Gotan-e (Shinran Shonin’s Birthday)

The following is text by by Rev. Dennis Shinseki, from a 1983 pamphlet published by the Northwest Ministerial Association, Buddhist Churches of America.

The teaching of Nembutsu, which is the saving power of Amida’s compassion, has its origin in ancient history. Many great people from India, China and Japan have relied on this teaching to gain peace of mind and have shared this teaching with everyone they encounter. This teaching was taken up by Shinran Shonin who taught Amida’s great vow will save people through their own faith. When we find ourselves limited in our understanding or limited in our capabilities, Shinran’s way of the Other Power guides us through his clear understanding of cause and effect. When we question our own life, old age, sickness and death it is this teaching that takes us from agony to peace of mind. It does this by giving us a vision of the Pure Land. When we realize our limits, this teaching provides for us the Name of Amida. We find joy, consolation, life and gratitude~ all through this great way of salvation. If we take a moment to think we owe a great deal to Shinran. Therefore on his birthday we join in sincere celebration of the occasion.

This vow of saving all beings taught by Shinran to some may seem strange. Such things as relying only on Arnida, his total acceptance of all beings evil and not, his paradise and his hell, may be regarded as nonsense. However when the questions of life and death are actually experienced, and the psycho- logical agonies have taken their toll, then one will rnarvel at the compassion of Amida. Then one will find a deep significance hidden in the Other Power. Gratitude will flow naturally when we realize Amida’s acceptance of us unqualifiedly. All that was doubtful will be seen in its true significance. Everything will become as vivid as the moon on a cloudless night, without any shadow of doubt.

As there may be a person who doubts the sweet- ness of sugar there are people who doubt the comrnpass ion of Arnida. There will always be that doubt until the person just tastes the sugar for himself. Then everything will be clear as to the taste of sugar. It is the same way with those who doubt Amida’s Com- passion as incompatible with common sense. Common sense and even higher learning will not give peace of mind, so religion must be tried, to see if it really tastes sweet or not.

Some people find no value in the images, the scriptures, and in the religious services. These are like people who try to hide from their own shadow. Just as the shadow, these images, scriptures, and services are a part of our being an indication of what is in our hearts and minds.

Religion is an experience in the mind. When Shinran’s teachings are seen this way they give us peace and gratitude. They give us everlasting life.

Namu Amida Butsu
Rev. Dennis Shinseki
Seattle Betsuin