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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Assurance of Birth

There is as great a difference as that between heaven and earth between those in accord with the purport of the Original Prayer who speak of "attaining birth in the Pure Land before losing one’s body" and those in discord who speak of "attaining birth after losing one's body". 
—Kakunyo Shōnin, Notes on Oral Transmission (Kudenshō)
In other traditions of Pure Land Buddhism, the practitioner is encouraged to undertake recitation of Amida Buddha's Name in the hope that he or she will be born in the Pure Land after death through its unsurpassed and innumerable merits. In the True Pure Land School (Jōdo Shinshū) founded by Shinran Shōnin, however, this wondrous Birth is attained in the midst of ordinary life. Needless to say, we are not actually enlightened nor do we become buddhas in our present existence; rather, we are absolutely assured of being born in the Pure Land through the power of Amida Buddha's Original (18th) Vow. When we hear the Name and realize the one thought-moment of true entrusting (shinjin), which is Amida's pure mind given to us, we are "grasped by Amida, never to be abandoned" and our birth is settled at that time. Nothing which follows after may shake or alter our conviction that we will indeed realize Nirvana in the Pure Land when life comes to a close. This is the unique and original contribution of Jodo Shinshu to the world, and is the basis on which authentic and indestructible peace of mind rests. It gives us the strength to live our lives boldly and confidently, knowing that whatever karmic winds may arise to trouble us, our hearts always dwell in the lotus-held world of Amida's perfect enlightenment.
Due to the Vow promising our unfailing attainment of birth,
Time for awakening Pure, Joyful Faith being ripe,
We come to rejoice even once (in Amida's salvation);
Then our birth is definitely assured. 
—Shinran Shōnin, Pure Land Hymns (Jōdo Wasan)

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