No.50 The Danger of Pride in Meritoriousness

Before the advent of Honen Shonin and Shinran Shonin any serious examination of the inner quality of ‘practice’ was highly unusual. Even for Buddhists,
liberating oneself from a certain belief in the meritoriousness of one’s own religious practice is exceedingly difficult and yet that very belief is the snake lurking in the heart of all practice. For as long as we are unable to free ourselves from the thought of meritoriousness, we will find ourselves unwittingly alienated from the true purpose of the Buddha and thereafter unable to attain Nirvana, the ideal state of mind in the realm of the Buddha-dharma.
Religious practice that is not separated from the idea of meritoriousness is the opposite of the selfless act which Rennyo Shonin refers to when he says, “The essence of the Buddha-dharma lies in selflessness (蓮如上人御一代記御一代記聞書Rennyo-Shonin-goichidaiki-kikigaki).”
What kind of practice is it, then, that is free from any consciousness of meritoriousness?
It is the ‘nembutsu’ or being mindful of the Buddha. It is the Other-power nembutsu, pronounced with the sort of gratitude that wells up from the pure faith of entrusting ourselves absolutely to the Buddha the moment we are awakened to the ignorant nature of our own karmic existence.

Humbly and respectfully
Chimyo Takehara