Shin Buddhism

Daily Buddhism has been asking for practitioners of Buddhism to explain their denomination. It is inviting essays explaining "your " version of Buddhism.

Up for the challenge, we get this great explanation of Shin Buddhism from Jeff Wilson. He begins with a description of Shinran's interpretation of Buddhism.

Shinran taught that Amida is actually reality in its true, liberated nature, and the Pure Land is a poetic description for nirvana. Putting the insights of Mahayana Buddhism into narrative format, he talked about how Amida embraces all beings no matter how bad or good, and liberates them from their greed and delusion. In fact, this liberation is something that has been accomplished in the primal past (i.e. it is always naturally present), and so we should stop endlessly chasing after attainment. Instead, when we give up attachment to our ego-laden efforts to become enlightened, and relax back into the embrace of inconceivable wisdom and never-abandoning compassion, we are freed from our anxieties and pettiness. Our practice, then, stops being about getting Buddhahood for ourselves, and instead is refocused to be about expressing gratitude for all that we have received, spiritually and materially.

Wilson points out that the main focus of Shin is the practise of "gratitude." And that, everyone can become a Buddha by reciting the Nembutsu.

None of us are deluded about our level of attainment-we are ordinary people, prone to foolishness. But everyone, Shin Buddhist or otherwise, exists within an inconceivable network of support from all things, an ever-changing matrix that provides us with nourishment, shelter, love, and, if we don’t let our egos get in the way, pushes us on toward final liberation. Awakening to this inner togetherness which we all share helps us to get a perspective on our karmic limitations, and this engenders humility, patience, and a sense of humour about our shortcomings and those of others. When we wake up to how power-beyond-self is always nurturing and supporting us, we often say the nembutsu in gratitude. Nembutsu is a phrase, Namu Amida Butsu, that expresses our happiness and thankfulness. It isn’t a mantra or a prayer-it doesn’t accomplish anything other than letting out that bottled-up gratitude in a joyful utterance.


Jeff Wilson is currently an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Renison College on the campus of the University of Waterloo in Canada. He recently wrote the book, "Mourning the Unborn Dead A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America" from Oxford Press.

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