Gobunsho - The Heart of Shin Buddhism
The experience of self-transcending faith is the cardinal point of Shinran's teachings. When we abandon all traditional religious practices and take refuge in the Infinite as Amida Buddha with our whole being, the direction of our life and rebirth become fixed and certain. This is due to the awesome power of the Buddha to fulfill his promises made to us. We thus enter the community of the truly assured when we experience shinjin, the awakening of self-transcending faith. We recite the Sacred Name of the Infinite with gratitude and are naturally reborn into the Realm of Infinite Life and Infinite Light.
Related to the above are the words tariki and jiriki, usually translated as Other Power and self-power respectively. They may also be Transcendent Power and self-effort. Shinjin as mentioned above is a profound spiritual experience with a self-transcending faith that originates with the infinite as Amida Buddha. This tariki faith is universal and generic, pure faith, faith qua faith. It cuts across traditional religious lines In fact it stands outside organized religion and scriptures. Once experienced this self-transcending faith causes us to see the traditional scriptures in another light, with new eyes. This faith experience can be found among people of faith in every religion. Shinran purposely used generic terminology and his scriptural interpretations point to a deep religious experience that transcended all boundaries. He then discovered this experience reflected in Pure Land scriptures. Shinran calls us to authentic, self-transcending faith, pure faith, faith as faith is in and of itself.
When Ajita in India interviewed Shakyamuni he asked the Buddha, if anyone for any religious teaching could attain nirvana. Shakyamuni responded that as long as a teaching had the Four Noble Truths, nirvana was possible within any teaching. It was perhaps Rennyo in Japan who later developed the teaching that other faith traditions were the voice of Amida speaking to people in a language they could understand for their own salvation's sake. Also, the experience of shinjin, of pure faith, carries with it the necessary result of attaining nirvana at the descent of death. This ties in with the old anagamin traditions of ancient Buddhism. Tariki faith (the shinjin experience): self-transcending, universal, generic, unrestricted, inclusive, open, unconditional, worldwide. Jiriki faith: self-serving, isolated, alone, singular, brand name faith, restricted, excluding ,closed ,conditional , with geopolitical references. When we experience this pure faith of tariki, we attain the Mind of No Retreat and enter the community of the Truly Assured. We can then live a life of grace and gratitude and service to enter Nirvana when we pass away. Such people have five general characteristics according to ancient texts:
1. They are no longer attached to the idea that there is a fixed, permanent static selfhood.
2. They are no longer attached to ill will and hatred as motivating forces in their personality.
3. They are no longer attached to sensual to provide the ultimate meaning in life.
4. They are no longer attached to rites and rituals as primary sources of religious awakening.
5. They have overcome doubt and have found the sane and wholesome spiritual path for themselves. They are settled and at peace within. They will without fail attain complete and perfect spiritual fulfillment in the next life.
What is attempted here is a version of the Gobunsho that is understandable to our congregation, but stays true to the content of the original. The version contains ways to gloss over the parts difficult to understand for the average Canadian members. It includes their sharing the problems they have with specific words, concepts and wordings. Also, a professional translator agreed to work with us on a word-for-word study of the text. He translates for major businesses in Winnipeg, as well as for the governments of Japan and Canada.
To make the chanting easier for those who are new to Jodo Shinshu, a monotone, one beat per syllable chant was developed. Some of the Japanese speakers found this useful too, since they were no longer intimidated by the more complicated, traditional mode of chanting the Gobunsho. They had been afraid to chant the Gobunsho because they could not match the expertise of professional chanters. With the monotone/syllabic version more people were willing to try it, and even attempt to memorize it as part of their personal practice at home. This is work in progress and reflects a struggle shared with the new members of Jodo Shinshu in Canada.
Shō-nin i-chi ryū no go-kan-ke no o-mo mu ki-wa. Shin-jin o mot-te hon-to se-ra-re sō rō.
So-no yu-e wa, mo-ro-mo-ro no zō-gyō o na-ge su-te te. I-sshin ni Mi-da ni ki-myō su-re-ba, fu-ka shi-ki no gan- ri-ki to shi-te. Butsu no ka-ta yo-ri ō-jō wa ji-jō se-shi-me ta mō.
So-no ku-ra-i o. I-chi-nen bok-ki nyō shō jō shi ju to-mo sha-ku shi, so-no u-e no shō myō nen butsu wa, Nyo-ra-i wa-ga ō-jō o sad-a-me ta-ma-i-shi, go on hō jin no nen butsu to ko-ko-rō be-ki na-ri.
Gobunsho (English translation)
Our founder, Shinran, declared Shin Buddhism to be rooted in the Satori of Faith (shinjin). This Awakening is the fruit of taking refuge in the Bodhi-sattva Vow.
This is true because we experience this shinjin when we give up attachments to all self-centered religious practices and take refuge in Amida’s Bodhisattva Vow with our whole hearts and minds. This profound Vow embraces without exception all suffering beings. It brings about our rebirth into the Pure Land (nirvana) when we pass from this life.
This experience is thought of as, “joining those who have found true peace through shinjin.” This is the fellowship of those who are future Buddhas.
After the shinjin experience, we recite joyfully Amida’s Name - Namo Amida Buddha (Refuge in Infinite Life and Light, Awake!). This Name is recited in gratitude for that gift of nirvana which we will enjoy upon our next rebirth.
With friendly reverence,
I remain____________________________(Your Name)
Outline of the Gobunsho
1. Self-transcending trust is the essence of Shinran's teaching.
2. Give up all traditional religious practices.
3. Take refuge in the embrace of the Infinite (Here named Amida Buddha, literally "infinite awake")
4. This self-transcending trust carries us into the community of the truly assured, those who without fail will attain nirvana at least by the end of this present lifetime.)
5. Recite the name of the Infinite (namo amida buddha) with gratitude for your spiritual rebirth into Infinite Life and Infinite Light.
Jodo Shinshu in Our Daily Lives
While the Gobunsho is the "Heart of Shin Buddhism", there is the ever-present question, “How do we put our Jodoshinshu into our daily lives?” This is a difficult question to ponder, since in traditional Jodoshinshu theories, Shin Buddhists have no practice due to their reliance on Amida Buddha. In fact, even the word ‘practice’ is a red flag to most traditional Jodoshinshu thinkers and writers.
In Japan, there is the ever-present, powerful influence of Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, and Japanese culture to fall back on, whether consciously or unconsciously. This unstated, unconscious ‘vinaya' has been attached to the framework of Jodoshinshu practice for centuries. It is unrealistic to expect Canadians to practice Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto in order to live in Canada as Shin Buddhists. It is also impossible for them to become Japanese in culture and outlook in order to live the Jodoshinshu life in Canada. This gives rise to the challenging question of how to live their new faith in their own country. My response to this need it to use, in Canada, the Five Precepts, the Six Paramitas and the Eightfold Path as replacements for the Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto and mores of Japanese culture. These replacements are an integral part of the history of Buddhism after all. The only proviso is to be aware or the fact that the Jodoshinshu Buddhist in Canada does not practice these things as vinaya, but as an expression of joy and gratitude towards the hongwanriki—the Vow Power—of Amida. It should not be a self-power practice, but rather a heart-felt reciprocation for the benefits of the shinjin experience. Hence their practice is a non-practice.
Recently, we held a discussion in our temple about the Gobunsho using the following three quotes as lead-ins to the discussion:
1. To study the Dharma is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be embraced by Other Power.
To be embraced by Other Power is to be enlightened by all things.
2. The nembutsu is the practice of no practice,
the Way of no Way,
the thought of no thought,
the self of no self.
Therefore the nembutsu is the real practice,
the real Way,
the real thought,
the real self.
3. There are some things that are so worthwhile that even doing them imperfectly is of great value.
updated December 2007