New and Improved!
Reflections on the Betsuin Vision Statement
K. Ken Fujimoto
To learn and to share the Jodo Shinshu understanding of the Three Treasures Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
The statement above is the new vision statement for our Betsuin. Though it is new to us as a temple, it is actually a restatement of the traditional basis for religious education in Jodo Shinshu, jishin kyonin shin (?????), which is generally translated as to have faith and to teach others faith (more detail into the meaning of this below). This phrase comes from the thought of Zendo or Shan-tao (613 681), the fifth of the Seven Patriarchs in our tradition and the third selected by Shinran from China. This expression can be found repeatedly in his work the Ojo Raisan Ge (Hymns of Praise Concerning Birth). This was a chant that was used extensively in Shinrans time and is still used in our tradition today.
We can see that, though it is a new vision statement for us, it is actually a restatement of a much older tradition that has been the basis for our existence as a religious organization over centuries. In an effort to communicate this fundamental view of our goals and vision to a broader audience, it has been restated. However, there are some points of which we need to begin by understanding this fully so we do not fall into some common mistakes that could easily lead to misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
Point #1 Though jishin kyonin shin, is commonly translated as to have faith and teach others that faith, I prefer, to know and to teach others to know. This may seem a little odd, but one aspect of the term shin as Shinran uses it is shinchi (??), which is to know something that a way that differ from how we normally understand the term to know. It may not be the type of knowing that immediately comes to mind, but it is one that we have and continue to experience in the course of life. Just as we cannot see the wind, we know that the wind is blowing in seeing how it moves leaves and branches on the trees, we can know Amidas compassion by seeing how it is working on our lives and in the world. It is not a matter of blind faith, it is a knowledge that develops that we may not yet have the words and experience to express adequately to others.
An example of this is pink lemonade. I used to prefer pink lemonade over regular lemonade as a child. My friends used to tease me that the only difference was the color, but, for me, there was something that was definitely different. I knew there was a difference even though I could not explain it at the time. Later, I learned that Concord grape juice was added to lemonade to give it the pink color and the grape juice made the tartness a little milder and added natural sweetness. What I knew, but could not explain was now explainable. Time, experience and a growing wealth of knowledge made it possible to explain something that I had known much earlier.
The idea here should be to know the working of Amidas compassion on us, in our lives and in our world and to teach others how to come to that same state of knowing.
Point #2 Although logic, would make it seem that this is a first A, then B situation, it is not totally the case. This is one of those cases where Buddhist logic trumps normal, worldly logic. Though you do have to know before you can teach others, the knowing, on our part, does not end there. It is a constant process and part of knowing is actually made possible and is enhanced by the teaching others aspect. Knowing leads to teaching and teaching leads to deepening of that knowledge.
This is connected to the jiri rita (????), benefit self/benefit others concept. Because of interdependence, that which benefits the self will benefit others and that which benefits others will benefit the self. Neither self-benefit nor benefitting others takes priority and we can see this dynamic in human interaction. A lesson that benefits a child to grow in this society can prove to be of benefit to the one teaching that child as well in terms of expanding horizons, clarifying details for the self and in many other possible ways. Talking to a senior citizen stimulates the elder while giving the one listening an opportunity to learn and grow. It is not a one way street and it is not a process that ever ends. Teaching others about the working of Amidas compassionate-wisdom enables one to better know that compassion. It is a process that is constantly working so that ability to know becomes deepened as we teach and share.
There are other aspects of our vision statement that will need explanation and/or clarification. Those will be touched upon in future articles.
© February 19, 2012