Know that the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha makes no distinction between people young and old, good and evil; only shinjin is essential. For it is the Vow to save the person whose karmic evil is deep and grave and whose blind passions abound. (Tannisho 1, CWS, p. 661)
O Ananda, let yourself be your light and refuge; seek no other refuge. Let the Dharma be your light and your refuge; seek no other refuge. (Shakyamuni Buddha, BD, p. 634)
‘Shinjin’ is sometimes translated as ‘faith’. In a sense it is a suitable word. For example, in a popular lexicon of Australian English, the Macquarie Dictionary, the principal definition of faith is ‘confidence or trust in a person or thing’. In context, faith is confidence or trust in the Buddha Dharma. All schools of Buddhism uphold that essential principle. In no tradition of Buddha Dharma is it possible to traverse the path that it lays out before us without the settling of confidence in the teaching.
But the Macquarie Dictionary gives, as its second definition of faith, ‘belief, which is not based on proof’. That is not compatible with the Buddha Dharma, which proves itself by becoming manifest in the person who has experienced it.
In the fifth chapter of The True Teaching, Practice and Realisation, Shinran Shonin points out, through the words of the Nirvana Sutra, that we are capable of knowing true reality by ‘hearing’ (CWS, p. 190). Indeed, ‘hearing’ is the most reliable vehicle for the arising of unstinting trust in the Dharma, the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.
Shinjin is not a self-willed adherence to a creedal formula. It arises through deep listening to the Dharma – the life and teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha, and the life and teaching of Shinran Shonin. Most of all, in listening to our own actual reality. And through deep personal honesty of heart.
Deep mind … is true and real shinjin. One truly knows oneself to be a foolish being full of blind passions, with scant roots of good, transmigrating in the three realms and unable to emerge from this burning house. And further, one truly knows now, without so much as a single thought of doubt, that Amida Buddha’s universal Primal Vow decisively enables all to attain birth, including those who say the Name even down to ten times, or even but hear it. Hence it is called deep mind … (CWS, p. 92)
Namo Amida Butsu