The Way of Jodo Shinshu
Reflections on the Hymns of Shinran Shonin

Jodo Wasan 21

The free working of their supernatural powers
Cannot be fathomed,
For they are possessed of virtues that surpass conception;
So take refuge in Amida, the supremely honoured one.

The Business of the Dharma

This verse is the last of five, which describe the bodhisattva life of the Pure Land path. In this verse Shinran Shonin celebrates the way bodhisattvas use their powers to praise and serve all buddhas of the universe and thereby propagate the dharma.

These five verses always convey to me the sheer size and vast scope of the Buddha Dharma; one might say - the business of the dharma. There is a sense of bustle and activity like the grand vision of universal salvation that is revealed in the Garland Sutra. To participate in this great cosmic work is extremely exciting and jubilant. What an extraordinary privilege it is to find ourselves a part of it.

And, what is this great work? What is the business of the dharma? Let me remind you again of that ancient adage, affirmed by all the buddhas,

I teach suffering and the relief of suffering.

Because this task is so vital and so urgent - so important - no stone can be left unturned; no opportunity allowed to pass. The dharma is busy, active and tireless in its job. Hence the Buddhist community has always celebrated the great variety of the teaching laid down by the Buddhas.

Shakyamuni gave us the tools, leaving nothing out, and we are given the joyful reponsibility of taking them up and developing them. He gave us the hammer, the saw, the level, the plane and we, his sincere followers, make the furniture: for the suffering - and others - to rest upon and gain unlimited relief. Buddha gives us a general diagnosis but there is work for us. We must ourselves awaken to the truth of his teaching and then and take it up with single-minded courage and determination.

Hence, the history of the Buddha Dharma is a joyful celebration whereby we enjoy the efforts of others. Many schools of dharma medicine have sprung up. Very soon after Shakyamuni's demise a divergence of strategies and therapies were emerging. The dharma has always been gloriously sectarian. We Buddhists love and celebrate our diversity, we rejoice in the work being undertaken by others, we are friendly and kind in our rivalry - if in fact rivalry there be.

Let us put our shoulder to the wheel.

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