Deep shinjin

Although I say the nembutsu, the feeling of dancing with joy is faint with me, and I have no thought of wanting to go to the Pure Land quickly. How should it be for a person of the nembutsu?

When I asked the master this, he answered, ‘I, too, have had this question, and the same thought occurs to you, Yuien-bo!’ (The Tanni Sho 9, CWS p. 665)

It is not unusual to find, in discussions about the ninth chapter of The Tanni Sho, expositions of its significance as in some way affirming doubt. But doubt is not discussed at all; it is not even hinted at. And Shinran Shonin never says that he too has experienced doubt since that moment in 1201 when he ‘abandoned sundry practices and took refuge in the Primal Vow.‘ (CWS p. 290)

Neither is Yuien-bo discussing doubt. Both he and Shinran were people of true entrusting heart (shinjitsu shinjin). They lived the words of Honen Shonin quoted in The Tanni Sho: ‘Just say the nembutsu and be saved by Amida.’ Amida Buddha, the Primal Vow and the Name are all the same thing. People of true shinjin never waver from absolute reliance only upon Amida Buddha, even when life is going extremely badly and unfairly, and they are beset by feelings of exhaustion and dejection.

Shinjin arises in the heart of beings in a moment beyond all misgiving. It arises in a ‘single thought-moment of shinjin and joy.’ In that moment, which is ‘time at its ultimate limit’, (CWS p. 474) one’s deliverance is assured. ‘We are grasped by Amida, and immediately – without a moment or day elapsing – ascend to and become established in the stage of the truly settled.’ (CWS p. 475) People may not be able to precisely recall such a moment, but joy may linger.

Shinjin is not mere belief as it is generally understood. It is a clear state of mind: the state of mind that delivers beings from birth-and-death. It is the working of the Primal Vow; its expression (inward or outward) is Namu-amida-butsu. Such an awakening naturally elicits joy. However, to cling to the event may be a form of blind passion, as though it is a certain status or some sense of self-importance.

Namo Amida Butsu is a spontaneous expression and it sometimes comes to the fore in the most harrowing of moments: deep sadness, loss, disappointment, and fear. Shinran reminds Yuien that

Further, having no thought of wanting to go to the Pure Land quickly, we think forlornly that we may die even when we become slightly ill; this is the action of blind passions. It is hard for us to abandon this old home of pain, where we have been transmigrating for innumerable kalpas down to the present, and we feel no longing for the Pure Land of peace, where we have yet to be born. Truly, how powerful our blind passions are! (CWS, p. 665-6)

At times when blind passions become strong it is natural to say the nembutsu – an expression of shinjin, entrusting heart, which sees our inner hearts in their true light as ‘a foolish being of karmic evil caught in birth-and-death’, while knowing, at the same time, that ‘Amida Buddha’s Forty-eight Vows grasp sentient beings…’ (CWS, p. 85) The discussion between Shinran and his disciple Yuien that is related in chapter nine of The Tanni Sho is most certainly an expression of the true entrusting heart at its greatest clarity and certainty.

The ninth chapter of The Tanni Sho is a hymn of praise to entrusting heart. It is not an expression of any kind of doubt or confusion.