shinran was keen to reach to the very heart of ordinary, uneducated society, using the most popular vehicle he could find…

I am sure that - had he lived now - he would have used rap music or web logs.

To use another fairly precise correlation between then and now, Eminem could have been a purveyor of the Dharma, or perhaps, it may have been presented on Big Brother or in an article in Playboy or Unzipped.

Bingo. On the money. Exactly.

George Gatenby gets it.

In Shinran’s age, or in ours, the karmic need of the human race is EXACTLY the same: plain talk, for plain people, about suffering and the end of suffering.

George goes on to say:

It is easy to forget the extent to which Shinran went to present the Dharma, literally to the masses (gummo), including the outcastes of society.

It is tragic beyond description that we are so unwilling to do the same thing now.

I weep with my dharma friend. It IS tragic.

How many people are there, in the USA alone, who are ready to hear but have no one to talk clearly to them about the Path of the Foolish?

There are already an estimated 1 million who identify themselves as Buddhists here. And uncounted more who are generally “new age” types.

So…I’d guess MILLIONS.

George continues:

The only excuse we can really have is that it is a hard thing to do. But what about the mandate from Shan-tao that we should ‘repay our gratitude, though our bones be crushed’?

It is made harder because Shin Buddhism has been largely hijacked by professional clerics and scholars who make their living off the dharma without having their own experience of simple SHINJIN to share.

This is something that leading Japanese Shin scholar Eiken Kobai points out with great boldness - and great humility - in his two books. (They are both availble for download from the Shin Ugly Blog. See the links in the RESOURCES)

Because they have not themselves had the experience of being Shan-Tao’s stricken man, terrified and powerless between the River of Fire and the River of Water, such clerics and scholars simply don’t understand what is at stake, like George does, or Eiken does.

They simply haven’t heard the dharma deeply…viscerally…in their GUTS.

Only someone who has heard, and responded to Amida’s call, can truly share Shinran’s teaching - and feels IMPELLED to do so - whether that person is a cleric like George Gatenby, a scholar like Eiken Kobai, or an unsophisticated layperson like me.

Only someone who has been made to see what Prince Gotama saw, 2500 years ago, when he had that Great Negative Epiphany, will embark upon his or her OWN quest for the end of suffering at last - and stay with it long enough to GIVE UP - to become an utter burnout like our teacher Shinran did - and his teacher Honen before him.

Only someone who becomes an utter burnout after trying his or her best and then FAILING - will be able at last to listen deeply to the way of SHINJIN - of simply entrusting himself/herself to the person and work of Amida Buddha.

Neither scholarship - nor intellect - nor knowledge or “practice” of Buddhism nor any other path towards awakening - is a substitute for this experience of SHINJIN that changes karmic destinies FOREVER.


Here’s what I say:

It is time, and past time, for hundreds and thousands of people who HAVE had exactly this same experience of SHINJIN to stand up in the global sangha, and declare their truth, humbly and boldly, as the expression of their own gratitude to Amida Buddha.

It is time for people of the same SHINJIN to talk honestly, and bluntly about what it really means to be a person of blind passions - as every human being on the planet continues to be, in our day.

It is time for people of the same SHINJIN to declare simply, in plain language, what it really means to be grasped by Amida Buddha, never to be abandoned - no matter what happens from this moment forward as this life unfolds.

It is time for people of the same SHINJIN to declare plainly, in words anyone can understand, what we KNOW will happen at the end of this, our last lifetime as a non-Buddha - something no one else on any dharma path can declare with ANY certainty whatsoever.

The great sadness is that today, too many Shin Buddhist clerics and scholars CAN’T say it plainly. Why? Because they haven’t had the one thought moment of TRUE ENTRUSTING that forms the basis for EVERYTHING Shinran says.

They DON’T know, so they hide behind complex philosophical ideas, speaking with mealy-mouthed intellectual sophistication, or mushy new-age generalities, rather than Shinran’s and Rennyo’s plain talk.

It is time for the Shin sangha to recognize it, and respond.

How? By coming to grips with the reality that that this is NOT dharma for passive, me-too, people. It is for people who are RECEPTIVE…not PASSIVE.

How? By speaking as our dharma teachers have spoken. They spoke for our sakes. We must speak for the sake of others.

Honen was NOT a passive person.

Shinran was NOT a passive person.

Yuien was NOT a passive person.

Rennyo was NOT a passive person.

These men KNEW that they had been given the ultimate gift, and had a karmic responsiblity to share it directly and honestly with the world, as the only possible way to show their gratitude.


That’s why they did their best to share Shakyamuni’s True Teaching, with the ENTIRE world, in the plain language of their day.

For the sake of all beings, we need to do the same in our day, too.

I stand with my dharma friend George, full of the same gratitude that makes NamuAmidaButsu come out of his mouth…and Shinran’s mouth…and my mouth too.

And I also stand with him, and with Eiken Kobai, and with others of the same SHINJIN, with a heart full of the same sorrow. I just don’t understand, really, why so few seem willing to repay Amida Buddha’s INFINITE gift by sharing this dharma directly, clearly, and humbly.

It’s the single most IMPORTANT thing you can do as a human being, if you really are a person of the same SHINJIN. I’ll write more about why I say that when I return in a week or so.

My thanks to George Gatenby, for his friendship and his work. Once again, you can read George’s entire article HERE.


Paul R.

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