Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How can one know that he received shinjin if he has no access to a temple or priest?

Question:
“Because nothing physical happens, or is done, to the person receiving shinjin (baptism /Dharma transmission etc.) how can that seeker know he/she has indeed received shinjin and attained the rightly established state?
This question above assumes that the person or persons referred to has no physical access to a Shinshu Buddhist Temple or priest, which is a sad reality in much of the eastern USA. “

Answer:
Fortunately, in our school there are neither gurus nor masters who can give or confirm the receiving of faith in the heart of the practitioner.
Jodo Shinshu is a personal and exclusive relation between Amida Buddha (a real and living Buddha) and the person who has faith in him. They are like mother and child.


Thus, the Mother (Amida) is always sending her love to the child and she knows if the child entrusts to her while the child (the follower) knows that he is loved and has faith in the Mother.

When someone entrusts to Amida for the first time, he/she knows or becomes aware of this faith. He knows “I entrust in Amida Buddha to attain Buddhahood in his Pure Land”. By having faith in Amida he becomes aware of two simple things:

1. that he cannot save himself from birth and death (deep awareness of his limitations)

and

2. that Amida will do this for him  - he accepts Amida’s salvation (expressed in his Primal Vow) as being real and trustworthy.

Nothing special has to happen inside the mind of the practitioner or outside of him when he receives shinjin in his heart. There is no need to feel anything special, although the follower may experience something like a heavy burden has been lifted from his shoulders – the burden of having to reach freedom from birth and death by himself. Also, there is no need for another person to say “now I certify that you have shinjin”.

Various ceremonies and receiving of a Buddhist name are beautiful and can be performed if the follower has access to a temple or sangha, but if he is living in a place too far from them or he simply doesn’t want to be an official member of a certain group or denomination, then he should not ask for such ceremonies. Alone or in a group, all that matters is that you understand the Dharma and receive shinjin.

The teacher is important in Jodo Shinshu but only as a messenger of Amida’s salvation. He or she is somebody who encourages you to entrust in Amida. It would be better if you have face to face access to a true teacher and a true sangha so that you can always ask questions to clear your doubts and misunderstandings, but if the conditions are difficult and you cannot meet anybody in particular, then use every means necessary, internet for example, to have this Dharma dialogue.

Or if you don’t trust in any nowadays teacher, just read the sacred texts by yourself, while asking Amida Buddha and Shinran Shonin to guide you and protect your understanding. Reading the sacred texts (with or without access to a priest or sangha) is also listening the Dharma as now there are many good translations that can be found everywhere in the libraries or on the internet.

Dharma dialogue and Dharma listening is very important, no matter you do it by face to face meetings or by internet, letters or telephone, because only by first understanding with the head the content of the teaching, openness toward Amida’s message of salvation can occur and shinjin (faith) can arise in the heart.
Then you will know that you indeed rely on Amida Buddha and have faith in him. The others can see or not see this change in your heart, but their opinions are really not important.

The most important is that you know for yourself that you entrust in Amida Buddha[1] for attaining Buddhahood in his Pure Land. You have to know this, not somebody else, because Amida addresses each and everyone in particular. He is having a personal relation with every one of us like only you or only me are the only beings to exist on this planet. All sentient beings in particular can say that the Primal Vow of Amida was made especially for him or her. This is also what Shinran himself felt.

Your first moment of entrusting and the later moments when you continue to savour your faith during the entire life represent your personal and intimate relation with Amida Buddha. Even if the whole world is filled with false teachers and no true sanghas exist, or if you remain the last human being on the planet, you have nothing to worry. You entrust in Amida and he receives you. This is all that matters.

 



[1] Amida as a real and living Buddha, not a symbol, a  metaphor or a fictional character like some nowadays deluded priests and teachers  try to present him. Only with a real and living Amida Buddha one can have a relation of faith and be saved. Metaphors, symbols or fictional characters can’t save anybody and faith in them is not true faith but a cultural and intelectual game of the mind. See the article: „Those who deny the existence of Amida don’t have shinjin”.
 

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