The Peace of Mind We Receive from Sakyamuni Buddha

In February, we observe our Nirvana Day Service commemorating Sakyamuni Buddha’s passing from this world into the lasting peace of parinirvana.  In departing from this world, Sakyamuni embodied the essential truth that all who are born into human life will eventually pass through the gate of death.  Given that our bodily form will not last forever, where shall we find meaning and purpose in this life?  Observing the world in which we live, it seems that many lives are devoted to the pursuit of fame and profit.  Shinran Shonin himself concludes his Hymns of the Dharma-Ages with the following verse:

I am such that I do not know right and wrong
And cannot distinguish false and true;
I lack even small love and small compassion,
And yet, for fame and profit, enjoy teaching others.

The pursuit of fame and profit pervaded life in Shinran Shonin’s time, just as it does in our own time.  Reading these words of Shinran Shonin, I recognize how the desire for fame and profit often compels my own life.

In this internet age, we may find ourselves spending considerable time and energy curating an image of ourselves on social media platforms.  When our posts accumulate more and more “likes,” we taste the fleeting pleasure of fame and recognition.  This is what makes social media platforms so addictive.  When our lives are driven by the quest for fame and recognition, it is easy to become preoccupied by how we are evaluated by others.  This preoccupation with our own image can cause our hearts to become narrow and self-serving.  We may worry that if others receive attention and recognition that we will be forgotten and ignored.  We become resentful of those who receive praise, thinking that the recognition they receive signals a lack of regard for our own accomplishments.  Rather than leading to peace of mind, chasing after fame and recognition tends to lead to increased stress and anxiety.

When our lives are driven by the desire for profit, we are at risk of losing sight of what it is that makes this human life precious.  In our contemporary society, there is a tendency to attribute more value to the lives of those who have the ability to accumulate great profits.  As a result, those who dedicate their lives to helping others through vocations like teaching and care-giving often struggle to maintain their livelihood.  While recent advances in artificial intelligence raise the prospect of even more efficient and profitable operations for businesses, many workers now have great anxiety that they will no longer be needed in their current job and that their value as an employee will disappear.  When the guiding principle of life is maximizing profits, anxiety and fear are pervasive and peace of mind is rare.

Ordinary unenlightened beings fall into confusion and anxiety in their pursuit of fame and profit.  In the following verse from Shinran Shonin’s “Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu,” he expresses his deeply held belief that the true purpose of Sakyamuni Buddha’s life in this world was to provide peace of mind for ordinary unenlightened beings:

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.

The Primal Vow expresses Amida Buddha’s steadfast commitment to liberate all beings without discrimination.  The quest for profit can lead to discriminatory treatment of others if we value them only according to how much they are able to contribute to our own profit.  Sakyamuni taught the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha in order to liberate all those who are lost and suffering in this world dominated by the quest for fame and profit.

Our lives are precious not according to how much fame or profit we attain.  Our lives are precious because we have the potential to realize liberation from suffering through the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.  The words “Namo Amida Butsu” that I hear are the voice of the Buddha calling out to me, saying “I will liberate you without fail.”  The words “Namo Amida Butsu” that I recite are my joyful response saying, “Thank you for liberating me.”  Sakyamuni Buddha’s true purpose in life was to bestow upon us the genuine peace of mind that we receive in the Nembutsu.

Namo Amida Butsu

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 30)

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

We continue our study of the teachings of Honen-bo Genku, Shinran Shonin’s teacher, reflecting upon the hindrances caused by doubt, and benefits of shinjin, or entrusting in the Buddha’s teachings:

Return to this house of transmigration, of birth-and death,
Is decidedly caused by doubt.
Swift entrance into the city of tranquility, the uncreated,
Is necessarily brought about by shinjin.

Continue reading “Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 30)”

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 29)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Please join us as we encounter the teachings of Honen-bo Genku, Shinran Shonin’s teacher, who established a radically inclusive Sangha community where samurai and aristocrats sat shoulder to shoulder with outcastes and thieves to hear the message of Amida Buddha’s great compassion:

Master Genku, well-versed in the Buddha’s teaching,
Turned compassionately to foolish people, both good and evil;
Establishing in this remote land the teaching and realization that are the true essence of the Pure Land way,
He transmits the selected Primal Vow to us of the defiled world:

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Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 31)

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

We welcome you to join us in person or via Zoom Meeting on Wednesday, December 13 for this free Dharma Study Class.

6:00 p.m. Shōshinge Sōfu Chanting

Chanting Shōshinge embodies the heart of daily Nembutsu practice in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.  Join us to experience the settled the mind through focused breathing and meditative listening.

7:00 p.m. Reading and Discussion

This session will conclude our journey through the Shoshinge, which began in the Spring of 2020.  As we read this final section, we will reflect upon the significance of Shoshinge as a whole and consider the essential teachings that Shinran Shonin illuminates in his verses.

The mahasattvas and masters who spread the sutras
Save the countless beings of utter defilement and evil.
With the same mind, all people of the present, whether monk or lay,
Should rely wholly on the teachings of these venerable masters.

Continue reading “Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 31)”

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 28)

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Please join us for a conversation about the teachings of the Japanese Pure Land Master Genshin, whose teachings offer the assurance that the light of the Buddha’s compassion is constantly illuminating our path forward in life, even when we are not aware of it.

The person burdened with extreme evil should simply say the Name:
Although I too am within Amida’s grasp,
Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him;
Nevertheless, great compassion is untiring and illumines me always.

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Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 27)

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Please join us for a conversation about the teachings of the Japanese Pure Land Master Genshin, whose teachings set the stage for the flowering of the Pure Land teaching in Japan.

Genshin, having broadly elucidated the teachings of Sakyamuni’s lifetime,
Wholeheartedly took refuge in the land of peace and urges all to do so;
Ascertaining that minds devoted to single practice are profound, to sundry practice, shallow,
He sets forth truly the difference between the fulfilled land and the transformed land.

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Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 26)

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

In this month’s session we will further explore the teachings of the Chinese Pure Land Master Shan-tao (Shandao), who illuminates the path to attaining the threefold wisdom realized by Queen Vaidehi.

Shan-tao alone in his time clarified the Buddha’s true intent;
Sorrowing at the plight of meditative and non meditative practicers and people of grave evil,
He reveals that Amida’s light and Name are the causes of birth.
When the practicer enters the great ocean of wisdom, the Primal Vow,

He receives the diamondlike mind
And accords with the one thought-moment of joy; whereupon,
Equally with Vaidehi, he acquires the threefold wisdom
And is immediately brought to attain the eternal bliss of dharma-nature.

Continue reading “Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 26)”

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 25)

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

In this month’s session we will encounter the teachings of the Chinese Pure Land Master Shan-tao (Shandao), who clarified the meaning of the Contemplation Sutra as an expression of the Buddha’s vast compassion for all beings.

Shan-tao alone in his time clarified the Buddha’s true intent;
Sorrowing at the plight of meditative and non meditative practicers and people of grave evil,
He reveals that Amida’s light and Name are the causes of birth.
When the practicer enters the great ocean of wisdom, the Primal Vow,

He receives the diamondlike mind
And accords with the one thought-moment of joy; whereupon,
Equally with Vaidehi, he acquires the threefold wisdom
And is immediately brought to attain the eternal bliss of dharma-nature.

Continue reading “Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 25)”

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 24)

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

In this month’s session we will continue our study of the teachings of the Chinese Pure Land Master Tao-ch’o (Daochuo), whose teachings illuminate how our encounter with the Buddha’s compassionate vow brings about liberation for all of us who struggle to practice goodness in the world of conflict and delusion.

With kind concern he teaches the three characteristics of entrusting and non-entrusting,
Compassionately guiding all identically, whether they live when the dharma survives as but form, when in its last stage, or when it has become extinct.
Though a person has committed evil all his life, when he encounters the Primal Vow,
He will reach the world of peace and realize the perfect fruit of enlightenment.

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Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 23)

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

In this month’s session we will encounter the teachings of the Chinese Pure Land Master Tao-ch’o (Daochuo), whose teachings encourage us to pass through the Pure Land Gate and recite the Name of Amida Buddha (Namo Amida Butsu).

Tao-ch’o determined how difficult it is to fulfill the Path of Sages,
And reveals that only passage through the Pure Land gate is possible for us.
He criticizes self-power endeavor in the myriad good practices,
And encourages us solely to say the fulfilled Name embodying true virtue.

Continue reading “Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 23)”