Monday, December 13, 2010
On returning from the Pure Land
“Do you think all beings who are born in the Pure Land will return to this world in order to help others? Or only some great teachers like Honen and Shinran? If all beings return, would they have some knowledge on this (that they came from the Pure Land?) It seems Honen, for example, only realized this (or mentioned it to his students) when he was about to die. Also, I wonder what the difference is between returning to this world from The Pure Land and returning to this world for an ordinary next life (without achieving Ojo first). I you have any thoughts on this, I'd be happy if you share them with me.”
Not all beings who are born in the Pure Land will immediately return to this world to help others. Those who have faith mixed with doubts will stay a period in the border land of the Pure Land. They are those born in the Pure Land through the 19th and the 20th Vows. But those who enter the Pure Land through the gate of the Primal Vow (18th Vow) will immediately become Buddhas and they will be able to quickly return to this world in various forms, to help others.
Only Buddhas can come to the Saha world whenever they wish and in whatever form they wish, to help all beings. The reason for being born in the Pure Land is to become a Buddha. Aspiration to become a Buddha for ourselves and others is central to Mahayana Buddhism and we, Jodo Shinshu followers, also have this aspiration. But, as Master Shan-tao said, we aspire to become Buddhas through Amida’s Power, not ours. So, if we entrust completely to Amida’s Power, then we become Buddhas in the Pure Land, but if our trust is not complete, then we are forced by our own doubts to remain in the border land of the Pure Land.
Between birth in the Pure Land of an ordinary person and of a great master there is no difference if they have shinjin (faith in Amida’s Primal Vow). Both become Buddhas capable to return to the world of suffering to help others. This is because it is Amida’s Power that causes them to be born there, not their virtues and personal merits.
If they were born in the Pure Land by their own virtues, then there would be differences among them, but because they are born through faith given by Amida, their birth and Buddhahood is the same. Honen is recorded as saying in Tannisho that if one has the same shinjin like him – which is shinjin given by Amida (shinjin of the Primal Vow) – then he will go in the same Pure Land as him.
And of course that everybody who returns from the Pure Land as a Buddha will know it, because all Buddhas know their own and all beings previous lives. There is nothing a Buddha does not know about him or other beings, no limitation to his vision or power, because he is completely free from all bondages. And this is what we all Buddhists want to become, isn’t it?
Buddhas come to this world of birth and death out of their free and enlightened will to help others, while unenlightened beings, who haven’t achieved Ojo (birth in the Pure Land) first, come due to their karma. The latter are slaves of their own karma; they do not choose where to go or where to be born and no matter where they are, they will suffer and make others suffer even when they wish to make them happy.
So, one should first become a Buddha in the true Pure Land through simple faith in Amida’ Primal Vow if he or she wishes to help other beings.
In the end I wish to mention one more thing. Into my opinion, Honen and Shinran were already Buddhas when they came into this world and preached the Pure Land teaching. This means that they somehow became Buddhas in the Pure Land in the distant past and their life we know on this earth was in fact a returning from the Pure Land. Shinran never regarded Honen as an ordinary person and we can see this in his wasans (hymns). I myself go even further, and am sure that Shinran was not only a returner, but the manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara.
One very important thing should be very well understood: Buddhas never live for themselves and the Pure Land is not a place to enjoy egoistic pleasures. It is not a destination, nor the end of the journey, but the beginning of our activity to save other sentient beings. We go there in order to return.
 Birth in the Pure Land.
 See the article „Shinran Shonin , a manifestation of Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara”.