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Monthly Dharma Thoughts

To be blessed by the Nembutsu


Shinran Shonin was in search of a way to truly live.  At age twenty-nine, he left behind his twenty years of practice on Mount Hiei and secluded himself for a one hundred day period at Rokkakudo in Kyoto.  He received a message from the gods in a dream vision that made him to call on Honen Shonin at his Yoshimizu hermitage in Higashiyama.  Shinran Shonin wanted to learn from him the way to truly live.  He asked Honen Shonin which of the many teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha was the one that was most suited to the life of this ignorant person who was not suited to religious practice.  He wanted to know where his life fitted into his search for religious salvation.  At that time Honen Shonin simply told him to believe in Amida Tathagata’s Vow of Universal Salvation and to say the Nembutsu just as you are.  The Vow of Universal Salvation receives all people, regardless of whether they are good or bad, as long as they say the Nembutsu.  Although the Nembutsu flows from our lips, it does not have its source in our mind of delusions and desires.  It has its origins in Amida’s Vow of Great Compassion that assures all those who turn to it in Nembutsu that they will be born in the Pure Land without fail.  There is a story about the myokonin Zentaro, of Ishimi, in present Shimane prefecture, who heard the temple bell sound when he was working in the field one day.  ‘OK, OK, I'm a-coming. Time to pay my respects to Amida’.  For Zentaro, everything that he saw or heard was the voice of the Buddha or Shinran Shonin urging him to say the Nembutsu.  In a way, like Zentaro, we are all surrounded by the Buddha and our Founder who are encouraging us to say the Nembutsu.