Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism


Chapter 7

Karmic Defilements

Amida's Light of Awakening is the most brilliant of all;
We call him the 'Buddha of Pure Light'.
Once his Light illumines us, we attain deliverance with
All our karmic defilements removed. (Jodo Wasan 7)

In Shin Buddhism, we are taught that Faith (shinjin) has two aspects: awareness of one's karmic evils and deep faith in Amida's saving power. Shan-tao - the Sixth Master - in explaining the second of the three aspects of faith mentioned in the Contemplation Sutra, states:

'Deep mind is the mind of deep faith. It has two aspects. Firstly, one deeply and decidedly realizes that one is actually an ordinary being full of karmic evils and bound to cycles of birth and death, continually sinking and transmigrating in Samsara from innumerable kalpas ago without any hope of deliverance. Secondly, one deeply and decidedly realizes that the Forty-eight Vows of Amida Buddha embrace sentient beings and enable those who trust the Power of his Vow without doubt and apprehension to be born unfailingly in the Pure Land.'

These reflections upon human nature and human destiny offer the vital key to our understanding of our own selves. Shan-tao gives us a true picture of what we really are in the continual current of karma. All of us have our own historical existence as a continuum of karmic cause and effect. The current of karma which no one but ourselves has created carries us on and on without an end and without hope of salvation.

Shan-tao's explanation of the reality of human existence and that of Amida's saving power has been shared by other Pure Land masters, and has served as the standard of faith in Pure Land Buddhism. In Shinran, however, any implication of self-power, which may be suspected in the mental attitude of 'faith' or 'belief' on the side of the aspirant, is completely negated. He does not teach us to 'believe' or 'trust' in the ordinary sense of these words, but urges us to give up our faith and belief, which are inevitably rooted in our self-centeredness and evil passions, and even urges us to give up our entire selves! By giving ourselves up to Amida, we find ourselves in the Light of his Wisdom and Compassion.

Amida's Light of Pure Wisdom is bound to penetrate to the depths of our existence and dissolve our tenacious karmic bonds. With our impure karma cancelled by Amida's pure karma, we enjoy participation in his pure activity, expressing our gratitude by the Nembutsu.

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