The Purpose of Life and the Path of No Hindrance
He of the nembutsu is on the path of no hindrance. Why is this so? Before the one who has true faith, gods of heaven and earth bow down in reverence, and evil spirits and false teachings can pose no obstacle.
Tannisho Section 7 In other words, “Anyone who is saved by Amida and says the nembutsu is blessedly free from all hindrances. Why? Because before one who has been saved by Amida, the gods of heaven and earth bow their heads in reverence, and demons and heretics can no longer offer any obstruction.”
The teachings of Shinran are summed up as heizei gojo, salvation in the present life. Heizei means this life, so salvation takes place not after death, but while we are alive. Gojo means the completion of our greatest task; the ultimate purpose of life.
What is the ultimate purpose of life?
Last year, in the great earthquake and tsunami that struck Eastern Japan in March 11, 2011, people lost possessions and buildings they had acquired with sweat and labor, as well as precious family members, and sank into the depths of sorrow.
“We must rebuild. Letʼs rise up!” Though they are told this, how can they find the strength to seek to regain something that the earthquake and tsunami might destroy and sweep away again?
Right now, many Japanese people are being forced to revise their view of life, and are groping for an answer to the question, “Why live?”
To all in that situation, Shinran shouts strong encouragement: “Life has a purpose. You can achieve it, so do so!” That is the meaning of the quotation from Tannisho above.
“He of the nembutsu is on the path of no hindrance.”
What does it mean to say that to the person of the nembutsu who is saved by Amida, nothing poses any hindrance?
Novelist Natsume Soseki wrote this lament: “Give play to your intellect, and you offend others. Propel yourself with your emotions, and you are swept away. Be obstinate, and you feel constrained. The human world is a difficult place to live.” Day by day, in the workplace and at home we chafe in the fetters of human relationships.
“Let me be free!” we cry, but there seems to be no freedom anywhere.
However, to those who are saved by Amida, no obstacle stands in the way of birth in the Pure Land. Living is fine, and dying is fine. That is because such people live with the great satisfaction of knowing that whenever they die, they will be born in the Pure Land without fail.
Shinran goes on to make the surprising statement that before those who have received the gift of faith from Amida, the gods of heaven and earth bow their heads in reverence. We all are convinced that it is we who should bow our heads to the gods, but Shinran says just the opposite.
Many people hold misfortune and disaster in abomination, saying they are caused by evil spirits. They put on the pathetic spectacle of inviting Shinto priests to exorcise spirits even from highrise buildings and rocket launchings that have been planned with supreme scientific expertise.
But before the person of the nembutsu who has stepped out on the path of no hindrance, evil spirits and false teachings stand in awe, unable to impede his progress.
This wonderful path of no hindrance exists. Attaining it is the true purpose of life, and anyone who is saved by Amida can do so. “Enter the path of no hindrance quickly!” During his entire life, Shinran preached the real existence of the ultimate purpose of life and urged all people to attain it.
He was truly the light of the world.
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #22 | 2012, The Purpose of Life and the Path of No Hindrance
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