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What Becomes Clear When Faith Is Gained?


When faith is gained, what changes, and what becomes clear?


Master Shinran describes the faith that Amida bestows as “unnamable, inexplicable, inconceivable faith.” Concerning what happens to people when they receive this blessing, he instructs in The Hymn of True Faith as follows:

“Anyone can, no less than Queen Vaidehi, attain the three blessings.” --- The Hymn of True Faith

To paraphrase: “One gains the three settled minds just as Queen Vaidehi did.” The “three settled minds” refer to the stability of joy, awakening, and faith. “Settled mind” means an unswerving state of mind.

The settled mind of joy means joy in having been saved by Amida Buddha. Though destined for hell, one has been saved into a clear knowledge of birth in the Pure Land; that there should be joy is only natural.

The joy of someone drowning in the ocean who is rescued and taken aboard a ship is surely great. There is joy even in knowing that one’s flesh, which in eighty or a hundred years will perish, has been saved.

How much greater, then, the joy of having the bonds of transmigration over countless aeons broken, and receiving the great treasure-ocean of merit that is unnamable, inexplicable, inconceivable! In Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment, Master Shinran calls this “joy that is vast and inconceivable.”

In The Letters, Master Rennyo says this:

"Long ago I had happiness wrapped in my sleeves. Now it is greater than my being can contain."

The meaning of “I had happiness wrapped in my sleeves” is that formerly the speaker could not distinguish between other-power and self-power (the true and the provisional) and simply thought “As long as I recite the nembutsu, I will gain birth.” The meaning of “Now it is greater than my being can contain” is that having been saved by Amida Buddha and gained clear knowledge of the difference between the true and the provisional, the joy of reciting the nembutsu in gratitude to Amida is so great that one cannot contain oneself and wishes to dance with abandon. This is happiness greater than one’s being can contain.

--- Fascicle 1, Letter 1

Next, concerning the settled mind of awakening, Master Shinran wrote this praise:

It is only inconceivable, unnamable, inexplicable faith.

--- Chapter on faith, Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment

Amida’s salvation can only be described as inconceivable, unnamable, and inexplicable, a state that surpasses language and imagination. Master Rennyo, in his Commentary on The Hymn of True Faith, spoke of the settled mind of awakening as “the mind awakened to Amida’s wisdom.” In other words, it is the mind awakened to the wonders of Amida’s wondrous wisdom. Since Amida’s wisdom is inconceivable, unnamable, and inexplicable, such an awakening, attained for the first time since the beginningless past, is fraught with earth-shaking astonishment.

Next, concerning the settled mind of faith, Master Shinran taught that faith is the mind divested of any shred of doubt in Amida’s Vow:

“Hearing” means that anyone at all hears the origin, beginning to end, of Amida’s Vow without a trace of doubt in his mind. This is “hearing.”

----Chapter on faith in Teaching, Practice, Faith, Enlightenment

For whose benefit was Amida’s Vow made, how was it made, and what result did it bring about? Hearing (faith) means the state in which all doubt concerning the Vow is completely rooted out for all eternity. The mind that entertains doubt about Amida’s Vow is the mind uncertain of what will become of one in the next life, fearful that perhaps one will not be saved. This mind is variously called “the mind that doubts the Vow,” “the doubting mind,” or “the unsettled mind.” Master Rennyo made plain in The Letters that as long as one has such doubt, one has not obtained faith: “There should not be even a trace of doubt in the mind.” He further instructed,

“Unless all doubt about Amida’s Vow is swiftly cleared up during this lifetime, regret will surely follow. Bear it well in mind.”

The complete dispelling of doubt regarding Amida’s Primal Vow and the attainment of vast security of mind through the settled conviction that birth in the Pure Land is certain: this is the settled mind of faith. Let us continue diligently to listen to Buddhism until we too have gained the three settled minds just as Queen Vaidehi did.


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