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The Myokonin


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'Myokonin' literally means a wondrous, excellent person. It is used for a devout follower of Jodo Shinshu (A major division of the Pure Land way, itself a division of Mahayana Buddhism - so many divisions!) A Myokonin lives a life of total dedication to Amida and their acts and sayings, though they often run counter to common sense, reveal the depth of faith and true humanity.


I am beginning a more in depth understanding of them and their ways, with the added thought that is expressed by one of their number, the cobbler Saichi, who wrote...


The love that inspired Oya-sama to go through

All the sufferings and all the hardships -

I thought I was simply to listen to the story,

But that was a grievous mistake, I find.


(Oya-sama.......simply, that which "protects and guides me", the infinite light and life that is Amida Buddha, Reality-as-is.)



The myokonin often express a deep sense of personal imperfection and sinfulness. Mrs. Mori, a myokonin, conveys this:


"Though in parental relationship with Amida,

I cannot help from time to time

Being bothered with evil thought.

How shameful indeed! Namu-amida-butsu!

How hard I try not to cherish them!"


"Looking at my evil self

I realize what a deplorable thing it is.

Truly an old hag, this disgusting ego!

But she is ever with Oya who refused to part with her.

How grateful indeed! Namu-amida-butsu!"


I will post more as I find myself ready.

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Now that I'm back (and married! :D), this is a thread I'll be interested in. One of the many things I'm curious about is how to escape the duality of arrogant moralism vs. self-hatred. Both have some rather obvious problems, and one can easily think of examples within Christianity of both. I'm curious to see how this plays out / is avoided within another faith tradition.


EDIT: The fact that I just started a thread about Calvinism likely has something to do with this post and my fascination with this duality :rolleyes:

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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Nick, thanks for your interest. By the way, congratulations on "tying the knot"....... :D


I really wish to take this slowly, as there are many verses from the various myokonin that I can make little sense of....and yet.....


But just as some background, a few points from my own Pure Land study/experience/interest...


In the Pure Land way, it was said that to be "saved" one must entrust themselves fully to the Vow of Amida. Such entrusting was seen to have three aspects, sincerity, trust itself, and aspiration - these also known as sincere mind, deep mind, and the mind that aspired for birth (in the Pure Land) and for the directing of virtue. These conditions needed to be "fulfilled."


Shinran (!3th century) fundamentally alters this understanding by taking "sincere mind" not as the devotees "sincerity", but rather the true and real mind of Amida. Thus, a person does not "sincerely" entrust themselves, but rather the "sincere mind" of Amida is given - by grace - to the person, and this manifests as the person's entrusting and aspiration. Simply put, a Pure Lander trusts the "nature" of Amida (Reality-as-is), not their own, however directed or understood, within or without.


Or, in Christian terms, one trusts in Grace, not in the strength of ones own belief. And this is within the context of realising that which is eternally, of recognising the unchanging nature of the Divine. Such recognition grants us nothing for it is already the reality in which we live and move and have our being. We just did not know it.


Faith does not arise

Within oneself.

The Entrusting Heart is itself

Given by the Other Power. (Rennyo)


This can be experienced to extend to our seeing of the depths of our "sin" (or, in Pure Land terms, our karmic inheritance) The only thing that brings us, allows us, is with us, when we see it, is by the light of the infinite compassion of Amida (Reality-as-is). Thus seeing it, is the forgiveness of it. There are no mechanics involved i.e. seeing it, acknowledging it, repenting of it, accepting a substitute in our place to atone for it and then receiving forgiveness for it, and thus switching from being under God's wrath to being transferred to the "Book of Life".


(I would just add that the "beauty" of such seeing is that it brings our hearts into line with all others. The deeper we see our "sin" the more, when the "sin" of others is seen, we - rather than judge - just react spontaneously in the sense of "yes, just like me!" ("You ARE that man!" as David was told) So we have William Blake's....."mutual forgiveness of each vice opens the gates of paradise", long a favorite of mine ( :) )


And all this against the Pure Land background.....


The gift/grace coming from Amida is a free one, for he never asks anything in exchange or in compensation. When the sinner (Japanese ki = jiriki = self-power) utters "namu-amida-butsu" in all sincerity they are at once made conscious of their being from the first with Amida and in Amida. There has never been any sort of alienation or estrangement between Amida and the sinner. It was all due to the latter's illusive ideas cherished about themselves. When they are wiped away, they realise that the sun has always been there and find themselves basking in its light of infinity. (D T Suzuki, from "Notes to Saichi's Journals", an essay in "Mysticism Christian and Buddhist")


My heart and Amida,

We have just one heart

Of "Namu-amida-butsu." (Saichi)


All the best


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Well, having given some background, and also got the commiserations.......ooops, sorry.........having got the congratulations out of the way,( :D ) I shall move on.


Just a little verse from Saichi, which I have found particularly illuminating just recently. Yet it will be posted without comment and will remain until it seems time to move on....


Whether I am falling to hell

Or bound for the Pure Land,

I have no knowledge:

All is left to Amida's Vow.



Of course, others are free to comment.

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Whether I am falling to hell

Or bound for the Pure Land,

I have no knowledge:

All is left to Amida's Vow.







This so called Vow reminds me of the absolute trust placed in Christ which promises to finish the work which in us and knowing or trusting in that spirit which has convinced us Rom 8:38,39 " that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ "



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Thanks Joseph. I think along the lines of "no calculation" , where "no working is true working" , where all is made to become so of itself.


Suzuki, in his little book on Amida, equates "calculation" with the Christian "pride". The actual Japanese words is hakarai......From "A Glossary of Shin Buddhist Terms......


Hakarai is the noun form of a verb meaning to deliberate, analyze, and determine a course of action. It further means to arrange or manage, to work out a problem, to bring a plan to conclusion. In Shinran's more common usage, as a synonym for self-power, it refers to all acts of intellect and will aimed at achieving liberation. Specifically, it is the Shin practicer's efforts to make himself worthy of Amida's compassion in his own eyes and his clinging to his judgments and designs, predicated on his own goodness, for attaining religious awakening.


For Shinran, salvation lies rather in the complete entrusting of oneself to the Primal Vow, which works to bring about "the attainment of Buddhahood by the person of evil" (A Record in Lament of Divergences 3). This working is Amida's hakarai. Hakarai, then, possesses two opposed meanings, as a synonym for both self-power and Other Power, and its usage reflects the core of Shinran's religious thought, where one's calculative thinking and Amida's working are experienced as mutually exclusive. Great compassion illumines everyone at all times, but any contrivance to attain enlightenment by cultivating one's own virtues or capabilities - whether through moral action or religious practice - will blind one to it, making sincere trust (shinjin) impossible. Only when a person realizes his or her true nature as a foolish being (bombu), all of whose acts and thoughts arise from blind passions, does he awaken to the great compassion that grasps him just as he is. To know oneself and to know Amida's compassion are, in fact, inseparable aspects of the same realization, and one awakens to them simultaneously. In this awakening, one's own hakarai disappears and entrusting oneself to Amida's Vow actually comes about for the first time. Thus Shinran states, "No working (practicer's hakarai) is true working (Amida's hakarai)."


As true entrusting arises wholly from Other Power, the practicer is completely passive. Even seeking to know oneself as evil or to rid oneself of hakarai in order to accord with the Primal Vow is itself hakarai, and all such effort is futile and self-defeating. This is the paradox the Shin practicer faces. The admonition against hakarai does not mean, however, that one must renounce the aspiration for enlightenment and do nothing at all.


Just seeking to illuminate for myself by my usual means of a slight difference in expression and understanding, here is Merton.....


In speaking of the recovery of innocence (the reversal of the "fall") the Christian doctrine of grace teaches us that this cannot be the work of our own "self". It is useless for the "self" to try to "purify itself," or for the "self" to "make a place in itself" for God. The innocence and purity of heart which belongs to paradise are a complete emptiness of self in which all is the work of God, the free and unpredictable expression of His love, the work of grace. In the purity of original innocence, all is done in us but without us. But before we reach that level, we must also learn to work on the level of "knowledge" where grace works in us but "not without us".


(Excerpt for "Wisdom in Emptiness", from the book "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")


Anyway, back to Saichi.....


Nothing is left to Saichi,

Except a joyful heart nothing is left to him.

Neither good nor bad has he, all is taken away from him;

Nothing is left to him!

To have nothing - how completely satisfying!

Everythying has been carried away by the "Namu-amida-butsu".

He is thoroughly at home with himself:

This is indeed the "Namu-amida-butsu"!

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Just another short verse. I found this near the end of Suzuki's book on Shin, "Buddha of Infinite Light". The verse is from an illiterate woman whom he met in Japan "a few years ago." She dictated the poetry to her son, who wrote the words down.


I have been designing all the time,

saying, "Is this the way or that?"

But there was no designing after all.

All was given fully and freely by Oya-sama.

How grateful I am now! Namu-amida-butsu.

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