Always practicing great compassion

However much love and pity we may feel in our present lives, it is hard to save others as we wish; hence, such compassion remains unfulfilled. Only the saying of the nembutsu, then, is the mind of great compassion that is thoroughgoing. (The Tanni Sho 4; CWS, p. 663.)

The way of the Buddha is true compassion. We are charged with the task of losing ourselves for the sake of others; becoming the other for their sake. But we cannot complete this task as long as we ourselves are not enlightened; as long as we are not Buddhas.

In the Path of Sages, men and women strive through endless aeons to rid themselves of kleshas – of blind passions – so that they can realise this sublime human vocation and way of becoming.

In the Pure Land way the same objective is the deepest longing for those who follow it. But they have come to the stark realisation – through hearing the call of the Vow of Amida Buddha – that they have already spanned countless aeons and still remain foolish beings. Therefore, they joyfully respond to the call to go on living the Buddhist life as well as they can and receive enlightenment when they are born at the end of their lives.

To be compassionate is to become the other. That is the only way that it is possible to lose the self. It is the only true realisation. For the moment we can at least do our best to be other-regarding: respectful of others and helpful; and all the other things that come in its train – honesty, kindness, integrity. We can only do our best. But this will not release anyone from the suffering of birth-and-death.

Among the ten great gifts of entrusting heart (shinjin) is the ninth:

The benefit of constantly practicing great compassion (CWS, p. 112)

Because, thereby, the all-compassionate Buddha becomes us, while we remain ourselves, whether in happiness or in sorrow: beings of blind passions.

The Name is the form taken by the Primal Vow – Namo Amida Butsu.

What is ‘great compassion’? Those who continue solely in the nembutsu without any interruption will thereby be born without fail in the land of happiness at the end of life. If these people encourage each other and bring others to say the Name, they are all called ‘people who practice great compassion’.  (CWS, p. 119)

‘Without any interruption’ is a reference to the significance of true shinjin – true entrusting heart.  It is unbreakable, and the Name may not be spoken for days at a time but is always alive in shinjin. People who do not waver from entrusting heart will spontaneously think of the Name or say it, whenever the opportunity presents itself. In other words, there is no other spiritual entity that is alive in their hearts, moment by moment, or day by day.

So the wonderful truth is that however much a person falls short; however much they may fail; true compassion is alive in their hearts. Namo Amida Butsu.

How could one resist sharing this with others?

Author: George Gatenby

Shin Buddhist priest