People who belong to a temple that is affiliated with Jodoshinshu Hongwanji-ha may know a short document entitled Jodoshinshu no seikatsu shinjo, or Seikatsu Shinjo for short. The title is sometimes translated as ‘Jodo Shinshu Creed’, although there is no such thing as a ‘creed’ in the Buddhist context. Strictly speaking, the Seikatsu Shinjo is nothing like a creed in the sense that the term is usually understood.
A creed is a statement of belief. But in the Seikatsu Shinjo there are four paragraphs, which are statements of intention. It is not a creed but a promise or pledge.
I don’t know how many people recite the Seikatsu Shinjo every day, although I have to admit I really like its sentiments and intentions. I think it is a good idea to remind ourselves, in a succinct way, of what it means to be a person of nembutsu.
The third paragraph of the Seikatsu Shinjo says:
I shall follow the teaching of Amida Buddha.
Awakening to the right path, let us share the true Dharma with others.
The first thing that strikes us in this intention is that we pledge to ‘follow the teaching of Amida Buddha’. I love this statement because it reminds us that the Buddha of our teaching is Amida Buddha alone. While Shinran Shonin constantly reminded his disciples – his Dharma companions – to respect all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Amida Buddha is the founder and teacher of our tradition. Amida Buddha made the Primal Vow:
If persons think of me and say my Name, spontaneously taking refuge in me, immediately they enter the stage of the definitely settled and will realise the supreme, perfect enlightenment. (CWS, p. 23)
In this life, beings who ‘spontaneously take refuge’ in Amida Buddha and say his Name, join the ranks of the truly settled and become Buddhas in the next. Thus, entering the Bodhisattva way.
How do we ‘follow the teaching of Amida Buddha’?
I have always found that Shinran’s writings are the best and most accessible source because they encompass Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching, especially in The Three Pure Land Sutras. His writings include the commentaries, not only of the seven Dharma Masters, but a large number of other realised teachers of the Pure Land Way.
While Shinran’s teachings are encapsulated in The Tanni Sho and the Letters of Rennyo, The Collected Works of Shinran is an inexhaustible resource. It was especially published to help English speaking people to ‘follow the teaching of Amida Buddha’ for themselves.
The second sentence of the third paragraph of the Seikatsu Shinjo expresses the intention to ‘share the true Dharma with others’. This has always been incumbent upon nembutsu people, especially since the time of Shan-tao (613 – 681). Shan-tao’s mandate to all of us is ‘jishin-kyo-ninshin’ – ‘awaken faith oneself and awaken others.’