Sunday, June 27, 2010

How Ho-shan Mahayana lost?

Recently I have had a chance to read an extract from a memo to the king (written from the view of Ho-shan Mahayana) about the encounter between the Tibetan Buddhists and the Zen Buddhists around 700-800 AD. They met in Lhasa for a debate and the Tibetan Buddhists were represented by Kamalashila and the Zen team leader was not named but it should be one of the Zen patriarch at that time. According to the book, each side regard the other side as heretical. But I am puzzled, why the book said it was the Southern School of Zen that represented Ho-Shan Mahayana, and not the Northern school as I have read elsewhere.

Anyway, according to the extract, it was the leader of Ho-shan Mahayana who invited the Tibetan Buddhists to a debate and he suggested that the Tibetans write their questions and the objections and he will answer them all. In my humble opinion, this was a mistake on the part of Ho-shan Mahayana. By letting the Tibetan masters do the questioning, you have to be as well-read as them to be able to survive their debating and philosophical skills. Unfortunately, in Zen Buddhism, the study of Buddhist texts and ability to debate and knowledge in higher philosophy of Buddhism is not known to be the emphasis of that tradition. Ho-shan was also not very knowledgeable of the Tibetan methods and practices to be able to use that knowledge to make them understand the "sudden" method and techniques. The core of the debate was that the "sudden" method was not a true way as the Tibetans argue that the true path is the gradual path. Ho-shan Mahayana was not able to reconcile the approaches between the sudden and gradual path convincingly.

Anyway, having read his answers to the Tibetan questions, now I know why Ho-shan Mahayana lost in the debate. Even though the "sudden" school lost, there teachings found its way into many Tibetan adherents and acording to the book, some killed themselves after the lost. I have read in the exchange between HH the Dalai Lama and the late Ven. Master Sheng Yen, His Holiness explained that the sudden method is actually a compression of several of the graduated steps. It means several or all the steps happen in quick succession one after another in a very very short period of time (possibly micro thought seconds). No matter how short the period of time these steps took, each and every step were still be traversed by the practitioner and none will be skipped or side-stepped in the path of sudden enlightenment. If that was how Ho-shan Mahayana explained it, he would have won the debate. Unfortunately he didnot, and that was why he lost and the Zen tradition never really took root in Tibet, except for its remnants in the form of tibetan buddhist practice, where it concerns practicing merely no thoughts. If you are interested to read about it, I think the title of the book is "Buddhist scriptures" if I am not mistaken. But I forgot to note who the author/editor/compiler was.

With due respect to Ven. Master Sheng Yen, I think even in that exchange with His Holiness, I donot think he explained it as succinctly as His Holiness who is much more skillful in dharma philosophy and debate. Nevertheless, both sudden and gradual path is not for the practitioner to choose. It not like if you want a sudden enlightenment, you can get it as a matter of pesonal choice alone. It depends on other factors. And it is also not carved in stone that Zen path is definitely a sudden enlightenment path for every of their practitioner and the Tibetan Buddhist definitely a gradualist. No path is for sure.

Looking back, it is because of lack of understanding between both sides that resulted in the debate. Now in the modern era, where travel is easier and books and internet are easily available, we can all learn and appreciate and reconcile each other's path. Most importantly, we can learn from that debate and live in harmony by accepting the path chosen by each other, whether we think it's the right path or the wrong path.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Meditate till self disintegrates

This is one paragraph that strikes my attention in "Mahayana Mind Training" from the book "Mind Training - the great collections". For this particular work, the author is unknown.

Since giving your body to others is not mere words,
do so from the depth of your heart.
Since taking others' negative karma and suffering is not mere words,
take these in actual fact from the depths of your heart.
Meditate on this to the point that you feel as if your self
cracks, heaves, and disintegrates.

Pic: Kadampa lineage masters at Root Institute, Bodhgaya, India.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ven. Boon Keng's Teachings

A dharma teaching by Ven. Boon Keng yesterday was very timely and I think it very appropriate I share it here. He touched on many subjects, among which are 2012, end of the world, the terrorist threat on places of worship and most importantly daily dharma application stuff.

He viewed with deep concern the reported terrorist threat to various places of worship in Malaysia. He advised that it is a sign of dharma ending age when religion fights against religion. Hence, we must not to condemn and seek to destroy their concept of Creator God. The extremists in other religions, on the other hand, seek to destroy our places of worship. The over-zealous also seek to convert Buddhists. He said that the way to live harmoniously is to learn how to accommodate each others' beliefs. In line with Venerable's advice, they must accommodate and not destroy our places of worship, and not seek to convert us. And we must accommodate their concept of Creator God.

Ven. Boon Keng adviced that the other thing about living in harmony is not to fight over who's right and who's wrong. That's the first step to argument and fighting and creating disharmony. I think that we can point out what's wrong but if people are not listening, then that's it, stop there, because we have done our duty. But don't fight if people don't believe you. I then realised that people do have the right to choose the wrong path. We cannot force others.

The other thing he said is that many people choose to practice this teachings and that teachings but forget that at the end of the day, it is still about coping and reducing our greed, hatred and delusions. For example, people can go far away for retreats or doing so much animal liberation. And yet, cannot "liberate" themselves when they get caught in daily situations. Venerable gave an example. There was a devote Buddhist, who spent much in doing animal liberation, but one day she came to Venerable and she complaint that her colleagues "stole" her credits and project which she had completed about 80%. Venerable then asked her to liberate herself first. She can spent thousands of ringgit on animal liberation but cannot let go of the few hundred ringgit in commission. She get caught up in her own "animal rebirth" and cannot liberate her own self. Another example was that we can donate to our guru and temples generously but when it comes to our parents, brothers, sisters and colleagues, we become stingy. There are so many family feuds over property. And many of these cases even go to court and drag on for umpteen years. And yet, we think we are such a generous Buddhist. We are not even aware we are living a dichotomous life.

When I think over what Venerable said, I think it is very true. Some of us are very eager to practice highest yoga tantra, Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Zen, etc but when it come to everyday situations, especially when things are not going smoothly, we cannot control our emotions and we often get caught up. A few days ago I was just thinking that we cannot meditate or chant away our anger, our greed and our other emotional entanglements. Not just by meditation or chanting alone. We got to deal with it face to face as it comes and apply the dharma techniques. Contemplating the Lam Rim until we obtain the Lam Rim realisations are usually not done by a lot of Tibetan Buddhists nowadays. Most people think Lam Rim are "kid's stuff" and no need to contemplate. They think they already know Lam Rim in-and-out, but from their daily actions, sometimes it is evident they have not gained the realisation of even the precious human rebirth, which is one of the basic Lam Rim realisations to obtain. Most importantly, it has always been advised by the Tibetan lamas that we must have gained a good grounding of the mind of renunciation, bodhicitta and a good understanding of emptiness before we undertake tantric practices. This is important because there will come a time when these 3 principle aspects are the only things that differentiate between a true tantric practitioner and a mad man, who thinks he is Heruka.

Kyopa Jigten Sumgon reminded people who practice deity yoga to be especially careful especially if they have strong greed/desires, anger/temper and delusions. He warned that people who practice deity yoga who have anger are hell-beings, those that have desires-attachments are hungry ghosts and those that have delusions are animals. That's why Buddhists must generally do their preliminary practices first before engaging in any of these high tantric practices. When people cannot even do a simple Sakyamuni Buddha visualisation, yet they want to do complex deity yoga visualisations with many legs and heads. What are these people thinking? Ven. Boon Keng said the same thing. He said that when people are angry, then have taken rebirth as a "hell-being". And the sad thing is people donot even realised that. And he reminded again and again the phrase "anger burns up merits high as Mt Meru". I think that to aspire to liberate others is good, but we must know that ultimately any practices we do has to deal with cutting down on our greed, anger/hatred and delusions in everyday situations. I think that we must do things step by step and not skip the important preliminary processes and go ahead to undertake the higher practices.

From what Ven. Boon Keng said, it is evident that life everyday situations will be enough to give us an indication whether we are ready or not for these higher practices. If we can reduce our greed, anger and delusions at home and in the office, then we are ready for these higher practices. Some of use are blessed with a smoother life than others. But Ven. Boon Keng reminded that we must be able to reduce our greed, anger and delusions in all situations , that is when life is smooth, not smooth and neutral. If life had been going smoothly for us, and yet we donot reduce our greed, we get agitated at the slightest discomfort, or we remain as ignorant as ever, or we are greedy for more and more profit, then it means we are not dealing with our greed, anger and delusions.

He said that we all strive to make things as perfect as possible for ourselves. We want things always to be as smooth as possible. This, he said, comes from our subtle greed and attachment as well. He asked the audience why people are not able to sit still for even a minute? The moment we sit still, we will scrath our face, touch our nose, scratch our head, etc. He asked how many times we touch our body within one minute of sitting and doing nothing. He humbly gave himself as an example. He said that he had this habit of touching his nose. Every now and then, he will touch and scratch his nose. Even during meditation, he will scratch here and there thinking that there are mosquitoes. He advised that the real "mosquitoes" are in the heart. So, he said he developed the determination to rid himself of this habit and attachment by gradually reducing his urge to scratch his nose. From one minute 3 times, to one minute 2 times, and then one time. Then 2 minute once, and gradually decreasing it until it is no longer a habit. By extension of Venerable's example, we may have deep or subtle attachments that we may not be aware of such as habit of smoking, visiting pubs, drinking alchoholic drinks, addiction to sex, masturbation, and others. Even things in the office or at home like having the habit of micro-managing your staffs, or your children or scolding them for every little bit of mistakes. We can also gradually reduce these attachments and greed that is more based on ego than anything else. These are also practice areas that most of us do not see. I think we only see "practice" as doing meditation, chanting, reciting sutras, doing pujas, donations, sadhana practice and other external aspects but the internal ones we failed to apply our "practice". Hence, many Buddhists "chase" after these external practices such as chasing after initiations or higher empowerments or higher meditation practices, without any reduction in greed, hatred and delusions at all. I think we must be careful not to merely suppress these 3 root vices (as they are referred to in Buddhism) but actually eliminate them. If you are merely supressing them, one day they will come out bursting and you will blame it on your meditation practice. You will mistakenly thought that meditation practice makes you more sensitive. And then you will stop meditation and even any Buddhist practice altogether. You would have become disillusioned to Buddhism. I personally know of at least one person who have become like that. So, be careful!

About the end of the world, Venerable Boon Keng said that the world will not end in 2012. Still a long time to go before it ends, he said. But he warned that the 9 suns as predicted in the scriptures are not necessarily external suns, but the anger in our hearts. When tempers flare easily and people cannot control their anger, and when there are wide-spread violence, that's when the world will end. When people no longer respect their parents on a wide-scale basis, that's when the world up to the Brahmaloka will be destroyed. When we respect our parents, we plant causes for rebirth in the Brahma planes. So, consequently, when there are no longer any respect for parents, there will not be any Brahma planes either. Ven. Boon Keng warned that nowadays we already hear of many cases of children killing parents, and vice-versa parents killing their children. In the scriptures, we are also told the water of the world will rise up to the heavens and drown everyone. Again the "rising of water" does have a significance. It's referring to our internal greed/desires and delusions. Hence, if we listen to Venerable's advice, and if we donot want the world to end so soon, we must have more respect for our parents and live in harmony with others and reduce our greed, anger and delusions. Religions must not fight against religions. If everyone can do this, ie. reduce greed, hatred, delusions and follow the Buddha's advice in "Always do good, Avoid all evil, Purify the mind", then we would be using our time usefully. Time is precious, he advised. And that in fact was the topic of the dharma talk "Every Moment is Precious".

In order to make every moment precious, if we are fathers, we must be good fathers. If we are mothers, we must be good mothers. If sons/daughters, then good sons/daughters. Same for all roles we are in. If we are bosses, we must strive to be good bosses. If we are employees, we must be good employees. If we are leaders, we must be good leaders and learn to give and take. And leaders must learn to accommodate others, not always giving instructions and expect everybody to do only your wishes. He said that even he as abbot of his temple must accommodate the wishes of his disciples many many times. Otherwise his disciples will not be happy and it will create disharmony in his temple. I hope we take note of this important advice.

One thing about Venerable Boon Keng and why I respect him is because the subjects he dealt with are everyday stuffs. Not some high lofty practices that people often crave for. He reminded us time and again that he is already over 70 years old and he is considering retiring from his hectic dharma schedule. Some people take this as a hinting that he is preparing to leave the world for Amitabha Pure Land. I pray not because he is one of the few local monk we have ever produced that is a genuine dharma master and whom I respect greatly. In this dharma talk, it was the first time I heard he was being referred to as "Chang Lau" instead of the usual "Fa Shi". It means he has been promoted to an "Elder Master". That's good. I am happy that he has gained that respect.

I'll end this with a long life verse by me dedicated to him: -

Approachable and unpretentious,
This monk teaches nothing fanciful,
Just daily dharma and reminding that
The Buddha's Path is nothing apart from daily life.
With his simplicity and harmonious conduct,
He brings many beings to the dharma.
To the Abbot of Ang Hock See temple,
I bow and wish you aeons of healthy life!

- verse written on June 20, 2010.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Unenlightened bodhisattvas

The below is an extract of the interview with HH the Dalai Lama. But I got it from one email someone sent but he didnot disclose the source reference. Once I have the actual source, I will put it here. The fourth type of rebirth is referring to the unenlightened bodhisattvas I was talking about in one of my recent post. Please also check out the 20th (some versions had it as 22nd) vow of Amitabha. Those are referring to both enlightened as well as unenlightened bodhisattvas who return from Amitabha's Pure Land to help sentient beings. Because their vows and aspirations are so strong, they are able to continuously practice their bodhisattva activities until perfect, i.e. fulfillment of all the paramitas and thus achieving Perfect, Complete Enlightenment. Thsi is also made clear in the Lam Rim Chen Mo, where it was described that anyone who had realised bodhicitta are sons and daughters of the Buddha, and are bohisattvas in spirit even though they may not hold any bodhisattva precepts nor achieved any stage of enlightenment. If you know of any other source to support the existence of unenlightened bodhisattvas, do make a comment and share.

Question: About you being the incarnation of the bodhisattva of infinite compassion, Avalokiteshvara. How do you personally feel about this? Is it something you have an unequivocal view of one way or another?

Answer: It is difficult for me to say definitely. Unless I am engaged in a meditative effort, such as following my life back, breath by breath, I couldn't say exactly. We believe that there are four types of rebirth. One is the common type wherein, a being is helpless to determine his or her rebirth, but only reincarnates in dependence on the nature of past actions. The opposite is that of an entirely enlightened Buddha, who simply manifests a physical form to help others. In this case, it is clear that the person is Buddha. A third is one who, due to past spiritual attainment, can choose, or at least influence, the place and situation of rebirth. The fourth is called a blessed manifestation. In this the person is blessed beyond his normal capacity to perform helpful functions, such as teaching religion. For this last type of birth, the person's wishes in previous lives to help others must have been very strong. They obtain such empowerment. Though some seem more likely than others, I cannot definitely say which I am.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What is True? What is False?

There are some Buddhists, especially the Theravadins who have this idea that only the Theravadian set of Buddhist scriptures are the most authentic. And all others are false. So, to them if a scripture is not found amongst their set of books, it means it is a false scripture, that is a false dharma. If what they say is true, it would mean that many Mahayana (and Tibetan included) Buddhist scriptures are not authentic. Once it is inauthentic, they are saying it was not preached by the Buddha. So, we are going to explore this issue here.

I am not going to say this set of texts is true and that set is false. Instead, I am going to approach this issue from the perspective of wisdom, that is, are those teachings in accordance with the general principles of the Buddha? If it is, then it is considered true. If not, then then it is not true. For this approach, people need to think and evaluate. Not just a mechanical process of referring to a fixed list of so-called authentic sutras, and if it is not found there, then it is a fake sutra. It should not be as simple as that because that will make us become dim-witted Buddhists. And Buddha always encourages his disciples to think for themselves. And not just accept what he said. This is also one of the principles of Buddhism, i.e. the freedom to enquire and evaluate. The people who subscribe to such ideas that only the Theradian texts are true scriptures of the Buddha have basically reduced the dharma to a mechanical process just like the other religions. Other religions always refer to the holy books and if something is not there, it is considered as not true.

They don't think with their heads anymore whether the substance of the teachings contained in the text is true or not. If it is not in their set of books, they just conveniently write it off as incorrect or false teachings. This is ridiculous. As Buddhists, we must be smarter than that. We must have more wisdom. The Buddha's wisdom is not limited to any particular set of books. However when he was alive he gave us a set of guiding principles. And one of these guiding principles is the Four Seals of Dharma. If something doesnot meet with this guiding principle, then it is considered not Buddhism.

What are the Four Seals of Dharma?

This is enumerated in many places, including the internet. One such reference is

The 4 seals are:
1.All compounded things are impermanent.
2.All stained emotions are painful.
3.All phenomena are empty.
4. Nirvana is peace.

Hence, what is an authentic Buddhist scripture or not should be determined by principles such as the four seals of dharma. Other guiding principles are such as Compassion for all sentient beings, Loving-kindness, Joy for others, and Equanimity for all. And the Buddha had said that greed, anger, hatred, temper, jealousy and other negative emotions are to be reduced and avoided eventually. Other generally accepted principles of the Buddha include non-attachment or letting go and not-harming. You just take the substance of the teachings and if it brings you closer to enlightenment, then it is an authentic teaching. If it takes you farther away from Enlightenment, instead add on more greed, more anger, more delusions, then it is a negative teaching, at least to the person. Note that care must be considered also that one person's meat is another person's posion. And vice-versa. It is entirely possible that one teachings may result in negative effect on the person, but positive effect on others. Could it happen? I don't know, but leave it open to such possibility. And also, the person could misapply the teachings, resulting in the reverse effect. So, nothing wrong with the teachings, just his own misapplication.

So, back to the question. Is only the Theradian tripitaka authentic? Or, phrased in another way,
is the Mahayana tripitaka the only authetic texts? I have to say, "No". I know people are concerned about the many inauthentic sutras there are now. Cults, especially, seems to be the main culprits for generating their own "sutras". At the end of the day, you still must have the wisdom to check and evaluate and compare with the general principles of Buddhism. If any teachings is not in line with the general principles of Buddhism, then you better be more careful in accepting what you hear or read. And if you are not so sure, there are always people you can talk to or consult. For example, your gurus. That's what they are there for. You can also check the opinion of others. What does the majority of the people say? But again, majority does not always mean majority is correct. So, again it comes back to yourself. You have to check and evaluate what is true and what is false.

It is not always easy but you have to start somewhere, sometime. Otherwise, you will risk being taken in for a ride and will not reach Nirvana for a long long time. So, I am going to wish you "good luck" even though luck has really nothing to do with the wisdom that is required here!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Master Hsuan Hua's 15th Anniversary

It was on June 7 1995, according to the Western calendar, exactly 15 years ago that Venerable Master Hsuan Hua passed away into Nirvana. I still remember what happened that day.

On the early morning of June 8 1995, I had a dream. In that dream I was traveling across a bridge. When I reached the mid-span, I saw the water below the bridge had dried up. What was even stranger were I saw that there were many dragons and other sea creatures on the seabed that had died. And in the dream, the thought that I had in the dream was that they had died out of grief. I sensed an air of deep sadness in the atmosphere. I knew it was an omen and at that point, I woke up. A week after that, a friend called and informed me that he had received news that Venerable Master Hsuan Hua had passed into stillness. Ven. Master Hsuan Hua had passed into stillness at 3.15pm in Los Angeles on June 7, 1995. That time in Los Angeles corresponded exactly with the time of my dream in Malaysia. It was amazing. I take the dream as a blessing from him to inform me of his passing. It was so kind of him.

I was sad when I heard the news because it means the world would be deprived of one really great master, one that had benefited the world so much, especially the Buddhist world. He translated the Sutras and made them available to us all. He explained them in so much detail. He promoted the Great Compassionate Heart Dharani and Shurangama Mantra. He did so many things for us. With all these, I knew we had a genuine master and that enlightenment was indeed possible. With his teachings on Amitabha, I also grounded my faith in Amitabha’s Vows and knew that that is the place I want to go after this life is over. He had also set a high standard for all left-home persons and lay Buddhists. It is with this in mind that I am forever grateful to him. And I am sure those who had taken refuge with him will feel the same way. Hence, I bow my head and heart in deep respect. I end this with a praise I wrote sometime back.

The sky is enormously huge and vast,
Still greater than that is Master’s Way Virtue!
The ocean is enormously deep and wide,
Still greater than that are Master's Vast Vows!
To you - Embodiment of the Triple Jewels,
And the Incomparable Saviour, I go for refuge!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shinran Shonin’s Jodo Shinshu

If you are interested in Pure Land practice, I would recommend you also study the works of Shinran. His interpretation of Pure Land Buddhism is different from other Pure Land Masters. For me, those who are into Pure Land Buddhism cannot ignore his works and commentaries. For him, you don't say the Nembutsu to take rebirth in the Pure Land, you say it only out of gratitude. For him, there is no practice. In fact, the more evil we are, the more chances for rebirth in Sukhavati. But you got to read his explanation for it. Don;t start doing evil deeds. His interpetation of the person of "shinjin" is interesting. For Shinran, the person of shinjin takes rebirth right away in Amitabha's Pure Land right here in this world.

According to Shinran, the person who has realised shinjin, attains a state equal of perfect enlightenment and will ultimately attain the supreme enlightenment. However he remains a karmically bound being until his karma is exhausted. This is mentionedd in "Notes on Once-Calling, and Many-Calling", Shinran's translation of "Ichinen-tanen mon'i". Is this similar to what I have termed "unenlightened bodhisattvas"?

Once I was determiend to practice his version of Jodo Shinshu, but then thought that it is becoming more and more similar to other religions (with Supreme God concept). But then, of course I was wrong. Now I realise even Amitabha's Vows are empty. Same as Sukhavati - empty of inherent existent. In other religions, God is not empty. God is a permanent eternal entity. This is the difference. So, when you embrace Amitabha's Vows, you are not embracing another God like the God of Christianity, etc. I really admire Shinran, and this is another of my tribute post to him.

Shinran was born into the Hino family, a minor branch of the Fujiwara clan, on April 1 (May 21 in new calender), in 1173. At The time, Japan was experiencing a tremendous social upheaval. The collapse of the social order was caused among other things by the Hogen and Heiji rebellions in 1156 and 1159. Given these harsh social conditions as a backdrop, Shinran entered the Buddhist priesthood at nine, beginning his hard practice at Mt. Hiei, at that time the authoritative center of Japanese Buddhist studies. He spent twenty years living within the monastic community of Mt. Hiei.

Things he saw while living in the monastic surroundings of Mt. Hiei convinced him that the real situation of Buddhist community at; that time was not hopeful. Most of the monks had lost any true aspiration for enlightenment and merely contended with one another for worldly fame and political supremacy. He took this situation as evidence that this was the age of the last dharma, a degenerate age, which the Buddha had predicted. In addition to such vulgar circumstances, the more earnestly Shinran devoted himself to Buddhist practices, the more keenly he felt his own disgraceful mind. He found it impossible to actualize the true mind which was a condition for attaining enlightenment.

Finding a way out of the impasse, Shinran encountered Honen-bo (1133-1212) who was teaching at Higashiyama Yoshimizu, that every one; even a evil person, could birth in the Pure Land by saying nenbutsu. Shinran, convinced that the teaching of birth through nembutsu was the only way for the foolish and ignorant being like him to attain buddhahood, abandoned the practices on Mt. Hiei at the age of twenty-nine. He became Honen's disciple and entrusted himself to the path of nembutsu. The nembutsu teaching, insisting that regardless of ones' rank and position, both the good and the evil were all saved by saying nembutsu, rapidly spread among the ordinary people, who were obliged to live in the lowest level of society. However, the established Buddhist sects stubbornly asserted that the nembutsu teaching was instigating views that ran counter to the Buddhist order and was seducing the public by spreading a false teaching. They petitioned the imperial court to prohibit the nembutsu teaching, and both Master Honen and Shinran were exiled from Kyoto in 1207. This affair is called the Jogen persecution. Shinran was stripped off his ordination as a monk and was forced to use a secular name, Yoshizane Fujii. He was then banished to Echigo (today's Niigata prefecture).

Without flinching at this hardship, Shinran considered his banishment as a good opportunity to spread nembutsu teaching to remote places. Even though monks were not allowed to marry in those days, he got married while he was in Echigo. After he was pardoned he did not return to Kyoto, but migrated to the Kanto area. Shinran spoke himself as neither monk nor worldly (layman)', for; deprived of his ordination, he could no longer be considered a monk, yet he still strongly aspired for enlightenment. He also called himself by the name foolish and short-haired (bold-headed) Shinran,' and throughout his life he showed the way by which an ordinary man could attain buddhahood. In his later years, he returned to Kyoto. He died at the age of ninety on November 28 (January 16 in new calender) in 1263. Thereafter till the present day, we call him as the Shinran Shonin, the Excellent Listener Shinran, for reminding his veracious attitude to the Dharma and himself. The thing that we can admire about Shinran's life at this time was his attempt to live his life based on religious truth instead of basing it on secular norms.

For example, when he was convinced that the great compassion of the Buddha was to save all beings; including people possessing evil passions, he abandoned his practices and studies on Mt. Hiei, to which he had devoted himself for twenty years, and chose Honen's nembutsu teaching. Even when he was exiled in the Jogen persecution, he never abandoned this belief. In his later years, he disowned his son Zenran, when Zenran taught false teachings in Kanto area, in order to obey nembutsu teaching. All these facts bear witness to his conviction regarding the correctness and importance of the nembutsu teaching. In many of his works, Shiran revealed that Jodo-shinshu, the true teaching of the Pure Land way, is in line with the fundamental principle of Buddhism. Moreover, he asserted that it should be considered the legitimate form of Buddhism.

Of all his works, The True Teaching, Practice, and Realization of the Pure Land Way (KYOGYOSHINSHO) is the most important one. In this book, he made clear the true intention of the Lager Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, by systematically collecting many passages from sutras and masters' discourses as proof. That is why, the Jodo-shinshu sect takes the year of 1224, when this book is accomplished, as the year of the creation of the sect. Shinran also wrote many things in Japanese as well as those things written in Chinese composition.

For example, he wrote many hymns on the Pure Land, the Patriarchs and the Last Age. We also have his letters that were mailed to his disciples in Kanto area and the Tan'nisho, or Notes Lamenting Differences, which recorded Shinran's words in ordinary conversation. Since the Tan'nisho, especially, collects Shinran's own words, it transmits Shinran's thought to us as if we were hearing his teaching in his presence.

extracted from: