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Switch to Forum Live View Jodo Shinshu and Mystical Experience
10 years ago  ::  Jan 06, 2008 - 6:41PM #1
shonin1
Posts: 2
Shin teaches that Amida's Vow is all-sufficient for salvation and enlightenment.  All things unfold in the unhindered light of the Vow.  Indeed, some call living in the Vow "panendharmism" - a kind of dharmic panentheism, but without a personal deity.  So the Shin universe can be seen as embraced in Amida's Light.

Shin further teaches that, because of the all-sufficiency of the Vow and its attendant grace, self-powered acts, including spiritual practices, meditation, etc., are useless for salvation and enlightenment.  They may be indulged in, but not with any idea that they have salvific power: that alone is the property of Amida's Vow.

My question is this: is there anything in Shin that allows for mystical experience -  so long as that experience is not claimed to be salvific?  That is, once having acknowledged Amida's all-sufficiency, is it permissible for the believer to use spiritual practices in order to cultivate an immediate, intuitive, "mystical" union with Amida and/or Amida's Light?  (_Trust_ in the Vow is the prerequisite for true faith.  But within the boundaries of trust, is it valid to also seek "divine union" with Amida in a direct-experiential sense?)  Again, this would be done in a supplemental spirit.  Mystical experience of Amida would not replace trust in Amida, and it would not be thought to cause salvation or enlightenment.  It would merely  _enhance_  the trust that one already has.

It would seem that if everything "lives and moves and has its being" in Amida and the Vow, then some kind of unitary mystical experience would be a logical consequence of "existing within Amida" - yet I have never yet seen anything in my Shin readings that would encourage such mystical union.  So I am wondering if mystical union with the all-embracing Amida is at least theoretically possible - and if so, could you kindly refer me to any texts that mention it.

Thanks.
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10 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2008 - 4:02PM #2
shonin1
Posts: 2
[QUOTE=shonin1;192984]Shin teaches that Amida's Vow is all-sufficient for salvation and enlightenment.  All things unfold in the unhindered light of the Vow.  ...snipped... So I am wondering if mystical union with the all-embracing Amida is at least theoretically possible - and if so, could you kindly refer me to any texts that mention it.

Thanks.[/QUOTE]

My post has been up for nearly a month now with no reply from the moderator. Obviously, nobody is minding the store.  I've been checking the Forum daily and while the post is being read, it is not being replied to by the moderator.  So - just a note to any interested parties that I'm dropping out.
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10 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2008 - 1:11PM #3
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
Shonin,

As a Zen Buddhist who knows very little about Shin, I found your post very informative. I'm sorry there's no one here for you to discuss Shin Buddhism with. I would have learned a lot from lurking.

Good luck to you.
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10 years ago  ::  Feb 11, 2008 - 10:33PM #4
octavedoctor
Posts: 16
As I understand it, in Shinran's teaching Shinjin - the Faith that comes with the abandonment of Self-Power - is itself a mystical experience, and is one with Enlightenment.
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10 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2008 - 12:30PM #5
Gerald_ford
Posts: 34
Hello,

Haven't been around in a while (my apologies).  There is no mystical experience in Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism) per se.  If you have mystical experience through meditation, tantra, or what not that's perfectly fine, but it has little to do with entrusting yourself to Amida which is the singular purpose of Shin Buddhism.

Shinjin is not a mystical experience either.  It literally is a point in the path of a Shin Buddhist when he eschews all self-oriented practices and entrusts themselves fully to Amida.  Shinran would describe this as a "one-thought moment of true entrusting".  Shin Buddhism is a deeply counter-intuitive Buddhist sect because we're so used to be goal-oriented and striving for things.  Of course, Buddhism teaches that this clinging and craving is at the root of our own suffering, but even in our Buddhist practice we persist anyways.

So, if one follows Shin Buddhism long enough, they come to this realization as well, and that's when they simply stop and leave everything to the compassion of Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow.  That's shinjin in a nutshell.

The famous Shin Buddhist follower Saichi said that it took him 20 years to reach this point.  D.T. Suzuki described Shin Buddhism as the most difficult Buddhist sect, and from my own (happy) experience I am inclined to agree.  The end result is the same as any Buddhist sect, but Jodo Shinshu just takes a decidedly different approach.

Getting back on topic, Shin Buddhism in general eschews anything mystical.  There are no petitionary prayers, not manipulation of karma, and no accumulation of merit.  Shin Buddhists allow themselves to be carried along by their own karma, good or bad, and just trust Amida to carry them in the long-run to the Pure Land.  One simply, gradually, develops a deep sense of "hearing" to Amida Buddha's call to Enlightenment and "calls back" through the nembutsu.

A bit lengthy, but hope that helps.  :)
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10 years ago  ::  Feb 18, 2008 - 10:15PM #6
octavedoctor
Posts: 16
[QUOTE=gerald_ford;283371]There is no mystical experience in Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism) per se.  If you have mystical experience through meditation, tantra, or what not that's perfectly fine, but it has little to do with entrusting yourself to Amida which is the singular purpose of Shin Buddhism.[/QUOTE]

The singular purpose of all Buddhism is mystical, though "experience" can be a bit misleading.  An experience is something that happens once, whereas the goal of Buddhism is to be "there" all the time.

It is true that there is no mysticism in Jodo Shinshu as generally preached.  This is because Jodo Shinshu is a theistic dogma developed by Rennyo and other theologians that has very little to do with what Shinran was about.  Why else was the Tannisho banned until modern times?

In the Tannisho, Shinran certainly equates Shinjin with Bodhi (Hongaku).  To Shinran, Shinjin was not simply belief, nor was it faith in the Protestant sense of the word.  It was total surrender, a life-changing experience, something with very little in common with the ritual and book-learning engaged in by today's Shinshu priests.
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10 years ago  ::  Feb 18, 2008 - 10:43PM #7
octavedoctor
Posts: 16
[QUOTE=gerald_ford;283371]

The famous Shin Buddhist follower Saichi said that it took him 20 years to reach this point.  D.T. Suzuki described Shin Buddhism as the most difficult Buddhist sect, and from my own (happy) experience I am inclined to agree.[/QUOTE]

It's also true that there are people, such as Unno, who regard Saichi and the other Myokonin as not understanding the true purpose of Shinran's teaching.  But Suzuki is certainly right in saying it's the most difficult path (not that he was right about many things).  After all, how can you follow a path when hardly any of its priests understand it?

[QUOTE]The end result is the same as any Buddhist sect.[/QUOTE]

Exactly my point.  At least it should be in theory.

[QUOTE]Shin Buddhism in general eschews anything mystical.  There are no petitionary prayers, no manipulation of karma, and no accumulation of merit.[/QUOTE]

This is a misunderstanding of the word mystical, as understood in a soteriological context.  Petitionary prayers have nothing to do with mysticism.  They are something magical/superstitious.

While Shinran eschewed superstition, the same is certainly not true of his followers.  Shinshu temples - in common with all Buddhist temples in Japan - prayed for the long life of the emperor until 1945.  They wouldn't be standing if they hadn't.  Indeed, Buddhist monks would never even have been allowed to enter China without being put to death, let alone Japan, if they hadn't performed magical rituals to protect the government from the very beginning.

It is also a fact that, although the Jodo Shinshu sects claim to reject petitionary prayer, they make vaster sums of money than any other organisation on the planet from selling funeral and memorial rites.  The faithful do not purchase these services because they have a deep faith in Buddhism.  On the contrary, they are afraid that the angry ghosts of their ancestors will come and bring them bad luck if not appeased.  The Shinshu establishment is as devoted to exploiting this superstition as the other sects, even if they don't perform goma rituals for other purposes like in other sects.

[QUOTE]One simply, gradually, develops a deep sense of "hearing" to Amida Buddha's call to Enlightenment and "calls back" through the nembutsu.[/QUOTE]

That is a mystical teaching.
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10 years ago  ::  Mar 06, 2008 - 5:37PM #8
Gerald_ford
Posts: 34
[QUOTE=octavedoctor;297908]
It is also a fact that, although the Jodo Shinshu sects claim to reject petitionary prayer, they make vaster sums of money than any other organisation on the planet from selling funeral and memorial rites.  The faithful do not purchase these services because they have a deep faith in Buddhism.  On the contrary, they are afraid that the angry ghosts of their ancestors will come and bring them bad luck if not appeased.  The Shinshu establishment is as devoted to exploiting this superstition as the other sects, even if they don't perform goma rituals for other purposes like in other sects.
[/QUOTE]

I take it from your last post that you are somewhat antagonistic to Jodo Shinshu.  With that said, what do you base your "facts" on?  Are you a Shinshu follower?  Have Shinshu followers told you about fear of angry ghosts?  Where do you see the differences between what Rennyo taught and Shinran?
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10 years ago  ::  Mar 07, 2008 - 3:37AM #9
octavedoctor
Posts: 16
[QUOTE=gerald_ford;337460]I take it from your last post that you are somewhat antagonistic to Jodo Shinshu.  With that said, what do you base your "facts" on?  Are you a Shinshu follower?  Have Shinshu followers told you about fear of angry ghosts?  Where do you see the differences between what Rennyo taught and Shinran?[/QUOTE]

I am not antagonistic to Jodo Shinshu.  What I am is realistic about Shinshu and Japanese Buddhism, having lived in Japan and experienced it first-hand over many years, not simply as a tourist.

I'm not quite sure what "facts" with the quote marks is meant to mean.  The usual way of discussion would surely be to respond to the other person's argument with an argument of one's own, rather than to simply hint that everything the person says is made up.

I am not a Shinshu follower, but I did try it at one time.  Maybe there are Shinshu priests out there who don't simply give long, dry lectures based on the books they were forced to read during their time at Hongan-ji, but I never met them.

Fear of ancestors is the basis of popular Japanese Buddhism.  Shinran rejected this, and indeed wanted his remains to be unceremoniously thrown in the river.  While Shinshu's stated rejection of superstition is admirable in theory, the fact that Shinshu priests perform the same funeral and memorial services as priests of other sects - indeed it is their main job - makes a mockery of this idea.  Again, while putting Uncle Takeshi's picture on the second shelf of the butsudan is preferable to making it the honzon - as is allowed in other sects - it still falls a long way short of making Buddhism about Buddhism and not about ancestor worship.

As for Rennyo, he was a politician who turned Jodo Shinshu into a creed centered on obedience to the government.  Of course he wasn't alone in this.  Indeed, during the Edo period obedience to the government was the only thing priests of any sect were allowed to teach to the laity, on pain of death from the authorities.
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10 years ago  ::  Mar 27, 2008 - 6:40PM #10
rev.shinetsu
Posts: 1
Aloha
I have read through your posts and although you say that you are not "anti Shinshu", the tenor of much of what you have to say is definitely antagonistic towards the Hongwanji--Nishi and HIgashi.
There is a great deal of disinformation about the Hongwanji, and about Shinshu in general.  Yes, in many cases, it WAS co-opted by the government and utilized, even during WW2, for political ends. That being said, there is as much disinformation in Japan as there is in the USA regarding Shin Buddhism as a legitimate Buddhist path.  I am a Hongwanji Kaikyoshi, not Japanese, although I did study and live in both the US and Japan.  In many respects, I agree that the essence of much of what Rennyo may have done was to placate the government at the expense of some of the essence of Shin Buddhism.  Today, probably far too many Japanese people participate in mechanical rites for their dead ancestors out of fear, ignorance, and the anticipation that bad consequences will occur if they don't do all the rites perfectly. Neverthelless, MOST Jodo Shinshu priests, including me, remind the families that in our tradition, rituals are NOT done for the sake of the deceased but to give the living family an opportunity to hear the Buddha Dharma.  I find many of the rituals done in Japan to be formal, ritualistic and to have very little substance.  I sat and observed a parade of memorial services one afternoon at Ohtani Hombyo, in which the family would bring in the Kakocho (memorial bookj) and the priest would do the same sutra, give the same Dharma talk, time after time for hours...It was truly depressing.  I have sometines the same experience here in Hawaii.  Families do the memorials only out of a sense of obligation rather than as a chance for them to get together to experience real interdependence in their family relationships, among both the living and the dead, in gratitude for the many contributions that their dead ancestor has provided for their being and well-being. 

All of that being said, at individual temples, in individual sanghas, at times, there is a true sense of the vastness of Other Power.  Amida Buddha is NOT an "external" or a "savior" apart from ourselves...the great message of Buddhism is that we "save" ourselves.  Consistent with that finding, Shinran discovered that when he participated as one of an entire group of believers following the same path, that he was able to feel something that he did not experience in his individual practice.  That was the message that he brought to believers throughout Japan.  As we live lives in community with other people, we are able to mutually do what we cannot do singly.

I hope that some of this makes some sense to you.  It took me a bit of time to be able to "square" Shinshu with the general outline of Mahayana Buddhism, given that so much of Shinshu is made to sound almost exactly like Protestant Christianity.  But the real essence of Buddhism is definitely within the Shinshu path, if you take time to look for and to find it.  It isn't in the rituals, it isn't in the locations, but I have found it in Japan as well as in the US.  And it's not a syrupy-sweet "just trust, and everything will be alright" either...It's more like a "get up off your butt and go contribute something of value to this world for a change!"  And it sustains and supports us with immeasurable compassion.  I don't know about the mysticism aspect though.  The Buddha was a sort of almost scientific sort of guy, telling us to doubt, to question, and to resolve the answers so that we wouldn't doubt anymore.  If it works for you, great, but he was always looking to cause-and-effect, not mysticism, and he found answers, not just feelings.
In Gassho
Rev Shinetsu
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