Gunmo 214

Hymn Appreciation 3

                 Shinjin Arising from the Vow

                                                                       Koju Fujieda

                              Ryokeiji Temple

   Since the Tathagata’s fundamental vow was to save “all suffering beings,” your own realization that you are the very one of them is a gate to approach Shin Buddhism. So Master Shan-tao teaches in his hymn as follows:

   (1)  When we come to know truly that we are possessed of blind passions,

       And entrust ourselves to the power of the Pimal Vow,

       We will, on abandoning completely our defiled existence,

       Realize the eternal bliss of dharma-nature.

                                         (Hymn of the Pureland Masters)

We tend to get greedy, irritated, envious of others’ happiness, grumbling about our own adversity and misery; these blind passions stick to ourselves until we die. This is the reality of us ‘bombu’(or ordinary people). It is to such bombu that Amida Buddha calls all the time, “Entrust yourself to me, and I will surely save you.” So you should get on board the ship of Namuamidabtsu, Master Shan-tao and Shinran Shonin urge.

   (2)  Persons who have thoroughly realized the true mind,

Because it is a diamondlike mind,

Are equal to those who accomplish

The three stages of repentance; thus Shan-tao teaches.

                                  (Hymn of the Pureland Masters)

“The true mind” stands for Amida Buddha’s Original Vow to save us blind-passion-stricken beings completely. When the Buddha’s true mind reaches the bottom of your heart, it is a diamond-like mind that will never break. When the bottom of our blind passions are lighted up by His light, we cannot help repenting of our own deep sins. Shinran Shonin refers to the three stages of repentance: (Upper) Blood comes out from the eyes and the body skin, (Middle) Blood comes out from the eyes and sweat from the body skin, and (Low)Tears come out from the eyes while heat runs through the body. When we realize our own deep sin by His true mind, we have nothing but to say the nembutsu of repentance and gratitude.

   (3)  Since shinjin arises from the Vow,

We attain Buddhahood through the nembutsu by the [Vow’s] spontaneous working.

The spontaneous working is itself the fulfilled land;

Our realization of supreme nirvana is beyond doubt.

                                  (Hymn of the Pureland Masters)

Since shinjin is not what we exert by ourselves, but the Buddha’s Vow or true mind that has reached the bottom of my stubborn mind, we are saved and attain Buddhahood by His spontaneous working. Hence the term “Vow Power Spontaneity,” which opens the realm where all troubles and delusions are melted into the Buddha’s mind.                         

Here’s a verse “This Hand” taken from Rev. Takayuki Ashikaga’s booklet. He was a prison priest.

This is a hand that grabbed Mom’s breast firmly when young;

This is a hand that tapped Mom’s shoulder;

This is a hand that pulled out Mom’s gray hair;

This is a hand that killed two women one day;

This is a hand that translated Tannisho into braille in prison;

This is a hand that worships the Buddha every morning and evening.

A capital criminal A wrote this verse on a shikishi card with his palm ink-printed, handed it to Rev. Ashikaga, and ended his life of 27 years.  How di d it happen?  The young mother who bore A, asked her mother to take care of A and left. A was brought up, calling his grand -mother ”Mom.” When writing an application for a high school, A learned the secret of his birth: he was a love child. Then his lifestyle changed to the evil---gangster, drug, living with a girl, money shortage, making the girl work as a maid in a hospital, burglary into the hospital and killing the doctor’s wife, fleeing into a mountain and killing his girl as she witnessed the murder, running away. In time, A was captured; the court sentenced death, but in a jail, he was awakened to Buddhism by the prison priest Ashikaga, especially by Tannisho. “Even the good are saved; the bad are saved all the more,”---this is Amida Buddha’s great compassion. “The Tathagata believes in you, even if you are discarded by people.” Thus, A entrusted himself to Amida Buddha in tears and said the nembutsu every day.

 Actually, shinjin arose from the great Vow of compassion.