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Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn Into Gold [Paperback]

Taitetsu Unno

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Book Description

1 Aug 2002
Interest in Buddhism continues to grow throughout North America, and more and more readers are moving beyond the familiar Zen and Tibetan traditions to examine other types of Buddhism. In Shin Buddhism, Taitetsu Unno explains the philosophy anc practices of "Pure Land" Buddhism, which dates back to the sixth century C.E., when Buddhism was first introduced in Japan.

While Zen Buddhism flourished in remote monasteries, the Pure Land tradition was adopted by the common people. With a combination of spiritual insight and unparalled scholoarship, the author describes the literature, history, and principles of this form of Buddhism and illuminates the ways in which it embodies this religion's most basic tenet: "No human life should be wasted, abandoned, or forgotten but should be transformed into a source of vibrant life, deep wisdom, and compassionate living." As a practice that evolved to harmonize with the realities of everyday life, Shin Buddhism will be particularly attractive to contemporary Western readers.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent follow-up to "River of Fire..." 6 May 2003
By DAC Crowell - Published on
Rev. Unno's book "Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn Into Gold" is essentially a follow-up work to his wonderful introductory text "River of Fire, River of Water". But while that work provided an overview of Shin Buddhism in of itself, this work provides a broader view of how Shin Buddhism affects the lives of those who practice it, as well as exploring the deeper issues of the Nembutsu-faith.
Weaving a complex yet easily-understood tapestry from personal experience, anecdotes, Pure Land teachings, and philosophical insight, Rev. Unno unfurls an examination of the depth and breadth of impact of Jodo Shinshu in peoples' lives. This school of Mahayana Buddhism, Jodo Shinshu, is essentially a Buddhism for the common man, emphasizing faith in the "other power" of Amida Buddha as its central tenet, as opposed to the complex battery of practices eschewed by other (and more familiar to the West) schools of Buddhism. A branch of the Pure Land school which was formed in the early 13th century in Japan, Jodo Shinshu emphasizes the "true entrusting" in Amida, the embodiment of wisdom and compassion from which all Buddhist thought emanates. And while this form of Buddhism is largely unknown in the West outside of the ethnic Japanese community, it is a powerful...and easily-accessible...path among the 84,000 Paths to Enlightenment as the diverse streams of religious and philosophical thought are known in Buddhism.
Rev. Unno here shows us how this faith affects those who accept it, and why. Just as "River of Fire..." explained the 'what' of Jodo Shinshu, "Bits of Rubble..." explains the 'how' in like manner...which is clear, concise, and readily-understandable. As a text for both beginners/explorers and those steeped in the faith, it succeeds at delivering meaningful messages and points on which to ponder. I would suggest reading "River of Fire, River of Water" before this, as there seems to be something of a continuity from that book's information and manner of imparting it into this one's. But do read this one after that to gain valuable insight into what Shin brings into peoples' lives. Like that prior book, I recommend this one without hesitation.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start, but really builds up nicely 21 Sep 2005
By Doug M - Published on
I really would give this 4.5 stars if I could. Taitetsu Unno is a brilliant writer, and despite being Japanese, he truly knows how to write for a Western audience. My only complaint were the early chapters where he's mostly talking about how great the 'nembutsu' and not much else. It's kind of feel-good fluff.

However, by the second section, he really delves into so many aspects of Buddhism, from a Jodo ShinShu perspective (I am a newly converted Shin Buddhist myself). The chapters are surprisingly relevant and the topics build from the simple topics in the first few chapters into progressively more deep and theological issues for Buddhists. This book has a subtle, but very compelling flow to it.

Taitetsu is clearly a well-read person as he quotes from many interesting sources, and clearly conveys their meaning to the reader.

This really was time well-spent reading, and I definitely recommend this to anyone who's curious about Shin Buddhism. It's the largest school of Buddhism in Japan (not Zen or Soka Gakkai), yet the least known here. Read this book and find out what it's about.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It turns with the seasons 20 July 2007
By Peter M. Schogol - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read this book when it was published in 2002. I was younger then in so many ways and thought I was hot stuff. What Unno wrote stuck to me like a post-it to a mirror. With only a little heat it slid right off.

I am older now and I leave whatever specialness I might have to the appraisal of the compassionate cosmos. What Unno wrote has become the mirror itself. I highly recommend this book and suggest the reader return to it after some years to see how its insights weather.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H. Propp - Published on
Rev. Taitetsu Unno (born 1930) is a scholar, lecturer, and author on the subject of Pure Land Buddhism, and is the founding Sensei of the Northampton Shin Buddhist Sangha. He has also written books such as River of Fire, River of Water and Buddhism of the Heart: Reflections on Shin Buddhism and Inner Togetherness.

Here are some quotations from this 2002 book:

"If I were to translate 'nembutsu' into English, it would be the 'Name-that-calls,' for it calls us to awaken to our fullest potential to becoming true, real, and sincere human beings." (Pg. 24)
"...the millennium may have significance for those who believe in the Second Coming... but it has no special significance for a Buddhist who is a nontheist." (Pg. 55)
"There is no need for such a deathbed ritual, because birth in the Pure Land has occurred in the awakening to shinjin here and now." (Pg. 66)
"The path of Pure Land, on the other hand, is primarily a way for the laity; it is available to any one, regardless of status, who seeks the path of enlightenment." (Pg. 74)
"Buddhism, including Shin, does not give clear and firm directives for everyday living. It is not prescriptive." (Pg. 131)
"Transformation is possible by the very fact that Buddhism teaches us that we are all already fully enlightened, although we live in complete ignorance of this elemental fact." (Pg. 202)
"Toward the end of his life, (D.T. Suzuki) devoted more and more of his writings to Shin Buddhism (e.g., his "Buddha of Infinite Light"), and his final scholarly accomplishment was the translation of Shinran's major work into English under the title 'The Kyogyoshinsho'..." (Pg. 209)
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The How of Transformation 25 Jan 2009
By Francisco X. Stork - Published on
How exactly does it happen - this turning of rubble into gold? I keep looking for clues urgently, because, believe me, there's a lot of rubble. What is the power of this beautiful branch of Buddhism to accomplish this? What do I need to do? Taitetso Unno patiently answers questions like these, although, not in the way you expect. He tells you stories, talks leisurely to you, as if sitting with you over tea in a lovely, cool garden, and slowly the nature of your questioning changes. Instead of questioning, you begin to notice the rubble, only there is no judgment attached to the noticing. It is like noticing a wound and feeling the presence of a healing balm at the same time. I liked the humorous examples of personal "rubble" Taitetsu Unno gives us from his days as a teacher of religion at Smith College. I smiled at the the quotes from Shinran that show this great master's awareness of his own personal "rubble". But what I like the most about this book is the gradual, existential way that trust is born in us as we read. We learn to trust as we read about trust, or better yet, trust comes to us. We learn to listen for the presence of trust which is always there. Trust and listening are all part of the way of living that Taitetso Unno presents in his book. We trust (not as in we hope but as in we know) that the rubble will not sink us, we trust that we are precious, we listen for ways to use our being, rubble and all, for the benefit of others, and in so doing, the bits of rubble turn to gold.
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