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

Outline of the Kyogyoshinsho

Shinran's salvation theory elaborated in the Kyogyoshinsho represents the apex of not only Pure Land Buddhism but also Mahayana Buddhism as a whole. It is unique in its basic standpoint but, as he professed, he was simply a follower of his predecessors - the Seven Masters. While quoting abundantly from their works, Shinran developed his system of teaching, practice, faith, and enlightenment.

The title of this magnum opus, ‘Kyo-gyo-shin-sho’ 教行信証, describes the system of salvation in Shin Buddhism. It is contrasted with self-power teachings which generally follow the system of ‘Kyo-ri-gyo-ka’ 教理行果 (teaching, principle of truth and reality, practice, and enlightenment). According to the ordinary course of Buddhist practice, we first hear and study the teaching and understand the principle of truth. After that, we perform the prescribed method of practice to realize the principle of truth. When the practice is successfully performed, we attain enlightenment. In the self-power teachings, one's practice is of primary importance; the final result depends on how effectively one performs the prescribed practice. The Kyogyoshinsho, however, demonstrates that the process of salvation comes from above, that is from Amida. First, Amida reaches us through the words of the Larger Sutra. Next, we hear Amida's Name glorified by all the Buddhas, as promised in the Seventeenth Vow and, through it, realize his saving power. Thus the concept of practice has undergone a complete change from the conventional one. The Other-Power practice consists in the reversal of ordinary Buddhist practice. In Shin Buddhism, practice is Amida’s work which is transferred to us through the Name. When the Name reaches us and is accepted in our minds, we become one with Amida in joyful faith – as shown in the Eighteenth Vow. Faith thus established in us is Amida's mind and the Bodhi-mind, and so it is the cause of enlightenment.

The Kyogyoshinsho is a six-volume book, of which the first four chapters are as follows:

  1. True Teaching,
  2. True Practice,
  3. True Faith, and
  4. True Enlightenment.

Besides those, there are two additional chapters:

  1. chapter on the True Buddha and land and
  2. chapter on the Transformed Buddhas and lands.

Those who have attained the True Faith in accordance with the Eighteenth Vow, will be born in the True Buddha-land, but those who have self-power faith and practice in accordance with explicit teachings of the Contemplation Sutra and the Amida Sutra are to be born in the Transformed lands.

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