I’d like to talk about samsara with you today. Traditionally, samsara means the cycle of repeated birth and death that individuals undergo until they attain nirvana. The cycle, like the universe, is believed to have no beginning or end and individuals transmigrate from one existence to the next in accordance with their karma or moral conduct. Usually it is related to the six realms of existence (rokushu, 六趣): 1) Hell, 2) Hungry ghosts, 3) Animals, 4) Fighting sprits (ashura), 5) Human beings, and 6) Heavenly beings. (The realm of Fighting sprits is often included either in the realm of Heavenly beings or in the realm of Hungry ghosts, so that the six realms are expressed as the five realms.)
Today, in Shinran’s thoughts, we interpret samsara as the expressions of our six feelings. Sometimes we are happy, sad, angry, mad, and have desires. Our feelings never stay on one feeling because even our feelings are in the flows of impermanence.
What we have to consider about samsara is how we can go beyond samsara. Do you think that it is possible to transcend samsara in this life? Then how can we do that?
Actually, discussion about samsara does not have any answers. The important thing is how we bring our life into the meaning of samsara. This is one of the realizations.
Now, let me return to Shinran. What did he think about samsara? Shinran states about samsara the following;
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy, one immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses.
(CWS, p. 70)
(註釈版 p. 204)
When we realize the diamondlike true mind, we transcend crosswise the paths of the five courses (the six realms) and eight hindered existences and unfailingly gain ten benefits in the present life.
To Shinran, to get Shinjin and to transcend the six realms means the realization of our relationship between Amida Buddha and us. That is, to reflect ourselves and know our ignorance and hopelessness. However, we cannot stay in this vision because, as long as we live, we have many blind passions. After passing the short time realization, our blind passions cover our realization by merging into the obligations in our daily life. Definitely we cannot be a perfect.
However Amida Buddha knows our imperfectness and supports us. Shinran illuminates Amida Buddha in his hymn:
Lacking even minute love and minute compassion,
I cannot hope to benefit sentient beings.
Were it not for the ship of Amida’s Vow,
How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?
(註釈版 p. 617)
Shinran states that he is without a doubt living an imperfect existence because of his is ignorance and hopelessness. Without Amida’s working, he cannot live in samsara.
In my understanding, we have to struggle against samsara in our daily life from now on, too. However, even if we are suffering and tired in our life, we can reflect upon ourself and talk to Amida Buddha. This is my world. Amida Buddha is a wonderful listener and accepts us as we are. We will suffer. We will struggle in samsara. BUT, when I am tired, I return to Amida Buddha as I am.
浄土真宗本願寺派 大見山 超勝寺 衆徒。翻訳家。ハーバード大学 神学部研究員を修了し、帰国。現在は、執筆活動や通訳・翻訳を通して、日本仏教を世界に弘める活動をしています。