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The Painstaking Effort of Buddhist Masters

February 28, 2019

Thank you very much for giving a lecture to us missionaries despite being as busy as you are with writing the new book. Listening to your commentary on the two lines 専雑執心判浅深 報化二 土正弁立 “sen zo shu shin han zen jin, ho ke ni do sho ben ryu” in The Hymn of the True Faith, I reached a deeper realization about the great pains that true masters of Buddhism go through. 

 

In these lines Master Shinran explained the teachings of Master Genshin, who wrote the book Yokawa-hogo. In this book he encouraged us to be glad about having been born human. Regarding the reasons why we should rejoice over having been born as humans, Genshin first of all made comparisons between the realm of humans and the worst three realms (the realm of incessant suffering, the realm of the hungry ghosts, and the realm of animals) instead of saying outright, “It’s because you can listen to Amida Buddha’s Vow.” 

 

 We would never understand the truth if exposed to it in a straightforward manner. You said you could easily imagine Master Genshin’s struggle to find out how to express the truth to people like us. I cannot help but think you are going through exactly the same tough process. 

 

I learned that the statement “You should rejoice over having been born as a human” can be paraphrased as “Life is precious”, without which Buddhism doesn’t start. I think it is with the same mindset that you have always expressed the teachings of Master Shinran using the phrase, “Why we live.” 

 

Now I have a better understanding of the painstaking effort of the Buddhist Masters. Buddhist Masters taught first and foremost that we have such a great purpose in our lives, which makes our existence so precious. This is because people don’t realize the real preciousness of life until they are saved by Amida’s Vow. Buddhist Masters are always guiding us to the goal by using words that are easy for us to understand. 

 

I heard that in order to guide us, Master Genshin first showed the distinction between “self-power” and “other-power” using the relative terms “shallow faith” (浅) and “deep faith” (深). In order to expound the very same teachings, Master Shinran clearly distinguished “knowing” from “doubting”. 

 

 “Where in The Hymn of the True Faith is ‘salvation through the three Vows’ laid down?” I learned from you that the answer to this question lies in these two lines. This time I think I gained more of an understanding of your deep intention that underlies your words, even if only a little. 

 

I cannot help looking up to Master Shinran as the light of the world because he clearly distinguished between the truth and the provisional in the teachings of the seven patriarchs, as well as laying out the path of salvation through the three Vows, which starts from that which is within human comprehension and ends in the world of unnamable, inexpressible, inconceivable faith.

 

I am delighted from the bottom of my heart, not only at having parted from the worst three realms of existence and attained birth as a human, but also at having encountered you and become a member of

 

the Missionaries Chapter.

 

Kohei Harada, Missionary

 

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #37 | 2014, The Painstaking Effort of Buddhist Masters

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