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

Jodo Wasan 62

Based on Amida's Vow to appear at the time of death,
Sakyamuni presented all the various good acts
In one scripture, the Contemplation Sutra,
To encourage those who perform meditative and
        non-meditative practices.

The Life of the Nineteenth Vow

How does a follower of the nineteeth Vow live? Shinran gives us a detailed account of the way of life that applies to this vow in the sixth Chapter of the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho. The way of 'meditative and non-meditative good' is for those who have not acepted the working of the primal Vow of Amida Buddha.

Hence, first and foremost, the purpose of the nineteenth Vow is the work of Amida Buddha to attract people to the dharma of the Pure Land way.

How truly profound is the attempt behind the temporarily guiding Vow! How clear become the teachings of the temporary gate and [Shan-tao's] explanation [that they are for the awakening] of desire for the Pure Land!1

Jodo Wasan 62

While the implicit meaning of the nineteenth vow and the Larger Sutra is 'the true diamondlike mind (of shinjin)'2, its explicit purpose is to beckon the seeker to set out on the Pure Land way by revealing true reality as the Pure Land: that which is eternity, bliss, self, and purity, presented as the dharma body as compassionate means.

In his teaching Shakyamuni Buddha would often reveal to seekers the way things are on 'the other shore' of enlightenment, compared to the realm of suffering and samsara. Shinran conforms to this practice in the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho, when he identifies the nineteenth vow with the explicit meaning of the Contemplation Sutra. This sutra presents the first intimations that there is another way of being in the world - a person of shinjin whose heart receives 'the Primal Vow, the eighteenth Vow, the selected Primal Vow': 'sincere mind, entrusting, and aspiration for bith.'3

Although it contains implicit references to the truth of the eighteenth Vow of sincere mind and entrusting, the Contemplation Sutra is also a practical guide for those who wish to pursue the way of meditative and non-meditative good. It points to the way of precepts and visualisations for our own meditation practice.

The nineteenth vow, which Shinran praises in this verse, is also called, 'the vow of appearing at the death-bed' because the Contemplation Sutra and the nineteenth vow describe Amida coming to welcome beings, as they approach their death, to take them to the Pure Land. But in living the life of shinjin Amida Buddha welcomes us all the time.

1: CWS, p. 225.

2: CWS, p. 226.

3: CWS, p. 341.

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