Just be decisively settled, single-heartedly hold to the Vow, and rightly and directly go forward, without paying attention to what others may say. (Master Shan-tao, CWS, p. 105)
These words remind us of what it means to be a person of entrusting heart; to be a person who follows the unimpeded single path of the nembutsu of the Primal Vow. This is how it is to inhabit the nembutsu way of life.
Shinran Shonin points out, towards the end of the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho, that the person of entrusting heart has become so by way of two possible factors. These are ‘the cause of reverently embracing this teaching’, or ‘the condition of [others’] doubt and slander of it’ (CWS, p. 291).
Which of these causes and conditions may be in play for us does not matter. Hence, Shan-tao tells us to ‘rightly and directly go forward, without paying attention to what others may say.’
Whatever reason or background people may have: whether they follow another religion; whether they are sceptical about everything that is spiritual, or anything that they do not want to try to understand for themselves; there are, indeed, those who doubt and slander the teaching. Nonetheless, ‘rightly and directly go forward, without paying attention to what others may say.’
There is no room for us to criticise others, or their faith, or lack of it, or to engage in fruitless disputes. The light of Amida Buddha shines on all, everywhere, throughout the ten quarters, calling to us to accept the Name in the Primal Vow, Namo Amida Butsu. And, the joy and freedom of the nembutsu way is something that it is natural to want to share. It cannot remain silent.
In calling upon us to ‘rightly and directly go forward, without paying attention to what others may say’, it is not as though Shan-tao is here suggesting that we do this by our own strength. Not at all: – the very first of the ‘ten benefits in this present life’ is
The benefit of being protected and sustained by unseen powers. (CWS, p. 112)
This is made clear in countless accounts of the Pure Land way. One of the best known is to be found in these famous words from A Record in Lament of Divergences:
To the practicers who have realised shinjin, the gods of the heavens and earth bow in homage, and maras and nonbuddhists present no obstruction. (CWS, p. 665)