The Purpose of Writing Shōshinge
Master Shinran put his blood, sweat and tears into writing each character of Shōshinge, which consists of 120 lines each made up of 7 characters. For what purpose did he do this? He explained this clearly at the end of the work.
Dō zoku jishu gu dō shin
Yui ka shin shi kōsō setsu
“Whether monk or laity, all people should, with the same mind, only believe in the teachings of the Patriarchs.”
“Dō zoku jishu” (道俗時衆) means “all people.” “Gu dō shin” (共同心) means “attain the same mind together.” Shōshinge, then, ends with an imploration: “Everyone! I want you all to attain the same mind that I, Shinran, was granted!”
“What? The same mind as Master Shinran? That’s unthinkable!” Anyone would probably be thinking this right now. How are we able to attain the same mind as Master Shinran, who not only lived 800 years ago but is also so eminent as to be called the Light of the World? No doubt you must be wondering this.
However, we definitely can attain the same mind as Master Shinran. The key to solving these questions is knowing just what kind of mind is “the same” as what Master Shinran attained. Master Shinran explained this at the beginning of Shōshinge: “Kimyō muryōju nyorai Namu fukashigi kō”
“I, Shinran, have been saved by the Buddha of Infinite Life. I, Shinran, have been rescued by the Buddha of Unimaginable Light.”
The mind that Master Shinran attained is one that made him shout out these words of unlimited joy. Both “the Buddha of Infinite Life” and “the Buddha of Unimaginable Light” refer to Amida Buddha. “Kimyō” and “namu” both mean “I have been saved” or “I have been rescued.” Master Shinran is repeatedly declaring his joy at having been saved by Amida. This is great joy for life that he could not help but express out loud and in writing. No matter how many times he expressed this joy, it could never be enough.
Master Shinran is saying this:
“Salvation by Amida is not something that happens after death. It happens in this present life. This salvation is also not vague. When you are saved, it will be clear to you. Amida’s salvation is equal and has a finishing point, so you absolutely can attain the same mind as me. Pursue the path until you reach this finishing point!”
“So Master Shinran, what should we do in order to be saved into absolute happiness just as you were?” Master Shinran gave the answer to this question in the following line from Shōshinge:
“[All people] should only believe in the teachings of the Patriarchs”
“Only” here means “this alone” or “nothing other than this.” “The Patriarchs” refers to the Buddhist teachers from India, China, and Japan who taught of salvation by Amida correctly. These are Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu from India; Tan-luan, Tao-cho, and Shan-tao from China; and Genshin and Hōnen from Japan.
Master Shinran is urging us, “Believe in the teachings of these Seven Patriarchs.” So what did the Seven Patriarchs teach? Nothing other than the Primal Vow of Amida. Therefore, “[All people] should only believe in the teachings of the Patriarchs” means, “The only path on which you can be saved is that of only listening to and believing Amida’s Primal Vow; none other exist.”
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #65 | 2016, Attaining The Same Mind As Master Shinran
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