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

Koso Wasan 35

The directing of virtue for our going forth is such that
When Amida's active means towards us reaches fulfilment,
We realise the shinjin and practice of the compassionate Vow;
Then birth-and-death is itself nirvana.

True Compassion

Master Tanluan

The Compassionate Vow of Amida Buddha (Sk. karuna) is consummated when birth-and-death (Sk. samsara) is itself nirvana.

T'an-luan explains, in his commentary on Vasubandhu's Jodo Ron, that the Pure Land aspirant turns over his or her acquired merit in a compassionate act for the benefit of others. But Shinran Shonin limits the direction of merit to one that is transferred only from Amida Buddha to beings, because we have no merit of our own to share in that way.

The practice of parinama ('transfer of merit' - Jp. eko) is the virtue of Amida Buddha's pure compassion being transferred to beings (his 'active means'). This is possible because his wisdom is the compassion that identifies completely with beings. True compassion is the realisation of wisdom, that all dharmas are empty, that is to say, enmeshed and interconnected. Hence, compassion free of an isolated self, may perfectly become the other.

When the shinjin of Amida Buddha is received by beings and the resulting nembutsu comes to mind, then Amida Buddha's light or wisdom becomes one with beings bound to birth-and-death (samsara). It is in this way that the awakening of shinjin, which is the active compassion of Amida Buddha, becomes samsara, birth-and-death.

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Jodo Wasan

Koso Wasan

Shozomatsu Wasan


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