The Human Predicament - Was aus meinen Träumen wurde

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in: Japanese Religions 15, 1988, pp. 1-17

The striking similarity between Shinran's emphasis on  salvation through grace alone and the Christian concept of  grace as we find it especially in Paul and Luther has often been pointed out. A similar parallel seems to exist with regard to Shinran's view of the human predicament or, in Christian terms, his view of sin and evil. But this aspect of  his thought as well as its apparently close connection with  the problem of salvation and grace has up to now not been  given much attention by Western scholars, since most of the  relatively few studies of Shinran1 concentrate as a matter of course on his concepts of grace, salvation and faith.2
But  the meaning of salvation cannot be understood, at  least from the Christian point of view, without a clear awareness of the situation from which man is saved. In Christianity  sin is, in a sense, the negative side of salvation. In fact,  the deeper man is aware of his own sinfulness, the deeper he also understands what salvation means, and vice versa.
This  may not be so obvious to many modern Christians. The problem  of sin today no longer plays the important role it did in  biblical thought or in the theologies of Christian thinkers  like Augustine and Luther. For modern man the consciousness of  sin seems, in most cases, no longer to be an existential problem and even for Christians it rarely is an essential element in their experience of faith.
The reasons for this development cannot be discussed  here,3 but the question does have to be asked whether this does not also affect our understanding and experience of salvation. According to the New Testament, Christ was sent to  overcome the 'sin of the world', to take away our sins. This  means that salvation and grace are interpreted and explained  in terms of the opposing concepts of sin and guilt. In many  biblical stories the awareness and confession of sin is shown  to be the decisive step towards salvation. Thus the depth of  what salvation means in Christianity cannot be comprehended without a full understanding of the Christian concepts of sin  and guilt.
Can something similar also be said with regard to Shinran's view of the human predicament? Before we start  investigating this and other related problems we should briefly  consider whether, and under what conditions, a comparison like  the present could be meaningful at all in view of the widely  different cultural backgrounds of Shinran and Christianity. In one sense it would be better to avoid all references to Christian terminology and concepts in order not to read Christian ideas into Shinran's texts, but on the other hand it is difficult to avoid these.  
The main problem with studies of Shinran in Western languages, it seems to me, is not the use of Christian terminology when describing elements of his thought, but the fact that  this is often done without a
careful analysis of the respective terms and their different cultural and religious backgrounds. Alfred Bloom, for instance, frequently uses expressions like "ineradicable sinfulness" (27), "Shinran's intense  awareness of sin and evil" (35) or his "experience of the deep  sinfulness of mortal nature" (39).4
But it is difficult to see how these terms can be used in a Buddhist context, since they contain elements that are foreign to the Buddhist tradition  and may, therefore, distort the meaning of Shinran's ideas.  Thus it seems necessary to try to replace them by more appropriate terms.
The problem indicated here is basic to all studies of  religions that belong to a different cultural context. One  cannot avoid it, even if one renounces all comparisons. The  very fact that in the present paper an analysis of Shinran's  thought is attempted in English, forces us to use a terminology developed under the impact of Christianity, not to speak of the Christian elements inevitably present in the patterns  of thought of any Western scholar. Therefore, it seems best to try to make conscious and consider these differences from the very beginning by comparing elements of Shinran's thought with corresponding elements in the Christian tradition. This will  be done here mainly with regard to the terms and concepts used  by Shinran to describe the human predicament. My aim is not to  compare these with the various transformations and developments of the Christian concept of sin since the Old Testament. Already in terms of quantity such a comparison would be very  unbalanced. Rather I will concentrate on an analysis of Shinran's thought and compare it with elements in the Christian tradition wherever this seems necessary or meaningful.

1. Terminological Considerations
In Christianity, the negative side of the situation of  man, as opposed to salvation and grace, can be described by   one single term, namely "sin". It has emerged as the result of  a long history of theological reflection on the human predicament as this is revealed by God and is rarely used in a non‑religious context. The word sin denotes a transgression or an  attitude which, in the final analysis, is always directed  against God. It can be used only where man is basically free  and responsible ‑ though he has lost his freedom since sin has gained power over him. Sin, therefore, is the responsible guilt of man before God, the breach of a personal relation ship, a turning away from God and one's fellow‑men. (It cannot  be denied, however, that in the history of Christianity sin has often been regarded simply as an outward transgression of certain laws or principles of morality.)
In modern Japanese, "sin" is usually translated as tsumi, a word which already appears in the oldest Japanese texts such as the Kojiki and the Manyōshū. There it is partly used in a religious context in the sense of breaking a taboo and  evoking the wrath of the gods, thus resulting in curse and  calamity. Otherwise, except for some instances in Buddhist writings or where the word is used in a Christian sense in  modern texts, it does not have a religious connotation and  denotes a transgression of the rules and laws of society, a  crime or fault, a rebellion or resistance against authority.  Especially noteworthy is the fact that tsumi does not  refer only to the act of transgression but also includes its  consequences, namely guilt and even punishment. A similar concept of sin can be found in the Old Testament. The term awon, for instance, which comes closest to our word "sin", can also  mean guilt and punishment. Only gradually does the distinction in the Old Testament between the act of sin and its consequences as well as the responsibility of the individual become important. In other words, originally in the Old Testament as well as in Japanese thought, such distinction and accordingly the responsibility of the individual seem not to be  particularly relevant. In addition, in
Japanese there is ob viously no need to distinguish between transgression in a  general and in a religious sense. One might also add that both in parts of the Old Testament and in Japanese culture there is  a strong tendency to emphasize the group or the whole rather  than the individual.5
In view of these differences from the Christian concept  of sin, tsumi should not be translated as "sin" but rather as  "transgression" or "wrongdoing"  (where it refers to an action), and also as "evil", except some instances in religious contexts. The term "evil" also has Christian connotations but it  can be used in a more general sense without reference to the  Christian tradition and without specifying the responsibility of the individual involved. In the Buddhist tradition tsumi (in compounds zai) and aku (bad, evil) are almost synonymous. The terms zaiaku, zaigō and akugō,  frequently used by Shinran, all denote a thought or action  that creates negative karma and therefore they could be translated as "evil action" or "karmic evil". Again we note here the close connection between acts and their consequences which  we have already found in the word tsumi.
Buddhism regards it as virtually impossible to avoid karmic evil and suffering as its consequence because of man's blind (or evil) passions (bonnō) and ignorance (mumyō) which are deeply rooted in his nature. The close connection of both with karmic evil is expressed in compounds like bonnō-akugō or mumyō‑akugō. In Christianity, too, passions and blindness are closely related to sin but only the latter is emphasized as the basic cause of man's hopeless situation. In Buddhism, however ‑ and Shinran is no exception to this ‑ karmic evil appears to be of secondary importance and it is mainly man's blind passions and especially his ignorance which  account for his need of salvation. Hence salvation in Buddhism means enlightenment and not forgiveness of sins as in Christianity.
When Shinran refers to the human predicament he often speaks of
karmic evil as an essential element in it without, however, specifying what it means in concrete terms. Only in  some passages, especially where he uses tsumi and tsumibito (or zainin, a person who commits tsumi), he mentions specific transgressions or evils as they are defined in the  Buddhist tradition. These are the "five grave offenses" (gogyaku) and the "ten transgressions" or "ten evil acts"  (jūaku <no tsumi>). The latter resemble the trespasses against the ten commandments and consist of "killing, stealing, adultery, lying, flattery and equivocation, slander, using immoral language, greed, anger and false views".6 The former are also translated as the "five deadly sins", the gravest transgressions which cause a person to fall  into the hell of incessant pain. They are, according to the  Hinayana tradition: "(1) killing one's mother, (2) killing  one's father, (3) killing an arhat (a Buddhist saint), (4) causing blood to flow from the body of a Buddha, (5) disrupting the harmony of the assembly of monks".7 The Mahayana tradition sums up the preceding five in one adding three more  religious offenses (directed against temples, sutras, monks,  etc.) and as the fifth: "committing the ten transgressions  with the conviction that there will be no karmic recompense  and without fear for the next life, or teaching others such an  attitude" (Jōdo monrui jushō 87f).
This brief overview should suffice here. Several other  traditional expressions will be discussed as they appear in  the context of Shinran's view of man's predicament, a subject  to which we now turn.

2. Shinran's View of the Human Predicament
At the center of Shinran's teaching stands his gospel of Amida's saving grace and his emphasis on the fact that only by faith in Amida's Vow man is assured of birth in the Pure Land.  But already in the tradition before Shinran, faith is closely  related to the realization of one's karmic evil. In the Kyōgyōshinshō Shinran quotes a famous passage from Zendō  (Shan‑tao, 613‑681), one of the seven patriarchs of the Pure  Land tradition:

The Deep Mind is the mind of Deep Faith. It has, again, two aspects. The  first is that which believes deeply and determinedly that we are really sinful, ordinary beings, fettered to Birth‑and‑Death, continuously drowning and transmigrating since innumerable kalpas ago, and have no means of emancipation. The second is that which believes deeply and determinedly that the Forty‑eight Vows of Amida Buddha embrace the sentient beings, enabling those who trust His Vow‑ Power without doubt and apprehension to attain Birth assuredly.8

The two aspects of the Deep Mind are also referred to as  ki no jinshin and hō no jinshin. The first of these can hardly be described as "deep realization of one's  sinfulness" as in the footnote of the above translation or as  an acute awareness of one's "sinful nature" (Gira 40‑44). If  one compares the above passage with instances of confession of  sin as they are described in the New Testament, the difference is obvious. Zendō does not speak of man's personal guilt but of his karmic evil (zaiaku), and of his powerlessness and  inability to escape the cycle of birth and death.
Gira (39‑42) refers to the above passage in the context  of his discussion of the term eshin sange (conversion in the  sense of repentance) which was emphasized by Zendō. Eshin sange appears to come close to conversion and the confession of sin in Christianity and, accord-
ingly, Gira uses Christian  terms to describe it. I cannot discuss here the various sources Gira draws upon but his terminology seems at the very  least misleading. The question is whether the different forms  of sange really imply a decisive change of inner attitude or whether they are not mostly an auxiliary practice helping man to attain birth, as Genshin emphasizes (Gira 41). In the passages Gira quotes I cannot find a "renouncing of evil" (41) but only a turning away from reliance on one's own forces (jiriki) and towards reliance on the Other Power (tariki) alone, and this can hardly be called repentance. At any rate, it is clear that for Shinran only the latter is of decisive importance as Gira has convincingly worked out. The various forms of confessions and repentance are, in Shinran's view,  part of the practice of self‑power and no means to attain salvation. Man may learn through them to avoid evil but that is  not decisive:

Even saintly people who observe these various Mahayana and Hinayana precepts can attain birth in the true fulfilled land only after they realize the true and  real shinjin <roughly: faith> of Other Power. Know that it is impossible to be  born in the true, fulfilled Pure Land by simply observing precepts, or by self‑willed conviction, or by self‑cultivated good.9

The attempt to be good may even be a hindrance to birth  in the Pure Land as Shinran emphasizes in a famous passage of  the Tannishō:

Even a good person is born in the Pure Land, how much more so is an evil person! However, people in the world usually say, "Even an evil person is born in the Pure Land, how much more so is a good person". At first sight this view seems to be reasonable, but it is contrary to the purport of the Original Vow, of the Other‑Power. The reason is that, as those who practice good by their  self‑power lack the mind to rely wholly on the Other‑Power, they are not in accordance with the Original Vow of Amida. (22)
This extreme formulation shows again the importance Shinran attaches to faith in the Other Power, to the realization  that enlightenment is impossible to attain through one's own efforts. In comparison, the difference between a good and an evil person is of no significance, and one can even say: "Since the purpose of His <= Amida's> Vow is to have evil persons attain Buddhahood, the evil person who trusts the Other‑Power is especially the one who has the right cause for Birth in the Pure Land" (Tannishō 23). This resembles Jesus' word:  "For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mt.  9.13) In Christianity, however, the confession of sin, conversion, and the firm intention to overcome sin and  start a new  life in faith are essential for salvation. Shinran, on the contrary, even regards this as a hindrance to Enlightenment:  "To desire to extinguish our sins is the mind of self‑power." (Tannishō 60).
This does not mean, however, "that a person should do evil just as he desires. This is absolutely wrong."10 This strong rejection in one of Shinran's letters is directed against the tendency towards licensed evil among part of his followers, a movement which caused him a lot of trouble in his old age. Though Shinran knows that people can never free themselves from ignorance and evil, he is convinced that, once  they firmly believe in Amida's vow, they will "naturally undergo a change of heart" and show "signs of rejecting the evil  of this world and ... in themselves" (Letters 52f, 61; cf. 58, 60‑62).
Shinran rarely discusses the various forms of evil and  even less its nature. When he describes karmic evil he uses  the traditional formulations, for instance in his explanation  of the expression "evil karma is profound":

... evil people who have committed the ten transgressions or the five grave offenses, people of evil karma who have reviled the teaching or who lack seeds for Buddhahood, those of scant roots of good, those of
massive karmic evil ... such  wretched men as these, profound in various kinds of evil karma, are described by  the word profound. (Yuishinshō‑mon'i 39)

Only in one respect does he consider the impact specific transgressions might have on birth in the Pure Land. In his  eighteenth vow Amida promises to save all sentient beings who  sincerely desire to be born in his land, with one exception: "Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and  those who slander the true dharma".11 But Shinran, like Zendō before, in a comment on this passage, states exactly the opposite: "By showing the gravity of these two kinds  of wrongdoing, these words make us realize that all the sentient beings throughout the ten quarters, without a single exception, will be born in the Pure Land." (35) The last part of  this statement shows what is essential to Shinran: the universality of salvation, as we may call it in Christian terms. The whole comment also indicates how free Shinran feels of the  tradition and how he reinterprets it based on his own experience of faith. "Good people, bad people, noble and low, are not differentiated in the Vow of the Buddha ..." (Yuishinshō‑mon'i 39). With this and many similar formulations Shinran emphasizes that, what matters, is not anything on man's side but only what he receives from Amida, including his  faith (shinjin).

When the one thought‑moment of joy arises,
Nirvana is attained without severing blind passions;
When the ignorant and wise, even grave offenders and slanderers    
of the dharma all alike turn about and enter shinjin,
They are like waters that, on entering the ocean,
 become one in taste with it. (Songō shinzō meimon 69f)

The examples of the saint and of the grave offender are  extremes by which Shinran shows that Amida's saving grace is  directed towards
all beings without any exception. But what he  is most concerned about are normal beings like himself whose  hopeless situation he describes in many combinations of the various elements by which Buddhism characterizes the human  predicament. This is often combined with the idea of the Mappō, the Age of the Last Dharma,12 in which beings can no longer perform the Buddhist practices nor attain enlightenment, and only the teaching survives:

Though beings of the Last Dharma, corrupt with the Five Defilements,
Perform the practices of the Sacred Path,
Not one can attain Enlightenment ...
  (Kōsō Wasan 80, cf. 114, Yuishinshō‑mon'i 49)

Bursts of passion and harmful acts in this corrupt world
Are not unlike furious winds and torrential rains;
The Buddhas, seeing this, compassionately,
urge us to take refuge in the Pure Land. (Kōsō Wasan 82)

The five defilements (or impurities) in the first quotation above, frequently mentioned by Shinran, are: defiled age, defiled view, defiled passion, defiled beings, and defiled life. They "are ultimately interrelated with each other: defilement of the age is caused by defiled views, which arise from the defiled passion that controls the lives of defiled  beings, who manifest defiled life." (Jōdo monrui jushō, glossary, 87) They comprise evil in all its forms from natural  calamities to human greed, anger, and ignorance, from dull minds and weak bodies to egotism. This again shows how Buddhism sees moral evil only as one element of man's hopeless situation, characterized also by his power-
lessness, his passions, and most of all by his ignorance. Shinran refers to  these in various combinations. Often he speaks of man as "possessed of ignorance and blind passion" (Mattōshō 24) or as "foolish being possessed of all blind passions" (Jōdo monrui  jushō 37, 45). Blind passions comprise all the forces in man that make him think and act in such a way as to cause him mental and physical pain. "Blind passion refers to pains which torment the body and afflictions which distress the heart and mind." (Yuishinshō‑mon'i 40)
In many passages it is evident that Shinran speaks of  all this not simply in terms of the traditional teaching of Buddhism but also as a deep personal experience. In the Tannishō he states what would happen without Amida's saving grace: "... since I am incapable of any practice whatsoever, hell would definitely be my dwelling ..." (Tannishō 20). When Yuien‑bō, the probable author of the Tannishō, asked Shinran how it could be that he only rarely rejoiced at his salvation and longed for birth in the Pure Land, Shinran answered that he personally had had the same experience, and he adds:

It is the working of evil passions that presses our minds and keeps them from rejoicing when they ought to rejoice. The Buddha, knowing this already, called  us 'common mortals filled with evil passions' ... It is hard to leave our native land of sufferings where we have been transmigrating from immemorable kalpas ago up to the present. We feel no longing for the Pure Land ... where we are yet to  be born. How powerful and intense, indeed, are our evil passions! (Tannishō 33f)

In the Yuishinshō‑mon'i Shinran states:

Hence know that we are not good men, nor men of wisdom; that we have no  diligence, but only indolence, and within, the heart is ever empty, deceptive,  vainglorious, and flattering. (49f)

The term "common mortals" (bombu) used in the first of the two preceding quotations can also be translated as  "foolish being". It means a person possessed of blind passions and ignorance. In the Tannishō, Shinran refers to himself as  gushin, literally "idiotic
person", an expression of humbleness which he seems to have used "to express the absolute ignorance ('mumyō') deeply rooted in human nature" (Tannishō 21, footnote 3). To this corresponds the name he uses as author, Gutoku Shinran, gutoku meaning "ignorant,  short‑haired", which also shows a remarkable sense of humour  with regard to himself.
This acceptance of himself in spite of all his foolishness and ignorance is only possible, it seems to me, because Shinran has very deeply experienced in faith that he is unconditionally accepted by Amida as the individual being that he is. We find an expression of this in his famous words:

When I carefully consider the Vow which Amida brought forth after five kalpas'  contemplation, I find that it was solely for me, Shinran, alone! So, how gracious is the Original Vow of Amida who resolved to save me, possessed of many  karmic sins! (Tannishō 79)

This emphasis on the individual is quite remarkable in a  Japanese context. It indicates the extent to which Shinran,  based on his deep religious experience, was able to go beyond  the limits of the Buddhist tradition and Japanese culture and gain new insights into the nature of human beings. This also applies to the problem taken up in the following and concluding section.

3. Hakarai and Jinen
As we have seen above, Shinran's view of the human predicament contains a number of elements that could be compared to similar phenomena in the Christian tradition. But on the whole it is difficult to find anything in his thought like  the radical personal sinfulness of man that is emphasized in Christianity. In Shinran, evil appears relativized in several ways. Unlike the central role sin plays in the Christian view of the human predicament, karmic evil is only one element among other negative factors that determine man's situation and of which blind passions and especially ignorance are the most important. Evil
actions are not seen as something that man can avoid but as something due to the influence of past  evil deeds (see Tannishō 49‑54). When people are referred to as saintly or as evil this, too, is to be understood in a relative sense similar to the way in which the New Testament speaks of the righteous and sinners. Whereas the Bible deepens the understanding of sin and shows the radical sinfulness both in those who are commonly called "sinners" and particularly in those who regard themselves as "righteous", for Shinran the difference between good and evil is not significant and in the end all evil passions become one with ultimate reality:

Assuredly does our evil passion turn into Enlightenment
As ice melts to water.
Hindrances of evil become the substance of virtue,13
As with the example of ice and water...
In the ocean of the Inconceivable Name
Even the corpses of the evil ones and the Dharma‑
abusers cannot remain as such:
All the rivers of evil entering the ocean
Become one in taste with the water of virtue. (KōsōWasan 62‑64, cf. 52)

"To be made to become so" <jinen> means that without the practicer's calculating in any way whatsoever, all his past, present, and future evil karma is transformed into the highest good. To be transformed means that evil karma, without being nullified or eradicated, is made into the highest good, just as all waters, upon entering the great ocean, immediately become ocean water. ...  Since there is no contriving in any way to gain such virtues, it is called jinen. (Yuishinshō‑mon'i 32f)

The second of the above quotations is particularly interesting. It specifies what the transformation into the highest good means. In this process, karmic evil does not disappear but it becomes an element within Amida's virtue which holds both good and karmic evil within
itself. "The Buddha's mind  ... becomes one with the karmic evil and blind passions of beings in order to bring them to Buddhahood." (Jōdo monrui jushō, glossary, 123) Some Christian theologians and philosophers, for instance Böhme, Schelling and Tillich, have similarly tried to think of evil as an element in God, but space does not permit us to discuss these interesting parallels here. Closely related to our topic, however, are two terms in the above quotation that we have not yet considered, though they are, as I hope to show, essential for a deeper understanding of those elements in Shinran's thought that can be  compared with the Christian concept of sin.14
The first of these is the term jinen (shizen in modern Japanese; used to translate the English word "nature"). It is  the central concept in a famous text on jinen‑hōni which is often referred to as the climax of Shinran's thought:

As  for jinen, ji means 'of (by) itself'; it is a word which means 'to  cause to be so (to cause to come about)', without any contrivance (intention, calculation, effort: hakarai) of the devotee. Nen is a word which  means 'to cause to be so', because it is due not to the contrivance of the devotee but to the Vow of the Nyorai (Tathāgata). ...
Mida (= Amida) Buddha's Vow has from the first nothing to do with the contrivance of the devotee and was made with the intention of welcoming (to the Pure Land) those who trust in the "Namu Amida". Therefore, when the  devotee considers neither what is good nor what is bad this is called jinen. So I have heard. His Vow is meant to make us attain supreme Buddhahood. A supreme Buddha has no form. Since he is without form we speak of jinen. ... Mida Buddha  is there to let us know what jinen is like. After one has understood this one  need not always be concerned with this jinen. ..15

This text is not easy to understand. Only those points  that are
relevant to our topic can be pointed out here. Jinen is used in this passage in a double sense. In the first paragraph, it means the natural, spontaneous working of the power of Amida's vow in man which causes his birth in the Pure Land. At the same time, as indicated in the last sentences quoted above, it means the ultimate reality, suchness, "the naturalness or the as‑it‑is‑ness of the Unconditioned" (Tannishō 29, footnote).
The importance of this term can hardly be overestimated. It is a new theological concept introduced by Shinran that allows him, on the one side, to refer to the working of Amida's vow or the Other Power in this world and yet to distinguish it very clearly from any wordly forces.16 Salvation and grace, we might say using Christian terminology, are present and effective in this world, but they are transcendent realities belonging to the realm of the absolute, something that man cannot expect nor comprehend. Jinen comes close to the double meaning of "nature", based on the original sense of the Greek physis, that is emphasized by some modern theologians: nature in the sense of something that is what it is, and nature in  the sense of something that is in the process of becoming what it is.17
What is important for our context here is the fact that Shinran when he speaks about jinen almost always uses a negative term to refer to what is opposed to it, namely hakarai (will, intention; device, contrivance, calculation; discrimination; effort). It means "a mental faculty inherent in man's nature. Whether consciously or unconsciously, man always discriminatingly calculates good or bad, wise or ignorant, and so  forth." (Tannishō 31, footnote) Shinran emphasizes that jinen is only possible if there is not the least contrivance on the side of man which would mean a reliance on his own forces. "Jinen means that one does not calculate in any way whatever."  (Songō
shinzō meimon 51, cf. 35, 38) The term thus denotes  something, at least as far as its function is concerned, that comes close to the Christian concept of sin. It refers to a basic inner attitude of man that has to be given up in order to make the working of the Other Power possible. In his letters, therefore, Shinran constantly admonishes his followers to "avoid calculating in any way" (Mattōshō 39).
The term does not, of cours, contain all the dimensions of the Christian concept of sin, but in a similar way it points to the fact that what is wrong with man is his inner attitude which he has to change, and that it is not a matter  of whether his thoughts and actions are good or bad according to human standards. Furthermore, like the Bible, Shinran emphasizes that even this change of heart is not due to man's own efforts.
Finally, it seems to me that Shinran's concepts of jinen and non‑contrivance can help us to understand more deeply some  passages in the Bible that are well‑known but have mostly been  neglected or at least not fully accepted in theology and Western thought. Especially significant among these are the  passage on "the lilies of the field" (Mt. 6, 25‑34) and Jesus'  words when  children were brought to him: "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." (Mt.  19, 14) The latter has an interesting parallel in Shinran:

I recall hearing the late Master Hōnen say, "The person of the Jōdo tradition  attains birth in the Buddha Land by becoming his foolish self." Moreover, I remember him smile and say, as he watched humble people of no intellectual  pretensions coming to visit him, "Without doubt their birth is settled."  (Letters 31)

1 In view of the well‑known and striking parallels to Christian thought it is astonishing that there has been only one major study of Shinran in English up to now, namely  Alfred Bloom, Shinran's Gospel of Pure Grace, Tucson: The University of Arizona  Press, 1965 (4th ed., 1977). Very thorough and well documented, though limited in  scope, is a recent publication in French: Dennis Gira, Le sens de la conversion dans  l'enseignement de Shinran, Paris: Editions Maisonneuve et Larose, 1985.
2 This does not apply to John Ishihara's recent article in Japanese Religions ("Luther  and Shinran: simul iustus et peccator and nishu jinshin," vol. 14, No. 4, 1987, pp.  31‑54) where at least one aspect of Shinran's view of the human predicament and its  close relation to salvation is discussed.
3 For a more detailed discussion of this and the following problems see my "The Christian Concept of Sin," Humanities (I.C.U.) 10, 1975, pp. 69‑91 and Schöpfung und  allgemeine Sündigkeit. Die Auffassung Paul Tillichs im Kontext der heutigen Diskussion, Essen: Ludgerus Verlag, 1974, pp. 133‑246.
4 (Numbers in parentheses in the text are page numbers of works referred to in the  footnotes. Where the author or title is not mentioned in the text this, too, is given  in the parentheses.) Similar expressions are also found in Gira (op. cit., note 1),  e.g. pp. 40‑42, 99, 112, 115.
5 See my "The Christian Concept of Sin" (op. cit. note 3), pp. 71‑75.
6 The Kōsō Wasan. The Hymns on the Patriarchs, Kyoto: Ryukoku University, 1974,  (Ryukoku Translation Series, vol. VI), p. 82 (explanatory note 3). See  The Tannishō,  Kyoto: Ryukoku University, 1963 (Ryukoku Translation Series , vol II), pp. 96f  (supplementary note 18).
7 Passages on the Pure Land Way. A Translation of Shinran's Jōdo monrui jushō, Kyoto: Hongwanji International Center, 1982 (Shin Buddhism Translation Series), p. 87 (glossary). See The Tannishō (op. cit., note 5), p. 97 (supplementary note 19).
8 The Kyō Gyō Shin Shō. The Teaching, Practice, Faith and Enlightenment. Kyoto: Ryukoku  University, 2nd ed., 1983 (Ryukoku Translation Series, vol. V), p. 91.
9 Notes on 'Essentials of Faith Alone'. A Translation of Shinran's Yuishinshō‑mon'i, Kyoto: Hongwanji International Center, 1979 (Shin Buddhism Translation Series), p.  38f).
10 Letters of Shinran. A Translation of Mattōshō, Kyoto: Hongwanji International Center,  1978 (Shin Buddhism Translation Series), p. 51.
11 Notes on the Inscriptions on Sacred Scrolls. A Translation of Shinran's Songō shinzō meimon, Kyoto: Hongwanji International Center, 1981, p. 33.
12 This idea forms the background of Shinran's view of the human predicament; he uses  the traditional concept to express his own experience of the hopeless situation of man. But what he says about man is not limited to the age of Mappō, so it is not possible to maintain, as Paul O. Ingram does, that the latter is the cause of all of  man's problems and that man needs to be saved from life in this age (P. O. Ingram,  "Shinran Shōnin and Martin Luther: A Soteriological Comparison", in: Journal of the  American Academy of Religion, vol. 39, No. 4, 1971, p. 432).
13 I.e. evil actions that hinder our way to Nirvana become the substance of the virtue of Nirvana (Kōsō Wasan 63, footnotes).
14 Bloom and Gira seem not to be aware of this.
15 Teihon Shinran Shōnin Zenshū, Koto: Hōzōkan, vol. 3, 1973, Shokan‑hen, pp. 54‑56 (my  translation). For further details on the text and the meaning of jinen see my "'Naturalness' in Japanese Religion: Shinran's Concept of jinen‑hōni," in: Humanities (I.C.U.) 20, 1986, pp. 59‑81.
16 The latter point, however, is often not understood by Japanese interpreters of Shinran. See the article in the preceding footnote, especially pp. 74f.
17 See J. B. Metz, "Natur," Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche, vol. 7, Freiburg: Herder,  1962, pp. 805‑808.
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