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Buddhadharma : Spring 2016
spring 2016 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 45 (lEft—right):©DhAMMADhAriNi,cArloSfErrEyroS,rEV.DAViDMAtSUMoto,iSShiNglENSNyDEr in this life we don’t realize enlightenment, but we are the equal of the tatagathas—we awaken wis- dom, we are embraced within compassion, and yet enlightenment comes about only upon birth in the Pure Land, the land of immeasurable light. BuDDhADhARMA: David, can you clarify for those who aren’t familiar with Shin what it means to be born in the Pure Land? DAVID MATSuMOTO: Sure. Shinran teaches that it’s dif- ficult, if not impossible, to realize enlightenment just as we are. However, what is possible, and what can be the foundation of our spiritual lives, is what he calls shinjin, a term that early translations in the West rendered as faith. Shin was often described as a way of having faith in the Buddha, who will save his followers, who are reborn in a Pure Land in a world to come. For that reason, Shin, or Jodoshin- shu, was characterized as kind of Christian Bud- dhism, but shinjin is more than just faith. There is an aspect of faith in the Buddhist sense (sraddha), but there’s also a sense of an ever-unfolding awak- ening to one’s nature and of the activity of wisdom unfolding as compassion. This is also what Shinran calls “birth.” So birth is both this awakening that we experience here and now, which supports and informs all of our religious life as we venture forth, and the realization of nirvana when our karmic bondage to this world ends. BuDDhADhARMA: Let’s talk more about how enlight- enment functions according to each of your tradi- tions. Is it a matter of passing a threshold—once you’re enlightened, you’re enlightened? Is it a more continual awakening process? Or are we already awakened and simply trying to clear the obscurations? PONLOP RINPOChE: From the vajrayana point of view, our mind’s nature is fully awakened from the very beginning, and our path is to discover that nature. We understand that this awakening is a realization of the natural state of mind and that the recognition of that same mind in others is the deepest part of the Buddha’s awakening. The teachings therefore emphasize removing hindrances to seeing clearly so that one can abide in the clarity of reality as it actu- ally is. Different streams of the tradition also empha- size different parts of awakening. Dogen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen in Japan from which my lineage flows, emphasized that the buddhanature we all possess is recognized in each other—so awakening is awakening to buddhanature in all sentient beings. In other Zen traditions, more atten- tion is focused on working toward realization. The renowned Rinzai teacher Hakuin Zenji tracked his enlightenment experiences, categorizing them as small, medium, and large. In the tradition I was trained in, we work mostly from the acceptance of buddhanature in all beings and cultivate a moral perspective, but we operate from the assumption that enlightenment is already present in everyone. So practice involves sitting in that awareness; medi- tation is sitting in the natural mind and observing processes that arise. Mostly we aren’t working toward enlightenment in Zen, we’re assuming it as a basis and trying to accept that reality. DAVID MATSuMOTO: In Shin Buddhism our perspective of enlightenment and the way in which it informs a life was taught to us by our founder, Shinran, who was very much Mahayana Buddhist but also a Pure Land Buddhist. I find great resonance with what others have said. In many ways, Shin gives expres- sion to those same understandings with the use of symbolism and expression of Pure Land Buddhism. Enlightenment is both that to which we aspire along the Buddha’s path and the very foundation of the path—it’s a source from which the path flows and arises. Shinran tells us that Amida Buddha and the Pure Land are tathagathas; they are oneness in suchness, they are buddhanature, and as such he empha- sizes both the awakening of wisdom in enlighten- ment and also the activity of compassion. It is the working of compassion that becomes the focus of enlightenment in the Shin tradition. Shin is grounded in a lay tradition, a householder tradition. Shinran is very clear when he says that Enlightenment is understood as an ordinary state demonstrated in ordinary practices, such as drinking tea. There’s nothing special to do in Zen. —Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin