I did not get into Jodo Shinshu because I was born in Jodo Shinshu family or I was told about Shinran Shonin. Not at all. I am here, because the way I experience the symbolism of the Teaching.

Most people believe that Pure Land tradition is very simple Buddhism designed especially for spiritually unfortunate, simple-
minded individuals with no ability to perform any other more difficult practices. Most Western researchers doubt, whether the Pure Land teaching may be honestly called Buddhadharma, at all. After excessive studies of almost everything written in English about the Pure Land Buddhism I do understand all those doubts. But I don’t share them. Shinran was a well educated scholar and the hard practicer. He was not simple-minded. He was able to see the Pure Land teaching in a historical perspective stretching back to Sakyamuni Buddha and passing through all thoughts of our seven masters (koso).

Shinran was preaching that Nembutsu may be taken as Dai-Gyo – the great, precious, ultimately selected practice, which is the only one able to lead us to an irreversible satori. Tariki-Nembutsu requires a total surrender of our ego-values. Shinran was also teaching that through centuries of so-called Jiriki practices we are approaching the Nembutsu Gate (Yuishindo-moni). He used to say that Nembutsu is the only true reality in this world (Tannisho). The only true reality means Buddha. Shinran understood Amida not as some sort of person, but as Hojin, working energy of Hongan (the Primal Vow). Shinran took Jodo-mon (the Pure Land Gate or Method) as the final realization of all Buddhist Practices, considering so-called path of sages for an upaya.

Myoshu A. Jedrzejewska


Since the time of Shinran many people wanted to approach this questions and the answer is not yet that clear as it should be. The problem lies in the complexity of entire Pure Land tradition. The concept of the Amida’s Pure Land has been used by Mahayana Buddhism besides monastic Nembutsu practices also as some sort of substitute of Christian belief in the better afterlife. The last has been especially addressed to those unable to live in monasteries.

Though the careful analysis of all Pure Land scriptures must lead to the only conclusion that “Jodo” or the Pure Land is a symbolic name of the state of mind, it hasn’t changed an understanding preferable for the most. The most samsara related beings prefer to believe in the better afterlife, especially if they understand that by “putting their faith in Amida” they will be given “enlightenment in the life to come”. Such arrangement makes them not to worry too much about the quality of their present spirituality. They simply expect Buddha to do a miracle at the moment they will be dying. They usually don’t ask how and in what way their future “better life” should be.

Such interpretations were very common even before Shinran was born. We shouldn’t then be surprised that the Pure Land Buddhism was viewed critically by other Buddhist traditions.

Though Shinran was never socially active and never used the Teaching of Buddha to fight so-called injustice, his religious realization was the challenge for the Buddhist headquarters of Japan in Kamakura period – for Heizan’s monasteries. Shinran didn’t cause any social impact by the way he understand the Teaching, at least during his lifetime. That was Rennyo, the eight lineage successor of Shinran, who moved big part of the Japanese society on into kind of ‘democratic, religious enclave’ in the medieval Japan – Jodo Shinshu.

Shinran was a Tendai monk for 20 years, a very well educated Buddhist scholar, before Amida in the form of Kannon advised him to leave the monastery and to join Nembutsu teaching of Honen. Tendai school shaped Shinran’s Buddhist terminology and he referred to it in all his writings. According to Tendai, as well as to Mahayana Buddhism, entire existence should be classify into 10 realms (spheres), which are: hell (the realm for beings whose karma is the constant pain), hungry ghosts or pretta (the house for beings whose strong desires cannot be satisfied), asuras or the angry gods (the sphere of mighty beings driven by incredible greed for power to constant fight), animals (the world ruled by instincts), people (the condition we can experience a bit of every other sphere and decide to shape our future lives that way or another), land of heavenly beings (realm of very long and happy lives with one only worry - that it cannot stay for ever), realm of sravakas – first satori world, where Buddha’s disciples called arahats dwell; in this condition adepts develop more wisdom than compassion; realm of praktyekabuddhas – second satori world, in which adepts develop more compassion than wisdom; realm of bodhisatvas – perfectly balanced pathway of becoming absolute Buddha, in which 52 stages are recognized by Tendai tradition - realm of Absolute Buddhahood equal to the 52nd stage of the bodhisatvas sphere.

Everything what exists should be find somewhere in the 10 Realms of the Universe. It is worth to notice that well known 6 worlds of samsaric existence, which are the realms of Ignorance are supplemented by 4 realms of satori experience - the realms ruled by Wisdom and Compassion. Only the peak of the 4 satori realms is recognized as the Absolute or Absolute Satori (san myaku san bodai), though all 4 spiritual spheres are not totally perfect, but enlightened kingdoms (satori). Nowadays many Western Buddhist don’t have knowledge about the complexity of enlightenment realms and real conditions there. Many people naively believe that every touch of Pure Energy of Buddha miraculously change them into the Pure Absolute. Such believe is caused by insufficient understanding of the Law of Cause and Effect.

Fragment of By the Power of Buddha Newly published book of Rev. Sensei Myoshu.
If you would like to buy this book please contact +48 603 375 688

My death
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Buddhist respect for life and Organ Transplants issue
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Ho-Onko 2001

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Glossary of Shin Buddhist Terms - chapter of "The Letters of Shinran"
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The samsaric illusion
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The female disciples of Buddha - an understanding of Shinran's teachings for our present times
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