Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Faith and nembutsu are not our creations

The reason why in a nembutsu follower’s heart coexist both the faith in the Primal Vow and his blind passions and illusions is that this faith doesn’t belong to him

This is another important aspect of the Jodo Shinshu teaching. It is said that in an Eranda[1] forest grow only Eranda trees and not the famous Chandana[2] trees with their fine fragrance. It is a miracle if a Chandana tree grows in an Eranda forest. Similarly, it is a miracle if faith in Buddha flourishes in the people’s hearts. How can it be possible that from human passions the faith in Buddha be born? The answer is that this phenomenon is practically impossible and the faith in Buddha is not due to our power, but what Buddha plants in us. That is why shinjin or the entrusting heart is called “rootless faith” for it has no roots in the man’s mind but in Buddha’s Compassion. The same thing happens when saying the Name which expresses faith and gratefulness. Everything comes from Amida and manifests like an echo in our souls and on our lips, just like a child who faithfully answers his mother’s calling.

A mother calls her child and the child answers immediately. The answer of the child is due to the mother’s call, not to the power of the child. In the same way, shinjin (entrusting heart) is not our own creation, but the natural answer to the call of Amida Buddha, the Compassionate Mother of all beings. Because of Amida, we entrust in Amida and say nembutsu. Only because the mother always sends unconditional love to her child, he can trust and rely on her. The faith of the child is in fact, the love of the mother which manifests in him. The mother is the one who actually feeds and makes the child grow. A child is nothing without a mother. The power of her love makes him grow, not his own power.

Shinjin and nembutsu are the echo – manifested in us, of the powerful call of Amida.
When one is in the mountains and shouts in a loud voice, automatically you can hear the echo. If you do not shout, no echo can be heard. In the same way, if Amida would not compassionately call to us, there would be no shinjin and nembutsu.

This matter – shinjin and nembutsu comes from Amida and are not created by us – are very difficult to explain in words. In fact, these are beyond conceptual understanding. I am using here images to make my mind and heart, and the minds and hearts of the readers, to understand this important truth – that there is nothing we can call to be ours and our creation, especially shinjin and nembutsu. I do not know if these images are the best. Just please use them, if you consider useful, to abandon your thoughts of personal merit in receiving shinjin and birth in the Pure Land. Just rely on Amida Buddha and don't think on anything else. I do not use by chance the term “receive” and not the term “attain” when referring to shinjin.

Eiken Kobai Sensei explains in his book Understanding Jodo Shinshu[3]:

"The shinjin that is the acceptance of Amida Buddha's Primal Vow and the nembutsu that we recite with our mouth, are absolutely not things that depend on our efforts. Rather, because they result solely from the Buddha-centered power, we refer to them as the shinjin of merit transference based on Buddha-centered power (tariki eko no shinjin) and the nembutsu of the merit transference based on Buddha-centered power (tariki eko no nembutsu."

[1] Trees from Asia which have poisonous fruits.
[2] Trees from Asia with beautiful smelling flowers.
[3] Published in 2007 by Dharma Lion Publications, Craiova. Click here to order it from this blog.

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