Head of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara 300s-400s CE, Gandhara, late Kushan Period - Cleveland Museum of Art
II: Heedfulness 21-24
Heedfulness: the path to the Deathless
Heedlessness: the path to death.
The heedful do not die. The heedless are as if already dead.
Knowing this as a true distinction, those wise in heedfulness rejoice in heedfulness, enjoying the range of the noble ones.
The enlightened, constantly absorbed in jhana, persevering, firm in their effort: they touch Unbinding, the unexcelled safety from bondage.
Those with initiative, mindful, clean in action, acting with due consideration, heedful, retrained, living the Dhamma: their glory grows.
Shinran Shōnin Statue Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii
Happy 848th Birthday
Shinran Shōnin, the founder of our Jōdo Shinshū tradition, was born in 1173. We have two major iconic images of Shinran, one seated and one showing him with his walking stick and sun hat.
Each image speaks to his life as he taught the Jōdo Shinshū teachings. Both are important to our understanding and embracing the teachings. The image above, Shinran with his walking stick, to me, is the foundation of Shin. Many of us have ideas, concepts and innovations. The question is ‘what do we do about it?’
This iconic image is of a person in simple village clothing, wearing a worker’s sun hat and using a crude wooden walking stick for his many sojourns. This was the part of his life where Shinran taught by taking the message to as many different groups of lay people as he could. This is the “action” part of his life, the action that disseminated the true teaching of the Pure Land.
Rev. Bryan Masashi Siebuhr (former Supervising Minister of our Cleveland Buddhist Temple), used rap, which became popular in the 1970s, to outline Shinran’s life in a nutshell. It is reprinted in Nightstand Buddhist section below.
There are three excerpts in Rev. Siebuhr’s rap that speak to the effort and action of the image of Shinran with his walking stick – the effort to bring the teachings to as many lay people as possible.
The first is:
Whoever says Nembutsu no doubt will be saved, whether hunter or fisher or whatever your trade
“…whatever your trade…” This is a big one. Shakyamuni Buddha gave us the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. Right livelihood is listed on the Eightfold Noble Path. This was the path required for monks and nuns who did not even have a ‘livelihood’ as we understand the term. This was also the path for lay people to aspire to, much as we do today. People who killed any sentient life (as do hunters and fishers) eliminated their opportunity for ending samsara.
The second, even more inclusive, says:
He went to Echigo to spread the teachings by the sea, To similar folk like you and Me
“To similar folk like you and me…” Not only were hunters and fishers included, but also you and me. When we say “come as you are,” this is the reason why.
The third excerpt is:
He became a wandering priest to spread the Nembutsu teaching. Sleeping under heavy snow, he couldn’t stop preaching.
Shinran Shōnin not only understood the intent of the teachings, but did something about it - even at great risk or discomfort to him. With walking stick in hand, he traveled the area sharing his understanding of the Buddhist teachings to all, without discrimination.
He visited areas of villages that were dangerous, areas that today, in our own towns, we avoid. He sat down with people who were the despised - the prostitutes, the outcasts, the criminals and the disenfranchised. He shared his teachings in conditions and locations that today, we try hard to avoid.
The wide dispersion and endurance of Jōdo Shinshū is as valid today as it was when Shinran walked the land with his walking stick to share the teachings. Shinran knew having the knowledge wasn’t enough. It only became important knowledge when he took the risks and dangers of the actions needed to bring it into the open. This is why, 848 years later, we celebrate his birthday.
Excerpts of Buddhist voices across teachings, across contients, across time.
Former Supervising Minister of Cleveland Buddhist Temple
by Rev. Bryan Masashi Siebuhr
Lemme tell you a story about Shinran Shōnin, you know the guy who’s teacher’s name was Honen, he brought the Nembutsu to you and me, so we could cross that ocean don’t you see.
His father’s name was Lord Arinori Hino. He had a wife, wouldn’t you know her name was Kikko, she was meditat’in when, Kannon came in a dream, a Buddha would be born to her, ya know what I mean.
In the third year of Shoan on 21st May, they say wisteria with bloomin on that day, to Mama was born Matsuwaka-maro, On that day there wasn’t no sorrow.
When he was four he was slammed for certain, for his mother died and at eight for dad curtains, So he went to his Uncle, his name was Jichin, Who took him to a temple called Shoren-in.
At Shoren-in, he became a priest, And yet it was certain his mind was not at ease, He went to Mount Hiei where bitch’en he did, Some serious study, he wasn’t no kid.
At age 19 he went to Shinaga, to pray for three days, he wasn’t waga-mama, He went to Mount Hiei so he could see the light, But from where he was it was clean out of sight.
Prince Shōtoku then came in a vision, there he told Shinran what was to be his mission, He said Zenshin, lemme tell you all about it, you got 10 years left, there is no doubt about it.
He went back to Hiei, to learn and practice more, but all he realized was his legs were really sore, Ten more years was almost runnin out, so we went to Rokkau to learn what it’s about.
He sat at Rokkau for 100 nights, wondering whatever will ever come of his plight, And there was Prince Shōtoku don’t you see Telling Zenshin, go to Honen and you will see.
He went to see Honen on a tip from Seikaku–hoin, at that time, now for him everything was goin. Honen look at Zenshin and said “You’re the one” I know 20 years on Hiei have been no fun.
So he copied Honen’s book on the original Vow, he worked so hard and boy did he how, It was later he drew a picture of his master, No doubt he thought this was faith ever after.
Whoever says Nembutsu no doubt will be saved, Whether hunter or fisher or whatever your trade, The Prime Minister Kujo yeah he was taken, To know that he never will be so forsaken.
One night at Hoshoji the scene was very clear, Two monks propagated the Nembutsu without fear, Two lovely court ladies out for a stroll that night, The Emperor’s court was nowhere in sight.
The ladies were taken so by the teachings, All along they knew this is what they were seeking, They shaved their heads and thus were ordained, The Emperor really thought this was profane.
The Emperor didn’t say simply go to bed, You’re in for it dudes for this you’ll lose your heads, and so they did, down by the river, The water running red would make you quiver.
So in the first year of Shogen, Honen he was banished, Along with Shinran the two had to vanish, And so Shinran now we had to go, To a place by the sea in a town called Echigo.
With his mind inspired by Armida Buddha, The trip was very long do you think you could of, He went to Echigo to spread the teachings by the sea, To similar folk like you and Me.
In the first year of Kenryaku the Emperor said he could go, But when his teacher passed he became really low, He became a wandering priest to spread the Nembutsu teaching. Sleeping under heavy snow, he couldn’t stop preaching.
To Hitachi is where he moved his home, But the people just wouldn’t leave them alone. They begged all day to listen to Him teach, So many they were they could get a seat.
In his cottage he took his brush in hand, and laid out a book that was to become grand, He wrote Kyo Gyo Shin Sho and was styli’n I’d say, His name was handed down from that very day.
He moved his crib from Hitachi to Kyoto, Groovin with his friends and always on the go, There he wrote the Wasans or hymns I would say, it gave the teachings some rhythm that day.
Year after year the Shōnin’s friends passed away, and the Shonin himself became ill in many ways, His daughter Kakushinni took care of him, In spite of her care, his eyes became dim.
In the second year of Kocho, our Master passed away, But in his final words became to say, When you call on the name, there will always be another, For you and I will always be brothers.
An so I end this Shinran rap, So you can go home and take a nap.