In that land of happiness, every single being is born transformed from the pure lotus of Amida Buddha’s perfect enlightenment, for they are the same in practicing the nembutsu and follow no other way. This extends even to this world, so that all nembutsu practicers within the four seas are brothers and sisters. The fellow beings are innumerable. (CWS, p. 155)
To be the same in practicing the nembutsu is to share the same shinjin, to be a person who has accepted the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. Not only are we at one in the Pure Land but in this world also. The ultimate family, my family, is the family of the nembutsu.
Shinran Shonin had a powerful sense of this, when, in chapter six of A Record in Lament of Divergences he implies that it is silly for ‘followers of the sole practice of the nembutsu’ to argue that ‘these are my disciples’ or ‘those are someone else’s disciples’. (CWS, p. 664)
We are brought to say the nembutsu through the working of Amida Buddha. Even if we read a book or someone tells us about the nembutsu, the fact that we do not ignore or dismiss what they say, but hearing about the nembutsu, it becomes our sole way of living and being; this unconditional acceptance is the work of Amida Buddha alone.
When that happens we become part of the vast nembutsu family that stretches around the world. It is Amida Buddha’s family, bathed in his light and compassion.
In Rennyo Shonin’s time the same questions were being asked. In the first of the collection of Rennyo Shonin’s letters (the Gobunsho) we learn that priests are asking the question:
In our tradition, are followers necessarily considered disciples of a particular priest, or do we speak of them as disciples of Tathagata and of Master Shinran? (Rennyo, The Second Founder of Shin Buddhism, p. 142)
In reply, Rennyo Shonin quotes a saying that is similar to the one from chapter six of A Record in Lament of Divergences. After that he summarises his thinking in this way:
Thus, we are one another’s companions and fellow practicers. Because of this, the master spoke respectfully of ‘companions and fellow practicers.’ (Rennyo, p. 143)
Leaving behind all self power and accepting Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow means that we belong to a wonderful cohort of ‘true friends (who follow the nembutsu way) and those who practice the same path’ – dobo dogyo. We are friends, or family like this, for that reason.
This is an element of the nembutsu way that suggests warmth and respect for each other.
I have been re-reading Shinran’s letters again and, as always, I am struck by the closeness, and the friendship we have for each other; and the spiritual family to which we belong, as people of the sole practice of the nembutsu.
Signs of long years of saying the nembutsu and aspiring for birth can be seen in the change of heart that had been bad and in the deep warmth for friends and fellow practicers; this is the sign of rejecting the world. (CWS, p. 551)