Monday, April 27, 2015

Belief in a creator god is an obstacle to shinjin

Please, read carefully the other articles in this category:

“A lot of folks who end up in Shin Buddhism here in the West have a lot of vestigial concepts from our Abrahamic background - whether or not they were ever "believers" [in God] themselves.  And they carry those vestigial ideas with them when they start in as Buddhists. Some don't do that of course - particularly the ones who are given to serious study, and really consider it important to know what Shakyamuni actually taught.  But as you know from your time in both the Zen and Shin Sanghas, such study is often not the primary focus - or even as great a focus as it is in the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist Sangha groups. […]

So, in your opinion, based on your own reading and contemplating, is it possible for an ignorant, yet well meaning person to come to settled shinjin (faith) if he or she has never actually studied the subject[2], and has some mixed up ideas about eternalism stuck in his mind stream? Or is the presence of such thoughts a necessary karmic obstacle that must directly be addressed and removed before the person can receive Amida's gift of shinjin?”

I think it depends on how important the baggage of eternalist ideas is for them or how much weight it has in their mind-stream. 

Most of the people in the world today, and especially those born in a Judeo-Christian background, have a basic information about the idea of a creator god, but I make a distinction in the way they react to it, especially if they call themselves, Jodo Shinshu followers. Some don’t care too much about it – if this creator-god exists or not –  because they do not find it important, and so they focus single-mindedly on Amida Buddha, while others do care about it and think it is important, thus giving it some important space in their minds. Both categories of people may claim they entrust in Amida, but I doubt that those in the second category have a genuine faith.

If, for the first category the „creator god” is just an information which they prefer not to deal with it or don’t care about it, for the second category it is an actual presence which clearly has some conscious or unconscious consequences on them. I think that for  people in the second category Amida is automatically thought and felt in relation with this creator-god, and according to my experience, most of them even think about Amida in terms of a superior creature or a person who is somehow lower than god. But no matter how they place Amida in relation with this creator-god, their clinging to the god idea is the key to understand them. This clinging is, into my opinion, a hindrance to true shinjin, which is not the case for the first category.
People in the first category, after hearing a Buddhist explanation they can easily let go to the idea of a creator god, even if until then they did not know they should actually let it go, but those in the second category will put up a fight and will try to defend it.

Of course, we can never know exactly what happens inside one’s heart and only Amida knows if one really has shinjin or not, but we can also say that people are like trees, so they can be known by their fruits or in our case, by their reactions. Just like someone who denies the existence of Amida Buddha cannot possibly have genuine faith in Him, one who tenaciously clings to and defends the idea of a creator god, cannot possibly entrust to Amida Buddha as a supreme Savior. Also, as I previously said, one who is mentally and spiritually attached to the idea of a creator god will, consciously or unconsciously, relate Amida Buddha with this god-creator, and he may also think that Amida is a creature himself –  a creation of this god…. 

It is not by chance that we have an explanation by Shakyamuni, made in human terms, of who a Buddha is, who Amida is, and what is His Pure Land. Also – and this is extremely important – in the Primal Vow we are told to entrust to/have faith in Amida Buddha – which means ONLY in Amida Buddha. To have faith in Amida Buddha means to accept that He is the supreme and unique Savior, but when we cling to the idea of a creator god, this is also an expression of faith which, in this case, is directed toward that god.  To accept the existence of a creator god, of Amida Buddha or any divine figure from any religion is not a scientific fact, but a matter of faith. So, if upon hearing Shakyamuni’s teaching about the non-existence of a creator-god, some react aggressively and try to resist it, or even deny it, this is a hint that they actually have faith in that creator god. Their very resistance is an expression of their wrong faith.

Those who claim to have received shinjin (faith in Amida), but cling to the idea of a creator-god they actually have faith in the creator god, and  a false or unsettled faith in Amida. This is my opinion, which comes not only from my contemplation on this matter or my readings, but from my experience as a priest and my meeting face to face with such people.

You asked me, “what is the minimum necessary understanding of Buddha Dharma that a person MUST have in order to receive Amida's gift?”

I cannot make a complete list and cannot relate to every particular situation and persons, but I can say that one should be helped to have a minimum Dharmic vision of the world (like I explained in this article), so he must understand in simple terms what is karma (karma and the idea of a creator god cannot actually coexist, as I explained in my previous articles on this topic), that rebirth is a true phenomenon filled with constant insatisfaction, and that true Freedom (Buddhas can be explained as truly Free Ones, having perfect Compassion) from these repeated births and deaths is something he should wish for ….. and for this freedom to come quickly and certainly, one needs to accept Amida’s helping hand, as the only true Savior. 

Even an illiterate person can have such a minimum understanding of karma, rebirth (which can be explained in terms of life after death in various forms), and of Amida Buddha as a supreme Free One who manifested a perfect world/realm where we can aspire to go after death and become Free Persons (Buddhas) ourselves, then come back to save those we love.

We can ask ourselves – if we do not consider Shakyamuni to be the supreme all-knowing Teacher in the universe (Teacher of all sentient beings, including gods and men), if we think that the Buddha can be right in some matters and wrong in others, like in His denial of the existence of a supreme creator god, then how can we listen to Him with an open mind and accept His teaching on Amida Buddha from the Larger Sutra? If Shakyamuni was wrong in only one thing, then how can we know He wasn’t wrong when He taught about Amida and His Pure Land? We must remember that Shakyamuni urged us to accept His teaching on Amida Buddha in faith, and that it is the teaching most hardly to be accepted in faith, so how can we do this, if we do not consider Shakyamuni to be infallible in His wisdom?
Indeed, the entire Dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha must be 100% true or is not true at all.

Unenlightened people (non-Buddhas) who call themselves disciples of the Buddha, cannot pick and chose what they like and discard what they don’t like from the Buddha’s teaching. All Buddhist doctrines are inter-related, and if one adds an alien element, like the so called, “creator god”, then the whole Buddhist system is unrecognizable. Karma and the teaching on Buddha and Buddha-nature cannot co-exist with that of a supreme and eternal creator god. Thus, before we entrust to Amida Buddha and aspire to be born in His Pure Land, we must be true disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha and fully accept His teachings and explanations on Samsara.

[1] This question was sent to me by Paul Robert and the entire discussion can be read on the True ShinBuddhism yahoo group, at
[2] The subject of eternalism as the existence of a supreme creator god who is eternally abiding.

2 comentarii:

Dave Kruemcke said...

As always another excellent dharma message from our dear friend Josho Adrian Cirlea.

Thank you once again

Dave Kruemcke

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

Greetings, Dave! Thank you for being my friend on the nembutsu Path!
Namo Amida Bu