Tag: Past good karma

Footprints of JodoShinshu

ESHINNOSATO MUSEUM             恵 信 尼 里 記 念 館

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Facing the majestic range of snow-covered Mount Myoko in Niigata Prefecture Japan, stands the splendid Eshinnosato Museum. Located 5 km from the small town of Arai and reachable by taxi, our visit on 1st April 2016 became the highlight of our recent tour of Japan.

The enormous contribution by Eshinni-ko (1182-1270) – Shinran Shonin’s wife – has often been overlooked by JodoShinshu followers. She had been a devoted wife and a constant support for Master Shinran in all his Dharma activities and after the passing of our benevolent teacher, encouraged their daughter Kakushinni in preserving, propagating and transmitting his incomparable True Pure Land teachings to the world in its original form – in order that mundane foolish persons like us today – could learn the only viable Way of extricating ourselves from the relentless cycle of pain and suffering of samsara.

Through a series of letters – the original of which are exhibited at the museum, together with paintings depicting the living and teaching scenes of her life with Master Shinran – they give us that ineffable feeling about a great woman who is behind the revealing of Amida Buddha’s gift of salvation to all suffering beings like us. It is no wonder that Master Shinran had regarded and treated her as a manifestation of Avalokitesvara.

The Eshinnosato Museum is not a shrine or temple but a wonderful place – rightfully and clearly commemorating the immense veneration of fellow travellers to Amida Buddha’s Pure Land – for a wonderful woman whom many, including myself, considered as the Mother of JodoShinshu.

This memorable trip of karmic connection with Eshinni-ko is certainly a great blessing from Amida Buddha and a teaching for us to deeply hear The Call of Boundless Compassion.

NAMO AMIDA BUTSU   南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛

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SAKAI BRANCH OF HONGWANJI TEMPLE      堺 市 本 願 寺

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On 4th April 2016, we took a pleasant morning stroll around the city of Sakai in Osaka and as we pass by many Buddhist temples of different Mahayana traditions in the area, we were touched by the rich culture and strong influence of Buddhism in Japan. Our visit to Sakai City was not planned but it certainly gave us an amazing surprise when we walked up to the main gate of Sakai Branch of Hongwanji Temple.

Originally constructed at this site by Rennyo Shonin, the great restorer of the wonderful teachings of Jodo Shinshu, the temple was burnt down by a disastrous fire in 1798 leaving only the main gate and a historic bell. The present Hondo (the main prayer hall) built in 1825 is the largest wooden building in Sakai City. In order to promote Buddhism amongst the rising traders and manufacturers developing steady trade through Ming China, Master Rennyo founded this beautiful temple which became the centre dispensing the precious teachings of Master Shinran in Sakai.

On entering the historic main gate marked by a pillar inscribing Master Rennyo’s name, we were presented the standing sculptures of Master Shinran on the right and Master Rennyo on the left, beautifully adorned by cherry blossoms in full bloom. This is really a rare sight for us as we have not seen the beautiful statues of these great teachers together in front of a great teaching hall. We were overwhelmed by the compassionate energy of Master Rennyo in bringing the real benefits to the common people during his time. The Hondo, Shinsho Hall (信 證 殿 – Hall of True Entrusting and Realization) appropriately named after the original temple Shinsho-in (信 證 院), is a magnificent yet serene prayer and teaching hall with the image of Amida Tathagata at the centre of worship.

Our visit to Sakai Hongwanji Temple by chance must have been the ripening of our good karma from the past which allowed us to continue hearing the Call of Boundless Compassion.

NAMO AMIDA BUTSU   南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛

HOME PAGE: The Call of Boundless Compassion

 

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True and Real Shinjin

                ORIGINAL TEXT – KYOGYOSHINSHO

真 實 信 心 

true-entrusting-fa

In the chapter on Shinjin, Master Shinran passionately wrote…

As I reflect, I find that our receiving of Shinjin arises from the Vow-mind with which Amida Tathagata selected the Vow, and that the clarification of this True Mind has been skillfully taught to us through the compassion of The Great Sage, Shakyamuni.

But both monks and lay persons in this Dharma Ending Age and tradition teachers of these times are still floundering in the concepts of “self-nature” and “mind only”. Therefore, they disparage the True Realization of enlightenment in The Pure Land Way. Being lost in the self-power attitude of meditative and non-meditative practices, they are confused and ignorant of the diamond-like True Shinjin.

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True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心) is The Absolute Confidence of Amida Buddha that His Sincere Aspiration to save all sentient beings from samsara, the relentless cycle of birth, suffering, old age and death, will definitely be fulfilled. He had boldly made Forty-eight amazing Vows when He was performing extremely hard practices and disciplines as Bodhisattva Dharmakara, under the guidance of Buddha Lokitesvaraja billions of years ago. Out of deep reflections over an incredibly long period of contemplation and His great compassion for the various painful situations of suffering all beings have to endure, He had strongly pledged that each Vow – expressing His Compassionate Aspiration appropriate to the karmic condition of different sentient beings – would be fulfilled accordingly, as He had promised.

Through the hard practices He performed over billions of years, The Bodhisattva had fulfilled all His Vows and thus He became Amida Buddha. The Pure Land had been established for the sake of all suffering beings and it is here that Amida Buddha abides. Though not all sentient beings are saved at this moment, the fulfilment of His Vows and His Shinjin ensures that all sentient beings will eventually be saved with their birth in The Pure Land sooner or later, as they come to entrust themselves in His Vow of Boundless Compassion.

Amongst the forty-eight Vows, the two important Vows specifically identified by Master Shinran are the 17th Vow (The Vow that All Buddhas Praise His Name) and the 18th Vow (The Primal Vow). These Vows have been exclusively selected by Master Shinran as the Vows specially made to save him and all sentient beings in this Dharma Ending Age when everyone of us, without exception, is heavily burdened by the five defilements of greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and pride – all drowning in the adverse environments in which we live, especially in this materialistic world.

The two important Vows that directly concern us are……

The Vow that All Buddhas Praise His Name (諸 佛 稱 名 願) states: “If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all praise and Say My Name, May I not attain The Supreme Enlightenment.”

Thus, with the fulfilment of this Vow, Saying the Name of Amida Buddha (Nembutsu: Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛) which is endowed with the Infinite merits and virtues of Amida Buddha, is praised and fully supported by all Buddhas whose main purpose is to save all beings.

Although all Buddhas have their own realms or energetic spheres of influence, They know that Amida’s path of Salvation is the easiest for all beings. Therefore, They direct us to Amida Buddha and encourage us to Say the Name.

The Primal Vow (阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願) states: “If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten quarters, with Sincere Mind, Joyfully Entrusting themselves, Aspiring to be born in my Land, and Saying My Name perhaps even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain The Supreme Enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offences and those who slander the Right Dharma.”

Thus, for those who single-mindedly Take Refuge in Amida Buddha, The Primal Vow is the highest Mahayana Teaching that promises the Salvation particularly for the ordinary masses – not just for the well-endowed, monks or the  practising sages. Master Shinran says that the main reason for Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world is solely to preach The Primal Vow of Amida Buddha especially for mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 , bombu).

Therefore, mundane foolish persons like us should simply entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow and be freed from samsara forever when this life ends here. Total reliance on The Primal Vow is our only viable way out of this crazy cycle of relentless painful existence. We should be realistic enough to know that besides receiving Shinjin in The Primal Vow,  we DO NOT have any other choice.

Thus, Shinjin is Amida Buddha’s True and Real Mind of Boundless Compassion directed to us through the power of The Primal Vow. When this True and Real Mind of Shinjin reaches suffering beings who could deeply and single-mindedly rely on Amida Buddha and the working of The Primal Vow, it is received by them, accepted and manifested as their ‘Entrusting Mind’ (信 心), the Shinjin of Other-power.

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Fulfilment of The Primal Vow (本 願 成 就) had already been fully accomplished when The Bodhisattva, after billions of years of Sincere, True and Selfless difficult practices, brought this Vow to perfection and became Amida Buddha with His Pure Land wonderfully established ten kalpas ago, even though not all sentient beings have been born in The Pure Land yet. The enlightenment of all sentient beings like us had already been fulfilled at the hands of Amida Buddha who had accomplished all our aspirations and necessary attendant practices.

Therefore, The Primal Vow is always in an active mode, instantly fulfilled whenever any sentient being is karmically ready to joyfully entrust himself/herself and accept the Shinjin of Amida Buddha without any doubt or apprehension.

Thus, the moment when we have ‘Listened Deeply’ to The Buddha Dharma and are able to ‘Hear’ without any doubt, the inconceivable fulfilment of The Primal Vow, Amida Buddha’s Shinjin is awakened in us – we can then accept willingly, this precious gift of Shinjin freely given to us by Amida Buddha, Joyfully Entrusting ourselves and our karmic destiny completely to Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow.

Naturally, with this one-thought-moment of True Shinjin, we are truly settled in our minds and would Say His Name (Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛), taking refuge in Amida Buddha with deep gratitude to Him for having saved us. It is really inconceivable that we are enabled to receive and experience this salvation while still living in this world.

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The Entrusting Mind (信 心) is The Shinjin of Amida Buddha instantly bestowed on sentient beings who, having Listened Deeply (深 聞) to The Dharma of Amida Buddha, finally ‘Heard’ (聞) how The Primal Vow arose – its origin and fulfilment – are altogether free of doubt. As this True and Real Shinjin comes wholly from Amida Buddha, it is diamond-like and the truly decisive cause of our birth in The Pure Land. True and real Shinjin is unfailingly accompanied by Saying the Name of Amida Buddha (Nembutsu: Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛) which is selected and accomplished by Amida Buddha as the practical and easy medium of transferring His Infinite virtue to suffering beings.

Therefore, Shinjin is “the mind that accepts The Primal Vow without doubt”. Regarding this Entrusting Mind (Shinjin), Master Shinran states in his True Pure Land Teaching – KyoGyoShinSho :

“There are two aspects to this mind. One is to believe deeply and decidedly that you are a foolish being of karmic evil caught in birth and death, ever sinking and ever wandering in transmigration from innumerable kalpas in the past, without a condition that would lead to emancipation. The second is to believe deeply and decidedly that Amida Buddha’s Forty-eight Vows grasped sentient beings, and that allowing yourself to be carried by the power of the Vow without any doubt or apprehension, you will attain birth in the Pure Land.”

Thus, when we receive The Inconceivable Gift of Shinjin from Amida Buddha, our birth in His Pure Land is assured. Shinjin, the Entrusting Mind we receive from Amida Buddha is therefore the decisive cause of our birth in The Pure Land. Both The Primal Vow and Nembutsu (念 佛) are the vital objects of our Shinjin.

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Nembutsu (念 佛) – Saying the Name (Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛) is the essence of Joyful Entrusting (True Shinjin) in The Primal Vow. The Nembutsu is our spontaneous expression of Taking Refuge in Amida Buddha whenever we remember The Primal Vow, realising with Deep Gratitude, His Boundless Compassion in saving even wretched persons like ourselves – the multitudes of suffering beings who are unable to free themselves, with their own power, from the painful cycle of samsara.

The Name of Amida Buddha is endowed with perfect virtues, praised and glorified by all the Buddhas in the ten directions – wonderfully fulfilled through “The Vow that the Name shall be praised by all Buddhas”.

The Larger Sutra states: “All sentient beings, as they hear The Name, realise even one thought-moment of Shinjin and joy, which is directed to them from Amida’s Sincere Mind, and aspiring to be born in that Land, they will attain birth and instantly dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.”

Thus, Saying the Name is the Great Practice contained in The Primal Vow – the Right Act and perfect virtue directed to us by Amida Buddha for our going forth to The Pure Land. The Nembutsu effectively breaks through all our ignorance and readily brings all our aspirations to fulfilment. It is not our self-power practice or good act. The Nembutsu is also not for the purpose of gaining merits or our prayer for material benefits.

With deep gratitude abiding in our hearts, we spontaneously  and constantly say the Nembutsu (Namo-Amida-Butsu, Thank You Amida Buddha) – whether standing, walking, sitting, lying down, in times of happiness  or in sadness, in any circumstance or environment and living in the exhilarating embrace of Namo-Amida-Butsu till the end of our lives in this unsatisfactory existence.

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The Precious Gift of Shinjin, our entrusting mind, is freely given by Amida Buddha to all persons whether good or evil, irrespective of gender or social status. But many people cannot put their trust in Amida Buddha or the Primal Vow because they doubt the Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha and so unable to entrust themselves or their destiny entirely in Amida Buddha – they reject this gift of Shinjin. Though this is the ‘easy way’ out of samsara, it is also the most difficult of all difficulties for many people to accept.

Expressing beautifully in poetry, Master Shinran, through his deep reflections and passionate personal experience of Shinjin wrote…..

Entrusting in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow and Saying The Name
For arrogant sentient beings with perverted views
To accept and be blessed with Shinjin is difficult indeed
It is the most difficult of all difficulties that one could meet

Encouraging beings of the ten quarters with the words
“With Sincere mind Entrust yourselves and Aspire for birth”
Amida established The Vow beyond conceptual understanding
And made it the cause of birth in the True and Real Fulfilled Land

Thus, only those with karmic links with Buddhas from the past and those who, realising their utter inability in performing meditative and non-meditative Buddhist practices, put aside all these self-centered disciplines and whole-heartedly Listened Deeply to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, will come to Entrust themselves and their destiny fully in Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, receiving and accepting this inconceivable gift of Shinjin.

On receiving Shinjin, we are ‘Embraced and Not Forsaken’ (攝取不捨) by Amida Buddha who instantly transfers His entire store of infinite karmic merit to us for our going forth to The Pure Land. Though we remain our foolish selves, filled with the same five defilements as other persons living in this Dharma Ending Age, we are Truly Settled in mind and heart. We immediately belong to the Truly Settled Group (正 定聚) of those whose birth in The Pure Land is Absolutely Assured.

People who receive Amida Buddha’s Gift of Shinjin ‘Know’ with the one-thought moment of True Entrusting that they have been embraced by Boundless Compassion and definitely assured of birth in The Pure Land. They ‘Know’ that this is their last deluded existence in samsara and that they will become Buddhas at the end of their lives in mortal flesh.

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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Four Seals of Dharma

南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛D

I take refuge in Amida Buddha, Saying The Name in profound gratitude for His  inconceivable gift of salvation

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The Four Seals of Dharma define all authentic Buddhist Teachings taught by Shakyamuni Buddha during His lifetime. From the perspective of The True Pure Land Teachings (JodoShinshu) expounded by Master Shinran, they contain  the Four Seals of Dharma with The Primal Vow of Amida Buddha that embodies Namo Amida Butsu (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛), clearly taught as the Right and only path available that assures mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 , bombu) absolute freedom from the firm clutches of samsara – the end of suffering and attainment of Nirvana at the end of their lives.

Master Shinran does not directly enumerate or describe the four Dharma seals in his writings but they are randomly mentioned. The following poem which is adapted from a previous post (Amida’s Gift of Salvation) touches on the four seals:

The texture of life
Appears rough or fine,

Constantly fashioned by karmic threads

Accumulated from countless time.

Fleeting and impermanent

Closely examining the fabric
We will definitely see,
The ugly threads of stained emotions
That weave the net of suffering without cease.

Interdependent

Our own wretched existence
Despite the persistent hue and cry,
Are just like dust specks

Against the vast sky.

Insignificant

Yet, we have already been proffered
The true and real Land of Enlightenment,
An extremely long time ago

By Amida’s grace and compassion.
Inconceivable

The Buddha’s Primal Vow
Call of Boundless Compassion,
Saves even an evil person like me

In my wretched condition.

Namo Amida Butsu

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The first four stanzas deeply express the Four Seals of the Buddha Dharma, authenticating the True Pure Land Teaching transmitted directly from Shakyamuni Buddha through the seven Pure Land Masters to Master Shinran – Impermanence (Anicca), All stained emotions have the nature of Suffering (Dukha), Emptiness/insignificance of all phenomena (Anata) and Absolute freedom (Nibbana/Nirvana is Inconceivable).

The last verse intimately convey to us the unique teaching on Amida Buddha and His fulfilled Land taught by Shakyamuni Buddha particularly for saving wretched, evil persons in this Dharma Ending Age, according to  their true nature and capacity – those who realised their total failure and inability to save themselves by self-power. Namo-Amida-Butsu guarantees salvation of all suffering beings who entirely entrust their karmic destiny to Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow.

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Namo-Amida-Butsu  南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛

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