Scorpions

blog-29.05.16Then Kharosti said to the beings of the heavens, “The moon and these other heavenly bodies each have their own sphere to govern. You are to save the four kinds of sentient beings. What are these four? You are to aid the human beings on earth, all nagas, yaksas, and further, scorpions. All such beings are to be saved without exception. (CWS p. 255)

When we say “Namu-amida-butsu,”
The four great deva-kings together
Protect us constantly, day and night,
And let no evil spirits come near. (CWS, p. 353)

In the final section of the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho, his magnificent collection of Pure Land passages from sutras and the Dharma Masters, Shinran Shonin warns us against the distractions and blandishments of superstitions and gods.  In the process, he draws on little-known texts to show that all the powers of the universe have embraced the Buddha Dharma and will protect people of nembutsu.

In fact, people who hear the call of the Vow of Amida Buddha and accept the Name, Namu-amida-butsu, are people of shinjin. Such people receive ten benefits in this life. The first of these is

The benefit of being protected and sustained by unseen powers. (CWS, p. 112)

This is what Shinran is telling us about in the final section of the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho. There is no need to have recourse to superstition or to petitionary prayer because people of nembutsu are protected, anyway.

Of course, ‘protected’ does not mean that we are absolved of the results that accrue to us by our past actions (karma). It means that the diamond-like shinjin of people of nembutsu will not be shaken. As Shakyamuni Buddha said to his disciple Ananda:

There is profit and loss, slander and honour, praise and abuse, suffering and pleasure in this world; … they will cease as quickly as they come. (The Teaching of Buddha, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, p. 123)

But shinjin will not cease.

The Buddha Kharoshti is a former incarnation of Shakyamuni Buddha and it is he that has heard the promise by the unseen powers of the universe to protect followers of the Buddha Dharma, people of nembutsu.

It is significant to me that Shinran selects a passage that mentions scorpions because he uses these unpleasant creatures as a metaphor for bonno, the vicious blind passions that beset us and creep up on us unexpectedly, and hurt us and others.

With minds full of malice and cunning, like snakes or scorpions,
We cannot accomplish good acts through self-power;
And unless we entrust ourselves to Amida’s directing of virtue,
We will end without knowing shame or self-reproach. (CWS, p. 422)

The mind that is ‘like snakes and scorpions’ will continue to wreak havoc until a person lives in the light of Amida Buddha by accepting the Name, Namu-amida-butsu. Even then, such a mind will not evaporate but it can be seen as it is and that, in itself, is enough. Even with such a mind one will know the boundless compassion of the Buddha that embraces and does not forsake, thereby living the life of self-reflection and gratitude.

Author: George Gatenby

Rev George Gatenby is a Shin Buddhist priest and lives in South Australia.