Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A question on shinjin (faith) and Amida's attainment of Buddhahood


Question:
"Amida attained Buddhahood for all of us when he became Enlightened. 'Shinjin' is simply the realisation of that fact with total conviction which in turn compels us to recite in thanksgiving "Namo Amidabutsu" ("Namo Amitofuo"). I wonder if it contradicts Jodo Shinshu".

Answer:
Shinjin (faith) is NOT only the realisation of the fact that Amida attained Buddhahood. Of course, Amida did attained Buddhahood in order to save us all, but this is not enough. All Buddhas attained Buddhahood and wish to save us, but this does not mean that sentient beings are saved just because Buddhas are Enlightened. We must follow the method prescribed  by each Buddha if we want to attain Enlightenment ourselves. So, Amida Buddha made His Primal Vow in which He said we should entrust to Him, say His Name in faith and wish to go to His Pure Land.

One may think all day long that Amida attained Buddhahood, but if one does not wish to go to His Pure Land, nor actually entrusts to Amida Buddha in order to be taken there, then one has no faith and he will not go to that land when he dies.

Just to give you an example from daily life. Lets say that you come to my house with you car and ask me to join you in a trip which will take me to you wonderful holiday villa on a beach paradise. It is not enough that you show me your car and talk about the wonderful house you have, I also need to enter your car and accept to be taken there by you.
In our case, entering the car and letting myself to be taken by you to the wonderful destination (Pure Land) is faith (shinjin). It also means Namo Amida Butsu, something like, "thank you, I gratefully accept". This is how things work with Amida Buddha's salvation, too.

Master Rennyo explained a somewhat similar wrong view with the one you expressed above. In leter 13th, fascicle 1, he reffered to this wrong view as follows:

"Recently, some of the nenbutsu people in this region have been using strange terms, insisting that they express the attainment of faith; furthermore, they hold to this as if they knew all about our tradition's faith. In their words, 'Faith is not forgetting the benevolence of Amida, who settled our birth in the Pure Land from the time of His perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago!' This is a serious error. For even if they know all about Amida Tathāgatas perfect Enlightenment, this is useless without knowing the significance of Other Power faith, by which we are to attain Birth. Therefore, from now on, they should first of all know the true and real faith of our tradition very thoroughly. [...]

What, then, do we mean by 'faith' ?
First of all, when we set aside all sundry practices and steadfastly rely on Amida Tathāgata and, giving no thought to any of the kami or to other Buddhas, take refuge with singleness of heart exclusively in Amida, the Tathāgata embraces us with His light and never abandons us. This is precisely how the one thought-moment of faith is decisively settled. After we have understood this, we must bear in mind that the nembutsu expresses our gratitude to Amida Tathāgata for His benevolence in granting us Other Power faith. With this, we are to be declared nembutsu practitioners in whom faith is decisively settled."

The expression, 'Faith is not forgetting the benevolence of Amida, who settled our birth in the Pure Land from the time of His perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago!' sounds a little simmilar with what you said: "Amida attained Buddhahood for all of us when he became Enlightened. 'Shinjin' is simply the realisation of that fact".  
But I hope that now everything is clear. Faith is to "steadfastly rely" and to take refuge, as Rennyo said above, "take refuge with singleness of heart", not just realizing that Amida attained Buddhahood for us. If one does not take refuge in Amida Buddha, then everything is in vain. 

Amida did not just stop at attaining Buddhahood, but He manifested a Pure Land (Sukhavati), and He made a Vow in which He clearly told us what to do if we want to reach that land after death - entrust ourselves to Him, say His Name (saying and entrusting is the same, as true saying of the Name is an expression of faith) and wish to go there.
Honen, Shinran and Rennyo always insisted that we must be in accord with the Primal Vow and in the Primal Vow it is NOT said: "beings will be born in my land by knowing that I attained Buddhahood for their sake". :)
Without relying steadfastly and taking refuge with singleness of heart exclusively in Amida, as Rennyo said in the quote above, the fact that He is a Buddha is just a knowledge with no effect for our salvation.


- letter to a friend -