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Shinran and Pure Land Buddhism

One of the "founding fathers" of Shin Buddhism, Shinran, in effect turned history upside down. He understood all reality as the expression of the "Vow mind", as the manifestation of "suchness", as everlasting activities of salvation, Upaya. From this viewpoint, the historical Buddha - and his own teachings - become just one expression within time of the "primal will" that all sentient beings come to realize enlightenment/salvation. Pure Land teachings may or may not be deemed to be derived from him (the historical Buddha) - for, to a certain extent, from such a perspective, this becomes irrelevant. Reflecting upon this, the perspective of Shinran can be understood as some sort of guard against fundamentalism, in as much as any expression of spirituality can be understood as being within the orbit of the "divine will" that all be "saved"..........or so it seems to me....

This is all in keeping with many Buddhist sutta's/sutra's........

[i]The Lord speaks with but one voice, but all beings, each according to their kind, gain understanding, each thinking that the Lord speaks their own language. This is a special quality of the Buddha. The Lord speaks with but one voice, but all beings, each according to their own ability, act upon it, and each derives the appropriate benefit. This is a special quality of the Buddha.
(Vimalakirti Sutra)

[i]Just as the nature of the earth is one
While beings each live separately,
And the earth has no thought of oneness or difference,
So is the truth of all Buddhas.

Just as the ocean is one
With millions of different waves,
Yet the water is no different:
So is the truth of all Buddhas.

Just as the element earth, while one,
Can produce various sprouts,
Yet it's not that the earth is diverse:
So is the truth of all Buddhas.
(Hua-Yen Sutra)

I bring fullness and satisfaction to the world,
like rain that spreads its moisture everywhere.
Eminent and lowly, superior and inferior,
observers of precepts, violators of precepts,
those fully endowed with proper demeanor,
those not fully endowed,
those of correct views, of erroneous views,
of keen capacity, of dull capacity -
I cause the Dharma rain to rain on all equally,
never lax or neglectful.
When all the various living beings
hear my Law,
they receive it according to their power,
dwelling in their different environments.....
......The Law of the Buddhas
is constantly of a single flavour,
causing the many worlds
to attain full satisfaction everywhere;
by practicing gradually and stage by stage,
all beings can gain the fruits of the way.[/i]

(The Lotus Sutra, Parable of the Dharma Rain)

Certainly, as I see it, to posit the idea that the Divine - however conceived - has "written" just one book as a prime means of communication, with just one intended meaning, is ultimately incoherent and indefensible.

I will continue to believe (and even continue to observe) that, for those who have the faith that ultimately the Cosmos we live in is benign and means us no harm, for such, the truth of this can be found in all places, at all times.....if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

All this relates - at least for me - with a "beautiful paradox" that I have spoken of before, drawn from the words of Thomas Merton.... It comes from a letter written to E.D.Andrews, an expert on the life and beliefs of the Shakers (or the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing). Andrews had sent Merton a copy of his book, Shaker Furniture, and Merton was responding to the gift.

[i]This wordless simplicity, in which the works of quiet and holy people speak humbly for themselves. How important that is in our day, when we are flooded with a tidal wave of meaningless words: and worse still when in the void of those words the sinister power of hatred and destruction is at work. The Shakers remain as witnesses to the fact that only humility keeps man in communion with truth, and first of all with his own inner truth. This one must know without knowing it, as they did. For as soon as a man becomes aware of "his truth" he lets go of it and embraces an illusion.[/i]

All truth, wisdom, whatever......can never be "ours" in this sense.
Great compassion awaits us with open arms. Namu-Amida-Butsu is the beckoning call, "Come, just as you are."

[i]This openhearted welcome is quietly described by Koshin Ogui in an article carried in the Cleveland Buddhist Temple Newsletter. He relates an experience he once had of returning home from a trip. In his absence the answering machine had recorded four phone calls from the same person. The message was, "Jesus is the only saviour. Believe in him and you'll be saved. Love him and you'll be loved. Anyone who does not believe in him will go to hell." Ogui comments.....

What do you say about this message? I don't know why, but then I recalled meeting with my mother on my recent trip to Japan. I hadn't seen her for five years. As soon as I opened the door to the house where I was born, there she was standing right in front of me. She didn't say anything much, but she held my hand and with tears in her eyes, she said, "You came home." Isn't that nice, to be welcomed without any justification, whether I believe in her or not. I realize that I have always been living in her love. I am grateful. Namu-Amida-Butsu.[/i]

(From "River of Fire, River of Water" by Taitetsu Unno)

There is no superiority of any Religion, or any particular theology, or any particular understanding of any theology. There is only Grace, which is eternal and infinite. And as many "doors" to its realisation as there are human beings.
Pure Land Buddhism says "Come, just as you are".

While Religion will always set conditions.

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