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A Vision of Shin Buddhism for Today

Wisdom is a vital feature of Shinjin, which constitutes the experience of spiritual awakening in our Shin tradition. It has commonly been translated as, “true entrusting.” While “entrusting” does express an important feature of Shinjin, it fails to capture the full picture of this term with its multiple meanings. This was one of the main reasons the Hongwanji translation team left Shinjin untranslated in the “Collected Works of Shinran.”

In my view, there are four primary features to Shinjin, which are 1) entrusting (“itaku”), 2) joy (“kangi”), 3) no doubt (“mugi”) and 4) wisdom (“chi’e”). Since the topic at hand is wisdom, we shall focus on it in relation to Shinjin by looking at a passage from one of Shinran’s hymns:

“It is by entering the wisdom of Shinjin (“shinjin no chie”)

That we become persons who respond in gratitude to the Buddhas’ benevolence.”

— “Hymns of the Dharma-Ages” Verse 34, CWS, p. 407

As has been taught, Shinjin is not produced as a result of the seeker’s effort. The traditional doctrinal position is firm on this point, and I have no problem with the view that the seeker is not the initiator or the cause but is the recipient or the effect of endowed wisdom.

However, based on the methodology of our Shinshu Theology discussed previously, we are interested in how the seeker experiences what Amida endows. Fortunately, Shinran explains this passage in a footnote, “the emergence of the mind of entrusting oneself to it is the arising of wisdom.”

It is safe to assume from this that some degree of wisdom or understanding arises in the seeker’s mind, but there is very little discussion within traditional scholarship on how this wisdom manifests in one’s experience. In my view, the “arising of wisdom” does lead to some level of cognitive and emotional realization for the seeker.

True Knowing in Shandao’s Deep Mind or Shinjin

In a similar line of thinking, wisdom or understanding is found in the celebrated statement on Deep Mind or Shinjin by Shandao or Zendo (613-681), the fifth master in the Shin lineage.

Here, the seeker is shown to have come to “truly know” (“shinchi”) that, 1) oneself is a foolish being full of blind passions but that, 2) one can become a Buddha through the Vow. Here, it does not say “entrust” but comes to “truly know,” and not just “know” but “truly know.” This is not mere knowledge but a deeper understanding or, in my view, a form of wisdom. Hence, Deep Mind or Shinjin involves “truly knowing” the truth about one’s foolish nature and the Primal Vow. "Thus, expressed humorously, we come to realize that we are “one big mess” or Onemess, but are embraced in Oneness!

Given the much stronger level of wisdom in the experience of the persons of Shinjin, I believe that a greater consideration should be given to “true realization” or its cognate such as “true awakening” as an English translation for Shinjin. In the end, no one translation would fully be satisfactory, but, at the least, “true realization” deserves an equal place on par with “true entrusting.”

Next: Authentic individuality embraced in wisdom and compassion


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