Getting to Know George Gatenby - A True Teacher of Shinran’s True Teaching

Readers of my blog know that I make a big distinction between true teaching and false - when it comes to the Dharma of Jodo Shinshu. In doing so I am being faithful, as best as I can, to the founder of Shin Buddhism, Master Shinran.

I also make a distinction between true TEACHERS and false. A true teacher of Shin Buddhism is one who insists, not on his own views, but on the views of Shinran, in explaining the dharma.

That’s the ONLY kind of Shin Buddhist teacher worth listening to, when it comes to hearing Buddha’s final DHARMA for an age when NO ONE can self-cultivate to end suffering.

That was Shinran’s own conviction.

It was also the entire subject of The Tannisho (Lamenting Divergences) written by his student Yuien, because not long after Shinran had died, false teachers were changing the teaching already!

And it was Rennyo’s conviction as well - as he set about the long and difficult job of weeding out false teaching and replanting true teaching in the sangha.

How important is it to find a TRUE TEACHER? Rennyo believed it was critical, in order to come to the state of SHINJIN - salvation in the present, and Buddhahood in the next birth. (Click HERE to read his thoughts).

I have been privileged to come to know a TRUE TEACHER in Professor Eiken Kobai, whose two slim volumes, have made a profound difference in my own understanding of what Shinran teaches. With the help of his translator Ken, I’ve been able to make those volumes available on this site. (You can access them from the RESOURCES section of the links).

Now, I am happy to say that I made friends with a second man who is also a TRUE TEACHER of Shinran’s Dharma. His name is George Gatenby, and he is one of the leaders of the Shin Sangha in Australia. Like Eiken Kobai, he too is a Shin Priest.

Though I have been on George’s wonderful website Notes On the Nembutsu many times, it is only in the past week or so that we have actually begun emailing back and forth.

Over the next several posts, I will be sharing parts of of my email dialogue with George, including his take on encountering Eiken Kobai for the first time - by reading Eiken’s books from this website.

For me it is an important dialogue, because George sees the current issues of the Shin Sangha, and what needs to be done, very much as I do. He has encouraged me to continue writing honestly and passionately:

  • about my own journey to settled SHINJIN
  • my own understanding of what Shinran says -which George shares
  • and my own belief about how the modern Shin Sangha has diverged tragically from Shinran and MUST return to Shinran once again to fulfill its dharma mission in the world - a perspective George shares as well, with deep and heartfelt feeling.

As a relative beginner, it means so much to me to find mature Shin Buddhist teachers such as Eiken Kobai and George Gatenby whose many years of scholarship and are supported by the same SHINJIN that has come to me - and the same perspectives about what the Shin Sangha must do in order to bring Shinran’s unique salvic dharma message to countless people.

In this age of Dharma Decline, when the Western Shin Sangha is practically moribund, when True Teaching is scarce and false teaching abounds, True Teachers like this are a beacon of Amida Buddha’s light shining in the darkness, as they speak precisely and passionately about what Shin Buddhism is…and (just as important) is not about.

I bow to both of them, honestly, ackowledging their importance to those who are seekers of the TRUE Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way.

And I say, along with them, that there simply is no other way, in this age, for ANY of us to come to the end of suffering, at last.

And that - and that alone - is why their work, and their words, are so important.


Paul R.

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