Notes on the Nembutsu
Reflections on the wasan of Shinran

Jodo Wasan 94

The person who attains shinjin and joy
Is taught to be equal to the Tathagatas.
Great shinjin is itself Buddha-nature;
Buddha-nature is none other than Tathagata.

The Fulfilment of the Dharma

In this Wasan, Shinran Shonin is quoting from

  1. the Flower Ornament (Sk. avatamsaka) Scripture, which taught that those who have accepted shinjin are equal to Tathagatas
  2. the Nirvana Sutra, that great exposition of Buddha-nature, which it equates with emptiness (Sk. shunya-ta).

The idea that people of faith are 'equal to the Tathagata' is an ancient insight and not something invented by Shinran. To awaken to faith is to capitulate to this great and unsurpassed truth. It is to capitulate because we do not want to accept it. It is to capitulate because it is something that happens when we see the reality of our own inner darkness; the futility of our own raging impotent power.

It is capitulation because we are on the 'White Path between Two Rivers' of water and fire, craving and anger, steeped in samsara, lost from the light; going, travelling we know not where. Just trusting, just lying back, just letting go, just being nothing but ourselves. It is capitualtion because out there we only feel the tug of compassion and the voice of Shakyamuni urging us on, and because there is no Pure Land that we can see, no nirvana that we know at first hand.

If we think we see nirvana, if we think the Pure Land is in our mind, then we do well to consider Shinran's perspective - and think again; look within ourselves, again.

... priests and laymen of the Declining Age and masters of these days, sunken in the idea 'that one's true nature is Buddha' and 'that the Buddha's Pure Land exists in one's mind' degrade the True Enlightenment in the Pure Land; or, being deluded by the mind of self-power to practice meditative and non-meditative good deeds, they are blind to the Adamantine True Faith.1

We do not see Buddha-nature, we do not see nirvana; these realities work beneath the reach of our conscious minds. What we do know and see - and hear - is Namu-amida-butsu, when it is voiced for no reason at all, at the moment of capitulation; and ever afterwards in commemoration of this great event. It is then Namu-amida-butsu that has become the sound of life to us, a chant of joy that is as natural to us as breathing.

In this - Namu-amida-butsu the ancient dharma is manifest. In the blind, light makes darkness flee; in the false, truth breaks free.


1: Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, Ryukoku Translation Series, Vol. V, p. 84.

Current image

Jodo Wasan

Koso Wasan

Shozomatsu Wasan

Home

Back | HOME | Next