The Satori of Faith
The document below is over 40 years old. My copy is full of coffee and butter stains, which is a hint about where and when I do much of my reading of original documents. Today, 40 years later, I continue to suggest that we adopt several terms in English for the shinjin of Shin Buddhism. We will never find the perfect English version, and even in Japanese it has to be explained.

One term I suggest is 'Satori of Faith.' The word Satori is now part of the English language. The growing popularity of Japanese words and symbols in English makes our task easy for us. The Japanese characters for shinjin have recently been translated as 'the believing heart.'

During the 2005 Super Bowl, a player who was an ardent Christian had these characters tattooed on his upper arm for all to see. It has in a sense become a Christian tattoo. My suggestion is to use the word Satori of faith because that keeps in within the boundaries of Buddhism but does also connect it to the great discussions about the nature of faith, which in Buddhism is not blind belief opposed to reason and science. Here is a short article by Kusada Sensei.

The cause of the extinction of becoming [metsudo] is, according to Shin Buddhism, the awakening of faith [shinjin]. The necessary consequences of this awakening are our rebirth [ojo] into the Pure Realm, which in Shin is synonymous with the attainment of Nirvana. However, in the Pure Realm tradition, there have been a number of different interpretations of the nature of rebirth. In connections with some of these interpretations, there has arisen a question as to when rebirth is fixed and determined. Some teachers within the Pure Realm tradition insist that rebirth is not determined until the very instant of the descent of death [ringu]. Those who teach this place great emphasis upon creating a peaceful frame of mind in those who are about to die.

The dying is encouraged to think of the Buddha and in many ways to fill their minds with beautiful thoughts. Sometimes magnificent pictures of the Buddha coming to welcome the dying are set up before the deathbed. Many of the greatest masterpieces of Japanese art owe their creation to this doctrine. Many of teachers have insisted that one's rebirth is only determined as certain if one sees for oneself this Reception by the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. This action is seeing for oneself of the imminent reception [raigo] by the Buddhas is then said to be necessary to determine with certainty that one is to be reborn into the Pure Realm. The Shin teaching, however, is that there is no need to wait for the descent of death to be certain of one's rebirth. Shinran taught rebirth follows naturally from the awakening of faith.

This awakening is achieved in our ordinary everyday life [heizei] and thus it follows necessarily that rebirth is determined long before death. One need NOT wait for the descent of death for certainty as to rebirth. Rebirth is fixed and determined by the awakening of faith, which we achieve in our ordinary everyday lives. The action, which assures rebirth, then, is already completed before the descent of death. Whatever action we perform after this awakening of faith is done out of a spirit of thanksgiving, and NO action on the deathbed is necessary to fix the certainty of rebirth.


The emphasis is mine. Try replacing the words 'awakening of faith' with the satori of faith as you re-read this important article. We discussed this over and over at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in the 70's ands 80's. Perhaps one-day shinjin, like satori, will also become a word we can find in the English dictionary.

Sensei Ulrich

February 10, 2006