When one is grasped

Since true entrusting heart is awakened through the working of the two honoured ones, Shakyamuni and Amida, it is when one is grasped that the settling of shinjin occurs. (CWS. P. 450)

This is a quote from the thirteenth letter in Lamp for the Latter Ages.

Pomegranates will soon be ready to pick. April 2017

The exact date of this letter is not known. But it was written in response to a question from Shinobu-bo, who was one of Shinran Shonin’s disciples.

I like this letter because of the way that it stresses the sense of Other Power in the process of awakening shinjin, or the entrusting heart. It makes it clear that there is no room at all for one’s own effort. Shinjin happens ‘when one is grasped’. Of course, this always raises the question as to how and when such an event happens.

Earlier in the letter Shinran tells Shinobu-bo that

 … Shakyamuni and Amida are our parents of great compassion; using many and various compassionate means, they awaken supreme shinjin in us.

The ‘various and compassionate means’ are the contrivance of the Buddha. The best known example of this is in the conversion of the Queen consort of Magadha, during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha.

The account of this event is the substance of The Sutra of Contemplation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. In it we learn about The Tragedy of Rajagrha.

Ajatashatru was the crown prince and he aspired to seize the throne from his father Bimbisara. Befriending the mendicant Devadatta, who was Shakyamuni Buddha’s cousin, Ajatashatru hatched a plan to neutralise the king by locking him in jail without food.

The king and the queen were already lay disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha who heard Bimbisara’s cries for help and came to visit him. After she was incarcerated for trying to provide Bimbisara with food and drink, he visited Vaidehi, as well.

The Buddha tried to lead Vaidehi through precepts and various forms of meditation, but these strategies for following the Dharma did not bear fruit. As a result, he taught her about Amida Buddha. In this way she was saved.

It may not seem that anything good could have come of the situation for Vaidehi. But, speaking of the Tragedy at Rajagrha, Shinran reminds us that, even though these events involved appalling evil, eventually good came of them.

… when conditions were mature for the teaching of birth in the Pure Land, Devadatta provoked Ajatashatru to commit grave crimes, and out of pity for beings of this defiled world, Shakyamuni led Vaidehi to select the land of peace. As we turn this over in our minds and quietly reflect, we realise that Devadatta and Ajatashatru bestowed their generous care on us, and that Amida and Shakyamuni thus manifested their profound intention to save all beings. (CWS, p. 302)

Circumstances may be bad but Amida Buddha embraces us in his compassion nonetheless. Accepting his call in the Name, all receive the entrusting heart.

Namo Amida Butsu