Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 12)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The nembutsu is the easy path to awakening because its liberating power does not come from our own efforts.  In this month’s gathering we will explore the challenges of entrusting our lives to Amida Buddha’s compassionate Vow.

For evil sentient beings of wrong views and arrogance,
The nembutsu that embodies Amida’s Primal Vow
Is hard to accept in shinjin;
This most difficult of difficulties, nothing surpasses.

Full text of Shōshinge

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Sangha Voices: Juliet Bost

Sangha Voices is a collection of profiles and perspectives featuring our temple members. In this installment, Juliet Bost (San Mateo Buddhist Women’s Association Corresponding Secretary and Young Buddhist Editorial member) speaks about their experience growing up participating in temple activities and connection to the Dharma.

Juliet Bost

My name is Juliet Bost and I use they/them/theirs pronouns. My family moved to San Mateo from New Jersey in 2013 and first attended Palo Alto Buddhist Temple before transitioning to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple in 2015. Going to temple was a “return” to Jodo Shinshu for my family, a tradition from my grandfather’s family that we wanted to uphold.

Continue reading “Sangha Voices: Juliet Bost”

Reflecting on Wisdom, Joy, and Authenticity (July 18)

San Mateo Buddhist Women’s Association Corresponding Secretary and Young Buddhist Editorial member Juliet Bost shares a Dharma Talk on the topic of “Reflecting on Wisdom, Joy, and Authenticity”

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Transcript

Please join me in Gassho.

From Shinran’s “Hymns of the Pure Land” (“Jodo Wasan”):

“The light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light

Harbors the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom;

Its virtuous working supasses conceptual understanding,

As it benefits the beings throughout the ten quarters.”

(#57)

Thank you everyone for joining us for this morning’s service. I am very grateful to Rev. Adams for inviting me to share my Dharma reflection with you all today.

I chose this wasan to share today because it holds a lot of meaning for me, especially these two first lines: “The light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light / Harbors the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom.” Even if you haven’t read a lot of texts like these, you may notice that “light” is a recurring theme or motif used to describe Buddha-like attributes — indeed one name for Amida Buddha the “Buddha of Unhindered Light,” as noted in this wasan, and a common translation of “Buddha” is the “Enlightened One.”

Continue reading “Reflecting on Wisdom, Joy, and Authenticity (July 18)”

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 11)

In this session we reflect upon the Dharma truth expressed in the lotus, a symbol of pure awakening that blossoms, not in pristine clear water, but from the messy muck of everyday life.

All foolish beings, whether good or evil,
When they hear and entrust to Amida’s universal Vow,
Are praised by the Buddha as people of vast and excellent understanding;
Such a person is called a pure white lotus.

Full text of Shōshinge

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Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 10)

This session will delve into the meaning expressed the following metaphor of the sun that shines through clouds and mists, and how the Buddha’s wisdom illuminates our lives even in times of difficulty and confusion.

The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin.

But though light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,
One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses.

Full text of Shōshinge

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Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 9)

This month we consider the following verse which illuminates the the profound transformation that occurs with the arising of the one thought-moment of joy.

When the one thought-moment of joy arises,
Nirvana is attained without severing blind passions;
When ignorant and wise, even grave offenders and slanders of the dharma, all alike turn and enter shinjin,
They are like waters that, on entering the ocean, become one in taste with it.

Full text of Shōshinge

Handout

To join us for online Dharma Sessions, CLICK HERE and sign up for “Study Classes and Seminars”.

Sangha Voices: David Chin

Sangha Voices is a collection of profiles and perspectives featuring our temple members. For our very first profile, David Chin, the current temple president, shares how he came to be involved with San Mateo Buddhist Temple.

David Chin

My name is David Chin and I have been going to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple since 1991. I have been here through the more traditional route of attending Dharma School as a young kid. My parents and I had just moved over from New York to start elementary school here in San Mateo. My Mom and her grandparents are from here and my grandma was still teaching Dharma School at the time. Everything about the temple was still new too me and I did not really understand even reciting Namu Amida Bustu. Being so young and shy, I barely spoke out loud when saying the nembutsu. I basically whispered it under my breath during class and when ever I had to go up for oshoko.

Of course, eventually I got more comfortable around the temple and now think of it as my second home. It is hard to say what impact a place or community has on you when it has essentially always been there in your life. Being part of a larger community is something I only realized the value of later during high school and college by really becoming friends with people that did not have the same in their own lives. Being Buddhist and being part of this temple is an integral part of my identity and likely how I approach life. I imagine I would be a quite different person if we had stayed back in New York and I never became part of a Sangha.

The Four Universal Bodhisattva Vows

Living beings are limitless, I vow to liberate them all.

Blind passions are limitless, I vow to sever them all.

Dharma gates are inexhaustible, I vow to know them all.

Unsurpassed is awakening, I vow to realize it.

Commentary from Genshin’s Ojoyoshu, Section on the Correct Practice of the Nembutsu

To begin with, the manifestation of practice is generally called the mind that vows to become a Buddha.  It is also referred to as the mind that seeks the highest awakening while transforming living beings below.  The manifestation of practice is also expressed as the Four Universal Vows.

These vows can be understood in two ways.  The first way is to understand the Four Universal Vows as they arise from life situations.  This is compassion conditioned by a feeling of sympathy for living beings[1], or compassion conditioned by an appreciation of the Dharma[2].  The second way is to understand the Four Universal Vows as they arise from true reality.  This is unconditioned compassion[3].

[The Four Universal Vows as they arise from life situations]

I will now explain the Four Universal Vows as they arise from life situations. 

The first vow is “Living beings are limitless, I vow to liberate them all.”  One should think, “All living beings have Buddha-nature, I will guide them all to enter the state of nirvana without remainder[4].” . . . This is the cause for awakening of the transformation body[5]

The second vow is “Base passions are limitless, I vow to sever them all.” . . .  This is the cause for awakening of the Dharma body[6]

The third vow is “Dharma gates are inexhaustible, I vow to know them all.” . . . This is the cause for awakening of the reward body[7]

The fourth vow is “Unsurpassed is awakening, I vow to realize it.”[8]  This is the vow to seek the awakening of Buddhahood.  It is said that because this vow contains the practice and vows of the previous three, it leads one to realize perfect awaking of the three bodies.  Moreover it enables one to broadly guide all beings to liberation.

[The Four Universal Vows as they arise from true reality]

With regard to the Four Universal Vows as they arise from true reality, all things are originally tranquil [as in the state of Nirvana].  They neither exist nor lack existence.  They neither continue nor cease.  They neither arise nor are extinguished.  They are neither defiled nor pure.  There is no form or fragrance that is not an expression of the Middle Way[9]. 

Samsara itself is Nirvana.  The base passion themselves are awakening.   One by one, the gates of defilement themselves become the 84,000 perfected virtues.  Darkness changes into light, like ice melts into water[10].  It is neither far away, nor something that comes from another place.  The mind is completely endowed with virtues in a single thought-moment, as if receiving the wish-fulfilling jewel.  There is neither treasure nor lack of treasure.  To say it does not exist would be a lie.  To say it exists would be a false view.  It cannot be known by the mind.  It cannot be explained with words.

In the midst of this of inconceivable unbounded Dharma, living beings tie themselves down with concepts.  In the midst of the Dharma where there is nothing to cast off, they strive for liberation.  For this reason, [the bodhisattva] awakens great compassion and establishes the Four Universal Vows for all beings in the Dharma-realm.  This is called following true reality to the mind of aspiration.  It is the very highest mind that aspires for awakening.

Relationship between the Four Universal Bodhisattva Vows and the Four Noble Truths

Each of these two ways of understanding the Four Universal Vows has two meanings. 

[The Four Noble Truths and the Four Universal Vows as they arise from life situations]

From the perspective of the Four Universal Vows as they arise from life situations, the first and second vows express the removal of suffering of living beings as described in the Truth of Suffering and Cause of Suffering, the First and Second Noble Truths.  The third and fourth vows express bestowing upon living beings the joy that is described in the Path to Liberation from Suffering and the End of Suffering, the Fourth and Third Noble Truths.

[The Four Noble Truths and the Four Universal Vows as they arise from true reality]

From the perspective of the Four Universal Vows as they arise from true reality, the first vow refers to other beings, and the remaining three vows refer to oneself.  This is to say that both the removal the suffering described the First and Second Noble Truths and the bestowing of joy described the Third and Fourth Noble Truths are all contained within the first vow.  In order to realize absolute and complete fulfillment of this vow, one gives rise to the remaining three vows that refer to oneself.

(Jodo Shinshu Seiten Shichisohen Chushakuban, p. 903-906; Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo No. 2682, Vol. 84, p. 48-49, translated by H. Adams)


[1] Also referred to as “small compassion.” Cf. Shinran’s Hymns of the Latter Dharma Age:“Lacking even small love and small compassion, / I cannot hope to benefit sentient beings. / Were it not for the ship of Amida’s Vow, / How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?” (Collected Works of Shinran, p. 422)

[2] Also referred to as “medium compassion.”

[3] Also referred to as “Great Compassion.”  This is the compassion of the Buddhas.

[4] 無餘涅槃the state of total liberation from all physical and mental conditions. This is in contrast to nirvāṇa with remainder 有餘涅槃, where the body still exists. (http://www.buddhism-dict.net/)

[5] The transformation body nirmanakaya: a body manifested to correspond to the different needs and capacities of living beings. (Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms, H. Inagaki, p. 237)

[6] The Dharma body Dharmakaya: the body of the ultimate reality (Ibid., p. 113)

[7] The reward body sambhogakaya: the body of a buddha received as the result of his meritorious practices (Ibid., p. 102)

[8] Genshin’s version of the Fourth Universal Vow (無上菩提誓願證), differs slightly from the more common Chinese version 佛道無上誓願成 “The way of the Buddha is unsurpassed, I vow to perfect it.”

[9] The Middle Way that rejects the two positions of “is” and “is not.”  This is characteristic of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy.

[10] Cf. Shinran’s Hymn’s of the Pure Land Masters: “Obstructions of karmic evil turn into virtues; / It is like the relation of ice and water: / The more the ice, the more the water; / The more the obstructions, the more the virtues.” (Collected Works of Shinran, p. 371)

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 8)

This month as we celebrate Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday, the following verse from the Shoshinge expresses our appreciation for the meaning of his appearance in this world:

Sakyamuni Tathagata appeared in this world
Solely to teach the ocean-like Primal Vow of Amida;
We, an ocean of beings in an evil age of five defilements,
Should entrust ourselves to the Tathagata’s words of truth.

Full text of Shōshinge

Handout

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