Antinomianism

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G Sakamoto

In Letter 20 of the Lamp for the Latter Ages (Mattosho) Shinran writes:

“It has not been uncommon for people like yourselves, who do not read or know the scriptures, to distort the teaching, having heard that no evil interferes with the attainment of birth. It seems that this is still the case. To hear that you are all falling deeper and deeper into error, following the words of Shinken-bo and others who know nothing of the Pure Land teaching, is truly lamentable.” CWS p552

Antinomianism is to dismiss any obligations to laws and accepted social behavior when hearing “no evil interferes with the attainment of birth”. To think that the assurance of Amida allows us to behave selfishly is an incorrect understanding. The assurance of Amida is absolute. To deliberately cause harm is contrary to the Buddhadharma, contrary to Jodo Shinshu.

The intent of the teachings of the Buddha is to resolve the difficulties we cause and experience that result from of our inability to see things simply as they are. The practices of the Dharma cultivate a mind that sees things as they are. Seeing things as they are is a mind free of prejudice. In Jodo Shinshu we recognize the impossibility of cultivating a mind free from prejudice. Such a mind is constantly causing difficulties. Amida assures all beings of the resolution of difficulties; “no evil interferes with the attainment of birth.” This absolute assurance does not free us from the basic intent of the dharma: do not cause difficulties. This assurance transforms me, changes the way I see and engage the world. Recognizing my continued inclination to cause and experience difficulties I am grateful for the assurance of Amida.

With flour, yeast and water I can make bread. If I want bread I need to know how to prepare the ingredients and bake the bread. In order to bake the bread I need to learn and practice baking bread. This is like the Four Noble Truths. I’m hungry but I don’t have anything to eat I only have flour, yeast and water. If I had bread I would not be hungry. I can learn how to bake bread so I won’t be hungry.

What happens if even after wanting to and practicing hard I still could not bake bread? I could go to a bakery and buy bread. At this bakery the baker is selling bread and giving the same bread away to anyone who wants it. If I stole the baker’s money because he was giving his bread away this would be causing difficulties for the baker.

As an unenlightened being I continue to cause difficulties. If I wish to change this circumstance I can practice and become Buddha. When I realize my absolute lack of ability to become Buddha through practice I might begin to appreciate Amida’s absolute assurance of the resolution of difficulties. This is nishujinshin, the two aspects of deep faith. I am grateful for the assurance of Amida that allows me to see myself and the world more openly. Amida’s assurance changes me; changes how I see and engage the world. I realize more deeply that my inability to see things they are is already causing difficulties for myself and others. The Buddhadharma is about resolving those difficulties, not causing more difficulties. I am grateful for the assurance of Amida that these difficulties will be resolved.

In Jodo Shinshu even if I continue to cause difficulties I am still assured of the resolution of difficulties. In Jodo Shinshu even if I deliberately cause difficulties knowing I am assured by Amida (this would be antinomianism) I would still be assured by Amida of the resolution of difficulties.