The goal of Shin Buddhism’s central practice, nembutsu, is not to attain buddhahood for ourselves, says Jeff Wilson, but to express gratitude for all we have received.
I visit a lot of Buddhist temples and groups in North America, and it’s pretty common for people to ask, “So, what’s your practice?” It’s a sort of icebreaker in the Buddhist world. I think my answer tends to surprise some folks, though. As a Shin Buddhist, my primary practice isn’t meditation, sutra study, ritual, or precepts. All of these can be valuable, of course, but in Shin Buddhism our main focus is the practice of gratitude. This sets us apart from many other Buddhists. We don’t practice to achieve anything—not enlightenment, good karma, a favorable rebirth, or material rewards.