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  • Comparative Analysis of Shinran's Shinjin and Calvin's Faith
  • Kenneth D. Lee

Although in Shinran: An Introduction to His Thought, Ueda and Hirota prefer the translation of the term "Shinjin" as "entrusting" over the meaning"faith," the concept of Shinjin in Shinran still seems to echo some similar concepts that are reflected in the Christian notion of faith. In both traditions, the concept of Shinjin and faith is central in the salvific and redemptive process of Amida and Jesus Christ, respectively. By advancing the teaching of the Absolute Reliance on Other-power (tariki) for salvation, Shinran brings to focus the importance of the practitioner's realization of Shinjin in order attain birth into the Pure Land. However, as we will discover from our comparative analysis, we will see that Shinran's Shinjin, though it may share some similar ideas with the Christian faith, particularly in the idea of the utter futility of beings to become saved by self-power (jiriki), is a concept that remains faithful to the Mahāyāna teaching of emptiness and the transcendence of duality. But interestingly, Shinran seems to de-emphasize the notion of emptiness in order to emphasize the necessity of dichotomous mental activity to bring the practitioner to realize his incapacity of attaining enlightenment by self-power and dependence on Other-power.

Understanding the underlying process of Shinjin and faith involves understanding the tension between being and becoming vis-à-vis the state between the realization and the actualization of Shinjin or faith. For Shinran, the realization of Shinjin is just the beginning of one's birth into the Pure Land where one's evil karma becomes absorbed and purified in the ocean of Amida's purity. But the actualization of Shinjin, which begins upon the realization of Shinjin, involves a continual purification process of the practitioner's karmic evil until the practitioner reaches enlightenment. That is, through the realization of shinjin, the practitioner attains birth in the Pure Land, which begins the actualization process toward guaranteed enlightenment, but that realization of shinjin is not to be equated with enlightenment itself. Hence, throughout the whole process of realization and actualization, it seems important that the relationship between the practitioner and Amida Buddha be maintained by shinjin on the basis that the practitioner is totally dependent on the Other-power for the actualization of enlightenment since this is impossible through self-power by relying on Amida's compassion and fulfillment of the Vow. Hence, shinjin serves as the practitioner's vehicle for attaining "complete" enlightenment, since enlightenment [End Page 171] involves not an instantaneous but rather a continual process in which the process of purification of the practitioner's karmic residue is made complete as Amida's Vow becomes actualized.

Similarly, faith also involves the simultaneous process of being and becoming. In Christian terms, this process can be explained in the notion of justification and sanctification. Justification is the act of divine forgiveness whereby, because of the sacrifice of Christ, an unworthy being no longer has his guilt reckoned against him. Accepting that pardon by faith, the sinner is renewed in his heart and reckoned as righteously justified. Whereas justification by faith is at once made complete at the very moment of the individual's realization, sanctification is a continual process in which the Holy Spirit imparts new life to the believer and he is released from the compulsive power of sin and guilt and is enabled to love God and to serve his neighbor. Furthermore, sanctification ("to make holy";cf. "to purify") is made complete at the Parousia, the second coming of Christ.

The reason why this salvific process is at once complete and yet not complete is due to inherent sin or "evil karma" in humans. By the fact that one possesses a human body, not yet transformed in the Buddha body nor yet received an imperishable heavenly body, indicates that there remains an inherent "residue" of evil karma or original sin that needs to be accounted for. Consequently, this purification process is activated solely by the Other-power, which begins at the realization of shinjin or faith after the practitioner or believer surrenders his self-effort and relies upon the Other...