In Jodo Shinshu there is a standard for deciding between good and evil. Good is whatever is in accord with the mind of Amida Buddha. Evil is anything that is not in accord with the mind of the Buddha. The good refers especially to the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha, which is Amida’s Dharma. It manifests the mind common to all Buddhas: the mind of unconditional compassion.
The Contemplation Sutra attests to these facts:
‘The Buddhas’ mind is great compassion. It embraces sentient beings with unconditional benevolence.’ (PLS, p. 87)
Such compassion is only realised by Buddhas because they have completed the six paramitas (perfections) culminating in the perfection of wisdom: all things are empty (shunya). This is not mere nothingness but transcendence arising from the demolition of all concepts. From perfect wisdom comes perfect, unconditional compassion.
Compassion is the principal practical quality of all enlightened beings. It is quite wrong to characterise Pure Land Buddhism as having exclusive claim to compassion. All schools of Mahayana Buddhism have a similar focus. For example, the most important aspect of Zen is the compassionate bodhisattva vows. Zazen (sitting) is only a means to their fulfilment. Similarly, Shinran’s strongest focus is on the light, or wisdom, of Amida Buddha. Wisdom and compassion have equal emphasis in all schools of Mahayana.
In Jodo Shinshu those who realise deliverance through the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha naturally live a life of reciprocity. They strive to repay the Buddha’s unconditional compassion by extending it to all beings.
The first aspect of this is to say the nembutsu so that living beings may hear the call of the Buddha’s Vow. But there is also a social aspect associated with our conduct. We try our level best to bring the Buddha’s unconditional great compassion to bear in our relations with all sentient beings.
As Shinran says in the Tanni Sho, this is difficult for unenlightened creatures like we ordinary folk (bombu) who accept the embrace of Amida’s Vow and say the nembutsu. We can barely distinguish between good and evil. (CWS, pp. 663 & 679)
But Shinran also suggests that with long faithful engagement with the nembutsu of the Primal Vow, we develop warmth for fellow practicers. (CWS, p. 551) I think this also tends to expand beyond the sangha to reach into all of our relationships. In non-enlightened terms we may, perhaps, characterise a Buddha’s compassion as inspiring us with growing empathy or love for all beings, which grows through long association with the nembutsu.
The human manifestation of the good, the Buddha’s mind of compassion expressed in the Primal Vow, is fellow-feeling, or empathy, or simply kindness.