Shinran Fragments

The fragments below are from The Essential Shinran. A Buddhist Path of True Entrusting, an anthology edited by Alfred Bloom (2007):

Confession 1

By Shinran

Although I take refuge in the Pure Land way,
It is hard to have a true and sincere mind.
This self is false and insincere;
I completely lack a pure mind.

Each of us, in outward bearing,
Makes a show of being wise, good, and dedicated;
But so great are our greed, anger, perversity, and deceit,
That we are filled with all forms of malice and cunning.

Extremely difficult it is to put an end to our evil nature;
The mind is like a venomous snake or scorpion.
Our performance of good acts is also poisoned;
Hence, it is called false and empty practice.

Although I am without shame and self-reproach
And lack a mind of truth and sincerity,
Because the Name is directed by Amida,
Its virtues fill the ten quarters.

Lacking even small love and small compassion,
I cannot hope to benefit sentient beings.
Were it not for the ship of Amida’s Vow,
How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?

With minds full of malice and cunning, like snakes and scorpions,
We cannot accomplish good acts through self-power;
And unless we entrust ourselves to Amida’s directing of virtue,
We will end without knowing shame or self-reproach.

Confession 8

A recollection by Yuiembo, a pupil of Shinran

Good thoughts arise in us through the prompting of good karma from the past, and evil comes to be thought and performed through the working of evil karma. The late Master said, “Knowing every evil act done – even as slight as a particle on the tip of a strand or rabbit’s fur or sheep’s wool – has its cause in past karma.”

Further, the Master once asked, “Yuiembo, do you accept all that I say?” “Yes, I do,” I answered.

“Then will you not deviate from whatever I tell you?” he repeated.

I humbly affirmed this. Thereupon he said: “Now, I want you to kill a thousand people. If you do, you will definitely attain birth.”

I responded, “Though you instruct me thus, I’m afraid it is not in my power to kill even one person.”

“Then why did you say that you would follow whatever I told you?”

He continued, “By this you should realize that if we could always act as we wished, then when I told you to kill a thousand people in order to attain birth, you should have immediately done so. But since you lack the karmic cause inducing you to kill even a single person, you do not kill. It is not that you do not kill because your heart is good. In the same way, a person may not wish to harm anyone and yet end up killing a thousand people.”

Thus he spoke of how we believe that if our hearts are good, then it is good for birth, and if our hearts are evil, it is bad for birth, failing to realize that it is by the inconceivable working of the Vow that we are saved.

Confession 9

A recollection by Zonkaku (1290-1373)

Inquiring on what is essential for rebirth, he (Shinran) had this thought: “Although I immerse myself in the still water of meditation, the waves of consciousness are constantly surging. Although I contemplate the moon of the mind, I am covered constantly by clouds of delusion. Nevertheless, without catching my breath, a thousand years have passed. Why do I envy the transitory sangha and vainly exhaust myself in provisional studies? I must abandon power and profit and immediately aspire for release from (births and deaths).”

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