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

Jodo Wasan 90

The Great Sage Shakyamuni teaches
That Amida's land is easy to reach,
And calls the sentient being who doubts the Pure Land path
A person lacking eyes, or lacking ears.

The Ninety-Five Wrong Paths

In this verse, Shinran Shonin draws upon a section of the Collection of Passages on the Land of Peace and Bliss by the fourth Dharma Master Tao-ch'o:

The land of the Buddha of Immeasurable Life is easy to go to and easy to attain. However, people cannot be born there through their own practices, which can only lead them down to one of the ninety-five wrong paths. I call such people 'those without eyes' or 'those without ears'. 1

Tao Ch'o, in turn, was quoting from the Sutra of Mahamaudgalyayana's Questions. The passage in question seems to be Shakyamuni Buddha's response to an unknown inquiry.

The description of people who follow the ninety-five wrong paths is very harsh. They are characterised as being entirely without the organs of sight and hearing. The ninety-five wrong paths were beliefs that held sway during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha and many of them reflect ideas that people hold even in our own time.

We meet teachers of the ninety-five wrong paths also in the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho. They hold ideas that are simply non-Buddhist, including things like belief in a creator God, materialism, belief in a soul, belief that death is either non-existence or eternal existence, belief that there is no law of cause-and-effect, belief that existing entities do not change, indeed, any belief that is not redolent of the middle way.

The essence of the middle way that is broadly known as Buddha Dharma can be found is Shakyamuni Buddha's own account of the experience of enlightenment:

... the supreme tranquility of the unaging, undecaying, the undying, the unsorrowing, and the stainless.2

From this realisation emerged all other ideas and practices that comprise the Buddha Dharma: the Fourfold Noble Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the law of dependent origination.

In the same way the denial or slander of Amida Buddha, the Pure Land and the Primal Vow, is also to be without the capacity to see and hear the Dharma for they also are a manifestation of the same deep truth that is Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment.

1: Collection of Passages on the Land of Peace and Bliss (An Le Chi) by Tao Ch'o; translated by Zuio Hisao Inagaki, Horai Association International, 2014.

2: Ariyapariyesama-sutta

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