Buddhist Beliefs, Practices and Experiences

Our Central Message

Shin in a Nutshell
21 Shin Buddhist Beliefs
13 Shin Practices
10 Shin Spiritual Experiences
Eightfold Path for Shin Buddhists
Shin Buddhist Spirituality
Buddhism and Other Religions
Our Central Message
Life of Buddha
Shinran Shonin: Religious Reformer
Amida Buddha
Amida: One Universal Life
Beyond God
Pure Land: A Buddhist Heaven?
Death and Boundless Life
Buddhist Practice as Nembutsu
The Primal Vow: Power of Love
Faith and Spiritual Rebirth
Our Buddhists Scriptures
Buddhist Lifestyle
Reflections: The Great Natural Way
Ethical Living
Buddhist Holiday Ideas
Start a New Life?
Web Community and Distance Learning
Buddhist Video and YouTube Club
Podcast Discussions
Beliefs en espaņol
Recommended Books
Memberships and Donations
Our Buddhist Groups World Wide
Guest Book


The central message of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, is based on the supreme assurance and compassion that we are all worthy of liberation just as we are. Whether we are saints or sinners, male or female, black or white, ignorant or wise, rich or poor, straight or gay, monastic or lay person, believer or non-believer, human or non-human, Amida, the symbol of the unseen caring spiritual force surrounding and penetrating us, ceaselessly works to liberate all beings like us from confusion and suffering into the substance of enlightenment and peace. In the 13th century, Shinran Shonin wrote,


“Although my eyes, blinded by passions,

Do not see the brilliant light which embraces me,

The Great Compassion never tires,

Always casting its light upon me.”


Just As We Are


We believe in unconditional compassion and universal liberation as received gifts from the very source of life itself. According to the Buddha, the universe has already accomplished our deliverance through the completion of a primordial promise in timeless time. This fulfilled promise is symbolized as the Primal Vow, and it affirms that no one is left behind to suffer endless cycles of births and deaths and there is certainly no such thing as a final judgment, end times or eternal hell. On the contrary, due to the Primal Vow, which is the metaphor of the Great Compassionate Activity of the universe, all beings are liberated, just as they are.


This is hard for many people to accept because it is so simple and natural; it seems unbelievable that salvation is offered freely to anyone even non-believers because our traditional religions teach that we need to be part of the “right” religious sect or believe in the “right” savior or prophet. Also, they teach that we need to follow the “right” rituals and rules to be worthy of salvation from the all-seeing wrathful deity. On the contrary, in Shin, we believe and experience the all-inclusive and embracing Great Compassion. The transcendent realm also transcends any man-made division between people, morality, beliefs etc.  We realize the natural fact that we are all part of the same one universe and manifest the same one Life. There is nothing to do or say but to deeply believe and then experience and entrust in the presence of the one Life as our true nature.  This is the fruit of enlightenment which is not a mere intellectual belief but an experience that is deeply lived. In the 16th century, Rennyo Shonin asserted this religious reality by writing,


“All sentient beings, just as they are.

There is no expectation of any transformation or alteration.

Indiscriminately, beings are reached by the Buddha’s wisdom.”




Our affirmation of universal compassion and liberation is not based on hope, which is a blind faith in the unseen, and therefore is based on wishful and self-centered thinking. On the contrary, our bright faith is based on shinjin, the experience of awakening, which takes us from doubt, uncertainty and spiritual blindness into the light of noetic assurance, clarity and spiritual rebirth. This gift of awakening assures us that life is a bumpy ride (dukkha), but the cosmos is fundamentally good (nirvana) and that our deaths will be just another portal into yet another greater journey called the Pure Land (Nirvana).


Our religious experience is a transforming spiritual illumination that is not blind, fearful, guilt-ridden nor judgmental because the living Buddha does not judge, condemn or anger but freely liberates all beings without exception. 


Nirvana for Everyone


Also, central to Shin Buddhism is the belief that ordinary lay people, even the uneducated, not just monastics, can realize awakening in just one lifetime, that is, in this present lifetime. This is quite unlike some other popular Buddhist traditions that teach about gaining enough merit in this present lifetime to be reborn as a monastic in a future life, so one can have a better chance of attaining enlightenment. This is counter to the Shin Buddhist view of spiritual rebirth now through the nembutsu of universal salvation and compassion. As Zuiken, the famous Shin philosopher stated,


 “The essence of the Mahayana is: without severing blind passions, one attains Nirvana.”


What he meant was that spiritual rebirth and enlightenment is open to all through the nembutsu in this very lifetime while living ordinary lives of stress, family, school and work. This is so, because through the nembutsu, we are enabled to live at the juncture of the historical and ultimate dimensions. That is, in the midst of living in the secular world, we paradoxically are made to live in the light of Pure Land, and through the nembutsu, little by little, we learn to let go of the secular world and awaken to the true and real reality of the one Life, which is none other than the Buddha’s life. This religious experience is summed up in Shinran’s statement, “Evil karma, without being nullified or eradicated, is made into the highest good.” To clarify this further, here we quote Yoshifumi Ueda who wrote,


“The hallmark of the Mahayana way is that it does not teach abandonment of ordinary life in attaining authentic existence and genuine self-knowledge. The true transcendent realm also transcends any division between this world and the world of awakening, and is realized not through renouncing everyday life but through transforming it at its roots.”


As a consequence, the assurance that nirvana is for everyone in this lifetime is confirmed. It can not logically be any other way.  We close this section with a very poignant commentary by Shinran Shonin, who wrote,


“Awaken to the Primal Vow of Amida.

Those who solely entrust in the Primal Vow will

Through the benefit of being embraced and never abandoned,

All attain Supreme Enlightenment.”

Our Beliefs, Practices and Experiences

Copyright 2006. G.R. Lewis, All Rights Reserved

The author grants permission to copy this document for personal uses only.