Shoshinge, Part 9

From here starts part 2 of the Shoshinge which is about the exposition of the seven masters of Buddhism. There were 2 masters of India, 3 masters of  China, and 2 masters of Japan. In this section, Shinran Shonin pays homage to these masters of Buddhism which came before him and clarified the teachings so that Shinran could be saved by the vow of Amida Buddha. Shinran has incredible gratitude and devotion to the great masters, and has deep thanks in his heart for the contributions they have made to Buddhism. All of which have enabled him to be saved by Amida Buddha in this lifetime.

It begins like this:

45.    印(いん) 度(どー) 西(さい) 天(てん) 之(しー) 論(ろん) 家(げー)
The discourse writers of India, the land in the west,
46.    中(ちゅう) 夏(かー) 日(じち) 域(いき) 之(しー) 高(こう) 僧(そーう)
And noble masters of China and Japan
47.    顯(げん) 大(だい) 聖(しょう) 興(こう) 世(せー) 正(しょう) 意(いー)
Revealed the true purpose of the Great Sage’s appearance
48.    明(みょう) 如(にょー) 來(らい) 本(ほん) 誓(ぜい) 應(おう) 機(きー)
And clarified that Amida’s Primal Vow responds to our need.

Explanation:

First of all, in the first two lines, Shinran talks about the ‘discourse writers’ of India and the ‘noble masters’ of China and Japan. It is here that he is referring to the 7 masters of Buddhism.

I will list them here for your reference:

India:

Nagarjuna

Vasubandhu

China:

T’an-luan

Tao-ch’o

Shan-tao

Japan:

Genshin

Honen Shonin

These seven masters of Buddhism each had their own contribution to Buddhism and served in helping Shinran become the Buddhist he was.

Nagarjuna is probably the most important, or one of the most important in Mahayana Buddhism (which includes our Pure Land sect). He basically taught that everything in terms of one’s existence and environment could be attributed to their conscious mind. Which makes a lot of sense if you think about it, I mean the mind is the most important in all of Buddhism, and so the mind is the key decision maker in all aspects. Whatever you do and wherever you go is controlled by your mind (aka consciousness) easily. Nagarjuna also recommended reciting the name of Amida Buddha (or, the Nembutsu) in an effort to attain the 51st stage of enlightenment. He was also the first to clarify the Alaya Mind and its role in our lives as a karmic storage house.

Vasubandhu was also an important master of Buddhism, because he broke the teachings down into simple steps that normal people could practice in order to achieve salvation by Amida Buddha. In conjunction with his system on ‘five mindful practices’ he also said that recitation of Amida’s name was important in terms of daily practice.

T’an-luan was a Buddhist master from China. Picking up from Vasubandhu, he furthered Buddhism by breaking down ideas and applying new context to them. Among other things, T’an-luan was the most famous for originating the term Other Power faith. He placed great emphasis on this, which was further emphasized by Shinran Shonin.

Tao-ch’o, also from China, picked up from T’an-luan and furthered Buddhism even more. Unlike previous masters, he focused on the Contemplation Sutra and emphasized recitation of the Nembutsu above all. They say that he repeated the Nembutsu day and night, and encouraged his followers to count the number of times they said it in a given day.

Shan-tao was a student of Tao-ch’o, in much the same way that Shinran Shonin was a student of Honen. He Emphasized meditation above all, as well as the Contemplation Sutra. It should also be noted that he also emphasized these five practices for fulfilling Amida’s Vow and being reborn in the Pure Land:

1: Chanting of Sutras

2: Meditating on Amida and visualizing the pure land (This is also in the Meditation Sutra if you remember the story of Osha Castle).

3: Worshiping Amida

4: Reciting the Nembutsu

5: Praising the Virtue of Amida.

Of these 5, he, like his former master Tao-ch’o, recommends the recitation of the Nembutsu above all as a practice to fulfill Amida’s Vow.

Genshin, like Shinran initially was, was a monk on Mt. Hiei and belonged to the Tendai Sect. He also emphasized the Nembutsu and its recitation as it is pretty much the only thing that us human beings could do. Since we are incapable of practicing good deeds, he asserted that the Nembutsu is the only right act. If performed with singleness of mind, it will be the cause of our birth in the pure land. Since this coincides with the vow of Amida Buddha, it cannot be false.

Honen Shonin, master of Shinran Shonin, was a master of Tendai Buddhism. It is said that he read all the Sutras, every single one of them, over a period of ten years. However, that did not suit him, so he read them again and again until he found the real answer, which was the cause of his salvation. The mind which recites the Nembutsu with singleness of faith, no matter where, has realized the vow of Amida Buddha. Because he found this, he went on to teach it to everyone he came across.

So that was a summary of what contribution and what the seven masters of Buddhism did. These seven masters were very pivotal to the teachings of Buddhism as they exist today, and if not for them, Shinran would have never achieved Amida’s Salvation.  The last two lines state that the masters of Buddhism basically clarified the teachings and stated that the purpose of Sakyamuni’s appearance on this Earth was to guide people towards the vow of Amida Buddha.

It should also be noted that the Nembutsu recitation that the seven masters of Buddhism recommended, are based on self-power at first. In other words, reciting the Nembutsu alone is not the cause of your birth in the pure land, but rather the mind that recites the Nembutsu. A mind that has nothing but gratitude and thankfulness to Amida Buddha for his unlimited compassion is the basis of other-power faith. It is this type of recitation of Nembutsu that is critical for attaining rebirth in the pure land.

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2 Responses

  1. […] the rest here:  Shoshinge, Part 9 « Notes on Jodo Shinshu Pure Land Buddhism Akihabara Rampage, Japan / 秋葉原通り魔事件 | Best of Japan […]

  2. […] rest is here: Shoshinge, Part 9 « Notes on Jodo Shinshu Pure Land Buddhism Giseigo, Gitaigo: Japanese sound symbolism – JaJJoMtv Live Japan! | Van Ness' Blog | […]

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