There is a Great Ship of Salvation

Learning from Shinran, the Light of the World Vol. 3

Jane: In the third anime, Jurenbo and Anrakubo talked about Amida’s salvation using the example of the sea and a ship, remember? I’ll explain further. First, let’s read Master Shinran’s words.

Amida’s inconceivable Vow is a great ship that carries us across the sea that is difficult to cross, and his unimpeded light is the sun of wisdom that destroys the mind of darkness. - Master Shinran

At the beginning of Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment, a work that contains all of Shinran’s teachings, the master describes Amida’s salvation as “a great ship that carries us across the sea that is difficult to cross.”

“The sea that is difficult to cross” refers to everyone’s life. “Difficult to cross” means that crossing it brings suffering; all people, from the time they are born until they die, struggle to live in this sea where the waves of suffering never cease. “Someone said an awful thing to me,” we lament, or we feel regret—“ I never meant it that way, but I was misunderstood; I wish I’d never done such a thing!”— and our hearts are never at peace.

Many people are frazzled at work, trying to get along with their boss and colleagues, and then go home only to quarrel with their spouse, bicker with their inlaws, and be mocked by their children.

They want nothing so much as to cast it all aside and go off somewhere to be alone, but they cannot; and so they go on suffering. Others agonize over a lost love or a friend’s betrayal. Still others are victims of tsunami or fire, every possession they had painstakingly acquired in life taken from them in a moment. “What was my life for?” they wail. Those who have money and possessions suffer because they have them, and those without them suffer because they do not have them. Having and not-having both lead to suffering. “Life is suffering”: these words of Śākyamuni Buddha are changelessly true for all people, whenever and wherever they may live.

This life of suffering is what Shinran called “the sea that is difficult to cross.” Why were we born, why do we live, why must we not end it all? What is the ultimate purpose of life? Shinran declared, “There is a great ship in life’s sea of suffering. Being lifted aboard this ship to live in happiness that knows no end is life’s true purpose. Until you are aboard the ship, live on.” His life was devoted to teaching only this. (C)

Translated by Juliet Carpenter

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #23 | 2013, There is a Great Ship of Salvation

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