The Way of Jodo Shinshu
Reflections on the Hymns of Shinran Shonin

Jodo Wasan 3

Amida has passed through ten kalpas now;
Since realising Buddhahood;
Dharma-body's wheel of light is without bound,
Shining on the blind and ignorant of the world.

The Dharma-body

Dharma: Ultimate, transcendent truth; the doctine of the Buddha

When the dharma-body takes an accessible form it is referred to as the 'dharma-body of compassionate means'. The essential dharma-body is called the dharma-body of dharma-nature or the dharma-body of suchness. It is said that the dharma-body of dharma-nature is without form or colour, and altogether beyond cognition. It is itself the dharma, or truth of things. Or dharma-body as suchness, the truth of things as they are.

According to the Lotus Sutra the dharma-body appears in any form that can reach into our hearts so that we can hear the dharma and respond to it. The dharma-body breaks through human suffering in order to alleviate it, taking a form that can reach through pain and darkness. In order to reach into our hearts, Amida Buddha takes the form of the Name (Namo Amida Butsu) and light.

It is only because of the existence of light that things can be seen. The effect of light is illumination. Amida Buddha is inconceivable light and identical with it. In other words he is the wisdom-compassion that characterizes the dharma-body and exposes reality as it is.

All of Shinran's verses are concerned with the illumination of the world by the dharma, and the by world of our experience.

The dharma-body is eternity, bliss, self, and purity. It is forever free of all birth, aging, sickness, and death, of not-white and not-black, not-long and not-short, not-this and not-that, not learning and not nonlearning; hence, whether the Buddha appears in the world or does not appear in the world, he is constantly unmoving and without change. Good sons, my disciples, having heard this teaching, will say, if they have not grasped my intent, 'The Tathagata has definitely taught that the Buddha-body is an uncreated dharma.' 1

All Buddhas and bodhisattvas have dharma-bodies of two dimensions: dharma-body as suchness and dharma-body as compassionate means. Dharma-body as compassionate means arises from dharma-body as suchness, and dharma-body as suchness emerges out of dharma-body as compassionate means. Those two dimensions of dharma-body differ but are not separable; they are one but cannot be regarded as identical.2

1: CWS, p. 188

2: CWS, p. 164

Current image

Jodo Wasan

Koso Wasan

Shozomatsu Wasan


Back | HOME | Next