1. Protected by unseen divine beings (myoshu goji)
This means that those who have SHINJIN are protected by various unseen and powerful beings. The sense of this protection is:
“maras and nonbuddhists present no obstruction” (Tannisho)
“The four great deva-kings together
Protect us constantly,
day and night,
And let no evil spirits come near”.
No evil spirits can do us harm – actually I found
that this was very important for some people I met, because many are
afraid of sorcery, black magic or evil spirits. Although some modern
people don’t like to talk about this topic, evil spirits truly exists,
and because of our deluded minds we can be influenced by them. But the
good news is that because we received SHINJIN from Amida, we are
protected from their harmful intents.
It is also said by Master Shinran in his wasans that Nanda, Upananda, and the other great nagas, the countless naga-gods, Yama, the king of the dead, the great king of maras, gods of the heavens and earth, the four great deva-kings, etc., also protect us.
There are many such passages in Shinran’s Kyogyoshinsho and other writings.
2. Possessed of the supreme virtue (shitoku gusoku)
It means that by entrusting in Amida Buddha’s
Primal Vow we receive His merits and virtues which become like ours,
and which make us attain birth in the
“When sentient beings of this evil
world of the five defilements
Entrust themselves to the selected Primal Vow,
Virtues indescribable, inexplicable, and inconceivable
Fill those practicers.”
Master Shinran said in his work “Passages on the Two Aspects of The Tathagata's Directing of Virtue”:
“Concerning the directing of virtue through the power of the Primal Vow, the Tathagata's directing of virtue has two aspects: the directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land and the directing of virtue in the aspect for our return to this world.”
(1) The directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth means that by receiving SHINJIN during this present life we are made to be born in the Pure Land where we become immediately Buddhas – this means to enter the stage of non-retrogression (see the 10th benefit)
directing of virtue for our return to this world, means that as soon as
we become Buddhas in the
Both these aspects are the transference of merit from Amida Buddha to us which we receive in the form of SHINJIN (entrusting heart) and nembutsu (saying of the Name).
In fact, every one of
the benefits presented here are the manifestation of Amida’s
transference of merits to us; they are all the gifts of Amida.
”When I first experienced gratitude and said the Nembutsu, Paul wrote and said, "He (Amida) not only knows your name, but He has given to you His own store of infinite karmic merit."
Does that "karmic merit" only apply to what happens after this life?”
In the moment you received SHINJIN, as Paul said,
you also received Amida Buddha’s store
of infinite karmic merit. This means that you have entered the stage of
non-retrogression in this life (see the 10th benefit) and
you became assured of birth in the
But this doesn’t mean that you are free of any
suffering in this life as if you did only pure deeds yourself in the
three kind of actions, by karma of thought, karma of speech and karma
of body or action. You can’t always experience happiness in this
world because your mind still remains unenlightened until you die and
are born in the
You ask questions like why you are not happy in
this world because you have SHINJIN, but the
answer is that you are not happy in this world because you are not
a Buddha yet! An unenlightened mind cannot be happy, no matter what it
has and what kind of pleasant circumstances it encounters. On the
contrary, you can experience bliss and lack of suffering when you are
born in the
Jodo Shinshu is
not a path of becoming a Buddha in this life, so you cannot become
perfectly happy here.
Only a Buddha can be perfectly happy in this
world, but He can be happy here because His mind is a Buddha Mind, not
an unenlightened mind like yours.
However, this unenlightened mind of yours is
assured of birth in the
3. Having evil turned into good
It means that in the middle of our everyday life of suffering we can transform every bad event into an opportunity to understand life as it is and the Dharma. It doesn’t mean that we will no longer have bad events or lack of material things in our lives, but we can understand these unfortunate events as being the effects of our karma and we can use them in order to become more aware that this is samsara, the world of suffering and we need even more to entrust in Amida to escape it once and for all. Bad events in our lives can be thus transformed through the light of the Dharma into useful ones – useful for our understanding.
<> This is again related with protection, like the
first benefit. It
is said in the “Hymns of Benefit in the Present”:
4. Protected by all Buddhas (shobutsu gonen)
“When we say "Namu Amida Butsu",
Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta,
Together with bodhisattvas countless as the
Accompany us just as shadows do things.
Countless Amida Buddhas reside
In the light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light;
Each one of these transformed Buddhas protects
The person of true and real shinjin.
When we say "Namu Amida Butsu",
The countless Buddhas throughout the ten quarters,
Surrounding us a hundredfold, a thousandfold,
Rejoice in and protect us.”
Also protection can be understood in the sense
that SHINJIN can’t be lost once we receive it from Amida and we cannot
be obstructed by non-buddhists. How many Christians tried to tell me
that I will go to hell because of being a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist! Thus
they tried to give me fear but with no success because my faith
(SHINJIN) is not my creation, but the gift of Amida. This is why
SHINJIN is called “DIAMOND-LIKE SHINJIN.”
We may also say the Protection of
the Buddhas means that since the moment you received SHINJIN, you are
safely going into the direction of Nirvana. You can interpret the
protection of the Buddhas in this sense, too. You definitely entered
into the incomparable powerful stream that goes to the ocean of the
Also, the Protection of the Buddhas might mean
that all Buddhas bear witness that you are safely carried to the
Here it is a question about the protection of the Buddhas in this life and my answer:
“I still don't understand how a person is "protected" by these various Buddhas (et al.) if a person's karma can’t be changed in the present life”
In the moment you entrust to Amida Buddha your karma has its roots cut of in the sense that it cannot plant its seeds into another life – that is you will no longer be subject to birth and death, but in this life it continues to have its remaining effects – that is you continue to experience the effects of your past deeds or the deeds of this life. So, we should not make any confusion and think that after we receive SHINJIN we should always be happy or always experience happy circumstances.
5. Praised by all Buddhas (shobutsu shyosan).
All Buddhas praise us because we entrust in Amida. They look to us as people who will become themselves Buddhas. It is wonderful that we have come to believe in a teaching so hard to be accepted in faith, this is why all the Buddhas praise us.
In the Larger Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha
“The one who hears and never forgets
But sees and reveres it and greatly rejoices in attaining it -
That person is my true companion.”
Also it is stated in the Contemplation Sutra:
“Know that the person who says the nembutsu is a white lotus among people.”
These passage clearly shows what being praised by all Buddhas means. There are also many more passages like these quoted in Master Shinran’s writings.
6. Protected by the Buddha's spiritual light (shinko jogo)
Here we see that the protection is a spiritual
one. I relate it with what I said at the fourth benefit. Also it means
that Amida is always illuminating us, making us understand more (than
those who do not accept His light - don’t have shinjin) our limitations
and our life’s events as they are explained by the Dharma or Buddhist
Amida’s Light makes us profoundly realize our
limitations and how reliable the Primal Vow of Amida is.
These twofold awareness never disappears from us because we are
embraced in Amida’s spiritual Light.
It also means that we are protected from wrong understanding of the teaching. False teachers can’t influence us and we’ll never distort the essentials of the Jodo Shinshu Dharma in our presentations.
7. Having much joy in mind (shinta
In the moment we receive SHINJIN we feel relief, like escaping a great weight and problem. We know that we will become Buddhas no matter how we are now. We are able to feel this relief and joy many times in our life, no matter that sometimes it is covered by the everyday difficulties and sorrows. Imagine that you are in a prison and somebody in which you trust 100% assured you that you will be released in one year or a few years. That one year you are still in prison is of course difficult, but you also know for sure that your day of freedom will soon come. So you are able to feel relief and joy remembering your assurance, no matter how hard your everyday life in prison is.
8. Acknowledging His benevolence and repaying it (chion hotoku)
We become aware of what Amida does for us, freeing
us from birth and death, and we feel gratitude. We express this
gratitude by saying the Nembutsu and by doing many kind of activities
the benefit of the Dharma. For example, some people become teachers and
teach the Dharma to others in order to help
them receive shinjin from Amida.
Also, sharing Dharma texts or helping our dojos or temples, supporting our teachers and fellow practitioners are acts of repaying the benevolence of Amida Tathagata.
9. Always practicing the Great Compassion (jyogyo daihi)
This doesn’t mean that we act like Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas in this very life, because if we relate this passage with
other passages in Master Shinran’s teaching, we see that it is not
for beings who still have blind passions to behave like Buddhas. If we
are already Buddhas and have Great Compassion in this life then it
means that we no longer need the Primal Vow. So, what is the benefit of
always practicing Great Compasion in this life?
I think that although we are not acting like
Buddhas in this life, but by receiving SHINJIN we become part of the
working of Amida or a link in Amida’s Great Compassion chain and we can
benefit others constantly in many ways, only by being in this Golden
Chain of Amida’s Compassion. We can understand others limitations and
realize everybody is accepted as they are, including ourselves, and
especially benefit them by helping them to create connections with the
Dharma of Amida.
If somebody is spreading the true teaching about Amida and transmits the message of the Primal Vow to others, then he is indeed practicing Great Compassion in the sense that he acts as a messenger of this Great Compassion.
In his Kyogyoshinsho, chapter 3, section on the true disciple of the Buddha, Master Shinran quotes this passage from “The Sutra of Great Compassion”:
“What is 'great compassion'? Those who continue solely in the Nembutsu without any interruption will thereby be born without fail in the land of happiness at the end of life. If these people encourage each other and bring others to say the Name, they are all called "people who practice great compassion."
This clearly shows that practicing Great Compassion in this life means to encourage others to say the Nembutsu of faith in Amida Buddha.
10. Entering the Rightly-Established Group (shojyoju ni iru)
By receiving SHINJIN in this life we enter the
rightly established group or those assured of birth in the
This benefit is the wonderful news that people
like us, full of blind passions are saved as they are – assured of
birth in the
At the end of these explanations I wish to present you another three very important questions related with the benefits in this life, and my answers. Please read them carefully.
“… that feeling of safety doesn’t seem to apply to
how we live life in this realm of Samsara,
nor even how we die (suffering, pain etc) but to the next life and
rebirth in the
The feeling of safety of a person of SHINJIN is
that he feels assured he goes directly to the
But he knows also that the remaining part of this
life is the life of an ordinary unenlightened being, so its normal that
as long as he is not a Buddha, he can still suffer. I repeat, he still
suffers because he remains an unenlightened being until his death.
To receive the merits of Amida is like entering in an infinitely powerful stream of water. You remain as you are, an ugly piece of wood but you are carried by the stream of water to the ocean. Maybe this image will be helpful to you. To received the merits of Amida in this life through shinjin and be protected by the Buddhas means that you are carried safely to the other shore, while you remain as you are.
It is like being a small and disoriented bee in the great hand of the Buddha. The bee still suffers but she is carried to her true home and when she reaches it, she becomes truly happy.
It is like a sick man carried by an ambulance. The sick person still experiences pain on the road to the hospital (the rest of the life you have until death and birth in the Pure Land), but when he reaches the hospital and meets the Doctor in person (birth in Amida Buddha’s Pure Land) he is healed forever and he becomes a Doctor himself (becomes a Buddha and returns to this world to save others).
” I am just confused about the entire premise of Buddhism leading a person beyond suffering in this world. It sounds like you are saying the only way out of suffering for a Shin Buddhist is death.”
The only way out of suffering for a Shin Buddhist
is to entrust in this life in Amida Buddha, which means to let
himself being carried by the ambulance of Amida and be sure that when
he reaches the Hospital (
”From what I understand in your post- I created all that happens in this life and that can’t be changed. I just grin and bear it until I die, go to the
Yes you may alter your karma in many ways, you may arrange your time you still have here in samsara to be more pleasant, or you may not - this depends from person to person - but what is most important is that you can’t heal all your wounds here, that is to become perfectly happy in this life, because you can’t become a perfect Buddha while in this present body.
Jodo Shinshu doesn’t say you should do nothing to
make your life more comfortable, but it
Rev. Josho Adrian Cirlea
December 10, 2008