The experience of authentic SHINJIN is the gift of Amida Buddha to those who listen deeply to the True Teaching of Shinran Shonin. It is without parallel in all of Buddhism.
Dharma Master Shinran calls it INCONCEIVABLE.
His name is Jason. I am grateful to call him a true Dharma friend. And I am grateful also that - first through the Shin Ugly Blog, and then through our emails and phone conversations - I have been able to convey the True Teaching of Shinran Shonin to him in a way that has supported his sincere desire to listen deeply. I am also grateful that I have not misled him with my own personal ideas, which are worthless when it comes to the end of suffering - but conveyed to him instead the PRICELESS dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha and Shinran Shonin. And I am grateful that Jason has been able to hear these same ideas from those who are more grounded in scholarship as authentic dharma teachers - few in number though they are.
Jason has the priceless gift of SHINJIN. But let me also tell you what Jason doesn’t have:
- He doesn’t have a Shin Buddhist dharma name
- He doesn’t have a temple to go to
- He doesn’t have a flesh and blood teacher
- He doesn’t speak Japanese
- He doesn’t know much about Shin Buddhist rituals or holidays.
- He doesn’t have any of the acoutrements of Shin Buddhism as a religion.
Nevertheless - the Buddha-dharma is now COMPLETED in his life. How can I say that? Because the Buddha-dharma is completed with HEARING - and Jason has HEARD the dharma from Amida Buddha himself.
Driven by his own deep personal need, my friend Jason has listened deeply - and because of that he has HEARD. And so Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow has been fulfilled in Jason’s life. Here’s what that means:
- He is fully and finally grasped by Amida Buddha. And Amida Buddha will NEVER let him go.
- His karmic debt is fully and finally cleared. Amida Buddha has given his own infinite karmic merit to him.
- His birth in the next life is fully and finally determined. Without question he will take birth at the end of this life in Amida Buddha’s Pure Land - where he will complete his journey across the ocean of birth and death, arriving at last on the far shore of full Buddhahood.
How puzzling - how paradoxical - how INCONCEIVABLE this must seem to someone who has not yet come to KNOW what Jason now knows.
From Shinran’s own mouth, the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way (Jodo-Shinshu) is a great paradox: at the same time it is both “the easy path” and “the most difficult of all difficulties”.
Why is it “the easy path”? Because there is literally NOTHING to do except listen deeply.
Why is it “the most difficult of all difficulties”? Because to listen deeply, we must come to the teaching with open mind, open heart and empty hands. That only happens when we finally let go of the tattered rags of our own thinking, our own ideas, our own understanding, our own practices - Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike. And THAT typically doesn’t happen until we are driven by an INTENSE awareness that nothing else will really work in a permanent way, to bring us to the end of suffering at last.
Said another way, we listen deeply only as we become increasingly aware of our INFINITE need for Amida’s salvation. Apart from that, we may be Buddhists - we may even be Shin Buddhists - but we will never be people of the same SHINJIN as Shinran Shonin.
Here is one man who - driven by his own piercing awareness of his personal need - has listened deeply in just that way. I invite you to read what he has to say - and to listen deeply as you do.
Had a startling experience the other day.
I was saying Nembutsu early in the morning after reading from Shinran, as is my habit, when the doubt-maras began to do their thing.
Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, I felt myself passing through a kind of emotional/spiritual barrier.
I can’t say for sure what happened, but in the blink of an eye, everything “felt” different. What I mean is that, suddenly, all the passages in Shinran that deal with doubt (and always made me pretty anxious) seemed to be sources of consolation.
It’s taken me a couple days to process this and put it into words, but I think I can sum up what I hesitate to call “insight” in the following way (and I’ve tried to say it in the plainest, most straightforward way possible):
- Though my own mind is wholly possessed of blind passions, the mind of Amida is completely free of all hindrance.
- The mind of Shinjin being “completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt” means that Amida’s mind is thus, not my own.
- But in receiving Amida’s mind for even “one thought-moment,” one’s birth is forever secured.
- “Completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt” means that, according to Amida’s mind, my birth in the Pure Land is completely, utterly, beyond doubt.
- Each voicing of the nembutsu of gratitude is Amida’s own confirmation of this karmic reality.
I want to be clear in saying that this whole experience was spontaneous; it was not the result of any kind of mental juggling or calculation on my part.
This feeling of “difference” has persisted - no matter what my mind coughs up.
I’m very concerned about being in accord with the teaching and not embracing ideas “based on personal views.”
What remarkable testimony of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha being fulfilled - same as it ever was. It was “not the result of any kind of mental juggling or calculation” on his part. Rather - his experience of Amida Buddha’s grace was just as Dharma Master Shinran said, when he declared “Above all, let there be NO calculation”.
- The gift of Amida Buddha.
- No calculation required.
- No calculation possible.
- No calculation allowed.
- Nothing to do but listen deeply to the dharma.
- Nothing to do but come to Amida Buddha with open heart and open mind and empty hands.
- The end of karmic burden.
- The end of rebirth in samsara.
- The end of suffering at last.
- The end of an indeterminate future.
- The beginning of True Buddhahood.
- Inconceivable SHINJIN.
Here’s my reply to my dharma friend:
What a blessing to read this as I began my day today.
You too have come to know what it means to experience Salvation in the Present.
Because of Amida Buddha’s gift, you too have been made to be equal to the Buddha because the very mind of the Buddha has been given to you as a GIFT.
Yes, the mind still “coughs up” the usual stuff…and will continue to until we come to the the end of suffering at last - awakening at the end of this life in the Pure Land where there isn’t even a word for suffering - where we will complete our long journey at last.
But you have been given the GIFT - Amida’s karmic merit - and Amida’s mind - as the sure seal of that next birth.
Yes, you are a person of the same SHINJIN as Eiken Kobai, as George Gatenby, as me - and most importantly, the same SHINJIN as Shinran Shonin himself.
I will be sharing this on the Shin Ugly blog - preserving your anonymity as I know you are somewhat self-effacing.
But it is important that all the confused Shin Buddhists, other Buddhists, and non-Buddhists who are sincerly interested in coming to the end of suffering at last get to see what SHINJIN really is all about - and this is as good a testimony as I have ever read.
I share your deep gratitude, dharma friend.