The proof

When people got together … to discuss each other’s shinjin Rennyo came and said, ‘What are you discussing? Only by discarding all calculations and single-mindedly entrusting yourselves to Amida without doubt, will your birth in the Pure Land be ensured by the Buddha. The proof of that is Namo Amida Butsu. Beyond this, what is there to discuss?’

Whatever complicated questions they had, the Shonin’s simple answers cleared their doubt.

(Thus have I heard from Rennyo Shonin, 173 tr. Hisao Inagaki)

The essence of this quote from Rennyo Shonin is a reiteration of the many occasions that Shinran Shonin stresses the same idea–that Namo Amida Butsu is the outward manifestation of shinjin.

The sacred Name of the Tathagata surpasses measure, description and conceptual understanding; it is the Name of the Vow embodying great love and great compassion, which brings all sentient beings to supreme nirvana. (CWS, p. 452)

Know that it is impossible to be born in the true, fulfilled Pure Land by simply observing precepts, or by self-willed conviction, or by self-cultivated good. (CWS, p. 458)

Nembutsu like that is a manifestation of shinjin. In his Letters Shinran repeatedly said, ‘Simply give yourself up to the Tathagata’s Vow; avoid calculating in any way.’ (CWS, p. 536)

Among all of the writings of Shinran, the statement that focuses most intensely on this issue is the fifth letter of Lamp for the Latter Ages. In it we learn that the Dharma of Amida Buddha is completely self-subsistent, working by itself to bring us to the Pure Land and Buddhahood.

Amida’s Vow is, from the very beginning, designed to bring each of us to entrust ourselves to it—saying ‘Namo Amida Butsu—and to receive us into the Pure Land; none of this is through our own calculation. (CWS, p. 530)

Shinjin is known internally by the two-fold deep mind, which is awareness of ourselves as a ‘foolish being full of blind passions with scant roots of good’ and that the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha decisively enables all ‘to attain birth, including those who say the Name down to ten times, or even but hear it.’ (CWS, p. 92) The outward expression of this is Namo Amida Butsu.

There are many fine teachers of Jodo Shinshu. But one sometimes encounters quite convoluted and complicated accounts of the way to nirvana in the Pure Land way. It is not only Rennyo Shonin but Shinran Shonin too whose message is really quite straightforward.

For example, Rennyo says in one of his letters that you can tell by a person’s demeanour whether or not they are people of shinjin. Such proof resides in Namo Amida Butsu.

Beyond this, what is there to discuss?

Author: George Gatenby

George Gatenby, a retired Australian businessman, has been a follower of the nembutsu teaching of Shinran Shonin (1173-1263) since 1977. He became a member of the Hongwanji Buddhist Mission of Australia when it was founded in 1993 and was ordained as a Shin Buddhist priest at the Nishi Hongwanji, Kyoto, the following year. He is the author of the blog sites, Notes on the Nembutsu and The Udumbara Flower, and convenes a Shin Buddhist sangha in Adelaide.