Jodo Shinshu: The Way of Shinran


(Japanese National Treasure; courtesy of Itsukushima-Jinja)

In recent years, Tricycle has featured a number of articles on Pure Land Buddhism, a tradition with which many of our readers have little familiarity. Because of its long history and extensive influence in Buddhism in the West, we have given particular emphasis to the Shin school of Pure Land, which was founded by Shinran (1173-1263), a Japanese monk that Rev. Dr. Alfred Bloom calls a "towering figure" in Buddhism. Read the articles below to get a sense of Shinran and his teachings, and the modern practice of Jodo Shinshu.

Daibutsu. the Great Buddha of Kamakura:

Daibutsu - The Great Buddha of Kamakura from kedarvideo on Vimeo.

OTHER RESOURCES

The Eastern Buddhist is a journal started by D. T. Suzuki in 1921. Suzuki became a Shin practitioner in later life and wrote the influential book Shin Buddhism (Chapters 1 & 2 available here in PDF, 6 MB) which was later retitled "Buddha of Infinite Light."

Monshu Koshin Ohtani's book "The Buddha's Wish for the World," released on the occasion of the 750th memorial for Shinran Shonin, is available on Amazon and Facebook. An excerpt from this book is available here.

The Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) has a great bookstore, which is the perfect spot to look for books on Shin Buddhism.

The four websites below are valuable resources on the practice of Shin Buddhism, as well as the life of Shinran Shonin, and the history of Buddhism in Japan:

American Buddhist Study Center

Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism: Dharma for the Modern Age

Buddhist Churches of America, Berkeley, California

Jodo Shinshu Nishi Hongwanji

 

Namu Amida Butsu!

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Franklin83's picture

What a wonderful religion! Thanks for the resources (nice painting)
http://www.brochesdefieltro.org

wonderwheel's picture

Here is something Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku wrote to a nun of the Nicherin School regarding her recitation practice of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, but it applies as well to the Pure Land practice of recitation of Namu Amida Butsu. Here he is pointing to the Great Death which is the gate to the Great Rebirth in the Pure Land.

"Recite it without ceasing with intense devotion. If you recite it without flagging, it will not be long before the mind-nature will truly be set as firmly as a large rock. Dimly you will gain an awareness of a state in which the One Mind is without disturbance. At this time, do not discard this awareness, but continue your constant recitation. Then you will awaken to the Great Matter of true meditation, and all the ordinary consciousnesses and emotions will not operate. It will be as if you had entered into the Diamond Spere, as if you were seated within a lapis lazuli vase, and, without any discriminating thought at all, suddenly you will be no different from one who has died the Great Death. After you have returned to life, unconsciouslessly the pure and uninvolved true principle of undistracted meditation will appear before you. You will see right before you, in the place where you stand, the True Face of the Lotus, and at once your body and mind will drop off. The true, unlimited, eternal, perfected Tathagata will manifest himself clearly before your eyes and never depart, though you should attempt to drive him away. This is the time that the Tendai school refers to as 'plunging into the treasure abode, where the Dharma-nature is undisturbed, yet constantly illuminating.' In Shingon (Vajrayana) it is to be illumined by the Sun Disc of the Inherent Nature of the Letter A. In the Ritsu (Vinaya) it is to harmonize with the unparalleled Diamond-Treasure Precepts of the Many Buddhas. In the Pure Land School it is to fulfill one's vow for rebirth in Paradise, to see before one's eyes the marvelous birds and trees of Paradise and to keep constantly in mind the wondrous ornamentation of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha."

This POV of Hakuin's that all schools of Buddhism are aiming at the same liberation of the One Mind, regardless of the different symbols of language used to convey it, is called the Ekayana or One Vehicle.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Hi Wonderwheel,
Re: "all schools of Buddhism are aiming at the same liberation of the One Mind, regardless of the different symbols of language used to convey it".
You bring to mind something I heard Alan Watts say many years ago. Awakening to the "One Mind", or "the Buddha", could be described thus. You are at a masquerade ball along with countless others dressed in all manner of disguises. Comes midnight and it's time for everyone to remove their masks. You discover that everyone is...you.

avalmez's picture

funny you should mention Watts as I just started reading his "The Way of Zen" and commented on it in another blog. I'm expecting to learn much from the book and find his perspective, well, unique even though the book is more than a half century old. Any thoughts of suggestions any of you could share about Watts would be appreciated.

wtompepper's picture

Watts is of historical interest, but he wasn't a Buddhist. Everything he knew about Buddhism seems to have come from a few books by D.T. Suzuki and, according to Suzuki, Watts got even that wrong. There is just nothing Buddhist about taking acid and spouting cryptic pseudo-wisdom, although I can vaguely remember why that seemed profound back in the 1970s.

Why not just read Suzuki instead? You'll learn a lot more about Zen. Also, in later years, Suzuki turned toward Jodo Shinshu.

avalmez's picture

thanks for your comments wtom. i will read suzuki and am aware he turned to jodo shinshu in later life - that's interesting, no? i will read watts as well as i think that if he sticks to his intentions in terms of perspective (as described in his forward) then there will be some usefiul stuff to be had. as for what constitutes buddhism, that's a topic all on its own. as you've recommended before, at some point a teacher will be necessary because the delineation between, say, buddhism and hinduism is "clear" from on high, but when you start digging into the details, the delineation becomes very fuzzy. and when you start thinking about the different schools of buddhism, well, that doesn't get any easier. it's fun though to witness sectarianism in action amongst buddhists - quite a different level than that between the different denominations of christianity. in any case, thanks again and much appreciation!

wtompepper's picture

I don't think the thing with Watts is a sectarian issue. It isn't that other sects are arguing with him--he really wasn't a part of any school of Buddhism, and most of those who objected to his teachings were Zen Buddhists, the only school he claimed to know about at all. He started studying Zen, but left to become a priest--Anglican, I think. He wrote a popular book about Buddhism, but so have many non-Buddhists.

I don't object to Watts, and I think it is worth reading him once, if only for the insight into the counter-culture mind, but he doesn't have much of use to say about Buddhism. Well, in honesty, I DO object to the promotion of hallucinogens as a means to enlightenment, but that's just my hang-up.

Stay groovy,
Tom

avalmez's picture

sorry i wasn't clear. i didn't mean the thing with Watts is sectarian, I meant in general sectarianism is alive and well within Buddhism. Not a bad thing, just a very human thing. sorry about the misunderstanding.

wonderwheel's picture

Born again, and again, and again.....

ClarkStrand's picture

It's around 105th and Riverside. Here's the web link:
http://www.newyorkbuddhistchurch.org/

tonni's picture

Thanks for the resources!

Does anyone know if there is a Jodo Shinshu Center in New York?

http://www.fieltro.org

wtompepper's picture

Where in New York? In Manhattan, the New York Buddhist Church on Riverside Drive is Shin Buddhist. I'm pretty sure they have a website.

stopwerz2k's picture

What an amazing painting. I read the "The Buddha's Wish for the World" book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about it.

Steve

aslam's picture

Beautiful Painting.

jay7z's picture

Nice painting.....

seacity's picture

I may not accept begin that Born Again Buddhist articulation if it were not for this. Thanks!

It has some overtones for me, in the actuality that I accept a acceptable Judeo-Christian upbringing. It disturbs my aeon back I allocution about Buddhism, abnormally back I assume to allocution about my convenance with the aforementioned animation as some of the airy aeon of their own faith.

Indice's picture

Very interesting.. I would love to go to these place and see roots of budhism.

Philip Ryan's picture

Dharmanet has a good page too: http://dharmanet.org/Shin_lib.htm

bombu's picture

Hi,

I am a JS Buddhist, and am grateful Shinran's teachings are being shared in this medium! So much of Buddhism in North America is Tibetan or Zen, so thank you for highlighting these things on Jodo Shinshu.

Just wanted to let you know that in your article above, there were a couple of misspellings of names. In the link to Bishop Ogui's article, it should be SOCHO KOSHIN Ogui. As well, the introduction to Gomonshu's book "The Buddha's wish for the world" his name should be spelled OHTANI. It's a great book, by the way!

In Gassho

ClarkStrand's picture

I like your observation about Shinran, Scott:

In another departure from more traditional Pure Land schools of Buddhism, Shinran Shonin advocated that birth in the Pure Land was settled in the midst of life rather than at death. When one entrusts oneselves to Amida Buddha birth there is settled at that moment. This is equivalent to the stage of non-retrogression along the bodhisattva path, a characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism, or shinjin.

In my own way of thinking, Shinran's teaching can be interpreted to mean that, at the very moment we entrust ourselves to the planetary ecological processes that necessarily embrace all life, and from which therefore nothing is ever excluded (or "forsaken," to use Shinran's word), at that moment we experience our birth in the Pure Land as "settled."

It has always impressed me that Shinran requested his body be fed to the fishes of the Kamo River when he died. This didn't happen of course. The nembutsu devotee he modeled his life on, Kyoshin, could have his body devoured by dogs a few centuries earlier, but mostly because he died in relative obscurity in an outlying agricultural region. Shinran had many devoted disciples by the time of his death, and so instead of Nature we get a stupa.

Nature, it seems to me, is the real stupa and the real teaching. I do believe that Shiran understood this, albeit in terms of a spiritual symbol, rather than an ecological one. Today, however, I firmly believe that he would speak of Amida in terms of ecological/evolutionary processes from which nothing is left over and nothing is left out.

Josephdan's picture

Hi, I think this post will surely boost the Buddism influence in human life. Thanks for these vital information.

Markdaniel's picture

Thank For your help.

Chris.Barnett's picture

Hey Frank,


you should definitely try to read that book.
I just finished it myself and I really enjoyed it!


Greetings,


Christopher Barnett.
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