This article was written by my Dharma friend, Paul Roberts, webmaster of http://www.shinuglyblog.com
and moderator of True Shinbuddhism yahoo group :
The True Teaching of the
You can read the Sutra here:
As the teaching moved from one person to another, and one country to another, Amida caused people to understand it more and more clearly. Finally, in the person of Master Shinran (Shinran Shonin) it reached its full expression.
Given supernatural wisdom by Amida Buddha, one of the revelations that Master Shinran had was that this Dharma message was (in his words) "for the evil person FIRST, and then for the good person".
In other words, the True Teaching is FIRST for those who lack the capacity to do whatever practices someone might do in order to really make effective and permanent changes in his or her life. In this one statement, True Shin Buddhism sets itself apart from all of the other Dharma paths - whether from the Hinayana, Mahayana or Vajrayana schools.
For many of us (including many here), this is so contradictory to what we have been taught our whole life long that it is very difficult to actually grasp.
We come to the Dharma (typically) because we recognize our great need. We see, at least dimly, that we are beset with all sorts of problems that have their root in our egotism. Our many and various efforts are all about conquering our egotism - whether by prayers, or chanting, or practices, or precepts, or good works of various sorts.
Various schools and their teachers will emphasize one sort of spiritual work or another.
But what Master Shinran found out - and what we have found out, too - is that none of this spiritual work really works in a PERMANENT way. In fact, the harder we try, the more we become conscious of our failure to consistently live up to our spiritual ideals. Our awareness of the dark side of our own nature grows, the more we seek to be people of the light by our own efforts.
So what is the answer, if we can't save ourselves from ourselves by our own self-powered efforts? Who or what will save us?
That's what Shakyamuni Buddha talked about in The Larger Sutra. He introduced Amida Buddha, and told us about his own journey to Buddhahood countless ages ago. He describes how Amida was once a king named Dharmakara, who renounced his throne and became a monk. As a monk, he visited the Buddha of his own time and place. He declared his own intentions to become a Buddha, and he made 48 Vows in which he
vowed to save all beings everywhere.
As a Bodhisattva, He went through countless rebirths, helping countless sentient beings just like you and me. As He grew in supernatural power, He visited countless Buddha-lands, and discussed the good and bad of each with countless Buddhas.
Finally, He created His own Buddha-Land, known as the
So - at the very heart of this wonderful Dharma teaching is that we who cannot save ourselves by self-power will be completely saved by the OTHER-POWER of Amida Buddha - simply by entrusting ourselves and our karmic destiny ENTIRELY to Him.
So what we do here is help one another to remove the barriers – the obstacles - the delusions and obscurations - that would inhibit or prevent us from having simple, settled faith in Amida.
In my own experience, and in my experience with others, I have seen two types of obstacles that people struggle with: doubts about the Dharma, and doubts about oneself.
"Doubts about the Dharma" refers to all the doubts people have concerning the simple message given by Shakyamuni Buddha on
"Doubts about oneself" refers to the doubts that people have about their own worthiness to receive the grace of Amida, and the gift of His salvation. For many people, these doubts are even more difficult to overcome.
For many of us, it takes repeated hearing of the Dharma to fully overcome our various doubts. Just because we understand this simple teaching with our intellect, it doesn't mean we REALLY understand it in our hearts. As the old preacher's line goes: The longest 18 inches in the world is the distance between the head and the heart.
But if we are, indeed, being called by Amida Buddha in this body, in this lifetime, Amida Himself will cause us to hear, if only we will keep listening with humility and an open mind. Through the process of listening to the Dharma, our darkness is illuminated - our secret fears and doubts are gently exposed and healed. At some point we just come to KNOW that this Dharma message is true, and that indeed we too are being saved by Amida Buddha - and will become Buddhas at the end of this lifetime.
It is the most wonderful Dharma message, and the most powerful. Amida is praised and honored by all the other Buddhas, because He is able to save people who otherwise could not be saved - and bring to Buddhahood people who otherwise would continue to wander in Samsara for countless lives.
As for other Dharma paths, we recognize that they are all able to lead people to Buddhahood IF (and only if) people can practice them as prescribed. But since we cannot do that, these paths are not appropriate for us.
You might ask: Are they appropriate for ANYBODY?
Master Shinran's answer is unequivocal: No, they are not.
But that is not something I would say to someone who is pursuing enlightenment on one of those other paths, unless he or she asked me about it. Everyone has their own personal timetable for coming to understand that their efforts cannot get them to the goal of Buddhahood, no matter how hard they try, nor for how long. This recognition is what makes a person karmically ready to listen deeply to the True Teaching of the
It seems that you are being called by Amida. That's why you are now part of this Sangha. The purpose of the Sangha is to teach the Dharma that leads people to become Buddhas. That is why we're all here, too. To share the Dharma, and discuss both our faith and our doubts, so that Amida can work freely in our lives and bring us to Buddhahood when this life is over.