The Jodo Shinshu teaching established by Shinran Shonin makes us aware that although we are imperfect beings, we are all encompassed by the Universal Truth of Oneness. This enables us to live in the present with confidence and peace of mind and assures us that we are constantly sustained by the Infinite Light and Life.
The purpose of this teaching is to allow us to live our lives to the fullest, becoming aware of both our potentials and limitations in this world. Because we are able to overcome all the difficulties, we can thus realize true happiness within this life time.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is one of the largest denominations of Buddhism in Japan. The founder is Shinran Shonin who lived in the Kamakura Era of Japan. In a time of disunity and violence, Shinran Shonin sought a way for all beings to attain perfect peace equally. Shinran Shonin interpreted Buddhism on the level of the common people. During that period in Japan, to become a Buddhist meant having to leave one’s home and family to enter a life of strict practices and the intellectual study of Buddhism. Shinran Shonin, however, lived the life of an ordinary person – the same as that of farmers and fishermen. Shinran Shonin lived a nembutsu life with his family and opened up the path to Buddhism to common people.
Discovering Your Path
The word “saved” can be understood in many different ways. To some, it means having faith in gods or spirits and being rewarded as a result of offering prayers to that being. Such an understanding of “salvation” means that when we encounter obstacles we feel we cannot overcome, we simply rely on the power of a god to take care of the problems for us. This kind of salvation is not the realm of the Jodo Shinshu teaching.
We often view money, position, and fame as our goals in life, and devote all our energies into pursuing them, and in so doing, become attached to people and material possessions. We also believe happiness results from satisfying desires, and unhappiness results from failing to do so. Because of these beliefs, we have a tendency to appeal to something that transcends human strength when they are confronted by unforeseen and possibly insurmountable difficulties, sorrows, and obstacles. Some resort to bargaining and petitionary prayers; others to fortunetelling and superstitious practices. Some believe the devil or divine wrath is behind disasters and obstacles; others give credence to fate or bad luck, unlucky days, talismans, and so on. Such people hope to resolve their problems by superhuman means. Again, Jodo Shinshu does not advocate such practices.
These beliefs and practices illustrate the weakness and fragility of human beings, and the often futile efforts we rely upon. Such practices are not only groundless, but can be the cause of great harm to society, for happiness and sorrow are ever-present in our lives.
The Jodo Shinshu teaching of Shinran Shonin offers for living in the Universal Truth of Oneness based on Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. This teaching is significant for anyone seeking the way to realize true happiness.
True happiness must be that which provides us the strength to continue, even if things do not go as we wish, in full recognizing that all problems are transient in nature. Jodo Shinshu explains that such strength comes from Amida Buddha’s wondrous virtues, which most assuredly brings about our awakening to the Truth. It provides spiritual sustenance and lifelong fortitude. Choosing to proceed along this path leads to the same awakening as the Buddha. Although all of Mahayana Buddhism recognizes the assistance provided by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, Jodo Shinshu particularly values awakening to the ultimate truth and reality.