Whose entrusting heart (shinjin)?

Thus, it seems likely that among people of the wholehearted, single practice now also, there are those not one in shinjin with Shinran. (CWS, p. 678)

The Epilogue of A Record in Lament of Divergences is a rich repository of Dharma that brings this little book to a close by offering a consummate clarification of the true teaching of the Pure Land way (Jodo Shinshu). It seems to me that, like the Preface, this section reiterates the essential focus of Shinran Shonin’s life and teaching: the realisation of the truth Other Power. This power is ‘nothing other’ than the working of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. (CWS, p. 57) When we meet it, it is incumbent upon us to accept it.

So, it is that the opening section of the Epilogue draws our attention to a celebrated debate among Honen Shonin’s followers. It was initiated by Shinran with the seemingly audacious claim that

My entrusting heart (shinjin) and the Master’s are one. (CWS, p. 678)

As might be expected, everyone immediately assumed that Shinran was claiming the same intellectual attainment — or even the same moral accomplishment — as Master Honen. But Shinran quickly disabused them of this mistaken idea.

‘The Master possesses vast wisdom and learning, so I would be mistaken if I claimed to be the same in those respects, but in shinjin that is the cause of birth, there is no difference whatever. The Master’s shinjin and mine are one and the same.’

Let’s remind ourselves of an enduring principle of the Buddha Dharma. It is first and foremost that there is only one authority in the Dharma, and that is the Dharma itself. It is telling that Honen’s disciples seem to have assumed that Shinran was making claim to some kind of leadership or authority status among the group. But this would be nothing more than a blind attempt to assert one’s own power over others. Such a status simply does not exist in Buddhism. No one has any authority or power over another follower of the Buddha Dharma.

Nevertheless, Honen’s disciples decided to call for the Master’s adjudication in the dispute, because some of them were skeptical about the idea that Shinran and Honen could have had the same shinjin. In other words, they believed that Honen had something special – some special power or authority – which made him their leader. Like that of Shakyamuni Buddha, however, it was Honen’s role to lead others to the Dharma of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. In awakening to it they were his equal.

True entrusting heart is the heart and mind of Amida Buddha – it is the Other Power. When shinjin differs between people it is their own creation and, as such, will result in a birth of their own creation. There is only one truth that holds sway, and that is the entrusting heart of Other Power:

The Great Master made a clear remark, saying, ‘If one’s entrusting heart is different from another’s, they are, after all entrusting heart of self-power. If one’s wisdom of understanding is different from others’, one’s entrusting heart is also different from another’s. Entrusting heart of the Other Power is endowed by the Buddha to ordinary people, whether they are good or evil; hence [Honen’s] entrusting heart and [Shinran’s] entrusting heart are not different, but they are one and the same. (Kakunyo Shonin, Godensho)

Author: George Gatenby

Shin Buddhist priest