The prosperity of this school

The prosperity of this school does not lie in showing off with large gatherings. If even a single person gains shinjin, this is a true sign of prosperity.

(Thus I have heard from Rennyo Shonin 121, tr. Hisao Inagaki.)

Shinjin is receiving the Name, Namu-amida-butsu. As Shinran Shonin says, it is the ‘heart and mind without doubt’ (CWS, p. 451); it is the heart and mind endowed by Amida Buddha.

The nature of the awakening of entrusting heart (shinjin) in beings is dramatically outlined in the account of the conversion of Prince Ajatasatru, an event related in the Nirvana Sutra. Shinran Shonin was keen to enshrine this narrative in his major work, The True Teaching, Practice, and Realisation.

Ajatashatru was indirectly responsible for the demise of Bimbisara, his father the king. He imprisoned Bimbisara, had him hobbled and ensured that he was neglected so that he starved to death.

When heinous crimes of that nature are committed, some people provide for themselves narratives that will justify their behaviour. Indeed, Ajatashatru could have done that, too. However, through the working of the power of the Primal Vow, he was confronted by the horror of his intentions and appalling misdeed, its grotesque motivation and the dire consequences that would ensue.

When we speak of the working of the Power of the Primal Vow, we are alluding to ‘Other Power’, which is the working of the Primal Vow.

Ajatashatru met Shakyamuni Buddha and came to understand the implicit nature of his shame and remorse. It is not anything that is derived from his own mind or character that reveals his dire straits, it is the light of Amida Buddha, which makes him aware of just what sort of person he is. He is such a person that he has no choice but to accept the way of Other Power.

[Ajatasatru said,] ‘O World-honoured one, observing the world, I see that from the seed of the eranda grows the eranda tree. I do not see a candana tree growing from an eranda seed. But now for the first time I see a candana tree growing from the seed of an eranda. The eranda seed is myself; the candana tree is shinjin that has no root in my heart.’ (CWS, p. 136)

Ajatashatru is an extreme case. Few of us are in such deep distress because of our deeds. But Shinran was keen to use Ajatashatru as an example of Amida’s calling to even the most desperate of people and to illustrate the the working of Other Power. As for most people, Amida Buddha’s light calls to them and most of the time they do not want to hear. This is because we are habituated to the belief that we do not need to accept the promise of the Primal Vow, Other Power.

Amida Buddha’s call never stops, and the time will arrive, perhaps even in aeons to come, that each and every being will have heard his call. Seeing themselves clearly in the Buddha’s light they will accept the Name. It will be the most wonderful moment imaginable.  Seeing truth at last, they will join the stage of the truly settled and, when their lives come to an end, each will become a Buddha.