Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shinjin and Buddha nature

“In some writings of Shinran Shonin it is said that shinjin is itself Buddha-nature. How do you explain this?”


First, even if we say it in conventional language that we have shinjin (faith in Amida Buddha), in reality this is not our propriety, but what Amida Buddha awakes in us.

Second, Amida is a Buddha, which means he is one who has became awakened to his Buddha nature. His Buddha nature is the same with our Buddha nature, as all beings have the same innate Buddha nature (Buddhahood) or the same potential to become a Buddha.
But unlike a Buddha, we are now living at the level of ignorant beings, having delusional personalities which are the product of various attachments, ignorance and karma.  

Shinjin cannot be the product of our delusional personalities that change according to karma from life to life, because this would mean that he himself should also be subject to change and not the “diamond like shinjin” that  Shinran is speaking about.
So, shinjin is only the manifestation of Amida as a Buddha, it comes from his Enlightenment and because Enlightenment means the attainment of Buddha nature, we can say that in ultimate sense, shinjin is the manifestation of Buddha nature via Amida Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form. This is how I think we should understand the words, "shinjin is itself Buddha-nature".

Shinjin cannot come directly to us from the ultimate Buddha nature without the help of Amida Buddha, because we can’t receive anything directly from it  in the state we are as unenlightened beings, due to the many layers of delusion and heavy karmic evils which cover our innate Buddha nature. This is why we need Amida Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form to take us, through shinjin, to the Buddha nature or Buddhahood,  which is to be reached once we die and enter Amida’s Pure Land.

Can we access directly our innate Buddha nature, without the help of Amida?


No, we can’t.
In other Buddhist schools it is indeed said that followers can directly access the innate Buddha nature through various meditation techniques, but in Jodo Shinshu we think this is no longer possible due to the low level of beings in this dark age.
So, without entering directly to our Buddha nature, we first come to Amida’s sphere of influence or his Pure Land through shinjin, which is the indirect step toward Buddha nature. If we receive shinjin in the present life, then when we die we are born in the Pure Land where our blind passions and unenlightened personalities are immediately transformed into fully enlightened Buddhas.

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