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Jodo Shinshu (The True Pure Land) Buddhism

Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, or Shin Buddhism, is based upon the teachings and writings of Shinran Shonin (1173-1262). Shinran expounded the "True Pure Land Way", or the path whose "practice" is total faith in and reliance upon Amida Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life. The Collected Works of Shinran include poems, letters, and his great treatise, Kyo Gyo Shin Sho . Outwardly, this faith is expressed by the grateful recitation of the Nembutsu, pronounced "Namu Amida Butsu" in Japanese. For a summary of Shinran's teachings, see the Tannisho, a short book composed by his follower Yuienbo with key quotes directly from Shinran. Tannisho represents Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in perhaps its most distilled and yet most simple and accessible form. Jodo Shinshu Buddhism teaches that faith in Amida Buddha cuts the bonds to our negative karma from the infinite past and into the infinite future. It is the faith behind the Nembutsu that is a person's link to Amida Buddha, who -- the Larger Sutra says -- created a "Pure Land" of infinite positivity and zero negativity where people go after they die, wherein they will realize full enlightenment (nirvana) and buddhahood. Amida Buddha was revealed to the world in three great Mahayana sutras attributed to the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, who lived and taught in India ca. 563-483 BCE. The "Three Sutras" of Pure Land Buddhism expound the doctrine of the Pure Land of Amida Buddha, how it was created aeons ago by Dharmakara Bodhisattva, and the way to birth in Amida Buddha's Pure Land. These sutras were all written down about 2,000 years ago, the same time as were the Lotus Sutra, the Flower Garland Sutra, the Nirvana Sutra and the other Mahayana sutras. Two of the three Pure Land sutras are called the Sutra on Amida Buddha and the Larger Sutra on Amitayus, or The Sutra on the Buddha of Eternal Life ( Sukhavativyuha-sutra in Sanskrit, which means "Sutra on the the Land of Bliss"). The Sutra on the Contemplation of Buddha Amitayus is the third great Pure Land sutra, in which the Nembutsu, Namu-Amida-Butsu, is proclaimed as the avenue to nirvana for suffering beings. After Shinran, the next major figure in the history of Jodo-shinshu is Rennyo Shonin (1415-1499). Following his death, a selection of several dozen letters written by Rennyo were selected from the 200 or so which survived. These letters form the collection called "Gobunsho" (Nishi Honganji name) or "Ofumi" (Higashi Honganji name). 32 of Rennyo's letters have been posted so far. Equally interesting are the more informal quotations of Rennyo in the "Goichidai Kikigaki", a compilation of thoughts and statements attributed to Rennyo Shonin and those around him during his lifetime. The compilation is considered to be the work of his son Jitsugo (b. 1492) and contains a total of 314 statements in two volumes. In the history of Jodo Shinshu, there appears a number of devout followers known as Myokonins. The study of the Nembutsu will not be complete without some knowledge of these truly devout followers of the Nembutsu. As a rule, they were uneducated and led a humble frugal life, and they all possessed deep insight and faith. Of these many devout followers, Genza was one of them. Genza's real name was Ashikaga Saburo, and his birthplace was Aoya-cho Yamane, Tottori Prefecture, located on the Japan seaside. The date of his birth was April 18, 1852. Genza grew up in the village of Yamane where he was born, and today that village remains much the same. He passed away on February 20,1930, at the age of 78. In the attainment of Shinjin (Faith), we often think that a Good Teacher (Zenchishiki) is a fellow being who guides one toward the attainment of Shinjin, but in the case of Genza, it was not a person, but an ox. This is beautiful for it is the basic foundation of the Teachings; that is, we should hear the Dharma as a way to salvation. In the treatise, "Abhidharma-kosa" by Vasubandhu, it states that the Dharma is everything that surrounds us. Therefore, it is up to each and everyone of us to exert utmost effort to heart the Dharma from our hearts. Genza is a good example of one who heard the Teaching from the depths of his heart. In the biography of Genza, as written in the Myokonin Meguri, a set of eight booklets, published by Yobigoe-Sha of Kyoto, Japan, it briefly states that when Genza was eighteen, he and his father were working together in the rice field when suddenly his father became ill and went home to rest. At noon, when Genza went home for lunch, his father told him that the end was near and that he had one last request to make of Genza. "After I die, trust in Oya-sama." Two points in his father's unusual request began to bother Genza. One, who was Oya-sama, and two, what was meant by "trust in"? These two questions, to use Genza's words, ". . . began to bother me day and night, continuing through the remainder of that year into the following year. Finally, in the spring, my eyes opened and I began to attend services in earnest regularly at the Gansho ji Temple to hear the teachings." However, this did not bring solutions; in fact, it created more problems. One of the more pressing questions was that the Teaching emphasized the "Easy Way", but what was so easy? Here the "Easy Way" is in reference to the very basis of the Jodo Shinshu Teaching, that is, through hearing the Dharma one is saved, therefore no form of disciplinary practice is needed. This bothered Genza for the next fifteen years. Here we have to remember that although Genza questioned the Teachings, he did in fact attend services regularly without fail. Finally, one day it all came together, that is Genza "entered" the Ocean of Vow through the graces of an ox. The entering came about in the following manner: One summer morning, Genza went up into the mountains with his ox for firewood. It was customary to make up six bundles of firewood and load it upon the back of the ox for the journey home. It was during-this moment when Genza was putting the bundles on the back of the ox when, to use Genza's words, "Suddenly I was made to realize (the Buddha mind) ." Here a question arises: What was it that he was made to realize? To answer the question logically: "The firewood is the Karma of all (everyone) and the ox is Amida Buddha. It is Amida who helped Genza by carrying the heavy burden of firewood. Unexplainably, the load of firewood makes the ox an ox, and the Karma of all makes Amida, Amida. This realization suddenly came to Genza. Religiously, this is the Teaching of the Other-Power.'' (1) This, then, was the awareness which Genza experienced deep within his heart. Henceforth, Genza looked upon the ox with reverence and honored it as his good teacher. Within the many quotations left behind by Genza which were compiled by Yanagi Shosei in his book, Genza, the Myokonin, there is one where he states: "The ox is my teacher (zenchishiki)". The ox was revered highly by Genza to the extent that he added a room to his house for the ox. If one were to visit the village of Yamane today, the house that Genza lived in still stands and is presently occupied by his great-grandson. Although the house was consumed by fire twice, the room that the ox occupied was miraculously saved. Today that room is used as an extra room and is used frequently by the family. From the moment Genza entered the Ocean of Vow, his life was colored by this religious experience. This experience is vividly seen in the quotations and incidents relating to the life of Genza for it reveals the deep insight he possessed of life itself. Hapchang to my friends in the Dharma - I am hoping you find this site both informative and entertaining! -Your friend, Adam