The radiant light, unhindered and inconceivable, eradicates suffering and brings realization of joy; the excellent Name, perfectly embodying all practices, eliminates obstacles and dispels doubt. This is the teaching and practice for our latter age; devote yourself solely to it. It is eye and limb in this defiled world; do not fail to endeavor in it. Accepting and living the supreme, universal Vow, then, abandon the defiled and aspire for the pure. Reverently embracing the Tathagata's teaching, respond in gratitude to his benevolence and be thankful for his compassion.

~ Shinran Shonin, Passages on the Pure Land Way

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Little Bit About Myself

To satisfy the curiosity of my readers, I would like to share some information regarding who I am and why I came to embrace the teaching of Jodo Shinshu. It is difficult to condense years of spiritual development into a few sentences, but I will here make the attempt.
Like many American children, I was raised in a Protestant Christian home. However, after reading through the entire Bible as a teenager, I realized that Christianity could not resolve my personal life-and-death problem after all. So I began to investigate other religions, looking into everything from Judaism to Hinduism to Baha'i. After years of going from pillar to post, meeting with plenty of dead-ends and nearly giving up on religion altogether, I finally found a refuge in the person and dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha, who I came to realize was the only figure in all of history that I could follow without reservations. Even so, I might not have continued long in the Buddhist Way had I not encountered my good companion (zen-chishiki), Shinran Shonin. Reading the Preface to his Kyogyoshinsho for the first time, I knew that here was a man who had not only found the true light, but could lead me to it as well. It was the turning point in my spiritual life, directing me away from the dark realm of doubt and unbelief, toward the bright world of Amida Buddha’s salvation. At the same time that I found myself in the embrace of my compassionate Parent, I lost my taste for any religious teaching other than the nembutsu. While I remain as I have always been—a basically ignorant person with a wandering mind and sordid desires—I am now grateful to be included in the Buddha’s saving work.
A conservative in matters of doctrine, I believe that Jodo Shinshu is to be correctly understood within the framework of orthodox Mahayana, and oppose the admixture of religious modernism and non-Buddhist philosophies with the true teaching. I cannot understand how people today can honestly read Tannisho and yet persist in making such absurd claims as "Amida Buddha is only a symbol," "we are born into the Pure Land here-and-now," "great compassion consists of endeavoring in social work," and so on. However, I believe the best way to address these and similar divergences is to constantly point the way to the words and deeds of our Dharma Masters, which are like bright lamps shining in the dark night of birth-and-death, urging us to give ourselves up to the working of the Primal Vow.
I hope this blog encourages readers to listen carefully to the Jodo Shinshu teaching, and hear the call of Amida Buddha, who always stands ready to deliver on his Promise of assurance in this life and Buddhahood in the life to come.

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