Shan Tao talks about The Three Minds - Sincere mind, Deep Mind and Mind that Transfers Merit for Ojo. Ojo means birth in the presence of Buddha. Because of the Christian association, one might flinch from the idea of being a “born again Buddhist”, but all true spiritual paths are, in one way or another, about being reborn.


Sincere mind means a good heart and firm belief in the practice. This is much more rare than one might at first imagine, and for the reason that we are social beings. Honen says “there is no greater enemy to our attainment of ojo than our fellow beings. It is because of the presence of others that our vanity is awakened within our hearts, and so we fail”. Whatever the practice - nembutsu, zazen, sadhana, prostrations, whatever - we tend to have mixed motives for doing it and many of these motives are bound up with our image of ourselves in relation to others. On the one hand, one can only practise compassion by being in the world, and even if one does not practise compassion, one cannot live without at least some interpersonal support. On the other hand, as soon as one becomes involved with others issues arise and one is soon enmeshed in all kinds of complications. A really sincere mind is a kind of utter aloneness (ekagata) even when in the presence of others.


Deep or profound mind means that one’s practice is purely a matter between oneself and the Buddhas. It is not for show nor for any kind of worldly attainment. When one reflects upon sincere mind, one realises that there are many levels. One may achieve a certain sincerity, but underneath there is something else going on. Sometimes one tries to delve deeper and deeper in an attempt to purify oneself of insincerity and this self analysis can become quite complicated. The most sincere mind, however, is the most simple. The myokonin has profound mind implicitly, simply because he or she does not complicate the matter. This is similar to what Dogen says about “To study Biuddhism is to study the self and to study the self is to forget the self.” When we forget self, everything becomes Buddha.


The mind that transfers merit means that one’s spiritual path, which culminates in Ojo, is one’s whole reason. This means, for instance, that one does not claim credit for good deeds done, but whatever merit there may be is simply ploughed back or attributed to others. It is merely part of the path. This does not mean that one cannot be happy about good things. The effect of not claiming is that sometimes, along this path, ecstatic joy may simply overwhelm one. Sometimes this is in response to some good thing having happened, but often it seems to have no trigger at all. One might say that it is the joy of being alive and on the path, but really no words do justice. It is a sense of giving all away - I give my life, and that’s all. When that is all, the joy is boundless. When we are dedicated to the practice everyone may enjoy this boundless bliss.


If we go back to the quotation from Honen - “there is no greater enemy to our attainment of ojo than our fellow beings. It is because of the presence of others that our vanity is awakened within our hearts, and so we fail” - and reflect upon it, we will see that our fellow beings become enemies because we encounter them in ways that are in some degree instrumental. We do not fully take on the fact that they are living human lives just as we are. When we are concerned with “our vanity” we are wanting to manipulate the other in some way - impress, defeat, surpass, possess, repel, reform, seduce, convert, whatever - and this falls short of deep respect for the living reality of the other. Paradoxically, one can only have such respect when one has no need. Thus, the key to the Three Minds is great acceptance and its corresponding natural humility. This is why we emphasise the bombu nature of the adherent. We are all in the same boat. We can recognise in ourselves our own greed, hate and delusion and when we do so sincerely and deeply, they become the gate to ojo and all true compassion.

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