Unlocking Tannisho, Part 12

IX
“Although I say the nembutsu, I rarely experience joyful happiness nor do I have the desire to immediately go to the Pure Land. What should be done about this?” I asked. Then he responded, “I, Shinran, have been having the same question also, and now you, Yui-en, have the same thought.”

“When I carefully consider the matter, my birth in the Pure land is settled without doubt for the very reason that I do not rejoice about that which I should be bursting with joy. It is the working of blind passion which suppresses the heart that would rejoice and prevents its fullest expression. All this the Buddha already knew and called us foolish beings filled with blind passion. Thus, when we realize that the compassionate Vow of Other Power is for beings like ourselves, the Vow becomes even more reliable and dependable.”

“The working of blind passion also causes us not to want to go to the Pure land and makes us feel uneasy worrying about death when we become even slightly ill. Impossible it seems to leave this old house of agitation where we have wandered aimlessly since the beginning of time, nor can we long for the Pure Land of peace which we have yet to know. This is due to blind passion so truly powerful and overwhelming. But no matter how reluctant we may be, when our life in this world comes to an end, beyond our control, then for the first time we go to the land of Fulfillment. Those who do not want to go immediately are the special concern of true compassion. For this very reason the Vow of true compassion is completely dependable, and our birth in the Pure Land is absolutely certain.”

“If our hearts were filled with joyful happiness and we desired to go swiftly to the Pure Land, we might be misled to think that perhaps we are free of blind passion.”

Explanation:

This is one of the longest, however, simplest chapters the Tannisho has to offer. What is happening in this passage is that Yuien recollects asking Shinran about his problem. Why is it that he has achieved other power faith and been saved by the vow of Amida Buddha, but yet he does not experience “joyful happiness” nor does he have the desire to immediately go to the pure land. How does Shinran answer this question?

Well, when one is saved by the vow of Amida Buddha, they have already attained true faith, and so they have no need to perform any more acts or deeds to guarantee their salvation since it already has been guaranteed. Now, just because you attain salvation in this lifetime, and experience the vow of Amida Buddha, it doesn’t mean that the blind passions you have suffered are gone. Shinran answers this question by confirming that he too has experienced the very same occurrence and that it is normal.

Human beings, from the beginning of time have always suffered from their blind passions such as greed, anger, lust, etc. We are in a land full of unenlightened beings. No matter where we go or what we do, everyone suffers from blind passions and we are all called foolish beings. Of course, Amida Buddha has already known this, and is precisely why he grants us a chance at salvation should we be able to attain true faith. Old habits die hard, and so this is the explanation Shinran gives for why the blind passions do not go away fully. Their roots become cut, yes, however, they still exist. It is just a matter of whether we can control them or not. The vow of Amida Buddha is dependable and certain, and so we should only rely on it and not on the delusions we suffer from.

Finally, Shinran states that “If our hearts were filled with joyful happiness and we desired to go swiftly to the Pure Land, we might be misled to think that perhaps we are free of blind passion.” Which is true. If we were filled with joyful happiness, and desired to go to the Pure Land immediately, then we might think that we are perhaps free of blind passion. However, at our core we are not, that is the type of being which we are and the innate characteristics which we have. There is no escaping it. Dharmakara observed our kind for a period of 5 kalpas and he came to the very same conclusion. Nevertheless, one who has attained true faith will rest assured that he is guaranteed rebirth into paradise.

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