The Happy Fault

One of Shin’s core principles is that most human beings are bombus – deluded beings mislead by blind passions, whose innate badness cannot be addressed and defeated except by transcendental means, specifically the saving power of Amida Buddha. Unsurprisingly, thinking of oneself as evil is unappealing to many, but with right understanding this conception seems less negative, and even helpful.

The spiritual meaning of accepting one’s shadow side is that it wholly illuminates the spiritual ground fact that we simply cannot save ourselves. It is not that we cannot do good; it is a question of our good deeds being tainted consequent to our evil nature. Again, it is not that we cannot do good – it is that our badness is irremedial in this age of Dharma decline. We are bombus – beings incapable of saving ourselves.

However, the Shin dynamic promises that it is our very badness that makes us realize that Other Power is essential for our salvation and fulfilment-in-Buddhahood. As Christians say, “O felix culpa!” – Oh, holy failing, that brought salvation to us. “O, happy state of bombu”, which provokes Amida’s unearned salvific grace and the gift of Shinjin.

As many Shin writers say: “The first step is failure”. That is, the first step is the realization that we cannot save ourselves because our blind passions prevent us from perceiving Buddhism’s transcendent truths.

The second step is Amida’s embrace. Our badness is not decisive for Amida. On the contrary – again to cite Christian sentiment – Amida accepts me “just as I am, without one plea”.

Amida’s total acceptance means that we do not need to fret over the badness in our natures. Just as Amida overlooks it, so to should we forgive ourselves, and others, and then move on.


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