Portrait of Shinran Shonin (1173-1263)
CASE #18: Fear No Evil
Shinran said, “And evil need not be feared, for there is no evil which can obstruct the working of Amida’s primal vow.”
Shinran (1173-1263) is considered the founder of the Jodo Shinshu, or True Pure Land School, of Japanese Buddhism.
Amida’s primal vow refers to the pledge, made in remote ages past by Dharmakara Bodhisattva, not to become enlightened until he had established a Pure Land where all beings could attain rebirth simply by calling upon his name. In the Longer Pure Land Sutra, Ananda asks Shakyamuni what became of Dharmakara Bodhisattva, and Shakyamuni explains that many kalpas ago Dharmakara fulfilled his vow and became Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life.
An environmental interpretation of Amida’s primal vow identifies it with the redemptive properties of a planetary ecosystem, from which no one is ever excluded, and nothing can be lost or gained. Strictly speaking, even evil can offer no obstruction to such a system, which functions everywhere at once, in the absence of a unitary center or a self.
What do we fear when we fear evil? Is it not that something will happen to us that should not? Who decides what should happen and what should not? On what is that decision based? The second question answers the first. The answer to the last two is “the Self.”
With the Self placed at the center of all things, the notion of evil is born. That is why God tells Adam and Eve, “Don’t eat from the tree at the center of the garden.” Eat from it and you will have evil. Eat from it and the world you were born into won’t look like the Pure Land anymore. It will only look like you.
Are you obstructed
By hurricanes or hit men?
No need to be coy
In a world where Amida
Is happening on its own!
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