A Standard of Shinshu Faith
Ryosetsu Fujiwara

Nature of Faith

1. What is Faith?

In Jodo Shinshu Faith is particularly emphasised as the most important aspect of its teaching. Of the various interpretations by Shinran, his psychological interpretation defines Faith as 'No-doubt mind,' 'Un-double-mindedness,' 'One Mind,' or 'Single-heartedness.'

2. Where is Faith proclaimed in the Shinshu scriptures?

It is mentioned in many places throughout the scriptures. Of these, Shinshu particularly takes notice of the one mentioned in the Eighteenth Vow. The Vow states, 'If the beings of the ten quarters who have Sincere Mind, Serene Faith, and Wish to be born in my Country ....' Sincere Mind, Serene Faith and Wish to be born are usually called the 'Three Minds' of the Eighteenth Vow. Although they are separately named they are but different aspects of one concerete Faith. Thus according to Shinran, these Three Minds may be represented by 'One Mind' or Serene Faith. When they are represented by Serene Faith, Sincere Mind and Wish to be born are implied in it as its essence and significance.

3. Why is emphasis of One Mind necessary? And where did the term originate?

It was Vasubandhu who used One Mind to express his Single-hearted Faith in Amida Buddha. Shinran admired Vasubandhu's usage as an excellent means to make common people understand Faith easily.

4. If One Mind is easier to understand, why did Amida proclaim Three Minds in the Eighteenth Vow?

Shinran gave a detailed interpretation of this problem in the Volume of Faith in the Kyogyoshinsho. According to this explanation Three Minds are at once One Mind; One Mind is used to show the easiness and single-heartedness of our Faith in Amida: Three Minds are used to reveal the essence and origin of this single-hearted Faith as we experience it.

5. What was Shinran's interpretation of Three minds?

As the cause for Birth in Amida's Pure Land, all sentient beings are seemingly urged to gain Three Minds. It is, for example, very reasonable for beings to have Sincere Mind as a condition to be born in the Pure Land. Shinran realised, however, that such perfect, absolute sincerity cannot be expected by common mortals. Furthermore, judging from the nature of the Vow, he conceived that Amida's Compassion will not expect such impossible requisites from poorly-gifted common mortals. Thus Shinran concluded that this Sincere Mind in the Eighteenth Vow is not what Amida requires us to have as a condition for our Birth, but rather the Sincere Mind of Amida Buddha who consummated His Vow and established the Pure Land. It then becomes apparent that the above mentioned Sincere Mind is in reality a gift of Amida Buddha. In the same manner, Serene Faith was interpreted by Shinran as Amida's confidence to save all beings; Wish for Birth as His Compassionate calling which convinces them of His Pure Land. Thus all Three Minds are to be attributed to Amida's virtue and are given to all beings as True Faith in the condensed form of One Mind. For this reason Shinran paraphrased the Japanese characters 'shin' 'jin' (entrusting heart) as 'true mind,' and interpreted Faith as the 'Faith of the Other power.'

6. What is meant by 'Faith of the Other Power'?

Shinran explained in the Kyogyoshinsho that Other Power is the Power of Tathagata's Vow. From this explanation the Faith of the Other Power can be understood to mean the Faith bestowed by the Benevolence of Amida's Eighteenth Vow. These implications and the interpretations of Faith are the unique characteristics of Shinshu teaching.

7. What is the function of Faith?

Faith is the true cause for being born in the Pure Land and attaining to Nirvana. Shinran strongly emphasised the merits of Faith perticularly from this point.

8. Why can Faith be the cause for the Pure Land and Nirvana?

Faith is awakened when one receives Amida's Compassionate and Sincere Mind. At that moment His absolute virtues become one's own through the Sacred Name, 'Namu-Amida-Butsu,' thus assuring one the highest state of Nirvana.

9. If Buddha's virtues bring our Enlightenment, it appears to differ from the Buddhist theory of 'self-cause, self-effect.' What is the relationship between the Law of Causality and Amida's salvation?

His salvation is in accord with the fundamental ideas of Mahayana Buddhism, e.g. 'compassionate activities,' 'benefiting others,' 'mertit-transference,' etc., and certainly such activities are done within the framework of 'cause and effect.'

Amida accomplished the Name for our sake as the decisive seed for Nirvana. If it were not transferred to us, and we were still brought to Buddhahood, then Amida's salvation would be a miracle which transcends the law of causality. The reality is, however, that His pure virtue is accepted by Faith within ourselves and it becomes our own cause to bear such fruition. So it is not against the law of 'self-cause, self-effect.'

10. Why does Shinshu not teach a miracle?

Amida Buddha is the manifestation of Dharma-nature (ultimate Law) itself. And theories of 'Cause and effect,' 'Inter-dependence of all existences,' 'Void,' 'Impermanency,' 'Egolessness' etc. are the most fundamental truths of the universe clarified by Buddhism. If Amida showed a miracle contrary to the Laws of 'Cause and effect,' it would mean the death of Amida himself.

11. If Faith is the true cause, is any other practice necessary for liberation?

According to the Shinshu doctrine, no other practice is required. The Tannisho explains the reason by saying, 'If we have Faith in the Original Vow, no other good is needed because there is no good surpassing the Nembutsu. Nor should evil be feared, because there is no evil capable of obstructing Amida's Original Vow,' (Chap. 1) The Kyogyoshinsho also says 'The True cause fir Nirvana is Faith alone. (Vol. of Faith)

12. What is the meaning of 'Nishu-jinshin' (The Twofold Profound Conviction) taught by Zendo?

The teaching of 'Nishu-jinshin' is to demonstrate the twofold conviction contained in Shinshu Faith. The twofold conviction are

  1. Deep conviction that we are foolish beings of karmic evils who have passed through many illusory lives from the remote past, and have no hope for self-deliverance; thus we are destined only to hell; and
  2. deep comprehension that the Forty-eight Vows of Amida Buddha will save us without any discrimination and those who believe in the Vows will be born unfailingly.

The former is the deep insight into human nature as it is; the latter is the single-hearted reliance on Amida's Compassion which never forsakes any sentient being.

13. How are these two related to each other?

They are two attributes of one concerete Faith of Shinshu; they cannot be separated.

14. Do they arise at the same time or one after another? By 'self-power' or 'Other Power"?

They arise at the same time. The self introspection made by 'self-power' is not perfect. Only through the second conviction - wholehearted trust in Amida's Compassion - can one attain true insight into human nature as it is. Both of them are awakened by the Other-Power; these two are the vital attributes of a concrete Faith in Shinshu.

15. Deep conviction concerning Amida's Vow may continue forever. How about the conviction that we are foolish beings of karmic evils destined for hell? Does it continue even after the Awakening of Faith?

It lasts till the end of life, because human nature itself does not change even after Faith, as a stone remains a stone even after it is placed in a boat. The only change is that after Faith, we, being illuminated by Amida's absolute Light, become more aware of our own karmic evil and always express our feelings of repentance and gratitude through the Nembutsu.

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