Genshin’s AHA! Moment

If you’re not familiar with Shinran, you probably don’t know Genshin. He was the sixth of Shinran’s Seven Pure Land Masters Shinran referred to as he unpacked this final teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha for plain people in this age of Dharma Decline.

On Beliefnet’s Pure Land discussion list severall folks talked recently about Genshin’s personal AHA! moment.

If you’re doing ANY kind of PRACTICE - Buddhist or otherwise - in order to clean up your act, tame your mind, experience pristine awareness, deconstruct your egotism, etc, etc, etc - I invite you to listen deeply to the discussion.

First, Chet asked a question:

I read the following story in a book called “Shinjin Sho-in” by Gyodo Kono.

The Sixth of the Seven Jodo-Shinshu Patriarchs, Genshin Sozu, once performed the Nembutsu religious practice in the Nembutsu Hall on Mt. Hiei. He entered a Nembutsu meditative state, purifying his body and mind, and then set out for home late at night. In the moonlight he heard the gurgle of a brook, all the while reciting the Nembutsu. That was when he suddenly prostrated himself and said, “I’ve been attacked by ‘evil karma’.”

The story ends here, like a cryptic koan (koan = non-rational Zen teaching) , leaving me to wonder as to the meaning of Sozu’s experience and expression, “I’ve been attacked by ‘evil karma”.


Myatsu offered a profound Shin answer to Chet’s question:

Your analogy is very apt, this is the sort of oral tradition-type vignette that is common in Jodo Shinshu and serves as a sort of Shin equivalent of the Zen koan.

The point of the story is subtle, its something that comes from thinking on it for some time. But unlike in Zen, in Shin we’re free to discuss our insights frankly, as we believe in the help of our fellow practitioners and not just our own efforts. In fact, that is the point of this story.

Genshin was a great monk, arguably the greatest of his time in Japan. Drawing on his own powers, he performed advanced practices, attained Nembutsu Samadhi, and purified delusions from his mind.

In other sects of Buddhism, this would be excellent and highly commendable. In fact, it is a very impressive accomplishment and Genshin was a truly gifted person.

However, in Shin we realize that this sort of striving is inherently tainted with egoism and incorrect views on the nature of the self.

Relying on his self-power, Genshin worked very hard and eventually attained a temporary sort of peace and clarity.

However, when he went outside and was walking along without any focus on high-minded religious, just reciting the nembutsu with simple entrusting and gratitude, he suddenly encountered the stream in the moonlit just as it was, and his mind was opened by Amida’s immediate SHINJIN to the futility of his tiny little efforts toward enlightenment, whilst all along true reality had been constantly and naturally expressing itself to him all around.

Realizing that his previous self-power attainment was laughable compared to the natural and relaxed awakening of Other Power, he said that he had been attacked by evil karma previously, i.e. that his strenuous self-oriented efforts had been the product of his ancient self-centered attitude of mind manifesting itself.

Dropping off this attachment to self and purity, he was brought to the real awakening by Amida, the infinite wisdom and compassion of things just as they are.

Then GenEric7C asked:

I wonder if this applies to daily practice?

To which I answered:

There truly is NO daily practice for a person of SHINJIN (true entrusting), GenEric.

That’s the whole point of Shinran - what he says over and over again.

When we simply listen deeply - with our intellect and our heart - we become aware that our problem is impossible to solve. We can chant, meditate, do good works, be mindful etc for life after life after life - and STILL not be free of our egotism, our cravinga and aversions, our blind passion.

It can take foolish human beings a LONG time to hear this message - and realize the hopelessness of our position.

And when we do, we’re able (at last) to listen deeply to Amida Buddha - to hear HIM on HIS terms, not ours.

And His terms are the easiest terms of all: simply entrust yourself to Him. He’s done it all - a way is made for you to become a TRUE BUDDHA at last.

That’s it. End of story.

In Shinran’s words, there is NO CALCULATION - no spiritual or metaphysical calculus - no practice whatsoever.

That is why Shinran teaches that TRUE NEMBUTSU is not a chant, but a simple THANK YOU - an expression of deepest gratitude for true salvation - at last.

When we have one moment of clear thought about this - one moment of true entrusting with NO CALCULAION - Shinran teaches that we are placed in the “rightly established group”.

We are now among those who HAVE salvation in the present - and at the end of this life we WILL be carried to have our next rebirth in the Pure Land. Once there, with no karmic obstructions within or without, we will QUICKLY attain the state of TRUE BUDDHAHOOD.

No daily practice, no hourly practice, no practice at all. Simply entrusting ourselves is ALL that there is.

Anything else muddies the water, and inevitably fills us (yet again) with the secret pride of “me and mine”:

  • MY chanting
  • MY meditation
  • MY knowledge
  • MY wisdom
  • MY good works.

MY DAILY PRACTICE - whatever it might be.

Truly entrusting - truly leaving EVERYTHING to Amida Buddha - truly is the HARD part of the EASY path for so many of us.

NamuAmidaButsu - Thank You Amida Buddha.

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