Nō hotsu ichinen ki ai shin Fu dan bonnō toku nehan Bonjō gyaku hō sai e nyu Nyo shu shi nyu kai ichi-mi
When the one thought-moment of joy arises, Nirvana is attained without severing blind passions; When ignorant and wise, even grave offenders and slanders of the dharma, all alike turn and enter (the ocean of Amida’s Vow) They are like waters that, on entering the ocean, become one in taste with it.
Shoshinge, Collected Works of Shinran, p.70
At the moment, I feel that we are in a sad state in our American society right now, more than any other time that I can remember in my finite life in this world.
I feel this way not only because of COVID-19, and not only because of the societal cultural struggles that we are experiencing, but because more than any other time that I can remember, we as people are not listening or talking to each other.
There are many events happening in the world today that make each of us unhappy, disappointed, annoyed, dismayed, angry, etc., because, for various reasons, we do not agree with what is going on.
There are many events and actions of people that we may consider wrong. When we see or hear about people behaving in ways that we do not agree with, we may even find ourselves thinking, “What are these people thinking?!”
We may also feel it is very difficult to have conversations on the topics of some of these issues where we can share our views, anxieties, fears, hopes and aspirations with each other in a meaningful way, without judgment. Some of us may begin to ask ourselves, “How can Jodo Shinshu help me through these difficult times?”
To me, Jodo Shinshu is an amazing and special path that I have been able to meet. This path to awakening, which has been passed down to all of us, is the wish from Amida Buddha for all beings to be born in the Pure Land to become buddha.
No matter our personal background and conditions, all that we are being urged to do by Shakyamuni Buddha and Amida Buddha is to hear the Name, Namo Amida Butsu; to realize that Amida Buddha is inviting me — a being who is samsara-ing, lost in the fog and clouds of my own deep attachments and desires — to become buddha in the Pure Land. (Samsara is a Sanskrit word meaning “to wander.”)
The passage above is a line from Shinran Shonin’s “Shoshin Nembutsu Ge.” The way I understand this passage is that Shinran Shonin is expressing his understanding of the power and working of Amida’s Fundamental Vow.
From the perspective of Buddha, Amida Buddha is not expecting us at all to sever our attachments and desires in order to receive birth in the Pure Land. On the contrary, it is the opposite: We are being invited and urged to go to the Pure Land by Amida Buddha because Buddha understands that there are beings who can not sever attachments and desires.
Upon deeply hearing Buddha’s wish and invitation to the Pure Land, our future attainment of Nirvana is settled. Through the Fundamental Vow, all beings, whether ignorant or wise, or grave offenders and slanderers of the Dharma, are able to attain the same Enlightenment as Amida Buddha. From the perspective of the realm of the Pure Land, we are all one in taste. This is my understanding of the above passage.
Of course, for someone such as myself who is blinded by my own deep attachments and desires, I can not always easily see others as “one in taste” with Amida Buddha.
My own attachments cause me to get angry and frustrated with people I do not agree with or situations that arise in life that I do not like. I am someone who thinks many events and actions happening now are wrong. I am also someone who thinks, “What are these people thinking?!”
Returning to the question, “How can Jodo Shinshu help me through these difficult times?” Amida Buddha is constantly, compassionately shining Wisdom Light on us, helping to illuminate the existence of our attachments and desires.
This Wisdom Light is constantly trying to help each of us understand the answers to questions such as, “Who am I?” “Where am I?” and “When am I?” without judgment. Amida Buddha only asks that we hear its activity of Wisdom and Compassion being directed toward us through Namo Amida Butsu, and for us to know that we are invited as beings of the realm of samsara to become buddha in the Pure Land. Within the embracement of Amida Buddha, we are all of one taste.
During the fleeting moments when I am able to remember that Buddha sees us all of one taste, I hope to be moved to have understanding and empathy for those I do not agree with or get angry with. I hope this will give me the space to be able to listen to the views of my peers and fellow people in society, instead of jumping to conclusions that others are wrong and I am right.
I hope this will also give me space to listen to others on the topic of current secular issues where we can mutually share views, anxieties, fears, hopes and aspirations. I hope I will also be able to take the opportunity to remember that I am a being in a state of samsara and reflect on the depths of my own attachments and desires, and the biases and discriminations that manifest in my mind out of them, as well as my deep inherited karma in which I am a part.
For this compassionate Wisdom Light that I am receiving from Amida Buddha and for this invitation to the Pure Land, I am moved to express my indebtedness to the Buddha, to say “I’m sorry!” and to say “Thank you!” to Buddha through saying Namo Amida Butsu!