The Venerable Master strongly emphasized that salvation based on “Buddha-centered power” begins from the present. There are many ways in which he expressed this, but a typical way is how he is quoted in Article One of the “Notes Lamenting Differences”:
“Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida’s Vow, I shall realize birth in the Pure Land”; the moment you entrust yourself thus to the Vow, so that the mind set upon saying the Nembutsu arises within you, you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida, never to be abandoned.
In other words, the moment we sense Amida Buddha’s Vow to save all sentient beings, knowing without doubt that we will be born in the Pure Land where we will become completely Enlightened, we are already embraced within the light of Amida Buddha’s salvation. It is from a sense of joy and gratitude in knowing this that the desire to recite the Nembutsu arises within us. That is the great benefit awarded to us.
This benefit (salvation) that we receive is absolutely not something that we receive after leaving this world. It is what we receive in the present ? the present we are currently living.
The Venerable Master’s teaching of Jodo-Shinsh? can easily be mistaken to refer to benefits we receive after dying, but that is a great mistake. It is perhaps unfortunate that the Pure Land teaching previous to the Venerable Master did concern itself with what happens after we die, but there is no mistaking the fact that in the Venerable Master’s teaching, the emphasis is salvation in our present life. It is a teaching in which salvation is experienced in the life we are leading at present.
Some people assert that it is impossible to know whether there is a Pure Land or not until we die and are actually born there. But those who feel that way are those who have not yet experienced the world of salvation. In Jodo-Shinshu terminology, this is referred to as “those whose shinjin is not yet determined” (shinjin ketsujo shite inai hito).
The reason people such as Master Honen, the Venerable Master Shinran, as well as Master Rennyo and countless others devoted to the J?do-Shinshu teaching, were so deeply devoted to the Pure Land is not because they lived during a time when science and particularly the study of astronomy was not highly developed. Nor was it because they relied on blind faith. Rather, it was because they lived within the world of salvation – they experienced what it meant to be saved. I believe this is what is most important in understanding the salvation of Jodo-Shinshu.
As related in Chapter One, the Venerable Master entered the world of salvation at the age of twenty-nine. He referred to this as “dwelling within the ‘group of those assured of birth (in the Pure Land)’ in the present.” He also referred to this experience as “being equal to Nyorai (Amida Buddha),” and also as “the same as Miroku.”