Shinran and His Work, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
(§ 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83)
The word Hō on is not one that is absolutely peculiar to the Shinshu Body. But it is one that, taken into the Shinshu system of theology, has acquired an entirely fresh import and significance. In other sects of Japanese Buddhism, religious rites and observances are practised for the sake of the benefit accruing to the worshipper therefrom. Thus, the Shingon or Tendai devotee recites mantras and darani, or goes through prescribed manual acts, in order, by some theurgic process, to compel the Deity to do that which he; the worshipper, happens to desire. Thus, the disciple of the Zen sits absorbed in contemplation, waiting for the moment when the Divine Light shall break into his soul, and the Divine Voice speak to his conscience, with an illuminative power that defies description, and in words that cannot be uttered or pronounced. Thus, even the pious believer of the Jōdo sect recites his Nembutsu with fervent zeal, believing that, with every repetition of the Sacred Name, and every moving of the beads of his rosary, he is adding to his own stock of merit, and making his own calling and election sure. But, for the Shinshu believer, church-going and religious observances assume a different aspect. There is no question of acquiring God's favour or obtaining a benefit. Everything bas been already obtained that the soul can possibly wish for. It only remains to give "thanks to God for
his inestimable gift," and the more the value of that great gift is appreciated at its proper worth, the more fervent and the more constant will be the expression of the believer's gratitude.
Hence it is that the whole sum of the religious observances of the Shinshu believer after his "conversion" may be expressed in the one word hō-on—"the giving of thanks" always, and in all things,—a kind of never failing Eucharist.
And yet hō-on practices, though not observed for the purpose of acquiring merit, but merely as an expression of gratitude for mercies received, are not wholly without a certain effect on the heart and soul of him that practises them.
I have already spoken of the three constituent parts of Karma, the in, and the en, and the kwa. The in (#), or primary cause of man's salvation, is the Desire and Will of God, who willeth to have all men saved and brought to the knowledge of Himself. This faith, given by Amida-God, is the seed of the new Life implanted in our hearts. When the believer understands that he is the heir (and the use of the expression sōzoku suru, "to inherit," in §76 of the Shinshu Hyakuwa is again significant) of Amida's promises, the "seed" is planted in his heart, as the in, or primary cause. The seed is watered and fertilized, kept from withering, decay, or death, encouraged to grow and put forth leaves and branches, by the en (#), the secondary cause, the "eucharists," (if I may use the term with all holy reverence) which his thankful heart is continually offering, and the in and the en, working together, have their fruit (kwa #) in holiness of life. It seems to me that, taking
the Shinshu Hyakuwa for my text, I have been able, without twisting its statements into anything that a Shinshuist theologian would dispute, to draw out, in logical sequence, a fair summary of the doctrine of Sacramental Grace.
Again, if the Divine Will (or hongwan), implanted in our hearts, is the in, and if the "eucharists" we offer are the en, we shall, according to the Shinshu ideas, find the kwa, or fruit, in the believer's conduct on this earth and in this transitory life. Paradise, Salvation, Nirvana,—all these things are not the fruits that come from the religious observances of the believer. They are not fruits at all, they are part and parcel of that inestimable, free gift, which Amida-God, the God who for us men became man, has freely bestowed on us. They are included in the "all things" which, according to St. Paul, are the necessary accompaniments of that gift of His Son, which God made about the time when both Christianity and the Mahāyāna sprang into existence.
If the seed is in our hearts, if the sun and rain of religious practices make it grow, the only place in which the fruit can show itself is on the tree, i.e. in this world, in our conduct and behaviour as citizens of the earthly, and human, state and society. Hence, to the Shinshu believer, the peculiar importance of the zoku taimon (§71, zokutaimon no hataraki wa hō-on no hoka wa nai no de animasu).
The zokutaimon of the believer is thus concerned with the same objects and the same duties as the daily conduct, or zokutaimon, of the man that has no religion, yet the two can never be quite the same thing, inasmuch as they are done from absolutely
contradictory motives. Hō-on to wa donata ni taishite nasu no de arimasu ka? To whom should our hō-on, the offering of our thankful lives, be directed? St. Paul would have had no hesitation as to the proper answer to give to this question. "Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God," would have been his answer. The Shinshuist's reply is very similar (§ 77). Our hō-on is to be directed to Amida Nyorai, from whom we have received all things. It is with the Nembutsu, the formula of praise, on our lips or in our hearts, that we go about our daily occupations (Nyorai no go-on wo kansha suru, seishin de Nembutsu tonaetsutsu dose kagyo wo itonamu no de arimasu). The motive sanctifies the action, and it is this motive that differentiates toto coelo the life of the man of the world from that of him who has been "saved by His Grace."
Hō on is expressed in many ways. It is not simply a matter of reciting the Nembutsu. We must consider that all "wholesome practices" * form part of the life of the "thankful," and that the doing of them is a part of the burden of duty laid upon us by the Nyorai himself (§ 78). Again, the practice of hō-on serves for the advancement of religion in others. We shall all remember the passage in St. Paul (1. Cor. xiv. 16) where the Apostle is discussing the advisability of encouraging the public practice of speaking with tongues, and asks how, if a man pray in a "tongue," the unlearned or ignorant brother shall be able to say "Amen" to his giving
of thanks. A similar idea seems to underlie the thought expressed in § 99 of the Shinshu Hyakuwa. When the believer, we are told, recites his Nembutsu aloud, the standers-by, who chance to hear him, cannot fail to be edified. It may happen that the words of his giving of thanks fall on soil ready prepared, hearts in which the seed of Faith (in) has been planted, watered, and fertilized. Such hearts are good soil, and the words of the believer's thanksgiving, falling like the latter rain, act as the final en, and bring the Faith to maturity. * Or it may fall upon hearts less advanced in Faith. Neither so will its effect be lost; for the Faith of the Shinshu believer is that no single one of the oft-repeated invocations can possibly fail to do some good in the world. "Thus, directly and indirectly, the Nembutsu is a true Giving of Thanks, for it helps. on the Law of Buddha." †
But, we may say, it is all very well to construct a hō-on out of the Nembutsu and other holy rites. How is it, however, possible to treat worldly and mundane occurrences as 'acts of thanksgiving'? To which it may be answered (§ 80), that, if we learn to treat all our actions, after we have accepted Faith, as being so many acts of thanksgiving, we
shall gradually come to lose all sense of self, whether it be our own profit, or the satisfaction of our desires. This 'denial of self ' (for that is what it amounts to) makes us ready to endure all sufferings and pain, kills our pride, and makes us feel that our whole duty lies in being thankful. When we reach this frame of mind all our actions become true and straight (shinsei #), and naturally tend to the advancement of religion.
We now come to a paragraph of which I only write with the utmost reluctance. It is always painful to find fault, more especially so when one has to point out the shortcomings of a rival religion, which is accepted honestly and in good faith by thousands of good men. I hope that all that I have hitherto said of the Shinshu Creed will save me now from the charge of captious fault-finding.
If a man consecrates his whole daily life as a thank-offering for Amida's mercies, in what light are we to consider the lies and sharp practices which form an inseparable portion of that daily life *?
We are told in reply that lies and sharp practices are not, in themselves, "thank-offerings." But when a man is very zealous for the propagation of his religion, and offers his whole life, lies, sharp-practices, and all, to that end, the whole offering is acceptable, and lies and sharp practices, seeing that
they become aids to the propagation of the Faith, become parts of an acceptable offering, and are thus accepted.
Truly, an offering of leavened bread! After that one ceases to wonder that the Japanese merchant gets the reputation of being occasionally "slim," There is no need to discuss this teaching. It bears its own reprobation on its face.
But one can see from this paragraph, where the Christian, with an almost identical creed, but one based on a sure rock of historical fact, and with a consequently more robust faith, and a morality which need fear nothing, will find his message to deliver to the Shinshu. One can see, too, where the conversion of the Shinshu must begin. It is a case for "purging out the leaven," and when the purging has been done, one of the great obstacles in the way of the recognition of Christ will have been removed. There are always some, however, who will not come to the Light, "lest their deeds should be reproved."
118:* kikyō dōsa.
119:* Shinja no tonaeru Nembutsu wa, to no mishin no mono go kikimashite, nochi innen jukusuru toki wa, kore no yorite shin (#) wo emasu. Mi-juku no mono mo mata shinjin no en wo musubimasu kara shizen to Nyorai no rishōke-yaku wo tasukuru kō (#) ga aru koto ni narimasu.
119:† Chokusetsu kansetsu tomo ni Buddha no mi-nori no kasei wo itashimasu yue hō-on ni narimasu. With the verb kasei suru, (#) it is interesting to compare the Pauline expression, "we are fellow-workers with God."
120:* I quote the whole of § 81. Seken no koto wo uso ya kakehiki ga nakereba nurimasenu. Sore de mo hō-on ni narimasuka? Uso ya kakehiki ga hō-on ni naru de wa arimasenu. Uso ya kakehiki wo majiete seken no koto wo itashi, dose no michi wo kokoro yoku hagemite wa, Buppō no tetsudai wo shite to omoute tsutomemasu kara, sore ga mina hō-on to naru no de arimasu.