When Shinran Shonin came to rely fully upon the Name of the Amida Buddha, he and his teacher Honen Shonin advocated that one should give up relying on any other form of Buddhist practice. They encouraged everyone to rely solely upon the nembutsu and if one experiences the deep shinjin that reflects the Mind of the Amida Buddha, one could then rest assured attaining the Birth in the Pure Land. Yet, even today Jodo Shinshu is still struggling with how to connect with people outside of the traditional Japanese ethnic group. If Nembutsu is the pinnacle of Buddhist thought, then why is explaining Nembutsu and Amida Buddha so difficult?
I believe the main problem is that traditional Jodo Shinshu tends to forget that Nembutsu stands on the shoulders of all previous Buddhist thought, meaning Classical Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. To teach Jodo Shinshu in a vacuum, without acknowledging how it has grown from these other forms of Buddhism is foolish. Let me share a story to illustrate this.
Once there was a wealthy but foolish man. When he saw the beautiful three-storied house of another man, he envied it and made up his mind to have one built just like it, thinking he was himself just as wealthy. He called a carpenter and ordered him to build it. The carpenter consented and immediately began to construct the foundation, the first story, the second story, and then the third story. The wealthy man noticed this with irritation and said: “I don’t want a foundation or a first story or a second story; I just want the beautiful third story. Build it quickly.
A foolish man always thinks of the results, and is impatient without the effort that is necessary to get good results. No good can be attained without proper effort, just as there can be no third story without the foundation and the first and the second stories.
Shinran was not a foolish man, but when he said he was able to throw away other practices, he did this with full knowledge of what those ‘other’ practices were. He knew that they were limited in their ability to bestow the peace of mind that is guaranteed by the Nembutsu practice of Amida Buddha. In other words, he had climbed the first and second story of the house and found the third story view magnificent! namoamidabutsu. Myokei Himaka