What is faith according to Shinran Shonin?
Shinran despaired when over the course of twenty
years, he could not cleanse his mind of impurities through his rigorous efforts at Mt. Hiei.
Teetering on the pinnacle of Amida’s Primal Vow, he embraced the Great Compassion and surrendered his futile self effort.
Shinran recognized the layers upon layers of egocentric delusion fabricated by his impure mind. He realized the inconceivable
power of Amida to slice through delusion and liberate him from he limitation of his karma-bound existence.
In the grip of depression, I am infuriated by
the inability of my spiritual practices –rigorous meditations, vision quest, arduous yoga training, backpacking in the
Mojave – to ward off the debilitating darkness. “What’s the
use?” I scream to the universe. “Why do I bother?” In the silence between my words, in the space that contains
my efforts, my failings and my fury, I entrust. There is something much bigger that me.
The root if Shinran’s faith is Amida Buddha.
The entrusting thing is his view of faith as something that is given not something that arises within one. Faith recognizes
the fallibility of the ego-self and the primacy of the Vow. Faith is activated in hopelessness and acceptance.
The Nembutsu does not emerge from myself
but from the faith I have in the Great Compassion.
-- John Waligorski
Shinran believed that faith is not generated by
reciting the Nembutsu. It is created by the compassion of Amida as the working of the Buddha-nature within our heart and minds.
Shinran resolved the issue of bodhicitta by stating
that people do not try to arouse bodhicitta that it manifests in us through Amida.
Shinran’s faith resulted from his religious
despair over his failure to attain enlightenment about 20 years in the Tendai Buddhist monastic disciplinary practice. His
experience helped his thought. He transformed the meaning of religion by understanding that faith is totally a gift of Amida
Buddha’s True Mind, given unconditionally and without discrimination. He believed the Nembutsu because it symbolized
the reality of Amida’s compassion and wisdom. Components: faith is a combination of the recognition of the depth of
ego attachments and the passions which bind us to the wheel of birth and death. It is also the conviction that our salvation
is made possible through Amida Buddha’s Vows.