Shinran – and Amitābha’s vow
Type of Spiritual Experience
Shinran (親鸞, May 21, 1173 – January 16, 1263) was a Japanese Buddhist monk, who was born in Hino (now a part of Fushimi, Kyoto) at the turbulent close of the Heian Period and lived during the Kamakura Period. Shinran ultimately became the founder of the Jōdo Shinshū sect, in Japan.
Although this may annoy some people I have grouped this observation under Shinto, as a fairly close approximation to his beliefs, as the alternative is ‘other religious person’ where he would have been lost.
According to his own account to his wife Eshinni (whose letters are preserved at the Hongan-ji), in frustration at his own failures as a monk and at obtaining enlightenment, he took a retreat at the temple of Rokkaku-dō. There, while engaged in intense practice, he experienced a vision in which Avalokitesvara appeared to him as Prince Shōtoku, directing Shinran to another disillusioned Tendai monk named Hōnen.
In 1201, Shinran met Hōnen and became his disciple. During his first year under Honen's guidance, at the age of 29, Shinran attained enlightenment, or salvation through ‘Amida's Vow’.
“Amitābha is the Buddha of the comprehensive love. He lives in the west (represented as a meditating Buddha) and works for the enlightenment of all beings (represented as a blessing Buddha). His most important enlightenment technique is the visualization of the surrounding world as a paradise. Who sees his world as a paradise, awakens his enlightenment energy. The world can be seen as a paradise by a corresponding positive thought (enlightenment thought) or by sending light to all beings (wish all beings to be happy). After the Amitabha doctrine, one can come to paradise (in the Pure Land of Amitābha), if they visualize at their death Amitābha in the heaven (sun) over their head (western horizon), think his name as a mantra and leave the body as a soul through the crown chakra”.
During his time as a disciple of Honen's, Shinran caused a great stir among society by publicly getting married and eating meat. Both practices were strictly forbidden for monks, but Shinran took these drastic steps to show that Amida's salvation is for all people and not just for monks and priests.
Note that Nyorai or Tathāgata is the name of the historical Buddha. The term is often used generically.
As the Buddha of the scriptures transcended the human condition, and thus completed the spiritual path, ending the cycle of death and rebirth, he is quoted in the generic sense as the decider in these things simply because he has the knowledge. It is recognised in Buddhism that any spirit helper may be doing it in practise.
A description of the experience
As… man is born in the Pure Land, it is said that man is naturally or spontaneously led to the Pure Land.
The devotee does not make any conscious self designing efforts, for they are altogether ineffective to achieve the end ….
As one’s rebirth into the Pure Land is wholly due to the working of Nyorai, it is for me, the devotee, just to believe in Nyorai and let his vow work itself out.