Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Meaning of "True Disciple of Buddha"

Rev Eiken Kobai (left) and me

by Eiken Kobai Sesei, Professor Emeritus, Soai University

Introduction

Shinran Shonin says in the Chapter on Shinjin in The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way.

“In the phrase “true disciple of Buddha,” “true” contrasts with “false and provisional.” “Disciple” indicates a disciple of Sakyamuni and the other Buddhas. This expression refers to a believer who has realized the diamondlike heart and mind. Through this Shinjin and practice, he will without fail transcend and realize great nirvana; hence, he is called a true disciple of Buddha.”

In the above text, Shiran Shonin says that a “true disciple of Buddha” means a person of diamondlike heart and mind (true Shinjin established in the present life), whose own birth is completely settled .
As above, Shinran Shonin says a person of Shinjin is a True Disciple of Buddha. The important problem here is that it is necessary to clarify what Shinjin is, what it is necessary to do to attain Shinjin, and what changes if Shinjin is attained, in Shiran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin's words.

1. What is Shinjin
  
Shinjin is the Shinjin of the 18th Vow, and the true cause (of our birth in the Pure Land). As Shinran Shonin wrote in in the chapter on Shinjin in The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way, Shinjin is “untainted by the hindrance of doubt,” and in the Ichinen Tannen Mon'i he wrote “shinjin is hearing the Vow of the Tathagata and being free of doubt.” In this way, Shinran Shonin says Shinjin is “hearing the Tathagata's Vow without the mind of doubt” and that this is the true cause (of our birth in the Pure Land). He doesn't say either ethical practice or social practice are Shinjin. This is the important point.

2. What is it necessary to do to attain Shinjin.
 
Jodo-Shinshu is not a teaching in which we perform ascetic practices through “self-centered effort” (jiriki).  Rather it is how we are saved by Amida Buddha's Primal Vow, through “Buddha-centered power” (tariki).
Also, Shinjin is what we receive from Amida Buddha, as expressed in phrases such as “shinjin of ‘merit transference’ of the ‘power of the Primal Vow,’” and “Shinjin given to us by the Tathagata.”
That does not, however, mean that those who have not yet received “settled Shinjin” do not have to do anything. Shiran Shonin says in Hymns of the Pure Land,

   “Those who hear the Buddha's Name
   
Going even through flames that fill
   
The great thousandfold world to do so
   
Attain forever the stage of nonretrogresssion.”
Also Rennyo Syonin in the Heard and Recorded During Master Rennyo's Lifetime, 193.

  “There's an old saying, ‘Stone is extremely hard and water is extremely soft, and yet that soft  
water can bore a hole in stone. If you reach down to the depths of the originally pure mind/heart, how can Enlightenment not be attained?’ If even those without Shinjin listen to the teaching of Buddha-dharma from the bottom of their mind/heart, they absolutely will receive Shinjin because the power of the Buddha's Great Compassion is added. All we need do is expend effort in listening to the honorable teaching.”
Again, in Article 185 of that same work, is the passage: “.. teach (the ignorant and illiterate) to just listen and accept shinjin. There is nothing in our Jodo-Shinshu teaching other than this.” As can be determined from the above, Shiran Shonin and Rennyo Shonin urge us to “just listen (to the Dharma)” for the purpose of “settled Shinjin.”

3. What changes if Shinjin is attained

Shiirann Shonin says in the Hymns of the Dharma-Ages, Gutoku's Hymns of Lament and Reflection

  “Although I take refuge in the true Pure Land way,
  
It is hard to have a true and sincere mind.
  
This self is false and insincere;
  
I completely lack a pure mind.”
Again, in the Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling

 “Foolish beings: as express  in the parable of the two rivers of water and fire , we are full of ignorance and blind passion. Our overwhelming, arising without pause; to the very last monent of life they do not cease , or disappear , or exhaust themselves."

In the above text, Shinran Shonin says that even after attaining Shinjin, evil passion is not lost. However, it changes clearly after attaining Shinjin.
Shiran Shonin says in the chapter on Shinjin in The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way,

“When we realize the diamondlike true mind, we transcend crosswise the paths of the five courses and eight hindered existences and unfailingly gain tenbenefits in the present life. What are these ten?

1. The benefit of being protected and sustained by unseen powers.

2. The benefit of being possessed of supreme virtues.
3. The benefit of our karmic evil being transformed into good.
4. The benefit of being protected and cared for by all the Buddhas.
5. The benefit of being praised by all the Buddhas.
6. The benefit of being constantly protected by the light of the Buddha's heart.
7. The benefit of having great joy in our hearts.
8. The benefit of being aware of Amida's benevolence and of responding in gratitude to      his virtue.
9.The benefit of constantly practicing great compassion.
10. The benefit of entering the stage of the truly settled.”

  In this way, Shinran Shonin describes ten benefits in the present life. Again, he says in Lamp for the Latter Ages.20.

“When, upon hearing this, a person's trust in the Buddha has grown deep, he or she comes to abhor such a self and to lament continued existence in birth-and-death; and such a person then joyfully says the Name of Amida Buddha, deeply entrusting himself to the Vow. That people seek to stop doing wrong as the heart moves them, although earlier they gave thought to such things and committed them as their minds dictated, is surely a sign of having rejected this world. Moreover, since Shinjin that aspires for attainment of birth arises through the encouragement of Sakyamuni and Amida, once the true and real mind is made to arise in us, how can we remain as we were, possessed of blind passions? "⑧.
 As stated above, a person of Shinjin changes after attaining Shinjin. However, evil passion is not lost, as Shnran Shonin says in A Record in Lament of Divergences, 4.

“However much love and pity we may feel in our present lives, it is hard to save others as we wish; hence, such compassion remains unfulfilled.”
.

 Equally for us, it is not easy to help people and to contribute to society. I think what we have to understand here is that we have to become a person of Shinjin, a person of firmly established Shinjin, a person of the Certainty of Birth.

Conclusion
 
What Shinran Shonin means when he says "True Disciple of Buddha" is a person of firmly established Shinjin, a person who attains nirvana by Shinjin. The meaning of Shinran Shonin phrase, "True Disciple of Buddha" is this, and there are no other meanings.

Primarily, I think that it should mean a person of firmly established Shinjin, and a person of Certainty of Birth through Shinjin.

________________________________________________________
Notes

1. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 117.
2. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 94.
3. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 474.
4. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 332.
5. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 421.
6. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 488.
7. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 112.
8. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 553.
9. The Collected Works of Shinran. Jodo Shinshu Hongwangi-ha, p. 663.
{Fifteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies. August4August6, 2011, Otani University, Kyoto]

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