Shin Aphorism

Zuiken’s Sayings from the Horai Magazine

Translated by Zuio H. Inagaki

From the Horai magazine Oct. 2000

May people say that the world is like a dream. Indeed, this is an illusory world. There is one thing that is not a dream. It is the Buddha’s words. The Buddha’s words are not an illusion. Because they originate from the Buddha’s Wisdom, they are always illuminating us. The nembutsu followers only trust Buddha’s words, accept them in faith, and pay no attention to other things. A wasan says:

If you follow the Buddha’s teaching and words,
You are not misled by miscellaneous thoughts.
(Hymns on the Patriarchs 79)

The Buddha’s words are the Buddha’s Wisdom. Another wasan says:
The Buddha’s words are inconceivable,
Transcending both good and evil, pure and impure.
(Hymns on the Three Periods 89)

Also:

To entrust oneself to the inconceivable Wisdom of the Buddha
Is the cause of birth in the Land of Recompense.
(Hymns on the Three Periods 48)

The devotees who trust and follow the Buddha’s words, the Buddha’s intention, the Buddha’s Vows, and the Buddha’s Wisdom are unshakable. They are not deluded in the world of delusion, wide awake in the world of dream.

On the mandala produced in honor of Prince Shotoku it is written: “The world is delusory; only the Buddha is true.”

It is stated in the Tannisho: “Everything in the world is vain, deceptive and untrue; only the nembutsu is true.”

The strength of those who have deeply entrusted themselves in the Buddha’s words is manifested as  Joyful Faith, the vast and inconceivable Mind of Joy.

From the Horai magazine Nov. 2000

Concerning the nature of good acts that we may be thinking of doing and those which we actually do, Shan-tao observes them with the eyes of the Buddha and describes them as “poisoned good, deceitful acts.”
What is the difference between the good that ordinary people do and the good that belongs to the Tathagata? Ordinary people’s good is influenced by self-love. The Tathagata’s good is based on the pure and sincere wish to do anything for the sake of sentient beings, as it is stated in the Larger Sutra:

“Even though I must remain
In a state of extreme pain,
I will diligently practice,
Enduring all hardships with tireless vigor.”

This wish is called “the Great Compassion” and also “the Vow-Mind.” It produces the Light, the Name, other Buddhas, noble masters and sutras to benefit us. Through these manifestations Amida calls us to come to him for refuge.
The Tathagata’s good has arisen from the Great Compassion. The Pure Land has been perfected with “the roots of supramundane good,” which is itself the Great Compassion of the Buddhist Path.

From the Horai magazine Dec. 2000

Man’s life – spanning no more than ninety years – is like a blade of grass floating midstream in a river. It appears long but is, in fact, quite short. Our present life is precious. Human life is extremely precious. We have each received a life which is hard to come by in millions of kalpas. The storm of impermanence is always threatening our lives which are as precarious as dewdrops in the morning sun. There is no knowing when and how we will die.

There are many things we should do in a lifetime, one of which stands out as the most important. It is to acquire the treasure which is indestructible through all eternity – namely, the attainment of True Faith.

Attainment of Faith sounds easy, but is, indeed, of all difficulties, the most difficult. Unless one dedicates all one’s available time and effort to resolving the problem of emancipation from birth-and-death while leading a life of sincerity, diligence and kindness, it will be all but impossible to attain True Faith.

In order to secure birth in the Pure Land, one pithy phrase to contemplate, like a koan in Zen, is enough, for example: “The Unhindered Light is the sun of wisdom, which disperses the darkness of ignorance” (Kyogyoshinsho, Preface). One sacred phrase has profound significance and works wonders for our salvation.

We are preoccupied daily with endless work, so that it is difficult to find time for reading scriptures. Be that as it may, the sacred teaching urging us “to entrust yourself to Amida and teach others to do the same” and the admonition “to seek to repay your indebtedness even by grinding your body to powder,” along with the words of the Primal Vow ending with the phrase, “if you are not born in the Pure Land, may I (Dharmakara) not attain perfect enlightenment,” resound in my ears reassuringly, leaving an indelible impression in my heart.


January 2001

Jodoshinshu, the supreme Mahayana teaching based on the Primal Vow, enables us to abandon the human good ‘mixed with poison’ and reach the Tathagata’s highest good. From another viewpoint, it is by the working of the Great Compassion originating from the Primal Vow, the ocean-like Great Vow of Wisdom of the supreme Mahayana Path, that we are delivered from the suffering in hell which may be awaiting us. In these two aspects, Jodoshinshu provides us with the ‘true benefit.’
Despite the fact that this supreme and beneficial teaching is readily available, many people think nothing of the suffering of transmigration in the six realms and do not seek to escape from the danger of falling into a pit of raging fire. They do not listen to the teaching of the Primal Vow, taking no delight in reaching the exquisite realm of Ultimate Nirvana (i.e., the Pure Land) and saving all sentient beings with the Primal Vow-Power.
Alas, “how difficult it is to abhor birth-and-death; how difficult it is to seek the Buddha Dharma?” (Shan-tao).
Only those who look up to the Tathagata’s merit and virtue in the working of the Primal Vow-Power and aspire for the capital of Nirvana are reflective of their defiled good and entrust themselves to Amida’s Vow and Power. However hard you may try to multiply your defiled good, you will not be able to reach the Tathagata’s merit and virtue. The Buddha Dharma provides you with the way of attaining the Tathagata’s good, namely, the “White Path” of the Primal Vow.

February 2001

The ultimate essence of the Buddha-Dharma is inconceivable. It is the inconceivable working of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. No matter how much we may rack our brains, we cannot reach the depth of its mystery. However avidly we may relish the taste of the Dharma, we cannot come to the end of its resources. Although our logic and reasoning fail to explore this realm exhaustively, we can accept it in faith and dwell in absolute peace of mind – through Amida’s benevolence.

In his Preface to the Kyogyoshinsho Shinran states:

“The inconceivable Universal Vow is the large vessel that carries us across the sea difficult to cross; the unhindered Light is the sun of wisdom that breaks the darkness of ignorance.”

This is an assertion that defies relative human calculations. It transcends the scope of ordinary people’s thoughts, and yet, our Faith resides within it. We should accept this as a manifestation of Namo Amida Butsu and Amida’s call itself.

March 2001

The Tathagata’s words of truth are wonderful. They are the store of profound and abstruse teachings. We, ordinary persons, foolish and dark-minded, burdened with heavy karmic hindrances, have nothing to do but revere and uphold – accept them in faith.
The Tathagata is the Great Compassionate One, the One of Great Wisdom. The Power of his Vow of Great Compassion is inconceivable. This means that the working of Amida Buddha, the fully Enlightened One,is inconceivable. The Tathagata is the greatest store of merit; he is the ocean of Great Wisdom.
The Tathagata is our compassionate Father-and-Mother, and we are his children.
Shinran Shonin says in a hymn:

“Shakyamuni and Amida are our compassionate father and mother;
Providing various skillful means,
They lead us to awaken in us
The Faith, supreme and unparalleled.”

Our compassionate Father-and-Mother, Amida, has realized the Great Enlightenment, in which the saved and the saving power are united in harmony and the two kinds of benefit – Amida’s self-benefit and our benefit – are perfectly consummated. It is manifested as “Namo Amida Butsu.” How inconceivable it is! How grateful I am! The Buddha’s Mind isinconceivable, so is the Buddha’s Vow-Power.
Faith is the Pure Faith, vast and without hindrance. The birth we will attain is the inconceivable Birth.

April 2001

The Tathagata is our Father-and-Mother. He watches us, protects us, and waits for us.

“He watches us” shows the unhindered and boundless illumination of the Buddha-Wisdom. Reflecting on our own self with the Tathagata’s eye is what is called “deep faith that recognizes our evil nature.” Looking up to the Vow-Power with the Tathagata’s eye is what is called “deep faith in the Dharma that saves us.”

“He protects us” indicates the very objective of Amida’s attainment of Enlightenment and also shows how he embraces us and does not forsake us.
We can live a peaceful and unshaken life if we are aware that we are protected by Buddhas, Tathagatas, and enfolded in love and compassion of various holy ones.
“Let the seven calamities and eight sufferings come as they please;
I am securely protected by the Six-character Name.”
With this conviction, the Nembutsu we recite is bound to be a courageous and undaunted Nembutsu.

“He waits for us” is relevant to Shan-tao’s words:
“Following the intention of the two Holy Ones – Shakyamuni and Amida, we take no notice of the two rivers of water and fire (greed and anger); being mindful of him always, we board the Vow-Power. After death, we attain birth in his land, where we meet the Buddha, face to face, with unbounded joy.”


May 2001

The inconceivable Buddha-wisdom reaches your minds through the Buddha’s inconceivable skillful means. Excepted, however, are idle people. If you lack the determination and energy to seek the Dharma “even by passing through the fire that fills the whole universe” (the Larger Sutra) you will not be able to see the inconceivable wisdom. If you continuously strive on the Way, you will realize that the Primal Vow-Power – the very essence of the Buddha Dharma – is the only path to the inconceivable emancipation which has indeed been made available for you.

How inconceivable it is that we have attained this awakening! This comes about through ‘spiritual correspondence,’ not through logical speculation. This mystic correspondence is, actually, made possible by the Buddha’s Power – the Buddha’s Wisdom and the Power of his Skillful Means. This correspondence is so subtle that there is no knowing how it works. However, even without knowing this, we can feel and accept the Tathagata’s inconceivability.

It follows that shinjin is attained without our own power; it is clearly not with a bombu’s mind that shinjin is established.

We can only accept with admiration the Great Vow-Power which is ineffable, inexplicable and inconceivable.

June 2001

Since it is taught in Jodoshinshu that if you attain shinjin, you will be born in the Pure Land, you naturally want to “get” it. At the moment you seek to get it, shinjin becomes some tangible material object – a lifeless substance. The more you chase after it, the farther it runs away – like a shadow.

Shinjin is not a material thing. It is a mental act. In the spiritual world, in the final analysis, there is only Amida’s working of Great Compassion. His working comes to us and sets our minds working.

It is only the Buddha’s working of Great Compassion and Great Wisdom that saves us. It engenders in us the mind to respond to his working, to take refuge in him, and to entrust ourselves wholeheartedly to him. This mind is called shinjin. In other words, shinjin is nothing but the working of Amida’s Mind that penetrates our whole existence and revitalizes it to join the eternal, pure activity – the Vow-Power.