A few weeks ago I quoted at length from Notes on ‘Essentials of Faith Alone’. This is one of Shinran Shonin’s special commentaries on short works that were written by one or other of Honen Shonin’s disciples. The passage I quoted was about ‘abandoning the mind of self-power’. It is one of my favorite passages from Shinran’s writings. To my mind it testifies to the moment of relief and joy that people experience when they finally entrust themselves to the Primal Vow, which embodies Other Power.

Or, we might say that it goes on to be a way of living – relying unconditionally on the Primal Vow all the time. Needless to say, Shinran does describe his own experience of first entrusting himself completely to the Primal Vow in this way:

I, Gutoku Shinran, disciple of Shakyamuni, discarded sundry practices and took refuge in the Primal Vow in 1201. (CWS, p. 290)

There is a way of looking at ‘abandoning the mind of self power’ that can be put in positive terms. When this happens we describe in a kind of practical way how people live and think when they rely entirely on Amida Buddha without any equivocation or misgiving.

In the passage from Notes on ‘Essentials of Faith Alone’, which I quoted in a previous post, the core features of ‘abandoning the mind of self-power’ are these:

‘To abandon the mind of self-power’ admonishes the various and diverse kinds of people …

  1. to abandon the conviction that one is good,
  2. to cease relying on the self
  3. to stop reflecting knowingly on one’s evil heart, and further
  4. to abandon the judging of people as good and bad.’ (CWS, p. 459)

In his book Naturalness Kenryo Kanamatsu quotes from a great nineteenth Shinshu teacher, Gido. The quotation expresses complete reliance on Other Power in positive terms, which Kanamatsu translates as ‘Tariki (Other Power) Faith’.

Here’s the quote from Gido. It is in full agreement with the passage from Notes on ‘Essentials of Faith Alone’, above:

  1. As the child makes no judgments, just so should the followers of Tariki (Other Power) be free from thoughts of self-assertion.
  2. As the child knows nothing of impurities, so should the Tariki followers never have an eye to evil thoughts and evil deeds.
  3. As the child knows nothing of purity, so should the Tariki followers be unconscious of any good thoughts they may cherish
  4. As the child has no desire to court its mother’s special favor by giving her offerings, so should the Tariki devotees be free from the idea of being rewarded for something they give.
  5. As the child does not go after any other person than its own mother, so should the Tariki followers not run after other Buddhas or Bodhisattvas than Amida himself.
  6. As the child ever longs for its mother, so should the Tariki followers think of just one Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light.
  7. As the child ever cherishes the memory of its own mother, so should the Tariki followers cherish the thought of the One Buddha, Amida.
  8. As the child cries after its mother, so should the Tariki followers invoke the Name of Amida
  9. As the child, thinking of its mother as the only person whom it could absolutely rely upon, wishes to be embraced by her at all times, so should the Tariki followers have no thought but to be embraced by Amida alone even when in peril.
  10. They should have no fears, no doubts, as to the Infinite Love of Amida, the One Buddha, whose Vow is not to forsake any beings in his embrace. When once embraced in his Light, no one need entertain any idea of being deserted by him.

(Naturalness, by Kenryo Kanamatsu, World Wisdom, 2002, p. 122-4)