Reflections on the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho: A Guide
by Hisao Inagaki, Professor Emeritus Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan

The True Faith

At the basis of the True Faith is the Eighteenth Vow - the ‘Vow of Sincere Mind and Joyful Faith’ - which reads:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and think of me even ten times should not be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five grave offenses and abuse the Right Dharma. (BDK, 12-II, IV, p. 16)

Faith is the most important element in every religion. In Buddhism, faith is the first step towards a long course of practice. Faith accepts the basic principle of Buddhism. Unless correct faith is firmly established, one cannot expect to embark on the prescribed practice appropriately. In the three Pure Land sutras, different aspects of faith are mentioned. First, in the Larger Sutra, the Eighteenth Vow presents three minds as the cause of birth in the Pure Land: sincere mind (至心), joyful faith (信楽), and desire for birth (欲生). Of the three, joyful faith constitutes the very essence of the Other-Power Faith. Second, in the Contemplation Sutra, the following three minds are mentioned as the cause of birth in the Pure Land: sincere mind (至誠心), deep mind (深心), and mind to dedicate one’s merit to Amida and the Pure land with the aspiration for birth there (回向発願心). In the explicit sense, those three minds are of the self-power faith but, in the implicit sense, they are the same as those of the three minds of the Eighteenth Vow. Third, one mind or single-mindedness is mentioned in the Amida Sutra in connection with the Nembutsu; in the implicit sense, it is the same as the Other-Power Faith.

In Shinran’s doctrinal system, Vasubandhu’s Discourse on the Pure Land occupies nearly as important a position as the Three Sutras. Honen had already noticed the importance of this Discourse and included it in the four canonical scriptures of Pure Land Buddhism. Shinran paid a special attention to the phrase in the Discourse “with singleness of mind I take refuge…” Shinran esteemed this singleness of mind as highly as the Three Minds of the Eighteenth Vow.

In the general course of Buddhism, practitioners are expected to entertain faith and strengthen and purify it while performing practices. From the beginning, the Other-Power Faith is not included in the ordinary category of ‘faith’. It belongs to Amida but is freely endowed to us whenever we are ready to accept it. When it becomes ours, it has a revolutionary effect. It completely changes our ordinary state of mind, dislodging false beliefs and desires and eradicating all the karmic commotions that have been infesting our minds since the beginningless past. On the positive side, through Faith, we come to possess all the merit and wisdom of Amida, thereby effectively reaching the stage next to the Buddha’s.

Shinran explains that the True Faith is the Bodhi-mind. From the outset of the Mahayana, the Bodhi-mind has been the essential element for attaining Buddhahood. Ordinarily, the practitioners start their long course with a rather inadequate determination to proceed towards Bodhi. It is expected that they deepen and strengthen the Bodhi-mind while practicing the bodhisattva way. Shinran has distinguished two kinds of Bodhi-mind: vertical and horizontal. Each of them has two directions establishing, in all, a four-teaching classification of the Buddhist Way.

  1. vertical transcending: Mahayana teachings for quick deliverance;
  2. vertical going out: Mahayana teachings for gradual deliverance;
  3. horizontal or crosswise transcending: the Other-Power teaching for quick deliverance based on the Eighteenth Vow.
  4. horizontal or crosswise going out: the Other-Power teachings for gradual deliverance based on the Nineteenth and Twentieth Vows.

The Bodhi-mind for horizontal transcending is the all-complete, supreme Bodhi-mind which can be established, even in the minds of ordinary people, and becomes the true cause for Buddhahood.

Shinran was convinced that the Other-Power Faith ‘cures the three incurable illnesses’, namely: (a) abusers of the Mahayana: (b) evil doers who commit the five grave offenses, and: (c) those who lack root of good (icchantika). These three kinds of beings would be either doomed to hell after death or have no possibility of attaining Buddhahood. Amida’s salvation reaches even such people.

Current image

Previous | HOME | Next