The flowering of true entrusting heart … (part 1)

Clivias on the first day of spring (1 September 2018)

As for me, I simply accept and entrust myself to what my revered teacher told me, ‘Just say the nembutsu and be saved by Amida’; nothing else is involved. (Shinran, Tannisho 2; CWS, p. 662)

Apart from Namo Amida Butsu itself, this sentence is the perfect and complete expression of the true entrusting heart (shinjitsu shinjin). As Shinran Shonin himself says, ‘nothing more is involved’.

But from this seed at the core of Shinran’s heart came forth a great and magnificent flowering of teaching for all humankind that will endure for eternity.

First there was The True Teaching, Practice and Realisation of the Pure Land Way, which is commonly known as Kyo Gyo Shin Sho. This extraordinary work is not only an exquisite treatise on the hopeless tragedy of human existence in contrast with its radiant and perfect redemption through the Power of the Primal Vow of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Light (Amida Buddha) but Shinran has cast it in the form of a sublime drama, which is very like the ancient Greek tragedies of Sophocles and other dramatists of that time. The difference is that, for Shinran, humankind has a clear way out of the dilemma; a way to transcend the tragedy and transform it into the vehicle of light and life.

It is this latter characteristic that is so captivating. It is a wonderful thing to read the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho in serial form: a little each day. As we do so we uncover a world of light so brilliant that nothing matches it. And it is in a dramatic form, with Shinran’s own words serving as the chorus, constantly explaining the events as they appear in the overarching action.

The book opens with a statement about what will unfold.  And then, there begin to appear before our eyes the players in this great drama of universal salvation. Shakyamuni Buddha is sitting before his disciples, with his cousin Ananda at his side. All are silent and watching as we discover the radiant demeanour of Shakyamuni, and that he has been consulting with all the Buddhas, past, present and future; and that what follows will reveal what he has heard.

Then in each of the six ‘acts’ of this drama of ultimate truth and reality, Shakyamuni Buddha, the seven dharma masters and other, subsidiary dharma masters, take it in turns to come to ‘stage-front’, so to speak, to tell us what they have heard and seen from the depths of life and light.

Shinran’s way of delivering his great magnum opus is so original, and so skilful, that it is nothing short of genius. Because, no matter how often we open, read and ponder the book, it is full of life, with its wondrous cast of Buddhas and enlightened sages, who appear in the midst of the pain, disappointment and tragedy of human existence, casting the light of truth upon us all and uplifting us with its joyful light and wonder.

Namo Amida Butsu.

Author: George Gatenby

George is a Shin Buddhist priest and lives in South Australia