Two Teachers - Compare and Contrast

The Shinran Manifesto says this: Return to the True Teaching of Shinran, Our True Teacher.

QUESTION: Which of these teachers is teaching the same teaching as Master Shinran? Which is teaching a different teaching?

Teacher #1:

Don’t chase your mind! Your mind moves about, following myriads of objects.

Don’t concern yourself with your deeds! Your deeds of body, mouth and mind sink into the abyss of evil.

Don’t seek peace of mind! The Pure Land is not the place you can be born after attaining peace of mind.

Don’t rely on your own mind! The mind is like running water, never resting even for a second.

Don’t expect tomorrow! The deadly demon of Impermanence chooses any time to attack. The law of karma is to be feared. Karma never fails to bring its result.

Don’t try to grasp faith! Reflect and ask yourself, “Who is the master of the mind that seeks to grasp faith?” Isn’t the mind that tries to grasp faith the mind of a foolish man defiled by clinging to self-power?

Amida Buddha’s sincere, pure and true mind cannot be grasped by a foolish mind clinging to self-power just as the reflection of the moon cannot be grasped by the hand.

Faith cannot be hoarded in your mind either.

Don’t concern yourself with any of the thoughts that arise in your mind!

Don’t concern yourself with the knowledge you have acquired!

We have deep and heavy karmic evil; our thoughts are con­stantly distracted and our actions are unruly and unbridled. Don’t chase good or evil; just leave them! There is, beyond good and evil, a way to salvation.

The call of Vow Power, namuamidabutsu, is the way to salvation. Outside the merit power of Enlightenment, consummated by Vow­ Power as namuamidabutsu, no faith is to be sought.

As there is nothing we foolish people can contribute towards establishing the faith and practice necessary for birth in the Pure Land, namuamidabutsu does all the work needed to save us.

Amida is our parent who has seen through our foolish minds and the evil we have accumulated during ages past.

He has accomplished our faith and practice and has done everything for us even the acts of hearing his Name and attaining peace of mind free from doubt. Consequently, he has attained our birth in the Pure Land also.

Amida, as he stands holding us in his arms, is manifested as ‘namuamidabutsu’. In his Light we are embraced and never forsaken.

Teacher #2:

In comparing Shakyamuni, Shinran and Kiyozawa, the teacher emphasized the key similarities they share, which are that they saw Buddhism as being a matter of self-examination, essentially for answering the question, “What am I?” In the case of Shakyamuni, to attain his awakening, in his meditation, he asked himself the question “What am I?” What he found was that not only was his body impermanent, but that his self (or mind) was impermanent also. Both body and self were really nothing but a continuous flow, and were due to causes and conditions which change. There was no real consistency, no real substance in me. Thus, the essence of Shakyamuni’s insight was, “I am impermanent.”

Shinran also asked one question, “What am I?” His answer to this question was, “I am an evil person.” The teacher clarified that what prompted Shinran to declare himself an evil person, is that he discovered the same truth within his mind that Shakyamuni discovered, that his mind was just reacting to causes and conditions; there was no true “goodness” within him. The teacher added that, “If we discover ourselves as evil, this is rebirth in the Pure Land.”

And clearly, Rev. Kiyozawa’s self-imposed description of “December Fan” represents the same insight into the self as both Shakyamuni and Shinran. Kiyozawa saw deeply into the emptiness of the self.

Therefore, the teacher emphasized that Buddhism is not ultimately concerned with simply knowing about Buddhist concepts such as the Four Noble Truths or Eightfold Noble Path. As the teacher said, “Buddhism is really about self-knowing, answering the question, ‘What am I?’”

Here are my comments about what Teacher #1 says:

  • IF Amida Buddha is my perfect parent - and I don’t need to concern myself about what kind of child I am…
  • IF it is all about Amida Buddha’s merit - and not at all about my lack of merit…
  • IF is all about Amida Buddha’s sincere, true and pure mind - and not at all about my foolish mind…
  • IF it is all about what Amida contributes to my enlightenment - and not at all about what I cannot possibly contribute…
  • IF it is all about Amida Buddha embracing me and never forsaking me - and not at all about me figuring out ANYTHING, including how to be embraced…
  • IF all that is simply TRUE - and doesn’t depend on me at all…

THEN I can say NamuAmidaButsu gratefully.

Here are my comments about what Teacher #2 says:

  • I am not capable of following the dictum “know thyself”, whether it comes from a western teacher such as Socrates, or a Buddhist teacher such as Teacher #2.
  • My own blind passions are just that, BLIND passions. I don’t even know what I don’t even know.
  • If liberation in Buddhism is ultimately about self-knowing, that I am not capable of being a Buddhist - of any sort.
  • I am unable to “see deeply into the emptiness of the self”, even though I know the dharma teaching intellectually.
  • The bottom line: whatever it is that Teacher #2 is teaching, it is utterly beyond me to learn - except in a superficial, intellectual sense. I just don’t have the right stuff. Truly, hell is my only home.

Teacher #1 is teaching the same thing as Shinran teaches. It is the singular teaching of the Path of the foolish, for people who are simply not capable of being good Buddhists - just as Shinran figured out that he was not capable.

Teacher #2 is teaching something different than what Shinran teaches. It is, in fact, part of the teaching of the path of the Sages - which requires a great capacity for deep introspection in order to sever the bonds of egocentricity.

Shakyamuni Buddha was capable of self-cultivating to liberation in just that way. But in this Dharma Age, the Age of Dharma Decline, no one can do what Shakyamuni did.

So says Shinran. So I have come to believe.

Because so many have stood up as teachers in the Shin Buddhist sangha since the days of Shinran, it can be VERY confusing to a person who is new to Shin Buddhism. It certainly was to me.

The only solution to the confusion is to listen deeply - to Shinran FIRST, and everyone else second. This dharma gate was entrusted by Shakyamuni Buddha and Amida Buddha to him - and not another. Shinran spent his entire life, laboring tirelessly to explain and re-explain his dharma.

Why? Because he knew we could not self-liberate, either by knowing ourselves through introspection, nor trying to bow our heads in humility, nor attempting any practice, nor learning any philosophy.

Why? Because Shinran knew we needed to hear what he was given to say - so we would simply entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha, just as he did.

Why? Because that is what Amida Buddha gave Shinran to do - so that we would find the end of suffering, at last - after countless lives sunken in the morass of birth, death and delusion.

NamuAmidaButsu -

Paul R.

You can read the whole of what I excerpted from Teacher #1’s Dharma discussion here:

You can read the whole of what I excerpted from Teacher #2’s Dharma discussion here:

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