Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Shinjin: knowing not experiencing
article by Paul Roberts, webmaster of TrueShinBuddhism yahoo group
“I get it: there is some way that you guys really know/experience the reality of Amida's presence so it's not a belief, even a strongly held belief, but a lived experience, a lived presence. Do I have that right? And is it fair to ask how do you experience it? Is it something you could even put into words? Is it like when I was 13 and asked my mother how I would know if I were in love and she simply said, in a way that was clearly meant to close the discussion, Don't worry--you'll know?”
“Hi David -
Ultimately, I can only speak for myself, and about myself, and my experience - not Rick's or Dave's or Shinran's either.
So let me start with this: You wrote, "I get it: there is some way that you guys really know/experience the reality of Amida's presence so it's not a belief, even a strongly held belief, but a lived experience, a lived presence. Do I have that right?"
So my answer to this question is NO...you don't have it right, and you don't get it...which is totally understandable. That's why Dharma dialogue is so important.
You see, David, in your mind, you're putting me into a box that you've got called "mysticism", in which having an "experience of the reality of Amida's presence" is what it's all about.
But that is NOT what it is all about for me - not at all.
Sure there are times when I have some sort of experience that one might describe as mystical - or an experience of Amida's presence. But I have lots of times when I don't have any such experience. Indeed, in the beginning of my life as a person of Shinjin back in 2004, overwhelmed by grief and PTSD, I never had such an experience - and yet I was a person of Shinjin nonetheless.
This is not something that fits into your pre-existing boxes, even if you've spent a lifetime "on the path" in one form or another. It's different than that. It's different than everything.
Beginning back in 2004, when I received Amida's gift of faith-mind consciousness, starting in that one thought-moment, and ever since that, I have come to KNOW.
I KNOW - whether my experience matches my knowing, or not.
A lot of the time - a WHOLE lot of the time - my experience does not match my knowing. My experience - to this day - is often filled with my own blind passions, my own cravings and aversions (attachments), my own delusions, my own obscurations, my own ignorance, my own egotism.
When my mindstream is producing all of this junk - the same junk yours produces, no doubt - I don't experience the reality of Amida's presence. But my KNOWING remains.
That KNOWING is the gift of Shinjin. It is the gift of the faith-mind that only Amida can give.
One of the most difficult transitions for people to make, who have some sort of spiritual "experience" in their karmic background, is to actually wean themselves from their addiction to experience altogether, and learn how to be content with KNOWING, instead.
I've seen more than once how people can receive the gift of KNOWING, from Amida Buddha Himself, and yet miss out on the blessing of the gift because they're looking for some sort of mystical experience instead.
Now...I don't want to denigrate this sort of mystical experience, and make it sound like it has no use or value in our lives. In fact, for many (most? all?) of us, this sort of mystical experience has been the proverbial carrot pulling us forward on the path - just as our experience of suffering has been the proverbial stick.
It is our mystical experiences - in whatever form - of what we now know is the divine Buddha-energy - the Dharmakaya Body - that has produced this yearning in us, awakening us to our own aspiration to become Buddhas at long last.
That kind of mystical experience was part of the breadcrumb trail laid down by the Buddhas that got us to this point you are at...but it cannot get us any farther. At this point, you must release your attachment to such mystical breadcrumbs, and content yourself with simply listening deeply until (wait for it) you KNOW.
So...in a sense...your mother was right (smile). When it happens - when you finally receive Amida's gift of Shinjin - you just KNOW.
That one thought moment of KNOWING - and the moments after that - may be accompanied by glorious mystical feelings of exultation, joy, peacefulness, serenity, bliss, oceanic oneness - all the usual suspects. But that KNOWING may also be naked, accompanied by NOTHING at all.
That simple, naked KNOWING is the knowing that I am grasped by Amida Buddha, just as I am, and I will never be abandoned by Him - and that at the end of this life I will take birth in His Pure Land and immediately become a Buddha - in accordance with His Primal Vow.
In 2004, as soon as I received Amida's gift of Shinjin - His own faith-mind consciousness - in that very MOMENT, I just KNEW this to be the truth of my life.
I knew it in that moment - and I have known it in every moment of my life since that moment.
Feelings come and go. Experiences come and go, even the experience of the reality of Amida's presence. All people - including people of Shinjin - are ridiculously easy to distract with various experiences of pleasure and pain that are part and parcel of samsaric life - and once they are distracted, whatever mystical experience they might have had before is just gone.
But that KNOWING never goes away. Never - not for a minute. Not for a second - no matter how terrible, or how wonderful, life might be.
David, this is the truth of my life - and not just my life, but the lives of so many people of Shinjin. Sure, there are some people who do have some ongoing experience of the reality of Amida's presence that persists in their consciousness - but they are not the norm. For most of us, our lives, including our INNER lives, remain as mundane and as problem riddled as they were before.
And yet, in the midst of that mundanity, we KNOW.
Our good Dharma friend, the Romanian priest Josho Adrian Cirlea, wrote a really incisive essay on this which Rick has in his wonderful Shin Buddhist Portal. If you haven't read it, I hope you will do so right now. And if you have read it, please do read it again:
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This confusion of mystical experience with unadorned, naked knowing is one of the major obstacles people have when they encounter this Dharma message. Teaching people to actually let go of their cravings for such mystical experience, and be content instead with simple knowing is one of the core Dharma ideas I have to explain again, and again, and again.
I don't mind such repetition - indeed, I think it is an essential teaching technique, and certainly Master Shinran thought the same thing.
The first 3 or 5 or 10 times I explain it to someone, they'll say (to themselves if not to me), "OK, I got it. Now let's go onto the good stuff...the deep stuff...the real stuff".
And my response is, "No, no, no. That IS the good stuff...the deep stuff...the real stuff. There really is nothing else!".
Some people believe me right away - but for many others, it takes awhile. They have to come up EMPTY and OUT OF GAS, again and again and again - before finally they start to see that their seeking for experience - even the experience of Amida's presence as a reality - is just a HUGE karmic distraction”.