After practicing for 17 years at Mount Hiei, Master Shinran decided to visit his master, Jichin, to ascertain that he was not on the wrong path. He said: “Master, during this period, I, Shinran, have devoted body and soul to my practices. Yet, to this day, my mind has remained completely dark. I can’t see any light in my future. I am very frightened. Perhaps someone like me can never be saved. What can I do, Master? What can I do to eliminate my dark mind and be saved?” To this, Reverend Jichin answered: “What are you saying, Shinran? The solving of one’s Gosho no Ichidaiji is the purpose of life. Our predecessors dedicated their entire lives to it. It is not something that can be accomplished in 10 or 20 years! As Ryuju Bodhisattva said, ‘realizing the goal of Buddhism is more difficult than lifting the Universe!’”

The solving of one’s Gosho no Ichidaiji can be done only through the permanent elimination of one’s dark mind.

Sakyamuni Buddha taught: “The present is the key to the past and the future.” Today, we harvest the fruit of our past deeds. In the future we will harvest the fruit of our present deeds. Nothing will grow from seeds that are not planted. Likewise, everything that happens to us in the future will be the consequence of our present deeds. Thus, it is important to know our present deeds and the effect they will have on our futures.

Our deeds can be classified into three groups: physical, verbal, and mental.

Society attaches greatest importance to physical behavior, and less to our verbal deeds. Being impossible to evaluate, mental actions are largely ignored.

Buddhism teaches the opposite. Deeds of the mind are of greater consequence than physical or verbal actions. The source of our physical and verbal evil is in our minds. Body and mouth do not commit evil if we don’t have evil thoughts. It is possible for us to avoid physical and verbal evil deeds. Yet, our minds cannot be controlled. Evil thoughts drag us toward evil paths and incite our bodies and mouths to act. They are like fire, while physical or verbal evil deeds are like falling sparks. Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at its source, not its sparks. However, no matter how evil and obscene our thoughts, society and law enforcement do not address them. They don’t punish us or try to stop us from thinking evil thoughts because they can’t.

News of disputes, abuses, violence, and crimes that the media brings into our household are minor sparks that arise from a fire. Although people are vaguely aware that there is a fire at the source, all they can do is fight the sparks - the source is too elusive. The sparks of crime and violence will not vanish from society. It is the sad limitation of humanity that we can only deal with the “sparks,” our physical and verbal deeds.

Crimes committed in our minds are equally or even more heinous than those committed physically or verbally. Buddhism focuses on our minds.

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