Shinran Shonin understood that the light of the
Great Compassion shines equally upon all, regardless of gender, intellectual or ascetic capacity, or socio-economic standing…
Shinran extolled the boundless scope of Amida’s compassion, inviting “Come as you are.” Be you hunter, lair,
woman, poor or simple of mind. Through the vehicle of the nembutsu and denying the efficacy of the many practices of Buddhism
to attain enlightenment, Shinran embraced the masses with the message of unconditional compassion and universal salvation.
He revived the idea of “cutting through
the bullshit.” The same way Gautama (the historical Buddha) unveiled the shortcomings of the rituals of the Upanishads.
Shinran did the same with the rituals that had built up around Buddhism at the time.
Also, Shinran returned to the true equanimity
found in Buddhism, showing that its benefits are for all people regardless of knowledge, wisdom or ability.
…Another aspect of the revival inherent
in Shinran’s teaching is the logic of compassion which emphasizes he universality of salvation which is central to Buddhist
teaching and practice. In this aspect, Shinran reaches back into the earliest history of Buddhism in the widening of he possibility
of salvation from the earliest elitism of the Upanishad tradition of India. With the sacred story of Dharmakara,
Shinran interpreted the all-embracing compassion of Amida which extends from the monastical elite to the hunters, farmers,
warriors and others who cannot observe the rigorous precepts of monastic life. For Shinran’s enlightenment is personal
and for all beings. There is no need for the transfer of merit. Reciting the Nembutsu is the true recognition of the true
expression of gratitude for the compassion of Amida for all beings without exceptions.
21st Century Buddhist Revival
In Dr Taitetsu Unno’s words, Shin Buddhism
serves the spiritual needs of “everyone – not only the privileged, select few who can afford the time and treasures
to pursue religious practices, either full-time or part-time. As the working of great compassion, it assures everyone the
liberation from the darkness of ignorance and the attainment of supreme enlightenment.”
The same holds true in the 21st century
American as much as it did in Shinran time. Contemporary American Society is driven by the need to accomplish, to accumulate,
work, career and unbridled materialism that leave little time for spiritual pursuits. We are pushed to concentrate most of
our effort away from religious practice, with little time or energy to spare after spending the majority of our day in the
work place. Shin Buddhism holds the same promise here and now in the 21st century
But true appreciation of this must transcend the
objective and rational which dominates our contemporary thinking. We must listen to the needs of our total selves –
hearts and instincts as well as mind and intellect.