Master Shinran's Purpose for Writing Shoshinge

Master Shinran told us himself at the end of the work.

Dō zoku jishū gu dōshin Yui ka shin shi kōsō setsu

Dō means priests, zoku means laymen, and jishū means those who gather to listen to Buddhism on various occasions. All together, then, dō zoku jishū means ‘all people’. Not one person is excluded from this. You too are included, as am I.

“Everyone! I want you all to attain the same mind that I, Shinran, have been granted. Please, together with me, realise the same happiness that I have been blessed with!” Master Shinran had no other purpose for writing Shōshinge than this.

“What should I do so that people can experience the same happiness that I, Shinran, now know? What should I write in order to guide people towards this world of wonder? Should I write this, or will people understand if I explain it this way?” Master Shinran deliberated endlessly, putting his blood, sweat, and tears into each and every word he wrote. The result was the 120- line Shōshinge.

So what should we do in order to be saved and be granted the same mind of happiness that Master Shinran had? This question naturally arises in our hearts. Master Shinran gave the answer at the end of Shōshinge: the line “Yui ka shin shi kōsō setsu.”

This means, “There is no other path but to believe in the teachings of these Great Patriarchs.”

“These Great Patriarchs” refers to the Seven Patriarchs of True Pure Land Buddhism who taught about salvation by Amida Buddha 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 was urging us, “Believe in the teachings of these Seven Patriarchs!” So what did the Seven Patriarchs teach? They taught nothing other than the Vow of Amida Buddha. Therefore, “You must only believe in the teachings of the Great Patriarchs” means, “There is no path on which you can be saved other than that of hearing and believing Amida Buddha’s Vow.” “I, Shinran, am not making this up. The seven virtuous Patriarchs were unanimous on this subject. Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow is the unchanging truth that transcends time and space, so it can save anybody without fail. I want you all to listen and believe Amida’s Vow, not wasting a day, or even a moment. I want you all to experience this boundless world. That is my wish.”

You can probably see now that Master Shinran’s passionate hope, which spurred him to write the 120 lines of Shōshinge, was nothing other than this. Therefore, that which would make Master Shinran the happiest of all would be if each one of us intently pursued all chances to listen to Amida’s Vow and was saved and embraced into the same absolute happiness as Master Shinran experienced. Let us read through and comprehend Shōshinge in its entirety, and let us listen to Buddhism until the point when we gain great joy for life that makes us shout, “This is what I was born for.”

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Source: The Buddhist Village Times #50 | 2015, Master Shinran's Purpose for Writing Shoshinge

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