Notes on the Nembutsu
Reflections on the wasan of Shinran

Jodo Wasan 26

Because of the Vow, 'If they should not be born...,'
When the moment of genuine entrusting has come
And people attain the one thought-moment of joy,
Their birth becomes completely settled.

Watching Plums Ripen and Flowers Bloom

The title of this essay is prompted by the phrase in Jodo Wasan 26

When the moment of genuine entrusting has come

There is a development phase in the awakening of shinjin.

In Shinran Shonin's experience, shinjin is spontaneous; as natural as waking from sleep. But this again reminds us of a tendency we denizens of consumer, production oriented society have, and that is our passion for immediacy and control. We are deliberately out of step with the natural rhythms of life and that is powerfully symbolized, for example, by the way we can not awaken naturally from sleep but truncate our rest by artificial means at a time of our choosing. This is only one of the ways in which we are habituated to a pattern of disruption. When it comes to religion we are also hungry for control. We are not satisfied with allowing the serene entrusting heart to arise in its own time; but we must strive all we can to force it.

In this verse Shinran speaks of Amida's shinjin in the same way as we describe fruit as ripening;

  • or a fœtus growing in the womb;
  • or a flower coming into bud;
  • or the tide rising;
  • or a cloud forming and dropping cooling and soothing rain;
  • or meeting our lover for the first time;
  • or awakening from a long restful sleep to a sunny day of freedom;
  • or coming to graceful old age;
  • or of a smile shared between old friends who know each other like a pair of gloves;
  • or the creamy bitter-sweet feel, texture and taste of beautifully brewed coffee;
  • or a sea breeze rising at noon on a hot day;
  • or being taken by surprise by the scent of gardenias;
  • or the feel of soft warm sand on our feet;
  • or a sigh;
  • or the gasp of delight that comes from seeing a noble and gnarled old tree;
  • or lying on our back watching the clouds;
  • or that first taste of a ripe plum that we have been watching swell on the tree;
  • or the rush of spring when suddenly the world bursts into bloom;
  • or a crack of lightning during a thunderstorm at night, lighting in a flash the world around us and on plunging back into darkness leaving a mind's image of what we saw forever.

These things all happen while we are getting on with life. None of them can be induced; if we are not the same after the encounter, we will remember them.

Do you keep feeling your pulse to see if you are alive? If our pulse is not functioning we are not going to be able to feel it, anyway.

What matters is living and not worrying about whether we are alive or not. Give up everything, abandon worry. Place everything into Amida Buddha's hands and live freely and with happiness - just saying the Name, Namu-amida-butsu.

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Jodo Wasan

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