Continuing from my Dharma Talk last month, I would like to discuss Shinjin, or entrusting mind, the most important concept of Jodo Shinshu doctrine. As I introduced in January, to receive Shinjin means to completely rid yourself of the belief in the recompense of evil and good. Instead, Shinjin refers to our state of mind which removes our own calculation.
I’m sure some of you assume that those who do something harmful or wrong will go to hell, and some of you who believe that accumulating good deeds is the only way to enter the Pure Land. Both these mindsets are the result of our belief in self-power . Because we are foolish beings, we act out of self-centeredness. But our good deeds are done only to gain our own interest based on our judgment, which is why our calculation is both impure and imperfect.
However, we Nembutsu followers do not need our own calculation at all because it is Amida Buddha’s calculation that allows us to attain Buddhahood. This is the teaching of Jodo Shinshu.
That is why Shinran tells us to throw away the imperfect concept of self-power (our calculating mind) and rely instead on other power that is Amida Buddha’s Vow (Amida’ s calculation), which allows us to receive true peace of mind.
Think about what we were like as children when we relied entirely on our parents. “The world without a parent” refers to when we alone guess, judge, and make conclusions. In that state, we have many issues to worry about each day. But think back to your childhood. Some of you may have experienced hardship, but I would assume the majority of you have mostly positive memories of your youth. The reason we have such good memories is because we naturally, unconsciously and completely trusted our parents’ decisions. In other words, we lived in our parents’ calculation. Although it is hard to become an aware person in one’s childhood, the child’s mind being embraced in the parents’ calculation brings a sense of security and safety. Because of their parents, children enjoy this profound sense of security. It is the world without child’s calculation, meaning the child doesn’t have to worry about anything at all because they have their parents.
The Nembutsu teaching is the same. To receive Shinjin means the freedom of not having to worry about anything. It is to entrust ourselves completely to Amida’s Primal Vow. From this perspective, we are able to reflect deeply on our foolishness because we become fully aware that our calculation is nothing but an obstruction to the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.
To be rid of our calculating mind means to discard both our faith and doubt. For example, we naturally see the sun with a Shinjin mind. The sun upon which all our lives depend will surely rise in the east every morning whether we believe it will or not. It is not that the sun rose this morning because we believed that it would. Nor is it that the sun will not rise tomorrow if we doubt that it will. Nor is it that the sun won’t come up tomorrow if we think it won’t. No one goes to sleep worrying whether or not the sun will rise the next day.
In other words, in our daily lives, we have neither faith in nor doubt about the sun. Each night, we go to bed without any anxiety at all about the sun. This describes our trusting state of mind that ignores calculation and instead relies completely on the sun. With this attitude, we strive to make each day a full one with the deepest feelings of gratitude, basking in the blessings of the sun.
The sun rises because of the inconceivable power of the universe that is beyond our calculation, so it is not at all affected by our faith or doubt. If we really questioned whether the sun will rise or not each day, we would not be able to sing life’s praises because of the great anxiety we would feel.
Although we have felt either overjoyed or disheartened as we face our many problems each day, we have never worried about whether the sun will rise. Because the sun rises despite our thoughts, we are able to live each day to the fullest and feel at peace at the moment we face tomorrow.
The Shinjin or entrusting mind which Shinran encourages is similar to this. The Primal Vow of Amida Buddha will surely lead all sentient beings to the Pure Land, meaning that it is completely unaffected by our faith or doubt. We should not believe in Amida Buddha with our unreliable mind. Instead, we should discard both our faith and doubt and entrust ourselves completely to the Vow of Amida Buddha. Receiving his vow in this state of mind is called “Shinjin of Absolute Other Power.”
Shinjin of Other Power is not a state that we create, but it is formed by Amida Buddha. So even if we develop dementia and forget completely about Amida Buddha, the working of Namo Amida Butsu will surely continue to embrace us warmly and lead us to the Pure Land.
The moment we realize that – even without true wisdom or the ability to rid ourselves of the calculation of self-power, we have already been living in the embrace of Amida Buddha – then our mind of darkness will be brightened by the light of wisdom, and our calculating mind will change into a joyous one. We will be embraced gently with the great ocean of supreme relief, much like a baby who sleeps peacefully in his mother’s arms, entrusting himself completely to her. When such a state of mind is filled with the voice of Nembutsu, this is the very moment we receive Shinjin.
Although there is a limit to using the sun as a metaphor, I sincerely hope that each of us will entrust ourselves completely to the infinite working of Amida Buddha, who made a vow: “Just rely on me. I will surely lead you to the Pure Land.”
Together, let us make this year a fruitful and peaceful year of reciting the Nembutsu in gratitude.
Rev. Yushi Mukojima