Shoshinge, Part 7

In continuing our discussion and interpretation on the Shoshinge, Hymn of True Faith, we are coming closer to the end of the first section. I mentioned in an earlier post that the second half of the Shoshinge deals with the exposition on the seven masters of Buddhism, and that is what we will be getting into once we finish up on this first section.

Lets get right to it!

35. 獲(ぎゃく) 信(しん) 見(けん) 敬(きょう) 大(だい) 慶(きょう) 喜(きー)

When we receive Faith, regard and revere the Dharma, and attain Great Joy,

36. 即(ぞく) 横(おう) 超(ちょう) 截(ぜつ) 五(ごー) 惡(あく) 趣(しゅー)

We immediately transcend the five evil realms.

37. 一(いーつ) 切(さい) 善(ぜん) 惡(まく) 凡(ぼん) 夫(ぶー) 人(にーん)

If ordinary people, whether good or evil,

38. 聞(もん) 信(しん) 如(にょー) 來(らい) 弘(ぐー) 誓(ぜい) 願(がーん)

Hear the Dharma and trust Amida’s Universal Vow,

39. 佛(ぶつ) 言(ごん) 廣(こう) 大(だい) 勝(しょう) 解(げー) 者(しゃー)

Shakyamuni praises them as ‘men of great and superior understanding’;

40. 是(ぜー) 人(にん) 名(みょう) 分(ふん) 陀(だー) 利(りー) 華(け)

Such people are called ‘white lotus-flowers’.

Explanation:

What is life? We are born, and then we die, all the while in between chasing money, fame, fortune or other temporary pleasures. Many people say that life is meaningless, and that life is nothing but an endless wave of suffering. But, those who say that life is meaningless also say that it is better not to have been born in the first place. Is this right? Can this be true in the least? Is there no reason to live? The answer is of course NO.

People who say such things know nothing of the true purpose of life, know nothing about true Buddhism. They are totally in the dark and ignorant about themselves and the world around them. First of all, the purpose of life is to end the tormentuous cycle of birth and death that we have been plagued with for eons past. You have always longed to rid yourself of the suffering from eons past, but you have just not known about it. The true purpose of life is to end the suffering and thus be born into the pure land by the vow of Amida Buddha and attain unlimited happiness.

After many eons and many lifetimes of transmigrations, you have come to this website to know the truth about Buddhism, about your life. How rare is this? In the Larger Sutra, it states that human life is difficult to obtain, and once you do obtain it, then meeting a Buddha is even more difficult. Even when that happens, there are also many doubts, however, should you hear the teachings, these become deep rooted within you and you thus awaken the desire for enlightenment. So, whatever you do, do not waste this extremely precious gift of life that you have been given, and instead, use this rare opportunity to listen to the teachings, and take refuge in them. To do so is extremely rare in itself, however, if you do this, and persist, then you shall one day unfailingly rid yourself of the cause of suffering, be reborn in the pure land and resolve to become a Buddha. This is the true purpose of life.

However, there is a problem, as I have mentioned before in a previous post. Us human beings are incapable of performing any good deeds. Every action you do in good, is either for your benefit or sake. Even if you resolve to pursue the white path, you will do good deeds in order to be born in Amida’s pure land. This in itself is considered unpure. You do good deeds in order to be born in the pure land? You have had an ulterior motive all along.

Shinran Shonin, if you remember from our previous discussion, tried his hardest for 20 years to practice good deeds and stick to the practices of the Lotus Sutra on Mt. Hiei, but he failed and thus left in pursuit of true enlightenment with Honen Shonin, which he was able to obtain. From then on he concluded that human beings have never had the true mind, and are incapable of performing any good deeds. Sakyamuni Buddha also said that “from the past up until now, we have not practiced a single good deed”. This in itself is extremely difficult to realize deep down as we try desperately to do good deeds to save ourselves, but it is impossible to reach the pure land and gain enlightenment by self power means. Through various forms of expediency, called uppaya, we try and try to do our best, but in the end, we realize it is impossible.

Amida Buddha has known this truth all along, and so knowing this, he is there to pick those who take refuge in his vow up and carry them across the sea of suffering. Once you are granted other power faith by Amida Buddha, everything starts to turn around. The deeds you once performed with a selfish nature turn from bad to good, and anything evil will turn to good as well. You will realize the true nature about yourself that has been hidden from you for so long, and you will have resolved the grave problem of what happens after-death and be reborn into the pure land.

So these lines, essentially, are talking about what the life of people who achieve other power faith is like. As mentioned in the lines, those who hear and receive the faith of the vow of Amida Buddha are praised as “men of great and superior understanding” by Sakyamuni Buddha, and considered white lotuses. In Buddhism, a white lotus is the symbol of an enlightened being. We are all like lotuses, and, when we listen to the Buddhism, the lotus slowly blooms until it blooms entirely. It is at that point that we achieve enlightenment.

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