Notes on the Nembutsu
Reflections on the wasan of Shinran

Shozomatsu Wasan 114

Because his wrong views had no bound,
The Minister Moriya of Yuge
Shortened the word to hotoke
In order to bring all people to use it.

False Views

Shinran Shonin is alluding to the ancient Buddhist concept of drsthi (Pali, ditthi), view, or opinion. In doing so, he is drawing our attention to a basic characteristic of the Buddha Dharma.

Shakyamuni was an explorer. He did not begin by constructing a vast theoretical edifice, and then seeking to mould himself into its assumptions. Rather, his way was a quest. He set out to 'discover' an undiscovered truth and then, having found it, to follow its way. Jodo Shinshu is no less a part of this tradition: our quest is generated by the struggles of life and we eventually hear the call of the Primal Vow, which is integral to existence and has been waiting for us since time began.

Because the Buddha Dharma is a way of discovery, it was, from the first, designated by other Indian philosophical traditions as nastika, a non-doctrinal religion. But before too long in the history of the Buddha Dharma, the practice was largely developed into a formal structure.

So it is, that a study of the foundations of the Buddha Dharma, reveals a purely practical, or empirical, prior status. From this a report is given (Buddhist scriptures) of the way that we can also develop our practice so as to meet the objective in attainment that has been discovered. To come back to Jodo Shinshu once more, the reading of the The True Teaching, Practice, and Realisation is just that - it is a report of the way that Shinran found of ultimately moving into the Bodhisattva vehicle.

This brings us back to 'false views'. A 'false view' is to have an a priori structure at the outset and then to seek to fit ourselves into its pattern. The True Teaching, Practice, and Realisation, still embraces the quintessentially Buddhist way of seeing things. For it is not the doctrine that is prior but what we do. Once we take refuge, then we will discover the truth.

False view in Jodo Shinshu is hakarai, calculation or the imposition of dogma - or self-constructed expectations - into our spiritual life. Instead we abandon the construction of views and practice, and accept 'right view', which is the 'wisdom of the Buddhas'.

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