The Faith-Mind of True Entrusting
真 實 信 心
In the chapter on Shinjin (信 心), Venerable Master Shinran passionately wrote in his wonderful magnum opus, the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho…
“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 skilfully 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.”
True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心) is the Sincere Mind and Absolute Confidence of Amida Buddha that all the original Vows made by Him, trillions of years ago, to save every being from samsara – the vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death – would definitely be fulfilled accordingly as He promised. He had then, boldly made those forty-eight amazing Vows when He was performing extremely hard practices and disciplines as Bodhisattva Dharmakara, under the mentorship of Buddha Lokesvararaja. Out of deep reflections over an incredibly long period of contemplation and His great compassion for the various painful situations of suffering all beings had to endure, He had strongly pledged that each individual Vow – expressing His Compassionate Aspiration appropriate to the karmic condition of different sentient beings – would be fulfilled according to the wishes of those beings, as promised in that particular Vow.
Then, through the immensely arduous practices of moral conduct, generosity and meditational disciplines, endured over trillions of years, the Bodhisattva finally fulfilled all His Vows and thus, He became Amida Buddha. His Pure Land of Peace and Serene Sustenance, was wonderfully established for the sake of receiving all suffering beings who wish to be born there and it is here that Amida Buddha resides. Though not all beings in the innumerable worlds are saved at this moment, the fulfillment of His Vows and His Absolute Confidence (Shinjin – 信 心), ensured that all sentient beings will eventually be saved with their births in The Pure Land sooner or later, as they gradually come to fully entrust themselves in His Vow of Boundless Compassion.
Amongst Amida Buddha’s forty-eight Vows, the two most important Vows specifically identified by Venerable Master Shinran are the 17th Vow (The Vow that All Buddhas would Praise Amida’s Name) and the 18th Vow – Amida’s Primal Vow (The Vow of Sincere Mind, Joyful Entrusting and Saying the Name). 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 arrogance – all drowning in the adverse environments in which we live, especially in this materialistic world badly consumed by our own intractable egos and constantly distracted by the adverse pollution of scientific knowledge.
Amida’s 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-heartedly and steadfastly take refuge in Amida Buddha, The Primal Vow is the highest Mahayana Teaching that promises the Salvation for every person, particularly for the ordinary masses – not just for the well-endowed, monks or the practising sages. Amida Buddha’s Pure Land way – the one and only path open to every person, under any karmic circumstances or environments – is a path totally free from obstacles.
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 the miserable, mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 , bombu), who are firmly caught in the net of samsara:
“The reason for The Tathagata’s appearance in this world
Is solely to teach the ocean-like Primal Vow of Amida
The multitudes of beings in this evil Age of The Five Defilements
Should entrust themselves to the absolute true words of The Tathagata.”
Therefore, wretched, mundane foolish persons like us, should simply entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow without any doubt, gratefully Saying the Buddha’s Name and be freed from samsara forever, when this life ends. Total reliance on The Primal Vow is now the 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 – if Buddhahood, the end of all suffering is indeed our aspiration and goal.
Fulfillment of The Primal Vow (本 願 成 就) had already been fully accomplished when The Bodhisattva, after trillions 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 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 fulfillment of The Primal Vow, Amida Buddha’s True and Real Shinjin is realized 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 hearts – and would Say the Buddha’s Name (Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛), taking refuge in Amida Buddha, deeply thanking Him for having saved us. It is really inconceivable that wretched persons like us are enabled to receive and experience this salvation while still living in this world.
Shinjin (信 心) of Other-Power, our entrusting faith-mind, that place complete reliance on the Primal Vow, is the core essential teaching of Venerable Master Shinran who had repeatedly expounded and clearly explained it in all his poems and writings. In the chapter on Shinjin (信 心), he passionately wrote this beautiful passage:
“Reverently contemplating Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth, I find there is Great Shinjin.
.. Great Shinjin is the superlative means for attaining longevity and deathlessness
.. It is the wondrous way to awaken aspiration for the pure and rejection of the defiled
.. It is the straightforward mind directed to us through the selected Vow
.. It is Shinjin that actualizes Amida’s profound and vast benefiting of others
.. It is true mind that is diamond-like and indestructible
.. It is pure Shinjin by which a person easily reaches the Pure Land where no one goes
.. It is the mind that is single, realized by the person who is grasped and protected by the compassionate light
.. It is Great Shinjin, rare and unsurpassed
.. It is the quick path difficult for people to accept
.. It is the true cause of attaining great Nirvana
.. It is the white path by which all virtues are fulfilled instantly
.. It is the ocean of Shinjin that is itself suchness or true reality.”
Again in his ‘Notes on the Essentials of Faith alone’, Master Shinran wrote:
“….. Hearing the inconceivable selected Primal Vow and the holy Name of supreme wisdom without a single doubt is called true and real Shinjin; it is also called the diamond-like mind. When sentient beings realize this Shinjin, they attain the equal of perfect enlightenment and will ultimately attain the supreme enlightenment, being of the same stage as Maitreya, the future Buddha. That is, they become established in the stage of the truly settled. Hence Shinjin is like a diamond, never breaking, or degenerating, or becoming fragmented; thus, we speak of ‘diamond-like Shinjin.’ …..”
Another exposition by Master Shinran, concerning being equal to Maitreya, for persons who have truly settled Shinjin, is found in this wonderful passage in letter 14 written to one of his followers… (from Mattosho – Lamp for the Latter Ages):
“…Further, concerning being equal to Maitreya: Maitreya is of the stage equal to enlightenment; this is the causal stage of attainment. The moon becomes perfectly full on the fourteenth or fifteenth day, and this stage of Maitreya corresponds to the still half-formed moon on the eight or ninth day. This is like the practice of self-power. As for us, although we are foolish beings, Shinjin has been established and our stage is that of the truly settled. This is the causal stage of attainment, the stage equal to enlightenment. Maitreya’s way is self-power; ours is Other Power. Although there is this difference between self-power and Other Power, the causal stage of attainment is equal. Further, Maitreya’s attainment of the perfect enlightenment will be long in coming, but we shall reach nirvana quickly. He awaits the dawn 5,670,000,000 years hence, but we are as though separated by only a film of bamboo. Among gradual and sudden teachings, his is the sudden and ours is the sudden within the sudden.
Nirvana is the perfect enlightenment. T’an-luan’s Commentary tells of a tree called “great firmness.” This tree lies buried underground for one hundred years, but when it sends forth shoots, it grows one hundred yards a day. Just as the tree spends one hundred years underground, we abide in this Saha world in the stage of the truly settled. And just as it grows one hundred yards in a single day, such is our attainment of nirvana. This is a metaphor, revealing to us the form of Other Power. The growth of the pine, which does not exceed several inches each year, is very slow, showing us the form of self-power.
Further, concerning being equal to Tathagata: illuminated by the light of the Buddha, foolish beings possessed of blind passions attain Shinjin and rejoice. Because they attain Shinjin and rejoice, they abide in the stage of the truly settled. Shinjin is wisdom. This wisdom is the wisdom attained because we are grasped by the light of Other Power. The Buddha’s light is also wisdom. Thus we can say that the person of Shinjin and the Tathagata are the same. “Same” means that, in Shinjin, they are equals. The stage of joy signifies the stage in which people rejoice in Shinjin. Since a person rejoices in Shinjin, he or she is said to be the same as the Tathagata…”
Thus, True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心) on our part, is the faith-mind consciousness that we would naturally realize through the power of The Primal Vow. When Amida’s True and Real Mind of Shinjin reaches suffering beings who single-heartedly entrust themselves to The Primal Vow without any doubt, it is received by them, accepted and manifested as their ‘Entrusting Mind’ (信 心), the Shinjin (faith) of Other-power.
The Entrusting Mind (信 心) is The True and Real 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 fulfillment – are altogether free of doubt. As this Shinjin – our entrusting faith-mind – comes wholly from Amida Buddha, it is truly the decisive cause of our birth in The Pure Land. True Shinjin is unfailingly accompanied by Saying the Buddha’s Name (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 merits and virtue to suffering beings.
Therefore, a person’s Shinjin is “the mind that accepts The Primal Vow without doubt”. Regarding this Entrusting Mind (our faith-mind), Master Shinran states in his True Pure Land Teaching – Kyo Gyo Shin Sho:
“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. The Entrusting Mind that places complete reliance on Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow without any doubt, is therefore, the karmic-consciousness of Shinjin that completes the required causes for our birth in The Pure Land. Both The Primal Vow and Nembutsu (念 佛) – that is Saying the Buddha’s Name with deep gratitude, are the vital objects of our entrusting mind.
Nembutsu (念 佛) – Single-heartedly Saying the Buddha’s Name – is the essence of Joyful Entrusting (Shinjin – 信 心) embodied in The Primal Vow. It is the act of true settlement and our spontaneous expression of taking refuge/entrusting in Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow, deeply remembering the Boundless Compassion of the Buddha.
The Vow that All Buddhas Praise His Name (諸 佛 稱 名 願) – Amida’s 17th Vow – 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 fulfillment of this Vow, Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛) with faith, is praised and fully supported by all Buddhas – whose main aim is to see that all suffering beings like us, are effectively saved.
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 Buddha’s Name.
The Name of Amida Buddha is endowed with His perfect merits and virtues which are directed to us through the power of the Primal Vow. Gratefully Saying the Buddha’s Name, single-heartedly entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow, therefore, guarantees our birth in The Pure Land at the end of this life.
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 Buddha’s Name is the Great Practice contained in The Primal Vow – the Right Act and infinite virtue directed to us by Amida Buddha for our going forth to The Pure Land. The Nembutsu, directed to us from Amida Buddha’s Vow-mind, effectively breaks through all our ignorance and readily brings all our aspirations to fulfillment. It is not our self-power practice or good act. The Nembutsu (念 佛) 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 – 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – till the end of our lives in this unsatisfactory physical existence.
The Precious Gift of Shinjin, the entrusting faith-mind, is freely given by Amida Buddha to all persons whether good or evil, irrespective of gender, environment or social status. However, 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 most people to accept, as they are heavily burdened by The Hindrance of Doubt.
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.”
Only those with karmic links with Buddhas from the past – nurtured and ripened by Listening Deeply in this life – and those who realized their utter inability in performing meditative and non-meditative Buddhist practices, will come to entrust themselves and their karmic destiny fully in Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow. Thus, putting aside all self-centred practices and disciplines, they spontaneously accept and receive 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. While still living in this world, we instantly belong to the Truly Settled Group, also called Rightly Established 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’ that they have been embraced by the Light of 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.
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.
Persons of truly settled Shinjin have definitely Heard:
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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