“LIFE LASTS BUT FIFTY YEARS” is a traditional Japanese saying that applied until fairly recently. With the great advances in health care, however, it rarely applies today. The average life-span of the Japanese has increased to where it is now the longest in the advanced world.
I am, however, reminded of this saying because I have now passed the age of 50. How quickly time passes!
I was born in a Jodo-Shinshu temple and am most grateful to have been allowed to pursue my study of that school of Buddha-dharma. My present feeling is one of gratitude for the profoundness and sacredness of the Jodo-Shinshu teaching. From this feeling, and from a desire to set a milestone in my life, I have decided to express my understanding of Jodo-Shinshu in this book, which is divided into three parts.
In Part One I briefly described the main events in the Venerable Master Shinran’s life, his earnest search for the truth, and his efforts to spread that truth to all with whom he came in contact.
Part Two is the main focus of this book. It is divided into three chapters:
- Chapter 1. The Foundation of the Venerable Master Shinran’s Teaching.
- Chapter 2. “Salvation” in the Venerable Master Shinran’s Teaching.
- Chapter 3. Shinjin and the Nembutsu in the Venerable Master Shinran’s Teaching.
Of the above three chapters, I wanted most to write about the “Salvation” of Chapter 2. Accordingly, that chapter is further divided into the following four sections:
- The Benefit of “Truth”
- The “Salvation” of the “Evil Person”
- Salvation” in the Present
- Birth in the Pure Land” (Ojo) and “Becoming a Buddha” (Jobutsu)
Of these four sections, I particularly wanted to emphasize “‘Salvation’ in the Present.” This is the most important part of the Venerable Master Shinran’s teaching and is what sets him apart from all other teachers. I believe it would not be overstating the case to say that if you understand this section, that you will understand all of the Venerable Master Shinran’s teaching. Further, this is where the Pure Land teaching that was apt to be considered a teaching that is important in the future, came to be understood as a teaching that is meaningful in the present and, I believe, is where the essence of the Venerable Master Shinran’s teaching is to be found.
It was from knowing about this world of “‘salvation’ in the present” that I sensed the greatness of the Jodo-Shinshu teaching, and is what allows me to take such great pride in my life as a Jodo-Shinshu minster.
In Part Three I expressed some of my opinions on the Venerable Master Shinran’s teaching regarding problems related to religion and medical care, and problems of life.
I began this book with the expectation of demonstrating how great a person the Venerable Master Shinran is, and the truly superb nature of his teaching. Because of my poor ability to express myself, however, I have fallen far short of my expectations. For this reason, I wish you will use this work as just a starting point to look further into this marvelous teaching. If this book proves to be even the slightest help in your “tasting the dharma,” I can ask for nothing more.