After having read books that explain general Buddhist
philosophy and practice…the words of Shinran himself truly drive home to me how revolutionary his thinking is. [Tannisho Chapter I is] revolutionary, profound, inspiring and liberating.
In this simple and short chapter, the essence
of all that is Shin Buddhism is contained using simple and direct prose. I can see and understand the egalitarian nature of
Shinran’s thought – this is for all people, no matter who they are
or what circumstances they may find themselves. I can understand that my enlightenment is assured, along with the realization
of my limitations, that I am embraced by the infinite compassion. By simply entrusting in the Primal Vow, I need not fear
evil or death or even struggle with trying to attain merit through some practice because my right behavior will arise spontaneously
from the gratitude I experience from knowing that I am grasped, never to be abandoned.
I can say that while this practice is for all,
it is also meant specifically for me. There is no other practice necessary. I can perceive life as it truly is, observe myself
as a limited karmic being filled with blind passion and yet rejoice in the knowledge that I am embraced by infinite compassion
just as I am. Then, of its own accord, the nembutsu arises and I am liberated.
I am always a battle with myself. Whenever something
happens that puts me back in a painful time, I react with anger, sadness, despair and pain. It would seem that I am overreacting
to what ever it is that brought out those feelings. Recently, I realized that my over reaction was based on years of repressed
feelings. Anything that caused me to relive those feelings was to be lashed out at.
It is because of my practice, I think that I have
been wondering about all this pain? Can I make friends with this dark side? Yes, I can accept it as a part of me, just as
I am – Namu Amida Butsu. I’ll still have my struggles but that is o.k. The grasp of those painful times is loosening
and bits of rubble are turning into gold.
There is unlimited Compassion and Light for me,
no matter what. With practice, when something triggers a strong reaction, I will remember Namu Amida Butsu.
Sometimes – often – I experience doubt.
Is this a valid practice? Does it really make a difference? Why don’t I experience the joy described in the poetry of
the myokonin? Do I truly understand this? Shinran’s simple confession of his own doubt and frequent lack of joy is comforting.
Further, his explanation of the part played by our blind passions make sense and puts my doubt and ambivalence into perspective.
I can have all of the negative experience and still be able to see it as the working of infinite compassion illuminating my
Here is a profound expression of reassurance and
certainty. Shinran goes to great length to illustrate how the Primal Vow is the spontaneous assuring of the Name are actually
the same entity and that one need not fret over which practice is more correct. Furthermore, we are reassured that there is
no need to strive or to calculate around one’s practice, that entrusting one self to the Vow and the Name is all that
is necessary to realize birth. And then, Shinran goes even further by assuring those who do exert effort and calculation in
their practice that even though it may look like a failure, their [spiritual] birth is nevertheless assured as well. Shinran
is saying – here is our end to confession and anxiety, entrusting is all that you need.
we think good thoughts, we think we are good….”
Shinran drives home that we are not our thoughts,
we are not our accomplishments and we are not even our actions. All that we are
and what we do is the result of our karmic burden. The sage and the fisherman are on even ground. The assurance of [spiritual]
birth of either is not determined by their practice or by their accumulation of merit or anything else attained through their
own striving. All that is required is the true entrusting (shinjin). All else does not matter.