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

Friday, September 15, 2017

HORAI Introduction #206


Nirvana is the goal of human life, the perfection of personality, and the boundary of the perfection of compassion and wisdom. This is called “thusness [shinnyo],” “oneness [ichinyo],” and “ultimate reality [jissō].”

The teaching of birth in the Pure Land is the “unsurpassed skillful means [hōben]” leading to Nirvana.


Friday, August 25, 2017

HORAI Introduction #201


The profundity, the height, the preciousness, and the mystery of Shaka Nyorai’s perfect enlightenment and Amida Nyorai’s perfect enlightenment cannot be reached by words or by the mind.

The preciousness of the perfect enlightenment is the preciousness of the Great Truth of the Dharma-realm, the preciousness of mind-nature (Dharma-nature, Buddha-nature), the preciousness of meditative concentration [dhyana-samadhi], the preciousness of Great Wisdom and Great Compassion. It is the preciousness of Namo Amida Butsu.



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Notes on Reading KYOGYOSHINSHO #163

Notes on Reading Kyōgyōshinshō #163


When you hear the Buddha-Dharma, you should make a question by yourself and hear with this question [in mind]. The questions are:

1. Are you born through the nembutsu, or are you born through shinjin?
2. Are you born through shinjin, or are you born through the Vow-power?
3. Are you born through the Vow-power, or are you born through the Name?
4. Does Amida Nyorai save you, or are you saved by the virtue-power of the Name?
5. When you call [the nembutsu], is birth settled, or is birth settled when you believe?
6. What is the meaning of “as it is”?

First, if you do not ask the above six questions while thinking and thinking, listening and listening, it will be impossible to reach the point at which shinjin is determined.

The answers should be discovered by yourself, but if you try to answer these six questions, it will take a lifetime. They are likely not to be understood even if it takes a lifetime. Fellow travelers, not understanding them, ignore them just like that and do not make them a problem. Because they do not make them a problem, decades afterward, shinjin becomes unclear. Because they do not get serious, the problem does not emerge. Even if the problem emerges, they do not try to solve it. This is a common fault of the average fellow traveler. Many Buddhist books as well as magazines were published in the past eight decades, but I have never seen a document that solved the six questions that appear above. It is important to ask the six questions above tens of times or hundreds of times, and to resolve them.


Are you born through the nembutsu, or are you born through shinjin?

The answer is, “Shinjin is the true cause, reciting the Name is in gratitude.”

It is said that birth is attained through shinjin, but what kind of shinjin?

(a) Do you believe in the virtue-power of the Name, or (b) do you believe that those who call the nembutsu will be saved?

It is belief in the virtue-power of the Name. “Original Vow” and “Name” are nondual.

(1) Birth through reciting the Name is (2) birth through the Name. Birth through the Name is (3) birth through shinjin (shinjin is the true cause). This is not understood.

The true spirit of “birth through the nembutsu” is “birth through shinjin.” No matter how many times you say the nembutsu, without shinjin you cannot be born in the Pure Land. Now, what do you believe in? The following are to be believed:

1. The preciousness of the Buddha;
2. oneself as an extremely sinful, ignorant ordinary person lacking capacity;
3. the excellence of the virtuous masters;
4. the dreadfulness of impermanence and cause and effect;
5. I am born by the Original Vow-power

“Original Vow-power” is “the power of the Original Vow.” Moreover, it is “the power of the Original Vow and the Name.”

“Original Vow-power” is “the power of Buddha.” If we speak of “the power of Buddha,” this is “the power of great Compassion,” “the power of great Wisdom,” and “the power of the great Vow.” Through “the power of Buddha,” the person who cannot go [to the Pure Land] is made to go. It is a mistake for fellow travelers to think of going [to the Pure Land] by grasping at shinjin or saying the nembutsu while forgetting the power of Buddha. Through “taking in and saving all beings throughout the ten quarters with Light and Name” (the Original Vow), we are saved by “Light and Name.” This is “the power of the Original Vow”; this is “Other-power.” However, although fellow travelers talk about “Other-power,” by grasping at “shinjin” and [thinking] “I’ve received shinjin, so I can go [to the Pure Land],” they have already asserted “self-power.” “Receiving shinjin” is like the sun shining. Because the sun shines, you can read the newspaper even without electric lights. Also, it is like being taken by the hand although one is blind.

Night is dark; the way can’t be seen at that time
Amida Nyorai takes my hand
How great is the power of the Original Vow! (Zuiken)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

HORAI Introduction #224 by Zuiken Sensei

          Often tasting the imperial command [of the Vow], the words of a person rolled up by Namo Amida Butsu are a wonderful thing; through this person’s words, the Tathāgata of Immeasurable Light is working.

          Unless causes and conditions ripen, even a wise person, no matter how learned, cannot taste the imperial command.

          Without listening to the Buddha-Dharma, no matter how much time has passed, the causes and conditions will not come. What you heard today becomes a cause and condition; it becomes past good. Past good is the illumination of Amida Nyorai’s Light.




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

HORAI Introduction #204

          Buddhism is a battle between the darkness of sentient beings’ hearts and the Light (virtue) of Nyorai-sama’s great compassion. Sentient beings have no power to erase their sins. The power to extinguish sins is only the Light of the Tathāgata’s Original Vow, the Light of the Name, the Light of the Buddha-wisdom, the Light of the mind of great compassion. [This] Light is virtue.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Reading the KYOGYOSHINSHO #213 (from HORAI No. 220)

Reading the Kyogyoshinsho (213)


第十八願文には、「信」と「行」(乃至十念)とが誓われてある。In the text of the Eighteenth Vow, “faith [shin]” and “practice [gyō]” (up to ten thoughts) are vowed. 十八願成就文には、「聞其名号、信心歓喜、乃至一念(信の一念)……即得往生」とある。The passage on fulfillment of the Eighteenth Vow states that “[those who,] hearing the Name, realize shinjin and joy, even one thought-moment (one thought-moment of faith)… are immediately born.” 善導大師の釈文には、「衆生称念、必得往生」(衆生(が)称念すれば、必ず往生を得)と申された。In Zendō Daishi’s explanatory text, it is said that “sentient beings who say the Name are surely born” (if sentient beings recite the Name, they will certainly be born).
浄土宗の人は、「其の三」(前述)、(219号P.33)を重視して、「念佛を称えなければ往生出来ぬ」と思って、称名に力を入れてお念佛を奨励する。People of the Jōdo School emphasize “[passage] three” (mentioned previously), (No. 219 p. 33) and encourage putting effort into reciting the Name, thinking that “I cannot be born if I do not recite the nembutsu.”
People浄土真宗の人は、親鸞聖人の第十八願(至心・信楽の願)の釈を重んじておる。 of the Jōdo Shin School emphasize Shinran Shōnin’s interpretation of the Eighteenth Vow (the Vow of sincere mind and joyful faith). さて御安心となると、第一の據所は、「第十八願の成就文」である。When it comes to peace of mind [anjin], the first point is the “passage on fulfillment of the Eighteenth Vow.”
聖人は「成就文」を釈して、Interpreting the “passage on fulfillment,” the Shōnin [Shinran] says:
「横超は、即ち願成就(第十八願の成就文)一実円満の真教、真宗是れなり。」と申された。Transcending crosswise is the true teaching based on the fulfillment of the Vow (passage on fulfilment of the Eighteenth Vow), which embodies the perfectly consummate true reality. This indeed is the true essence of the Pure Land way.” Concerning peace of mind, when doubts arise, they should first of all be resolved in light of the “passage on fulfillment of the Primal Vow.”
殆んど、すべての同行は、Almost invariably, all fellow travelers [ask the following questions]:
          1. Will I be saved if I believe?
二、称うれば助かるか、          2. Will I be saved if I recite [the nembutsu]?

この問題を解決した同行は少ない。Fellow travelers who have resolved these questions are few.この問題も第十八願成就文に照らして解決すべきである。 These questions should also be resolved in light of the passage on fulfillment of the Eighteenth Vow.

(一)信心は往生の正因である。(1) Shinjin is the true cause of birth [in the Pure Land].
念佛は往生の正因に非ず。Nembutsu is not the true cause of birth [in the Pure Land].
(二)信心は「本」であって、念佛は「末」である。(2) Shinjin is the “origin,” nembutsu is the “end.”
(三)信心は「体」であって、念佛は「用」であり「相」であり、報恩行である。(3) Shinjin is the “body,” nembutsu is the “working” and “aspect”; it is the practice of repaying [our] gratitude.
(四)信心は先にいただくもので、念佛は後にいただくものである。(4) Shinjin is received first, and the nembutsu is received after.
此の四ヶ条は心得ておかねばならぬ。These four articles must be understood. さりとて、「念佛は称えなくてもよい」と云って、お念佛をしない人がある。Having said that, there are people who do not say the nembutsu, saying, “There is no need to recite the nembutsu.” これは「称えず非事」と云って、異安心である。This is called the “error of not reciting,” and it is a different [i.e. mistaken] faith [i-anjin].
「信巻」末の「必具名号」(真実の信心には必ず名号(称名念佛)を具す)の釈を拝見すべきである。You should look at the explanation of “unfailingly accompanied by [saying] the Name” in the second volume of the “Chapter on Faith” (true and real shinjin always includes saying the Name (nembutsu)).
『御文章』にのたまわく、In Gobunshō we find:

「信心獲得すといふは第十八の願をこころうるなり。この願をこころうるといふは南無阿弥陀佛のすがた(成就文)をこころうるなり」と。Realizing shinjin means understanding the Eighteenth Vow. Understanding this Vow means understanding what Namo Amida Butsu (passage on fulfillment) is.”

Most fellow travelers dislike hearing the origin of the Eighteenth Vow. Moreover, they do not know the text of the Eighteenth Vow [itself], to say nothing of the “passage on fulfillment.”
First and foremost, the Eighteenth Vow and the “passage on fulfillment” of the Eighteenth Vow must be heard and remembered. To go to the Pure Land is to go to the Pure Land by the “Primal Vow-power” of Nyorai-sama.
To taste the Eighteenth Vow and to receive the “Passage on Fulfillment,” what we must pay attention to is the “two kinds of deep faith.” Always having the two kinds of deep faith in your heart, if you do not taste the Eighteenth Vow, you cannot understand its meaning. Amida Nyorai is the Tathagata evoking gratitude, and in light of the self-power Dharma-gate of the Path of Sages, to the person who cannot be saved by any means, Amida Nyorai is the only one who says, “I will save you alone.” Amida Nyorai has already saved the sentient beings throughout the ten directions by means of His “Light” and “Name.” Again, He has already rescued [them] by means of His “Primal Vow” and “Name.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Reading the KYOGYOSHINSHO #212 (from HORAI No. 219)

Reading the KYOGYOSHINSHO (212)


Hearing/faith [monshin] (joyful faith) in one thought moment [ichinen] (end of the Chapter on Faith [from Kyōgyōshinshō])

“Contemplating true and real [joyful faith], I find there is the one thought-moment. One thought-moment expresses the ultimate brevity of the instant of the realization of [joyful faith] and manifests the vast, inconceivable mind of joyfulness.”

“The word hear in the passage from the [Larger] Sutra means that sentient beings, having heard how the Buddha’s Vow arose – its origin and fulfillment – are altogether free of doubt. This is to hear. Shinjin is shinjin that is directed to beings through the power of the Primal Vow. Joy expresses gladness in body and mind. Even includes both many and few. One thought-moment: because shinjin is free of double-mindedness, one thought-moment is used. It is the mind that is single. The mind that is single is the true cause of [birth in] the pure fulfilled land.”


          The doctrine of birth through “one thought-moment of faith” is only [to be found in] Jōdo Shinshū. “One thought-moment of faith” means “Namo Amida Butsu, don’t worry, you are saved just as you are,” while hearing this, “Ah! so happy!” What showed us that we are born [in the Pure Land] through one thought-moment of shinjin and joy is “[as they] hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy, they then attain birth” from the passage on the fulfilment of the Primal Vow.
          The passage on fulfillment in the last volume of the Larger Sutra is the true spirit of the Eighteenth Vow described by Shaka Nyorai in the first volume. This is the face of Jōdo Shinshū and is also the basis of peace of mind [anjin] in Shinshū.
          In the Eighteenth Vow (first volume of the Larger Sutra), the threefold faith (three minds) of “sincere mind, joyful faith, and wish to be born in my land,” shinjin (faith) and the “nembutsu” of “even one thought-moment” (practice), [which are] “faith” and “practice,” have been vowed.
          Zendō Daishi [Master Shan-tao] interprets the Eighteenth Vow as saying:

“Sentient beings who say the Name will surely be born (if sentient beings say the Name they will certainly be born [in the Pure Land].)”

          The passage on the fulfillment (last volume of the Larger Sutra) of the Primal Vow (Eighteenth Vow) states,

“All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy, which is directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of nonretrogression.” (2)

          The text of the Eighteenth Vow reads,

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and think of me even ten times should not be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.” (1)

          Zendō Daishi interprets the text of the Eighteenth Vow as follows:

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters say my Name even ten times but do not attain birth, may I not attain the supreme enlightenment. The Buddha is now actually there in the Pure Land, and has attained Buddhahood. Know that the momentous Primal Vow is not in vain, and that when sentient beings say the Name, they unfailingly attain birth.” (3)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

An Update

Dear Readers,

I regretfully note that my blog has been idle for quite some time. This has certainly not been because I have nothing more to say on the subject of Jōdo Shinshū! Rather, if I were to offer an excuse, it would be that I have been very busy this past year finishing up my university studies. Now that those have been successfully completed, I am once more turning my attention to this blog.

I began writing and posting here almost four years ago as a means of sharing my personal thoughts while traveling on the Great Unhindered Path of the True Pure Land School (Jōdo Shinshū in Japanese). That purpose remains unchanged to this day, and will continue. In fact, there are a number of topics I would like to write about, and essays on these will be forthcoming. I especially wish in the future to use this space as a way of sharing my life experiences related to Buddhism in general, and Shin Buddhism in particular. Thus, I will be posting photos and reflections as I return to Japan this fall to meet with friends new and old and take part in various events while studying in Kyoto.

Of course, the primary intention is always to share the authentic teaching of Jōdo Shinshū in the form that I have been fortunate to receive it. To that end, I will in the coming months be posting several articles from Hōrai (Dharma Thunder) magazine that I have been translating. These are pieces written by the late Rev. Zuiken Inagaki, a beloved and esteemed preacher of Shinran Shōnin's teaching. Although I am hardly the person qualified to undertake such a monumental task, nevertheless I felt that if I do not attempt it, it will not be done.

The copies of Hōrai magazine, from which the excerpts will be drawn, I received as a surprise gift from my good friend Rev. Yuki Sugahara, formerly minister at the Buddhist Church of Florin in California, and now of Oregon Buddhist Temple. Knowing my zest for Zuiken's words, he presented me with over a decade’s worth of issues, each a veritable goldmine containing verses, sermons, essays, and more. Indeed, such is the extent of the Dharma-treasure here contained, that I was at a loss to know where to begin! In addition, I had previously been given two copies of Hōrai magazine by Mr. Inaba, a fellow traveler associated with Kōrinji Temple in Yokohama, to whom I introduced Zuiken Sensei's work while attending religious services there.

In order to repay my debt of gratitude for these wonderful gifts, I have decided to share Sensei’s words in English to the best of my limited ability. The task is a difficult one, as the Japanese employed is frequently antiquated or contains elements of regional dialect. The resulting translations will therefore necessarily be provisional, and it is to be hoped that they improve with time as my knowledge of the Japanese language grows. Fortunately, I have been helped in this endeavor by another good friend and Dharma-brother, Mr. Melvin Lim of Malaysia. A devoted student of Zuiken Sensei's thought, Melvin has long dedicated himself to the promotion of Sensei’s writings through his own blog "Diamondlike Shinjin" (, to which I give my unreserved recommendation. In the present case, Melvin read my translated drafts and offered invaluable suggestions for their improvement. Of course, any errors of translation are entirely my own.

In conclusion, I would like to note that Zuiken Sensei's teaching is of special significance to me. When I was first starting out on the Pure Land path many years ago, Zuiken's writings were among the first I was fortunate to encounter. Through his joyful verses and clear and unambiguous expositions, Zuiken Sensei has been my good teacher and guide over the years. Indeed, I often feel that he has been at my side all along. In his uncompromising presentation of Shinshu teaching, Zuiken's intention is always to lead the hearer/reader into the all-powerful working of the Primal Vow that is absolute Other-Power—to hear the unconditional Call of Amida's Name, Namo Amida Butsu, and find true peace of mind (anjin) in His all-embracing Light. If someone happening upon this blog encounters the True Dharma through the words of Zuiken Sensei, thereby realizing the indestructible Mind of Joy, I could hope for nothing more.

In gasshō,

Kyōkan G. Schlaefer

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day 2017

Happy New Year to my friends and readers from around the world!

As I reflect on the past year, I am filled with gratitude that I was given the opportunity to strengthen my connections with our Jodo Shinshu tradition through many precious encounters, particularly while living and studying in Japan. I believe that these spiritual friendships will outlast the impermanence of this Saha world, and I look forward to learning more from each one of them in the years to come. As Zuiken Sensei says, "Those who have become your friends with selfish desires will part from you through selfish desires; those who have become your friends through the Buddhist Way will never part from you" (Shinshu Dharma-pada, p. 60).

This morning, I woke early in hopes of seeing the first sunrise of the New Year. Unfortunately, the weather here in northern California was cloudy today, so the rising sun remained invisible. Standing beside the river near my apartment, I listened to the sounds of fish jumping and the calls of birds, and pondered the unfathomable working of Amida's Original Vow, which has enabled me to hear the Dharma in this life. The overcast sky reminded me of the words of Shinran Shōnin that we recite in the "Hymn of True Faith":

The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin.

But though light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,
One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses.

I would like to keep these words in mind as I continue to deepen my personal understanding and appreciation of our Jodo Shinshu teaching this year. I will continue to post occasional reflections on my journey on this blog as time permits. If there is anyone who follows what I write here and (more importantly) derives some benefit from it, I would especially like to wish you a happy and prosperous 2017.

In gassho,

Shaku Kyōkan

January 1, 2017