Troubled Times
The old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times” seems to have hit us. Many will be hurt by the financial down-turn. Then there are the wars which never seem to end, along with the ‘normal’ crime and violence that happens every day. It is hard to keep our perspective.  

Our Jodo Shinshu emerged in difficult times. Shinran and Rennyo were not naïve college kids rapping late into the night in a posh dorm. Their teachings came out of the school of hard knocks. Both men lived in turbulent times. The rulers of their day had established what we might term as military dictatorships. There were no civil rights---in fact such an idea would have seemed laughable then. There were no banks, no saving accounts, no RRSP’s. Many people lived with little money, or no money at all.

Is it possible to survive under such circumstances? Our ancestors did.  They didn’t have any self-help books. There were neither psychologists nor counsellors. The extended family, the elders and the temple played those roles. 

Keep all of this in mind as we read Shinran’s list of the 10 benefits of shinjin. In some contexts I like to describe shinjin as ‘sound faith’ or ‘sane faith.’ We usually avoid using the word faith too much, but in these troubled times, both sanity and soundness are much in demand. 

1. We all belong to the community of the Truly Assured.

2. Our minds are rooted in a deep, profound joy.

3. We experience a gratitude so moving that we seek to respond to it in some way.

4. Our lives become channels of dia-ji-hi (great loving-kindness and loving-compassion).

5. With this dia-ji-hi of Amida, our bad karma can be transformed into good karma.

6. The supreme virtues of the Bodhisattva Vow are transferred to our lives.

7. We are constantly surrounded by Amida’s Light.

8. All Buddha’s accept us and praise us continually.

9. All Buddha’s support and protect us.

10. All the divine powers embrace those of shinjin. 

It was the teachings of Shinran and Rennyo that caused the Shin Buddhist people to face their troubles with courage. They felt a sense of strength that allowed them to simply endure. Families and friends pulled together in many creative ways, and it was the Buddha Dharma that provided the foundations of their actions.   These are some of the reasons that the recitation of the nembutsu alone would often be the cause for tears of gratitude.

Chanting the sutras was exploring the spiritual ground under their feet. It was what kept them sane and sound in troubled times.  Shinran’s shinjin and our shinjin are the same. The benefits are the same. Please reflect on this deeply.   

Sensei Ulrich

October 26, 2008