In the first fascicle of the sixth chapter of the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho, Shinran Shonin tells us that there are three kinds of people who say the nembutsu. People of the nineteenth of Amida Buddha’s forty-eight Vows view the nembutsu as one practice among many. These people uphold many other religious practices as necessary to attain deliverance. These practices are described as ‘meditative and non-meditative good’. We can choose between these two.
The Pure Land Buddhism of the nineteenth Vow is called ‘The Essential Gate’.
Then there are the people of the twentieth Vow for whom the nembutsu is the greatest possible good. These people are certainly dedicated nembutsu followers, and they direct the merit that they accrue from saying the nembutsu towards birth in the Pure Land.
The Pure Land Buddhism of the twentieth Vow is called ‘The True Gate’.
People of the twentieth Vow, who regard the nembutsu as the greatest good, can through meeting a good teacher and reflecting deeply on the Dharma (that is, the Name), join the group of the definitely settled, becoming people of shinjin. (CWS, pp. 234-240)
The Buddhism of the nineteenth and twentieth Vows are genuine and popular practices of the Pure Land way. We naturally follow the way to which we are most readily related.
Finally, there are the people of the eighteenth Vow. Shinran calls the Buddhism of this Vow ‘The Ocean of the Selected Vow’. (CWS, p. 240) The eighteenth Vow is also called ‘The Vow of Sincere Mind and Entrusting’ and the follower of this Vow ‘The Person in the Stage of the Truly Settled’. Even on formal celebratory occasions, like our daily observances, the nembutsu of the people of the eighteenth Vow is a joyful and spontaneous expression of ‘sincere mind and entrusting’ – faith of the Primal Vow.
One of the places that Shinran tells us how we may enter the world of the eighteenth Vow is in his commentary Notes on ‘Essentials of Faith Alone‘. (CWS, pp. 462-4) I will, perhaps, write about this in a post one day.
As a someone who is dedicated enough to read blogs on the nembutsu, you are very likely to be a person of the eighteenth Vow. Of Amida Buddha’s forty-eight Vows, the eighteenth is especially the Primal Vow. It is the Vow in which the Name (Namo Amida Butsu) is selected as the vehicle for birth in the Pure Land. The intrinsic quality of this nembutsu is that it is an outward expression of what is within – shinjin, or entrusting heart, transferred to us by Amida Buddha.
You will probably have a sense of being embraced by the inconceivable light of Amida Buddha’s compassion. Your nembutsu is uncluttered by any motive to attain an outcome – a person of single-minded nembutsu. You will never take to any other path and will continue in the nembutsu as long as you can.
We read about such a person in the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho:
‘Third, the person who continues in the nembutsu is a truly rare person; there is nothing that compares with such a one. For this reason, the white lotus is used as an analogy. The white lotus is called “the excellent flower among people,” or “the rare flower,” or “the best among the best,” or “the wondrous excellent flower.” What has traditionally been called the “blossom bearing the white tortoise” is none other than this flower. The person of the nembutsu is the excellent person among people, the wondrous, excellent person, the best among the best, the rare person, the very finest person.’ (CWS, p. 121)