Shinran and His Work, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
(§§ 88. 89.)
In other sects of Buddhism, much use is made of spells, incantations, and prayers, as means of obtaining from the celestial powers the fulfilment of our desires; also of auguries and divination, by which the Will of Heaven may be revealed to us for our guidance. Thus in the great Temple of Kwannon at Asakusa, in Tokyo, much use is made of the supposed potent efficacy of Binzuru Sama, the weak-hearted but kindly disciple of Sakyamuni, who having once, after his admission to the order, looked upon a woman to love her, was forever excluded from access to the holy Place; though his lacquered image, standing outside upon the veranda, has been rubbed smooth by the devotion of the ignorant. There is a side shrine to which girls go to pray for husbands, and young matrons for children. These belong to the Tendai Sect: the Shingon believer in these parts has his wonder-working Shrine at Kawasaki, where Kōbō Daishi, worshipped as an Incarnation of Vairocana, enjoys wide reputation as yamai-yoke-no taishi, the "Great Teacher that heals diseases." There is a shrine at Kamakura, under the auspices of the Zen sect, sacred to Kishimojin (in Sanskrit Hariti), which at certain seasons does a great trade in supplying streams of pilgrims with charms supposed to be extremely potent. The same deity is worshipped by the followers of Nichiren,
and a few miles out of Tokyo, in the village of Nakayama, there is a Nichiren Temple where a regular practice obtains of driving out devils by means of a treatment apparently composed in equal parts of incantations, drum-beating, and douches of cold December water from the well. There is also in the Life of Nichiren a well known story, which reads almost like a chapter from the Old Testament, of a contest, between Nichiren and his theological opponents, as to which should call down rain from heaven to assuage the drought and famine that were then destroying the land. There is no need to multiply instances: that Buddhists are addicted to incantations is a fact which scarcely needs demonstration.
Of all this the Shinshu knows nothing. "We hold," says the Shinshu Hyakuwa (§ 88) "that the happiness or the reverse of a man's life, his honour or his shame, is entirely and solely the inevitable result of a Man's own actions, and of his own merits in the past or in the present life, and that no prayer or incantation is of avail to change a man's temporal lot until all the law of Karma has been fulfilled. We teach that when a man understands where the true cause of misfortune is to be found, and sets himself resolutely to work to amend his life, and to strengthen that resolution which can alone give him the victory, then the misfortune which clouds his life will of itself disappear. Further, if a calamity be so great that it seems to require a charm or incantation to drive it away, we must remember that the Great Vow of Amida is more powerful than any incantation or charm, and we cannot possibly do better
than cast our care upon Amida and go quietly on with our lives."
So the Shinshuist discards all spells and incantations, wears no amulets or charms, and even abstains from all prayers which are not included in the term mina Butsuriki ni makaseru (lit. to commit all to the power of the Buddha), which I have ventured to translate by the term, "casting all our care upon Him."
And what a vast province of the Kingdom of Prayer is included in the phrase mina Butsu-riki ni makaseru! "A man who is religious," says Newman, "is religious, morning, noon, and night; his religion is a certain character, a mould in which his thoughts, words, and actions are cast, all forming parts of one and the sane whole. He sees God in all things; every course of action he directs towards those spiritual objects which God has revealed to him; every occurrence of the day, every person met with, all news which he hears; he measures by the standard of God's will … To be religious is, in other words, to have the habit of prayer, or to pray always … we place God's presence and will before us, and so consistently act with a reference to Him, that all that we do becomes one body and course of obedience." * Substitute the Name Amida for God, and you have what the Amidaist understands, and (as far as his lights go) practises, by the term mina Butsuriki-ni makaseru.
But if prosperity and adversity, sickness and health, are the Karma of our own actions in the
past, and if we are in all things to commit ourselves to the power of Amida, in what light are we to look upon medical aid (yobō, #) in case of sickness? There were "Christian Scientists" in Buddhism long before the formal advent of Christianity into Japan, and Rennyo Shōnin discussed the question in the fifteenth century. Jisetsu tō-rai (#), "his hour has come," was the cant phrase used by these "peculiar people," when their friends were stricken with sickness. The phrase in their lips was intended as a justification for not summoning the doctor. "Jisetsu tō-rai, indeed!" exclaims Rennyo. "If you have taken every possible means to save your friend's life, and all has been in vain, then you may say Jisetsu tō-rai, but not otherwise." Our hour must come of itself: it must not be invited or dragged on by our own carelessness (§ 90).
The next paragraph (§ 91) discusses the term aku-nin-shō-ki, to which I have already had occasion to refer. The term means 'a bad man with a straight or correct faith.' It apparently came into use in the early days of Shinshuism, was early misunderstood, and led to one of the most serious troubles that the sect has experienced. It was interpreted to mean that a man might be as bad as he pleased, provided that he had a correct faith in the mercies of Amida, and this misinterpretation was very soon used as a "cloke of maliciousness."
Our author is at pains to explain the true meaning. The vast proportion of men, he tells us, are aku-nin "evil men" (are we not taught to call ourselves miserable sinners?), but there are none so evil that they may not be saved by obedience to
the teachings of the "true faith" or shō-ki. The phrase therefore, properly considered, is the glory, and not the shame, of the Shinshu. It means that the Shinshu has come to preach a Gospel to the outcast, the criminal, the evil liver. It has come to call "sinners to repentance." And this, we may notice, is an honour which it shares with the Christian Gospel. *
131:* Newman, Parochial Sermons. Vol. VII. p. 205.
133:* The phrase Jisetsutōrai is especially interesting for the light it throws on the historical connection between the Shinshu and Manichaeism. See Appendix II.