Hindrance of doubt

 Hindrance of doubt

 疑 情 為 所 止


In his Shoshinge – Gatha of True Faith (正 信 偈), Master Shinran clearly tells us that the Hindrance of Doubt obstructs our path to The Pure Land…

Our continued return to this cyclic home of birth and death
Is certainly due to the hindrance of doubt
Swift entrance into the peaceful, uncreated Realm of Bliss
Is necessarily brought about by Shinjin


Hindrance of Doubt obstructs our complete freedom from the firm clutches of samsara – the cycle of birth and death marked by relentless pain and suffering – which has been our perpetual home for countless billions of lives. We transmigrate endlessly within the six realms without a suitable condition that could put an end to this dreadful cycle of painful existence.

Many of us might have come into contact with the Buddha Dharma – in our previous lives or the present life – which had taught us how to escape from samsara, but due to the strong hindrances of greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and doubt, we are unable to fathom the inconceivable Compassion and Wisdom of The Buddhas. Thus, we continue to drift in the ocean of pain and suffering. Doubt is the stubborn hindrance that comes to the forefront, persistently blocking us, whenever we try to seek for a way out of this unsatisfactory existence.

Doubt is the natural mechanism and manifestation of our ego; our self-centered tendency to dismiss anything we cannot see or perceive with our eyes and to construe as false, transcendental existences that are absolutely true but beyond the limited sphere of knowledge of us humans. This self-centered ego, hardened through countless existences, takes as real the relative knowledge of science and technology which further strengthen the sense of our own intelligence and cause us to be spiritually blind.

Thus, living in our familiar sphere of complete illusion, we lack the wish to escape from samsara through the only True Path of Salvation available to us. How sad and lamentable this is, that we simply squander away this precious human life which gives us the wonderfully rare opportunity, to free ourselves forever, from the persistence cycle of pain and suffering.


Doubts regarding Shakyamuni Buddha obstructs many of us from listening deeply to what He has taught. Many doubt His teachings on Impermanence, laws of cause and effect and dependent origination, rebirth, suffering, the cause of suffering, the ending of suffering, the appropriate means that put a permanent end to suffering and attainment of the state of absolute freedom – Nirvana. They unreasonably ask for scientific proofs of these teachings which are clearly beyond the limited scope of our puny mental capacities and outside the realm of material measurements. Thus, these persons of doubt have no trust in The Buddha Dharma and exclude themselves from the Buddhas’ Teachings on the true path to Salvation.

Doubts regarding Amida Buddha obstructs many of us from listening deeply to the only teaching of salvation available to mundane foolish persons – in this Dharma Ending Age in which beings are unable to perform difficult spiritual practices – to receive permanent freedom from samsara. They doubt the True and Real existence of Amida Buddha and His Pure Land as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha in The Pure Land Sutras.

Thus, these persons of doubt exclude themselves from the Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha – the only absolute grace that can save these ignorant persons as they are, with their foolish selves and stubborn mental defilements – the easy path that would unfailingly save them from the vicious cycle of samsara at long last.

Doubts regarding Amida’s Primal Vow obstructs one from listening deeply to the other-power teaching of complete reliance on The Primal Vow that embodies the Saying of the Name endowed with infinite virtues – (Nembutsu  念 佛  – Namo Amida Butsu  南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛) – as clearly explained by Master Shinran in his expositions on The True Pure Land Way. To be completely free from all pain and suffering, is to be born in the fulfilled Pure Land of Amida as a Buddha, at the end of this life.

Master Shinran exhorts all mundane foolish persons like us to abandon all self-power practices and entrust our karmic destiny entirely in Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow. Doubt in The Primal Vow – Amida Buddha’s unconditional promise to save every one of us regardless of our faults, conditions or environments – caused us to be born in the ‘borderland’ or ‘womb-palace’ which are unfavorable environments for immediate transformation to Buddhahood.


In his songs on the Dharma Ages, Master Shinran wrote 23 verses on the offense of doubting the Primal Vow, eight of which are quoted below:

As a mark of not apprehending Buddha-wisdom
People doubt the Tathagata’s various kinds of wisdom
Believe in recompense of good and evil, rely on their practice
Of the root of good, and hence remain in the borderland

Doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
People devote themselves to saying the Nembutsu in self-power
Hence they remain in the borderland or the realm of indolence and pride
Without responding in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence.

Because of the offense of doubting the Buddha-wisdom
They remain in the realm of indolence and pride or borderland
Because the offense of doubting is grave
They pass long years and kalpas there; thus it is taught

People who say the Name in self-power
All fail to entrust themselves to the Tathagata’s Primal Vow
Because the offense of doubting is grave
They are chained in a prison of seven precious materials

People who perform various good acts in self-power
All doubt the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
Hence, by the law of receiving the results of one’s acts
They enter a prison made of the seven precious materials

Practicers who doubt the Primal Vow
Are born within lotus buds from which they cannot emerge
Or are born in the borderland, or fall
Into the womb-palace

Those who practice the root of good
While believing deeply in the recompense of good and evil
Are good people whose minds are possessed of doubt
Hence, they remained in the provisional, transformed lands

The fault of doubting Buddha-wisdom is grave
Becoming fully aware of this
You should, with deep repentance
Entrust yourself to inconceivable Buddha-wisdom


This Hindrance of doubt is therefore the main obstacle of True Entrusting (Shinjin -信 心) which is the essence of the Pure Land teaching. The natural process by which doubt is transformed to true entrusting occurs when the repeated exposure to the Buddha Dharma in the past, is nurtured and enhanced by listening deeply to the Dharma again in the present life. As we are strongly bound by blind passions, karmic evil and false wisdom, we have been dishonest and deceitful. Completely lacking the mind of truth and reality, we are badly tainted and overwhelmed by the hindrance of doubt.

Thus, when we constantly come into Amida Buddha’s presence through The True Pure Land teachings and dialogues with persons of True Shinjin, we humbly give ourselves the opportunities to become aware of the Tathagata’s true and real Sincere Mind of benefitting others. This Mind of True Entrusting, which is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt, is freely given to us for our going forth to the Pure Land.

True Entrusting (Shinjin) naturally occurs due to the ripening of good karmic seeds, in that instant, the one-thought moment (一 念) when all our doubts, regarding Amida Buddha, His Pure Land and the Primal Vow are completely resolved. We spontaneously let go of our self-power practice and inclination, allowing ourselves to be embraced by the natural working of The Primal Vow. Thus, we KNOW without any doubt that this is our last life in samsara and that we are assured of Buddhahood at the end of this life.


The Buddha’s infinite merits and virtues
Are bestowed equally on all beings.
May all accept Amida’s Gift of Shinjin
And obtain birth in His Land of Peace and Bliss.

May those who are brought here due to the ripening of good karma, are altogether free of the hindrance of doubt, as they listen deeply and HEAR:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

Namo-Amida-Butsu   南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo-Amida-Butsu   南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo-Amida-Butsu   南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛


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