Values

On the assertion that whenever practicers of shinjin happen to become angry, or commit some misdeed, or dispute with fellow practicers, they must without fail go through a change of heart. (CWS, p. 675)

We now come to the sixteenth chapter of A Record in Lament of Divergences, which you can find on pages 675 and 676 of the first volume of The Collected Works of Shinran (CWS, pp. 675-6). This chapter is concerned with Buddhist values. In it Yuien rejects the view that whenever people of nembutsu fail to live up to Buddhist values, they should repent and renew the entrusting heart (shinjin).

In the second part of the sixth section of The True Teaching, Practice and Realisation (CWS, p. 255-289), Shinran cautions nembutsu practicers against the worship of deities and adherence to nonbuddhist teachings. He begins the section with these words:

Here, based on the sutras, the true and the false are determined and people are cautioned against the wrong, false, and misleading opinions of nonbuddhist teachings. (CWS, p. 255)

Shinran then goes on the quote a number of scriptures, which teach that Buddhists ought to take refuge only in the Three Treasures, and that the Buddha Dharma is the overriding truth respected by all other living beings, including gods, spirits and demons. Of significance for this chapter of A Record in Lament of Divergences, is the fact that Shinran associates certain values with exclusive trust in the Buddha Dharma. Among these are precepts.

There are profound underlying and essential values in the Buddha Dharma, which are derived from the reality of the Three Seals — not self, impermanence and nirvana. For example, anger can arise from attachment to self and denial of the inevitability of change. Generosity, non-harming, consideration and respect for others are all examples of underlying values that always imbue the life of the Buddhist community.

For these reasons, both the author of A Record in Lament of Divergences and the eighth Abbot of Jodo Shinshu, Rennyo Shonin, caution against taking the book out of its context. It is a very short work and intended as a guide for practicing Buddhists.  It is not really relevant outside this specific context. Indeed, it can be seriously misunderstood. In addition to all of this, A Record in Lament of Divergences was written in sorrow for the divisive and bitter arguments that had torn the Shin Buddhist sangha apart. Buddhist community life is marked by respect for others and harmony.

Among the deep values of the Mahayana are the six perfections (paramitas), which also have a broad significance in the lives of nembutsu followers. These are the perfection of giving, observance of precepts, forbearance, diligence, samadhi, and wisdom. Yuien especially refers to forbearance — restraint and tolerance –, the third of the six paramitas, because the anger and disputation, which was plaguing part of the nembutsu community, is a sign that the paramitas had been forgotten.

The awakening that is shinjin overturns our reliance on the self, and the life of entrusting ensues. The unhindered light of Amida Buddha brings such people to constant awareness of their shortcomings, along with a readiness to leave harmful behaviour behind, and to move on. But, rather than dwelling on our false and deceitful hearts and trying to assuage them, with joy and gratitude we turn to the light of Amida Buddha and let go of the petty self that is causing grief.

If shinjin has become settled, birth will be brought about by Amida’s design, so there must be no calculating on our part. Even when we are evil, if we revere the power of the Vow all the more deeply, gentleheartedness and forbearance will surely arise in us through its spontaneous working (jinen). With everything we do, as far as birth is concerned, we should constantly and fervently call to mind Amida’s immense benevolence without any thought of being wise. Then the nembutsu will indeed emerge; this is jinen. Our not calculating is called jinen. It is itself Other Power. (A Record in Lament of Divergences, 16; CWS, p. 676.)

Author: George Gatenby

Shin Buddhist priest