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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
WINTER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 51 Hymns of the Pure Land Shinran expresses the joyful and devotional quality of Shin Buddhism in these verses from Jodo Wasan, a collection of hymns he composed in the thirteenth century. Amida has passed through ten kalpas now Since realizing Buddhahood; Dharma-body’s wheel of light is without bound, Shining on the blind and ignorant of the world. The light of wisdom exceeds all measure, And every finite living being Receives this illumination that is like the dawn, So take refuge in Amida, the true and real light. The liberating wheel of light is without bound; Each person it touches, it is taught, Is freed from attachments to being and nonbeing, So take refuge in Amida, the enlightenment of nondiscrimination. The cloud of light is unhindered, like open sky; There is nothing that impedes it. Every being is nurtured by this light, So take refuge in Amida, the one beyond conception. The light of purity is without compare. When a person encounters this light, All bonds of karma fall away; So take refuge in Amida, the ultimate shelter. From The Collected Works of Shinran, Volume I, translated under the direction of Dennis Hirota and published by Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, 1997 that by having a trusting heart, we experience the joy that accompanies birth in the Pure Land during this life, rather than waiting anxiously for liberation in the future. When the end of life does arrive, our karmic entanglements are unraveled as we are released into the bliss of the Pure Land, the realm of nirvana. However, Shinran’s vision of the Pure Land is far from a heavenly resting place. Instead, he taught that we immediately return in innumerable forms to free those still trapped in suffering, eternally working on behalf of others. Pure Land teachings electrified medieval Japan, leading to popularity as well as persecu- tion. Seen as a threat to the establishment, Honen and a group of his students, including Shinran, were stripped of their Buddhist credentials and exiled from Kyoto for several years. But Shin- ran never ceased teaching, and after his death his daughter founded a temple in his memory, which eventually led to the development of the Shin school of Pure Land Buddhism. Over time, it grew to have an enormous impact on Japanese society. Much of its appeal came from the fact that anyone could be involved, even people who were traditionally excluded from advanced Bud- dhist practice, such as women, peasants, fisher- men, hunters, soldiers, outcastes, prostitutes, and others who were not allowed in the monasteries. Today, Shin is the form of Buddhism with by far the most adherents in Japan, the second largest being Jodo Shu, the Pure Land school founded by Shinran’s teacher, Honen. In the late 1800s, Shin Buddhism came to Hawaii and North America, and today there are more than a hundred temples, many of them more than a century old, in the United States and Canada. Their members include people who are now fourth- and fifth-generation Western Buddhists. During that long North American history, they have often been at the forefront of develop- ments in American Buddhism—making Buddhist arguments for labor rights, giving Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac their first taste of living Bud- dhism, founding the first Buddhist seminary in the West, performing the first Buddhist same-sex marriages, developing the first Buddhist prison ministries, and innovating other forms of what has come to be called engaged Buddhism. A lot has changed since those early Buddhist pioneers brought the dharma to our shores. It’s wonderful how many Buddhist options there are for people in the West these days, everything from intense three-year retreats to mindfulness practice for dealing with everyday stress. But for those who can’t seem to master meditation, or have trouble perfecting strict precepts, or are looking for a Buddhist path that says, “Just as you are, you are affirmed and included,” Shin Buddhism is still here offering an ancient tra- dition designed to help them in their lives. Regardless of what path an individual decides to take, Shin Buddhists believe we will all be born together in the Pure Land—liberation— and become bodhisattvas who work to care for all suffering beings. It’s a path designed for the ordinary foolish being like myself—and perhaps that is what I’m most grateful for of all.