Shinjin In Shinran’s Thought
Shinjin That Is Wisdom
Shinjin That Is Wisdom
We will now take a look at Shinran’s perspective on shinjin. I previously mentioned that prasâda was the original word for shinjin, or entrusting in Amida Buddha, in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. This refers to a heart and mind that is pure, serene, and peaceful, giving rise to joy. Such shinjin is non-dualistic and subjective in nature. It is an experience of awakening, which coincides with samādhi. For that reason, shinjin is not consistent with understanding. Rather, shinjin represents the deepening of our mental functioning.
… Shinran describes shinjin with expressions such as “the wisdom of shinjin,” “shinjin that is wisdom,” or “the emergence of the mind of entrusting oneself to [Amida’s Vow] is the arising of shinjin.” Wisdom… is connected to awakening or the realm of ultimate enlightenment, which Gautama Buddha realized and which is the aim of the Buddhist path. It further coincides in meaning with samādhi. Hence, in Shinran’s thought, shinjin means that we understand in a way that is totally subjective. Of course, understanding here is not a mere intellectual understanding or discrimination. Rather, it is an understanding or comprehension that takes place as the deepest “spiritual” dimensions of our religious life.
Shinjin as Awakening
In Shinran’s thought, shinjin means to understand. It means that we become able to know. We come to understand at the most profound depths of our consciousness, in a way that is completely subjective and experiential, based on the continuous practice of the nembutsu in everyday life. This is also the meaning of prasâda. I believe that this is also what Shinran meant when he said:
Should I have been deceived by Master Hōnen and, saying the nembutsu,
were to fall into hell, even then I would have no regrets.
Shinran understood perfectly that he would obtain birth in the Pure Land through the Nembutsu. While such understanding still surpasses our normal sense of logic, it is not illogical in the sense that one risks all and hopeful reliance that birth will take place.
The Japanese language clearly distinguishes between knowing or understanding with one’s mind (intellectually) and knowing or understanding with one’s body (experientially). That is to say, knowing in a simple, abstract way is different from knowing through experience. In order to express the notion of knowing or understanding with the body, that is, experiential knowing, the Japanese often say things such as “we experience a deep recollection and realize the truth of something long forgotten” (omoiataru) or quote we understand something so deeply that we are convinced of its reality beyond any doubt” (fu ni ochiru).
… there is an ancient Japanese saying that goes, “Our parents ‘benevolence is higher than the mountain and deeper than the sea.” Any person from Japan is familiar with the saying. Yet most people probably only understand with their minds, as some kind of intellectual knowledge. However, if we live our lives seriously there will doubtless be a moment when we come to reflect upon and deeply experience, or become fully convinced of, the meaning of those words. “Ah! That was it! That’s what the saying ‘Our parents ‘benevolence is higher than the mountain and deeper than the sea’ meant!” It is then that we will understand those words experientially, in a way that penetrates to the very depth of our guts. This is not simply understanding with our minds. Rather, in this way we know or understand-bodily, experientially, and subjectively – through our entire being. This is expressed in the Japanese language as omoiataru or fu ni ochiru. It is also the meaning of prasāda or shinjin.
We can come to understand in this way at the most fundamental place in our hearts and minds – at the locus of our personal subjectivity – to the continuous practice of the nembutsu in everyday life. Earlier, I talked about this nembutsu as living each and every day. This is the sense in which we can say that, in Shinran’s thought, shinjin means that we awaken. Shinjin is the experience of awakening.
Shinjin as Becoming
… (to be continued next week, in the August 5 issue)
Excerpted, in gratitude from: Shigaraki, Takamaro. Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path. Somerville: Wisdom Publications. 2013.