Thursday, 8 May 2014

Shinran Shonin, his wish and light

Shinran Shonin, his wish and light  

 Published on May 9, 2013
Life of Shinran Shonin, the Founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in Japan
This is a good movie depicting Shinran's life and a good introduction in his teachings.
Still, beginners might meet with a difficulty in understanding what Shinran wants to say at minute 1:29:40 in the movie. The same words are recorded in Tannisho and I explain them in my book The Path of Acceptance -- Commentary on Tannisho. Please read the passage and my explanations bellow:

"I have no idea whether the nembutsu is truly the seed for my being born in the Pure Land or whether it is the karmic act for which I must fall into hell. Should I have been deceived by Master Honen and, saying the nembutsu, were to fall into hell, even then I would have no regrets. The reason is, if I could attain Buddhahood by endeavoring in other practices, but said the nembutsu and so fell into hell, then I would feel regret at having been deceived. But I am incapable of any other practice, so hell is decidedly my abode whatever I do." Tannisho, chapter 2.

In this passage, Shinran Shonin explains his faith in a way that might seem very strange at first sight. It can even be interpreted that he somehow doubts the teaching he received. He says that he would have no regret if he was deceived by his Master, Honen.

But his statement is beyond ordinary ideas of right or wrong, and it is not something like: "If things go well, then I follow my Master, and if not, then I leave him". Rather, he says: "anywhere my revered teacher goes, I will follow him, even if he goes to hell". The words of Shinran does not express doubt, on the contrary, they are the expression of his diamond-like faith who is no longer obstructed by the words "but what if I am wrong?"

This passage is closely related with "if you imagine in me some special knowledge of a path to birth other than the nembutsu or of scriptural writings that teach it, you are greatly mistaken".

By saying "I have no idea", he admits his ignorance and by "I am incapable of any other practice", he acknowledges his incapacity to attain birth in the Pure Land and Nirvana by self-power practices. His faith has two aspects: profound awareness of his limitations and his evil karma which can take him only to hell, and his total reliance on the saving power of Amida Buddha.

My book The Path of Acceptance -- Commentary on Tannisho can be bought or downloaded for free at this link

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