Chapter Twelve
Conduct: Daily Activities and Participation in the World

What is the basis for conduct in Jodo-Shinshu?

While we do not have detailed dos and don’ts, the Daily Aspiration of Jodo-Shinshu provides us with a broad framework for daily conduct:

I affirm my faith in Amida’s Infinite Wisdom and Compassion. Reciting his Sacred Name, I shall live with strength and joy.

I shall look up to Amida’s Guiding Light. As I reflect upon my imperfect self, I live with gratitude for His Perfect Compassion which surrounds me at all times.

I shall follow Amida’s Teachings. I shall understand the Right Path and resolve to spread the true Teachings.

I rejoice in Amida’s Wisdom and Compassion. I shall respect and help my fellow humans and work for the good on my community.

How is this practiced?

Well, we recite it together at services, and remind ourselves of what it says as we go about our daily lives. There is another saying, the Golden Chain, which was composed on American soil and has been especially popular among the younger generation:

I am a link in Amida Buddha’s golden chain of love that stretches around the world. I will keep my link bright and strong.

I will try to be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than myself.

I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts, try to say pure and beautiful words, and try to do pure and beautiful deeds.

May every link in Amida’s golden chain of love be bright and strong, and may we all attain perfect peace.

What is your religious reason for living up to these guidelines?

It is certainly not simply to be a “good” person. The goal of Buddhism is to become “real” by becoming more aware of the true nature of oneself and of one’s relationship to the world. If our motivation is only to be good people, we can easily become self-religious and bitter when things do not go our way. When we are motivated, however, by a desire for awareness, we often become “good” as a natural outcome of that process.

Then are you saying that each person must first concentrate on improving the self?

 Yes, because that attitude goes to the original intention of Buddhism. Remember how Shakyamuni Buddha began his search to understand himself, but not to change the world? “The aim of Buddha-Dharma is to know oneself,” goes the first line of a famous saying by Master Dogen, the founder of Soto Zen. In our Shinshu tradition, we turn to the well-known saying by Master Shantao, one of the seven masters of Jodo-Shinshu: “To realize Shinjin awareness for oneself and then to share it with others” (jishin kyoninshin).

What about efforts to contribute to the world in ways other than religious?

Yes, they are important and are encouraged as expressed clearly in the Daily Aspiration of Jodo-Shinshu and the Golden Chain. But efforts to help and to make the world a better place to live must not be divorced from the quest for spiritual enlightenment for oneself and others. So, our number one priority should be to realize Shinjin awareness for oneself and then to share it with others.

What are some of the ways or practices that help you realize your spiritual aims?

The primary activity is to listen to the Dharma which enables us to realize its transformative effects in the context of our daily life experiences. It is in this context that chanting, meditation, and other “practices” are considered as aides to our listening. A Jodo-Shinshu Buddhist can engage in any of the well-known forms of Buddhist practice, even sitting meditation, so long as he or she does not see those efforts as the direct cause of enlightenment (see page 104). The purpose of any of these efforts is to serve as a mirror to increase our awareness about our imperfections and increase our gratitude to our family and friends, the community, and the world.

I like to call these activities “self-effort,” rather than “self-power,” an ambiguous word in Jodo-Shinshu. Although Shinran rejected the idea that we can actually liberate ourselves through our own power, he never rejected our efforts to understand the teachings. The two are quite different.

Which kinds of effort do you think are important?

Efforts that we can make at home in our daily lives are extremely important. For this, we need to take advantage of the religious value of our home shrine.

Yes, I was fascinated by the home shrine when I first saw it at my Jodo-Shinshu friend’s house. It struck me as giving out a uniquely Buddhist feeling.

The shrine can be the spiritual center of daily life. Sadly, however, the shrine is too often associated with death and the deceased loved ones. This was never more apparent than when high school students at a summer youth program exclaimed “creepy!” Perplexed, I responded “What’s creepy? How can you feel that way? You should feel safe and sound to be sleeping in the Buddha hall (hondo)!” But to no avail, the students wanted sleep elsewhere and dragged their sleeping bags to the gymnasium.

This came as quite a shock to me. But as I thought about it, it is true that the home shrines are often cluttered with portraits of our deceased loved ones; in some cases, so much so that Amida’s representation in the shrine can’t even be seen. This practice helps keep the image of Buddhism as a religion for the dead and the afterlife. The correct custom dictates that the portraits of the deceased be placed away from the shrine and not within the shrine itself.

How can this way of thinking be changed?

The shrine must be seen as s symbol of the teachings that is important to the spiritual life here and now.

Flower: Represents three of the Four Marks of Existence. The flower stands for (1) impermanence and change, for even a beautiful, freshly cut flower wilts within a week. This fact leaves us with sadness; (2) a bumpy road. Also, the flower is a product of (3) interdependence, for without the sunshine, water, soil and countless other factors interacting with the seed, it would not bloom or find its way to the shrine.

Candle: The lit candle stands for greater awareness and enlightenment, or the ending of darkness rooted in one’s ignorance. The light of the candle, thus, stands for the fourth of the Four Marks, “life is fundamentally good.”

Main Object of Reverence: The Amida Buddha image does not represent a divine being, but a symbol of the understanding and caring that lets me become more aware and thankful for the many factors that support my life (see page 140, 159).

Incense Offering: This act shows we are willing to hear and pursue the Dharma. The Indians first used incense as deodorant. Buddhists gradually expanded it to include a symbolic purification of the mind and heart. So when you offer incense you are making a promise to the Sangha (the Buddhist community) and yourself, “Yes, I will learn, live, and share the teachings.”

Incense offering is also considered an expression of honor and respect to the Buddha. And in the context of a memorial service, the same feelings are expressed to the person(s) to whom the service is dedicated. The incense offering, however, does not create merit for worldly benefits or enhance the spiritual status of the deceased.

Your explanation helps to make the shrine come alive. How can the symbolism of the shrine be integrated into our daily conduct?

I encourage each member of the family to go before the shrine at least once a day (before going to bed at night seems to work well). One can then do gassho (putting of our palms together as an expression of gratitude and reverence) and recite the Nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu. Lighting the candle and burning the incense would be better, but not always necessary. Then we pause and reflect on each of the parts in the shrine. Moving clockwise from the flower, to Amida, to the candle, and to the incense burner, we remind ourselves of their significance and apply it to our life experiences.

That is an individual effort, but how about something that all members of the household can do together?

Sutra (sacred scriptures) chanting with the entire household at least once a week (of course, the more often the better) helps to bring everyone closer together emotionally and spiritually. Right before diner seems to work well. Reciting the Daily Aspirations of Jodo-Shinshu or the Golden Chain together also helps remind us of our connection to the community to which we belong.

Maintaining the shrine can be a wonderful household activity. Each member, including children, can help with the offering of the fresh flower and other offerings such as one’s favorite snacks (e.g., oreo cookies), and with keeping the shrine clean and neat.

What are other things we can do daily?

Eating time is a great time to remind ourselves of the teachings. Before and after meals, we do gassho as our humble expression of thanks for our food. We remind ourselves of the sacrifice made by the animals and plants. The taking of their lives for food is not our inherent right as humans, but seen as our selfish act necessary for our survival. So eating is a privilege.

“Namo” in Namo Amida Butsu can be understood in this context to mean “I am deeply grateful for”; “Amida Butsu” represents all the plants, animals, fowl, and fish that have been sacrificed for our food. So, when we say the Nembutsu, we are more aware of “oneness” with the world. Without the world, there is no I!

I’ve found these ideas are well-known. But often they have not sunk in, but remain only as ideas in our head. Because of our human nature to forget, it’s vital that these truths be internalized through daily reminders.

How about discussions and sharing of religious matters?

Needless to say, they are vital. But in my experience, many families seldom talk about religious matters. They may talk about what goes on in the temple, but such topics are not necessarily religious. In fact, the topics need not always be religious in the sense of Buddhist doctrine and history. Instead, we can share topics closer to daily life experiences that make us either sad, envious, happy, angry, or hopeful.

Through the sharing of these life experiences, Jodo-Shinshu teachings come alive. For example, when we are angry and sad, the cause is usually our ego, though it’s often hard to admit or see it. Yes, the person who is “making” us angry may be a real jerk, but we must still remind ourselves that it’s our desire to expect him to be at least normal that causes our anger. Such is our foolish nature! Having understood our assumptions and expectations from this spiritual perspective, we are better able to assess our circumstances by coming closer to the Buddhist ideal of “seeing things as they are.”

You speak about “right action,” and the Daily Aspiration (see page 195) states, “I shall understand the Right Path.” What is meant by “right” here? Can you provide a more concrete set of guidelines as framework for bringing the teachings to my daily life?

Perhaps the well-known Six Perfections, a basic Mahayana Buddhist teaching that is usually mentioned during the Jodo-Shinshu Ohigan (spring and autumn equinox) services, can serve as point of reference. Please realize, once again, that in Jodo-Shinshu our motivation for following these guidelines is gratitude, and not a desire to be regarded as morally good.

Also, please know that because these Perfections were the practices primarily of monks and nuns, we as modern laypersons with school, work and family obligations will not be able to fully (in fact, “slightly” is more accurate) live up to the high ideals of the Perfections. Nevertheless, they point us in the right direction and clarify for us the Buddhist ideals and, more importantly, serve as mirrors to see ourselves more clearly. The Six Perfections (paramitas) are:

1. Sharing (Sanskrit: dana): Being open to other opinions and to give of yourself in time and materials without expecting anything in return.

2. Conduct (shila): Being responsible to oneself and to others in one’s action. The key here is responsibility; we must be responsible for what we think, say and do. However, the Ten Wholesome Actions (perhaps the most well known precepts for lay persons in Mahayana schools) can assist those seeking a more concrete set of guidelines. The ten are:

I shall refrain from:

1. Taking life

2. Taking what is not given

3. Being involved in sexual misconduct

4. Telling what is not true

5. Slandering others

6. Speaking ill of others

7. Being involved in frivolous talk and gossip

8. Being greedy

9. Being hateful

10. Being attached to unwholesome views.

3.Effort (viriya): Making an earnest, sincere effort to cultivate ourselves and resolve conflicts and problems.

4. Patience (kshanti): Being patient, so as not to expect immediate solutions.

5. Meditation (dhyana): Being mindful or attentive to our motives and capabilities in our thoughts and actions. Trying to be honest with our own thoughts and feelings, to cultivate the mind of equanimity with regard to others, and not to always insist upon one’s opinion as correct. This mindfulness can be strengthened by reciting Namo Amida Butsu (aloud or silently) whenever possible. For those desiring mental calm, you may avail yourself of the various forms of Buddhist meditations, or try Quiet Sitting (seiza) (see page 205).

6. Wisdom (prajna): This in Jodo-Shinshu is none other than Shinjin awareness. This awareness encompasses our understanding of the truth of the Four Marks of Existence, which help us to see life much more clearly. The Four Marks function like the car windshield wiper on a rainy day that helps us to see more clearly what lies in front of us.

Of these Six Perfections, wisdom is the most important since it is the brain and heart. Wisdom serves as the source of our motivation (e.g., gratitude), energy (e.g., joy) , and understandings (e.g., interdependence) for carrying out the other five perfections. If the source is flawed, so will the effectiveness of our actions be flawed.

So, the five perfections are not a means for attaining wisdom (Shinjin awareness). Is that right?

Exactly. The five perfections are not the instruments but are the expressions of wisdom. The five should not be carried out as a condition or requirement for realizing wisdom. When the five are seen as expressions and not as means, then we are freed from expecting rewards of having to judge our performance.

According to Jodo-Shinshu teaching, Shinjin awareness is none other than the Amida’s wisdom mind. We are not capable of producing this mind. This wisdom mind pervades as well as resides within each of us. But many of us remain oblivious or ignorant of it. Shinjin awareness, however, is realized when our karmic conditions mature enabling us to awaken to this wisdom mind.

Can you say a little more about this Quiet Sitting practice?

I have found what I call Quiet Sitting (seiza) effective in meeting my need for calm and quiet especially during the course of a busy and hectic schedule. I simply sit in a chair with my back straight (leaning against the back of the chair is acceptable), arms resting on my lap and my eyes closed. I inhale through my nose and then exhale through my mouth until my abdomen caves in as air escapes. I repeat this at a natural pace of my bodily rhythm.

Whenever I breathe out,  I repeatedly recite Namo Amida Butsu quietly or silently in my mind. After even five minutes of this, I am able to feel restful and a little more mindful. And when I breathe in, I think of the many people (such as my children) and current interests that fulfill and give meaning to my life. My very existence is the result of all that I receive from the outside. They are the “power through others,” which is one way of appreciating the meaning of Other Power or Amida’s Vow. And when I breathe out repeating the Nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu), I am able to express my appreciation in the most profound way possible. This seiza can take place wherever you feel comfortable: outdoor, at the office, in your kitchen, in a bus, or before your home shrine.

What is the role of the temple, if so much stress is placed on religious activities at home?

Not going to the temple would be similar to taking a college course by reading the books at home without going to any of the lectures or asking questions of the professor. Not only will it be hard to keep up the discipline to study, but without the guidance and inspiration of the professor and the exchanges with the classmates, one will be hard pressed to complete the required work. The situation would be even more trying than a correspondence course which incorporates out-of-classroom communication with the instructors.

Religious growth depends greatly on the community of fellow seekers. This is especially true for Jodo-Shinshu Buddhists for whom the community of Fellow Seekers and Fellow Travelers (ondobo ondogyo) plays a critical role. And the temple is a vital community. Without the temple, there will be few teachers and fellow travelers. Furthermore, Mahayana Buddhists, with its commitment to be enlightened together with all being, cannot remain isolated from others. It is within this living context that one can fully appreciate the truth of interdependence.

I’ve heard that some people, including Buddhists, feel that Buddhists are not supposed to get involved in matters of the world. Is that true?

What do you mean by “matters of the world”?

Well, I can think of charities for the underprivileged and also ethical guidelines for such social and medical issues as abortion, organ transplant, and the environment.

The first category has been a large part of the Buddhist tradition from its earliest period. For example, selfless giving (dana)  is a way of sharing with others who need help without expecting any return or recognition. Bodhisattvas are people of deep understanding and caring whose purpose in life is to help others. All Buddhists, by virtue of their spiritual growth, will automatically try to live the Bodhisattva ideals.

The great Buddhist ruler of India, King Ashoka, from the third century before the Common Era, is a prime example of one who lived according to Buddhist ideals. Throughout his vast empire he set up hospitals and drug dispensaries for the sick. He also made the travelers’ task safer and easier by building convenient hostels and tree lined roads. The Buddhists after King Ashoka have looked up  to him as a model of social welfare and personal humility. Such people are careful not to let their deeds become a source of self-righteousness and false pride.

One such person in the Jodo-Shinshu tradition is Lady Takeko Kujo (1887-1928), a daughter of Monshu Myonyo Otani who was the 21st Abbot of the Nishi-Honganji Branch. During her short 42 years of life, Takeko Kujo dedicated much of her adult life to giving greater voice to the Buddhist women, for which she is regarded the founder of the Buddhist Women’s Association (hujinkai). When the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake devastated the Tokyo area, she marshaled rescue efforts for the victims which led to the building of Asoka Hospital in line with the spirit of the Indian Buddhist King. It is said that Lady Kujo died from physical exhaustion stemming from her social welfare efforts.

Today Christians seem to be more active in charities and social issues than Buddhists are.

Before the nineteenth century, I think the degree of social involvement was about even when comparing the Buddhist activities in Asia with that of Christianity in Europe. The gap in the degree of involvement between the two religions started about one hundred0fiftya years ago, especially in the United States, when the eighteenth century ideas of equality and liberty inspired such movements as the Social Gospel among some Christians. However, not all Christians feel that their religious teachings have little to do with social welfare and issues. Religion, they insist, should stay within the boundaries of spiritual matters.

Another important factor for the gap lies in the degree of government control over religious institutions that effectively limited their social involvement. Christianity freed itself from the oppression of kings a few centuries before the Buddhists. In Japan during the Tokugawa period (1603-1867), for example, the state tightly regulated religious activities. The Buddhist priests were forbidden to talk about their teachings to the followers of other Buddhist schools! Further, all members of the family were forced to belong to the same Buddhist school. Do you recall our earlier discussions of the government’s oppressive handling of the Sango-wakuran controversy (see page 87)? The situation did not immediately improve even during the modernizing Meiji period (1867-1912) because the government still dictated many of the practices of Buddhism. For example, the government adopted the policy of encouraging the monks of all Buddhist schools to marry. Their Buddhist brothers and sisters in the other Asian countries did not fare much better in their relationship with the state.

Are you saying that the political system in Asia is the main reason for the attitude of many Buddhists toward matters of the world?

Yes, but not all. The Buddhist emphasis on the mind and self-reflection puts more emphasis on personal growth before helping others. We cannot truly help others if we have not helped ourselves first.

Self-reflection helps many Buddhists realize that charities are often motivated by the donors’ desire to “feel good” by being a good person or better than others. The good feeling we get when we give to a charity or a beggar is not necessarily bad, but from the Buddhist view can be a distraction. Motivation often determines the outcome of our action. If we hold some prejudicial attitudes toward someone or some groups of people, yet try to be charitable to them, our actions will not be as effective as if we were free from negative views. Again, the aim in Buddhism is to cultivate oneself in order to awaken to how things are and not just to be a good person. One becomes a good person as a natural outcome of awareness. But one should not make being morally good the primary goal, for that would be another form of ego.

But you are not saying that Buddhists should not get involved, right?

Yes, that’s correct. I’ve just explained some of the reasons for my position. Basically, if we understand the teachings, we will automatically want to get involved. Look at Shinran Shonin and King Ashoka and their accomplishments (see Chapt. 4 and page 207)! I believe this is also true for the great people in the other major religions: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Elie Weisel, to name a few.

In Jodo-Shinshu, Shinran Shonin serves as an inspiring example, and the Daily Aspirations and and the Golden Chain give us guidelines in clear modern wording. We must remember that our actions are to be rooted in our spiritual life of “expressing our deepest gratitude for the benevolence” (ho’on gyo). This benevolence is normally thought of as that of Amida Buddha, but I feel that the source of our gratitude must expand to include much more, i.e., the other Buddhas, family, teachers, friends, society, sentient beings, physical matters, and the universe.

How would you state the basic values for Jodo-Shinshu conduct in the world?

Professor Sen’e Inagi, a noted Jodo-Shinshu scholar and teacher in Japan, suggests the following five values based on Rennyo Shonin’s teachings:87

1. Listen to the teachings throughout one’s life,

2. Refrain from quarreling with other schools and religions,

3. Fully actualize the mind of equality (byodo-shin) that sees and treats people and events in our lives with equanimity,

4. Respect and honor life,

5. Abandon superstitious and magical practices.

Can you possibly offer some more concrete guidelines, particularly with regard to social issues?

I must start by telling you that the following guidelines are the view of one person and are not intended to speak for any group or to be regarded as mandatory for Shinshu Buddhists. They should certainly not be thought of as a practice or means for realizing Shinjin awareness. They are intended, instead, to address a need among many American Shinshu Buddhists for a practical framework to think about today’s social issues from their religious perspective.

I have concentrated on four of today’s ethical topics: abortion, social welfare, capital punishment, and environment. After each point, “(    )” denotes the topic/s among the four that are more impacted and “[    ]” indicates parallel ideas found in statements and preambles in existing Shinshu service books.

1) I believe the world-universe in which we find ourselves, despite its downside and tragedies, is fundamentally compassionate. This vision finds expression in the Larger Sutra’s Bodhisattva Dharmakara whose selfless sacrifices aspire to spiritually nourish and liberate all sentient beings (all four issues) [Jodo-Shinshu Preamble (See Appendix III) and Daily Aspiration].

2) The universe is an interconnected network in which I play a vital role. As a member of this community, I must do my share to contribute to its welfare. We cannot wistfully depend on transcendent beings to bail us out from the grave environmental, medical, and social crises that now threaten the survival of the would (social welfare, environment) [Preamble, Daily Aspirations, Golden Chain, Pledge].

3) In making my contribution to the world, I should not be motivated by a desire to be a “good person” or feel righteous that I have done a “good deed.” What I give back to the world pales in comparison to what I receive from the world. Plus, given my ego-centered ways, a “good” deed today will quickly be snuffed out tomorrow, or even the next moment, by acts driven by selfish motives. Shinran speaks to this:

Difficult is it to be free of evil nature

The heart is like snake and scorpion

Good acts also are mixed with poison

They are but deeds vain and false.

(social welfare) [Preamble]

4) I believe that most criminal offenses are a result of causes and conditions reflecting the socio economic environment of the offender. Though the offender must bear the responsibility for his or her actions, as a member of society I should help correct the underlying social problems as well as help rehabilitate the offender. Furthermore, I should not feel righteous in looking down upon these people, for I am reminded of Shinran’s insight:

It is not that you keep from killing because your heart is good. In the same way, a person may wish not to harm anyone and yet end up killing a hundred or thousand people.

(Tannisho, Chapter 13)

5) I believe there are no absolutes in matters of the conventional, everyday world. Crucial issues, in particular, involve complex sets of factors and yield no readymade, black and white answers (abortion).

6) If at all possible, utmost effort must be made to preserve and foster life, and not to take life (abortion, capital punishment) [first of the Five Precepts, Precepts in the Six Paramitas].

7) If I must terminate life, utmost care should be taken to be well informed about the subject matter. The decision making must include a serious consideration for the welfare of all whose lives would be impacted; for a person is involved in a much wider interconnected set of relationships (abortion, capital punishment, environment).

8) Whatever decision I make, I must be willing to bear my share of the responsibility for its consequences and not shift blame or responsibility onto others (abortion, capital punishment, environment) [Preamble].

9) I do not make my ultimate aim in life to accumulate wealth, gain fame or garner power (social welfare, environment) [Preamble, Aspiration, Golden Chain].

10) I strive to live simply and to share my energy, time and resources for the betterment of the world (social welfare, environment) [Preamble, Daily Aspiration, Golden Chain].

11) I strive to refrain from idle talk and to neither purposely create discord among people nor speak ill of others without any constructive intention (social welfare) [Preamble].

12) I do not feel any need to consult or petition supernatural forces to satisfy worldly objectives or to allay fears and anxieties stemming from such forces. I, therefore, do not rely on horoscope reading, fortune-telling, or superstitious beliefs to serve as a guide in my life [Preamble].

How would you approach matters related to sexuality and gender issues from a Jodo-Shinshu perspective?

I recently was asked to provide an answer to that same question for an article, “Sexual Ethics in Religious Institutions” in a newspaper. The categories were provided, and I responded with the following:

Buddhism is concerned primarily with personal awakening to the spiritual truth of wisdom or understanding and compassion or caring. Because Buddhist spiritual insights do not produce automatic, black-and-white answers concerning ethical matters that apply to all people and all circumstances, individual Buddhists are encouraged to think for themselves in arriving at their own conclusions based upon their spiritual insights. The teachings are not about one’s adherence to a rigid moral set of absolute right and wrong. Consequently, Buddhist groups have generally refrained from taking absolutist positions on ethical issues, including most of the sexual-ethical issues being considered in this survey. (Of course, this does not apply to the monks and nuns who take vows to observe strict precepts related to sex.)

Although spiritual insights do not lead to ethical absolutes, there are some basic principles on which an individual may choose to base his or her ethical decisions. They can be expressed as: 1) I shall try to be mindful and take responsibility for my actions, 2) I shall try not to bring pain to others, and 3) I shall try not to be judgmental of others because I, too, am far from being perfect.

The views expressed below are those of one individual and do not speak for the Buddhist Churches of America or any other Buddhists; they are meant for the householders (non-monastic clergy and lay) within the contemporary American context.

Teenage Sex: Strongly discouraged since, due to their immaturity, teenagers generally take neither full responsibility nor precautions for the potential consequences of pregnancy and disease.

Premarital Sex: Strongly discouraged for minors for the same reason as above. Adults, on the other hand, are encouraged to be mindful of the three basic principles (See above).

Masturbation: No basic problem or moral stigma attached to the act.

Extramarital Sex: Strongly discouraged since it brings pain upon the spouse and family and shows a lack of responsibility for one’s marital commitment.

Divorce: Not prohibited or condemned if all sincere attempts to work out the differences have been exhausted.

Abortion: Discouraged but does not condemn those who after having exhausted all other options found no recourse but to abort; they then should take responsibility and reflect upon future actions.

Contraception: Accepted.

Married Clergy: Believing that members of the clergy should enter marriage and experience normal life, the founder of the school, Shinran, married after twenty years as a monk and had several children. Most Jodo-Shinshu priests have married throughout the school’s 800 year history, making it unique among Buddhist schools, although in recent modern times other Japanese Buddhist schools allow their clergy to marry.

Female Clergy: Accepted. Three out of the sixty priests in the Buddhist Churches of America are female. No doctrinal grounds to prohibit or discourage the ordination of women. Other American BCA women have been ordained.

Homosexual Orientation: Not condemned. No doctrinal grounds exist for a judgmental attitude by others. All beings are equally embraced by Amida Buddha, the symbol of understanding and caring.

Same-Sex Blessings in Churches: Accepted.

Ordination of Homosexuals: Not prohibited. No doctrinal grounds exist for barring candidates for this reason.

How would you sum up the Jodo-Shinshu outlook on conduct and participation in the world?

I cannot help but look to Shinran Shonin, whose life of ninety years was dedicated to reaching out to the world by sharing the teachings in person and through writings. This spirit is exemplified by the fact that virtually all chantings during Jodo-Shinshu services conclude with a verse:

May this merit-virtue

Be shared equally with all beings

May we together awaken the Bodhi Mind,

And be born in the realm of Serenity and Joy.


87  Inagi Sen’e. Jodo-Shinshu no rinri (Ethics in Jodo-Shinshu) (Kyoto: Tankyusha, 1987), pp. 100-119..