Shinran’s Dreams: The Dream Revelation on Sexual Indulgence

Q: I have heard that Shinran left many records of his dreams. What sorts of dreams did he have?

A: Shinran’s third unforgettable dream took place shortly after the dream revelation in Daijo-in when, still grappling with the looming issue of his afterlife, Shinran descended Mt. Hiei and secluded himself in Kyoto’s Rokkakudo temple for one hundred days.

There in Rokkakudo, a temple built by Prince Shotoku, the first patron of Buddhism in Japan, Shinran prayed in desperation to the enshrined figure of Guze Kannon Bodhisattva, who embodies Amida Buddha’s compassion.” Was there any path to salvation?

At dawn on the ninety-fifth day, Shinran had this dream, as he himself later recorded: Guze Kannon Bodhisattva appeared before him in the guise of a fine-looking priest in a white robe, seated on a great white lotus, and said this:

“When the practitioner indulges in sex due to his past karma, I will take on the form of the woman Tamajo to be ravished by him. I will magnificently adorn his whole life, and at his death I will lead him to be born in the Land of Supreme Bliss.”

Guze Kannon Bodhisattva then added, “This is my vow. Tell it to all people.” When he had obediently transmitted the vow to millions of people, he awoke from the dream. This dream is recorded in the third section of the first volume of The Biography.

The account also appears in a text copied by one of Shinran’s top followers, Shinbutsu, who preceded him in death by five years. No one doubts the veracity of the account as coming first hand from Shinran. The “practitioner” spoken of in the revelation is Shinran himself, who was engaged in ascetic training in search of true salvation.

Until that time there were strict prohibitions in Buddhism against monks having anything to do with women. But human beings are born out of sexual desire, and to distance themselves from it is impossible. As Shinran struggled with this inherent contradiction, Guze Kannon Bodhisattva appeared to him in a dream and announced: “When you have sexual relations with a woman, I will become the woman Tamajo for you.” This was a revelation of Amida Buddha’s absolute salvation, which makes it possible for ordinary human beings to marry and relish their lives just as they are.

The words “This is my vow” clearly indicate that teaching Amida’s absolute salvation is the true desire behind the appearance in this world of all buddhas and bodhisattvas.

“Tell it to all people”: with these words, Guze Kannon Bodhisattva made Shinran realize that his exclusive mission in life was to teach all people about this salvation promised by Amida Buddha..

The final words, that he “obediently transmitted the vow to millions of people,” makes sense when we stop to consider the vast number of ordinary people who were enabled through Amida’s Vow, as clearly taught by Shinran, to achieve absolute happiness in this life just as they were.

This dream is commonly known as “the revelation on sexual indulgence” or “the dream revelation of Guze Kannon Bodhisattva.” There are records of many other dreams in The Biography and other writings, but I will lay down my pen here.

by Kentetsu Takamori

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #58 | 2015, Shinran’s Dreams: The Dream Revelation on Sexual Indulgence

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