Rev. Kobata Responds to Kawate Essay on ‘Shinjin’

I appreciate Taylor Kawate’s essay in the November 2020 issue of the Wheel of Dharma, and Jon Kawamoto’s decision to publish it. While I don’t know how Mr. Kawate relates to “shinjin”(信心) as a word, concept, or awareness, I do share his concern about the avoidance of any conversations about its meaning in our Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha tradition.

The analogy of karate’s essence as “self-defense,” seems semantically contrary to a basic premise of Buddhism in that there is no “self” to be defended. Nonetheless, I do agree with Taylor’s questioning why any discussion about such a significant expression as shinjin was so abruptly, mysteriously dismissed. I find this especially concerning given the fact that the situation came up during a Buddhist youth retreat. I share his contention, “Teaching and explaining the essence, the purpose of something, is vital because it answers the ‘why.’ It keeps the core values alive.”

I don’t know what the circumstances of the session in question might have been, but when I read the way that the question about shinjin was averted, I wondered, “what’s up with this”? If our Sangha members, regardless of age, aren’t given opportunities, if not encouraged, to raise questions about what the words we hear, read, use mean, during BCA sponsored retreats, services, seminars, etc., what’s the purpose of having them?

As far as the term itself, I’ll offer what it means for me, and suggest that shinjin can be understood and appreciated beyond the word itself. The proverbial “finger pointing to the moon.”