“Gratitude is the heart, essence,
and practice of Jodo Shin Buddhism.”

Jodo Shin Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that embraces our ordinary life as the spiritual journey. It is our attitude that determines how we see ourselves in the ebb and flow of modern life, and therefore determines how we navigate through the constant changes and challenges. If we are to live fully in our ordinary lives, we must live fully in the present moment. The present moment is not to be compartmentalized for only “spiritual” times. To live fully we are to be present in every present moment.

The way to full presence in the unrepeatable moment is awareness of the preciousness of our life and awareness of all that have been given to us. It is this realization of all that is present in this moment that we are transformed by profound gratitude. This deep gratitude is borne from the sure experience that there is a source of love in the universe beyond our comprehension. This gratitude is one that comes only from deep humility. It is when we pause and really look at something incredibly beautiful or when we are bathed in incredible sadness and loneliness. In those moments, we are humbled and embraced not only by the object, people, or events for which we are grateful but also by that universal love beyond our understanding.

Jodo Shin Buddhism is a religion that leads us to look and experience these moments in our lives. They are everywhere, large and small, significant and insignificant. As Jodo Shin Buddhists, we learn to find these deep moments of gratitude in the most ordinary and extraordinary corners of our lives for they are the stuff that transforms us.

The Essence of Jodo Shin Buddhism

Gratitude is the heart, essence, and practice of Jodo Shin Buddhism. In the moment of gratitude, we can no longer experience the three poisons of anger, greed, and ignorance. In the moment of gratitude, we cannot hate. We cannot be stressed, frustrated, discouraged, and unhappy. We become predisposed to acts of kindness. The moment of gratitude might last for only a few seconds but negative thoughts and feelings cannot enter our minds, body, and spirit. The experience of gratitude is incompatible with negative attachments and desires. Instead, we become settled and free in a spirit of well-being. Jodo Shin Buddhism is a religion that teaches us to increase the moments of gratitude in our lives and to extend the length of those moments as a means for achieving happiness, harmony and freedom in our life and as a door to acts of kindness.

Namo Amida Butsu

This profound awareness and gratitude for the unrepeatable moment occurs at once through the voicing of the words, Namo Amida Butsu (the name of the Buddha). This sound of gratitude is expressed when we, in that instant, realize how fortunate we are in this life ; how the causes and conditions of the universe have conspired to place us in this unrepeatable moment; how we are embraced by the beauty that surrounds us, by the people who love us, and by the compassion of the universe, in that instant the only response that can come from our inner most being is the sound of thank you. And for Jodo Shin Buddhists that sound of gratitude is Namo Amida Butsu.

Shinran (Nara National Museum)

Jodo Shin Buddhism’s Founder

Shinran Shonin, the founder of Jodo Shin Buddhism (1200s in Japan), lived a life as a monk for twenty years, but could not find enlightenment in that setting or environment. He met a wonderful teacher, named Honen, who was teaching that the Dharma can be received whether one is a monk or lay. The lifestyle did not matter as much as having the right attitude in listening and receiving the teaching.

Honen taught Shinran that the Dharma (teachings of the Buddha) is “received,” and that we must simply open our hearts and minds to it in gratitude. Shinran discovered this way of gratitude, the way of humility, through Honen’s compassionate teaching. Now the light of the Dharma began to permeate his heart and mind, illuminating and penetrating into even the darkest corners of his ego self.

Additional Resources

Jodo Shinshu: A Brief Introduction by Rev. Kenryu Tsuji (presented on Shin Dharma Net)

Shin Basics on the Shin Dharma Net website