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What is Shinjin? Essay by Reverend Professor Toshikawasu Arai

Reverend Professor Toshikawasu Arai visited Salinas on August 9, 2015 and gave a lecture at Salinas' first Furutani Memorial Lecture series.

What Is Shinjin?

I visited the Buddhist Temple of Salinas on August 9, and gave a Dharma message in English and Japanese and a lecture followed by a Q & A session. I would like to thank Rev. and Mrs. Orai Fujikawa and the members of the temple for their hospitality and kindness.

When we had a question-and-answer session, a lady asked me, “What is shinjin?” I had not expected this question partly because I thought I had been talking about shinjin and nembutsu in my lecture, and partly because I was not sure what kind of answer would be appropriate to her needs. I thought if she was serious about that question, I should meet her and discuss this matter face to face. In any case, if she had not found the answer for that question, she should really hurry and find the answer. 

In any case, I would like to add the following to what I said at that time.

Shinjin is, literally, “trusting heart.” What do we trust in? Most simply put, we trust in the Buddha, we trust in the Dharma (the Buddha’s teaching), and we trust in the Sangha (a body of Buddhist practicers). The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are combined and called the three treasures of Buddhism. These three are not separate. The Buddha lives in the Dharma and the Dharma is studied and propagated by the body of its followers. If you entrust yourself to any one of the three, you will have taken refuge in all the three. Honen, for example, entered the Buddha path through his encounter with Shan-tao’s teaching of the exclusive practice of the nembutsu. Shinran entered the Buddha path through his encounter with Honen and his teaching. What is important is that it was the Shan-tao’s teaching that gave rise to shinjin in the heart of Honen. The same thing can be said about Honen and Shinran. 

Shinjin, or the entrusting heart, is always given by the Buddha, Dharma or Sangha, but not created by the practicer. You might attend the service regularly, but you might not have attained shinjin because your attendance at services might have been just a habitual or social matter. You have to think how the teaching as explained in Dharma messages relates to you. Only then the teaching will make sense to you and before you realize, you will rejoice at the newly growing shinjin within you.