Posted by:

G Sakamoto

“When foolish beings of delusion and defilement awaken shinjin ,
They realize that birth-and-death is itself nirvana;
Without fail they reach the land of immeasurable light
And universally guide sentient beings to enlightenment”
Shoshinge, Collected Works of Shinran, page 72

My unenlightenment shapes my experience of nirvana. Nirvana is the world of birth-and-death because of my unenlightenment. As an unenlightened person I cause and experience difficulties. The resolution of these difficulties is the purpose of the Buddhadharma.

Difficulties are the result of the importance I place on my view of the world. I see the world through my expectations, my prejudices. That I behave in this way is not a matter of good and bad. It is simply a condition of my unenlightenment. The Buddhadharma addresses this condition and offers an alternative. To realize that alternate way of engaging the world, the Buddhadharma prescribes practices to cultivate the mind that sees and experiences the world, not through prejudices and expectations but simply as it is.

The practices that would lead to such a mind are represented by the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path, the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, represents the means to cultivate the mind which sees and engages things simply as they are. The mind free of expectations and prejudice. The many schools of Buddhism are approaches to cultivating that mind. The various schools address the difficulties of the unenlightened and prescribe practices that address those difficulties. If practices do not address the core cause of difficulties, the importance I place on my prejudices, it is not Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma cultivates the mind that sees and engages things as they are, free of prejudices. That mind is extremely difficult to cultivate.

Amida assures everyone, regardless of ability or skills, of the resolution of difficulties. This is the approach of Jodo Shinshu. As I realize my absolute inability to resolve the difficulties that result from my unenlightenment, AmidaÕs absolute assurance to resolve those difficulties becomes important. This relationship between the realization of my inability and AmidaÕs absolute assurance is shinjin. How I understand Amida does not matter. Even if I do not acknowledge Amida, it does not matter. What I do or not do does not affect the outcome of AmidaÕs activity. AmidaÕs vow is to provide a means through which the difficulties of the unenlightened are resolved. As I acknowledge the assurance of Amida I am changed, I am able look more openly at my behavior. To begin to see the difficulties I cause and experience that result from my prejudices. This is the beginning of awakening, of beginning to see things as they are.

“The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin.

But though the light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,
One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses”
Shoshinge, CWS p 70

I do not fully fathom the consequences of my unenlightenment. I muddle about trying to fix circumstances. Sometimes I hear and see things, kindness, compassion, that remind me of possibilities. I am grateful for the assurance of Amida. I too am included.