About Shin Buddhism
This section will give you a brief introduction to our sect of Buddhism. There are also some fundamental teachings associated with Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism). For more information please visit our temple and attend our discussion sessions after Sunday Dharma Service.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism
Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism) is a sect of Buddhism which means, “Pureland” Buddhism, and was founded by Shinran Shonin (1173 – 1263). The Pureland is not a literal place, it is a state of existence that is free of ego and selfish desires. Shinran’s parents both died before he was the age of 9, and he became a monk at the Tendai temple on Mount Hiei. He studied there for 20 years, and was one of the most devout and dedicated followers. But he was not closer to discovering the meaning of life that he sought, so after 2 decades he left in persuit of something different.
Shinran became one of the first religious leaders to share the teachings with commoners and poor people. He made the teachings available to everyone. Shinran taught that true understanding comes when we let go of our ego, and realize that we cannot do things only through our own efforts. It is this understanding that leads us to live a life of gratitude.
Shinran taught that there were many paths to enlightenment. One is not required to follow the strict path of discipline and study. This is why he left Mount Hiei, and eventually got married and had a family. This all connects back to his views on Middle Path and living a life of reasonable balance.
Amida Buddha is the symbol of infinite wisdom and compassion, or infinite “understanding” and “caring.” Amida Buddha is the central figure of reverence. Amida is not a God or a Supernatural Being. Buddha means, “One who is awake.” There is not only one Buddha in the world. We don’t pray to Amida for help, but we reflect upon Amida’s infinite wisdom and compassion to help guide our lives.
The Dharma is the Buddha’s teachings. And these teachings are not mystical or magical. They are not to be taken on faith or belief. They are to be tested and questioned. The Dharma teaches the universal Truths that governs our existence. The Dharma is not unique to any individual or culture or time. The Dharma is true for everyone, everywhere, at any time. The goal of every Buddhist is to live a life with their eyes open to see this truth.
The Sangha are all the temple members and friends that come together to learn about the Dharma. Without the Sangha members, our temple would just be a building with four walls and a roof. It is the people that give it meaning and purpose.
One of the most fundamental teachings of Shin Buddhism, is the concept of impermanence. This means nothing can stay the same forever.
In understanding this truth, we come to learn how precious everything is in our lives, and how much we should appreciate them. And in contrast, when we face great hardship and pain in our lives, we realize that this will not llast forever. So we must endure the pain and challenges so we can emerge from them stronger and wiser.
Shin Buddhism teaches us that all things are connected. Some connections are more obvious and direct in our lives, such as our parents, children, friends and loved ones.
Other connections are much less obvious, like a child that lives in a poor village halfway across the world. But we are connected to all things and all things are connected to us. No single person exists without the help and existence of others. When this truth is realized, we become so much more aware of our thoughts, our speech and our actions, because we understand that everything we do ripples out into the world and touches everything.
When the historical Buddha began his journey towards understanding, he left his lavish kingdom and family and lived the very harsh and disciplined lifestyle of an ascetic monk.
He gave up all his worldly possessions, and left his new born son and wife in search of life’s meaning. He studied, meditated and engaged in the very strict and difficult practices of an ascetic monk. He fasted almost to the point of death. But after 6 long years he realized that he was no closer to discovering the meaning of life than when he lived a life of a young prince. So instead of continuing on this harsh and difficult path, he nourished his weakened body and sat in meditation. It was after many hours of deep contemplation that he finally found enlightenment. He realized that living a life of extremes was not the key to finding understanding.
Middle Path means that we try not to live our lives in the extremes. We try to create a balance somewhere in the middle of those extremes, so that we can live a much happier life. We don’t obsess only about the past, or plan only for the future at the expense of the moment. We don’t always agree with everything or always disagree with everything. We try to exist somewhere in between those extremes. This “middle” is different for all of us. And the goal is to find where your middle is.
Life of Gratitude
In learning these truths about life, we can not help but gain a deep sense of gratitude for all that we are and all that we have. In understanding the transient nature of life, we realize how precious everything is in this moment, so we strive to spend less time complaining about our lives, and more time living it and appreciating it. When we are feeling grateful, we are not feeling greedy or angry or selfish. Thus to be in a state of grateful appreciation is the goal of all Buddhists.