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

Koso Wasan 51

Because it is not shinjin that is decisive,
Mindfulness does not endure;
Because mindfulness does not endure,
One does not realise the shinjin that is decisive.

Things That Come to Mind

Master Tanluan

Our minds are always aware of the beating of our hearts but we rarely stop to listen to it. Sometimes, though, we become conscious of it - in times of joy or extreme stress. Yet, it beats constantly so that we can stay alive. It seems to me that this is analogous with the life of constant mindfulness of the Buddha, shinjin that is decisive.

Sometimes people of nembutsu find themselves saying Namo Amida Butsu and hear, with greater awareness the call of the Vow. It is a kind of living the spiritual life, without any effort. On the other hand, such living is free of sanctimonious posturing or overt piety. People I have known who are manifestly people of determined shinjin are nothing special except, perhaps, with a deeper humanity and warmth: like people who are really alive and not living in an entirely habitual or mechanical way, or trying be something they're not. I have heard many stories of such people; and I am sure that I know some, too.

Constant mindfulness of the Buddha is reflected in a spiritually secure relationship with the vicissitudes of life, even though they may be very unwelcome and distressing. That is why we are discussing a 'spiritually secure relationship'.

What comes to mind is the plethora of everyday impressions that can be unsettling and stimulate a response: love, fear, hate, friendliness, joy, loathing, depression, and so on. The Abhidharma actually lists many of these things when it ennumerates the kleshas: ignorance, lassitude, indolence, scepticism, false-humility, arrogance, anger, deceit, stingyness, jealousy, the desire to hurt others, affliction, misrepresentation of ourselves, arrogance and concealment. These are all listed in the Abhidharma as those constantly arising and falling defilements (bonno, Sk. klesha) that fill our minds and hearts. The Buddha-dharma has no illusions about the realities of life.

How is it possible, under these circumstances, to live in such a way as to be always conscious of the Buddha? We really need to ask about the source of constant mindfulness of the Buddha, of decisive shinjin. The answer would be obvious to readers. It is the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. Shinjin, or the entrusting heart is enduring and decisive only if it is the Buddha's entrusting heart, transferred to beings.

And the constant question that is always asked is this? 'How does that actually happen?' The answer is unequivocal. It is through Other Power, which -- from the perspective of our hearts -- is just the entrusting of ourselves to the Primal Vow, to Namo Amida Butsu. That's all!

Simply give yourself up to the Tathagata's Vow; avoid calculating in any way.1

Namo Amida Butsu

1: CWS, p. 537

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