Happy New Year!
Thank you very much for all that you have done for my family in the past year. My wife and I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all the Sangha members for your ongoing thoughtfulness. We humbly hope to avail ourselves to your warm friendship again in the coming year.
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Let me focus on an important subject at the very beginning of the New Year. As you know, in talking about the Nembutsu teaching, our founder Shinran explained,
“Shinjin, to entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, is the true cause of birth in the Pure Land. And our utterance of Amida’s name Namo Amida Butsu is an expression of our deep gratitude for the great working of Amida Buddha’s Vow.”
This is our Jodo Shinshu teaching based on Shinjin, or true entrusting. Very simply, it means that by saying the Nembutsu and entrusting oneself to the Primal Vow, one attains Buddhahood. That is why in Jodo Shinshu tradition we have been taught, “Receive Shinjin.”
But just what is Shinjin? What state of mind must we have when we receive Shinjin? Many of you probably have such questions whenever you recite the Nembutsu. I am embarrassed to say that, if any of you were to ask me, “Sensei, have you received Shinjin?” I would not be able to answer with confidence, “Of course I have!”
Because it is the beginning of the year, it is a good opportunity for us to contemplate the essence of Jodo Shinshu, which is Shinjin.
Shinran describes Shinjin as a mind free of doubt. Doubt is an expression of our calculating mind which Shinran describes as, “the mind that believes in the recompense of evil and good.” In other words, this is the mind to be fearful of one’s bad deeds and dependent on one’s own meritorious acts. All those with this calculating mind really understand that good acts cause good effects and that bad acts cause bad effects. This is the law of cause and effect, the essence of Buddhism.
Shinran was highly critical of religious groups that disregarded the law of causality as false. However, we should understand that in our Jodo Shinshu, we clearly deny a “belief in the recompense of evil and good” such as the belief that those who commit bad deeds will be denied birth in the Pure Land; or that those who perform meritorious acts will surely be able to go to the Pure Land.
This is because Jodo Shinshu follows the law of causality whereby we gain the result of being born in the Pure Land and attaining Buddhahood just by receiving Shinjin. To say it simply, if we receive Shinjin, or simply accept the Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Butsu” which is the fruit of Amida Buddha’s wisdom and compassion, we are promised birth in the Pure Land as a Buddha. And an important point here is that Shinjin is also a deep realization and awakening that our own power is useless. Instead, we are entirely dependent on the power of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. That is, Shinjin is to get rid of our own calculation and only depend upon the inconceivable power of the Primal Vow. These realizations are called “the two aspects of Shinjin” and they are completely different from the belief in the recompense of evil and good which depends on the calculation of self-power.
Because some of you may believe that those who do something wrong will go to hell, you might reflect on your daily lives often and be concerned whether you will really be able to enter the Pure Land. Or there must be some among you who make efforts to do good deeds by reciting the Nembutsu because you believe that doing so will bring about your birth in the Pure Land. However, both of these mindsets are the calculations of self-power.
It is our calculating mind that assumes we will surely enter the Pure Land because we recite the Nembutsu. It is also our calculating mind that worries that, despite gratefully reciting the Nembutsu, we may not enter the Pure Land because we are unable to rid ourselves of anger and jealousy. With such a mindset, we cannot say that we have received Shinjin. Do any of you believe that you are all right simply because you recite the Nembutsu? These are not thoughts of anyone who has truly received Shinjin.
To receive Shinjin means to completely rid oneself both of a belief in the discrimination of evil and good as well as in the delusion of self power. We do not need our own calculation at all because Amida Buddha’s calculation allows us to attain Buddhahood. Shinjin is the world minus our calculating mind.
However, each of us stubbornly lives only by our own calculations from birth till we die. We depend on our limited yardstick to view the world and we dislike denying we do so. However, please consider that if those who perform only good acts will be happy and those who commit bad deeds will pay for them, honestly, nobody will be able to go to the Pure Land! Even when we perform good deeds, we do so out of self-centeredness. So our good deeds are done to receive the rewards based on our judgment. But even at our most vulnerable, when we see our true selves from the viewpoint of the Buddha’s true wisdom, our calculation is both impure and imperfect.
Thus, Shinran teaches us to throw away the imperfect concept of self-power (our calculating mind) and rely instead on other power which is Amida Buddha’s Vow (Amida’s calculation) in order to receive true peace of mind.
I will share the rest of my message next month.
Rev. Yushi Mukojima