Thursday, December 15, 2011

No discrimination of women in the salvation of Amida Buddha (comments on the 35th Vow)


 If one reads the Thirty-fifth Vow of Amida Buddha without carefully understanding its meaning, he might come to the conclusion that there is a disesteem against women:

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, women in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters who, having heard my Name, rejoice in faith, awaken aspiration for Enlightenment and wish to renounce womanhood, should after death be reborn again as women, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
"Womanhood", like "manhood" is just a limited form for us living in samsara or the world of delusion and suffering. In reality, our true nature or Buddha nature is not of women or men, so upon birth in the Pure Land of Amida where we attain Buddhahood, we naturally “renounce” our womanhood or manhood, that is we do not define ourselves by these terms. By birth in the Pure Land we become Buddhas and go beyond woman or man limitations.

So, this Vow does not look down on women, but it shows that also women are equally treated by the salvation of Amida Buddha, contrary to some texts which sustain the idea that women have few chances than men to become Buddhas.

In his Letters Rennyo Shonin often addresses especially to women. Here are just a few quotes:

“Let all women living in the present age deeply entrust themselves with singleness of mind to the Amida Tathagata. Apart from this, they must realize, they will never be saved in regard to the afterlife, whatever teaching they may rely upon.”

“Women who have renounced the world while remaining in lay life and ordinary women as well, should realize and have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that there is deliverance for all those who simply rely deeply (single-heartedly and steadfastly) on Amida Buddha and entrust themselves to that Buddha to save them, bringing them to Buddhahood in the afterlife.  This is the Primal Vow of Other Power, the Vow of Amida Tathagata. Once they have realized this, when they then feel thankfulness and joy at being saved in regard to the afterlife, they should simply repeat “Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu”. 

“By just entrusting herself solely to Amida Buddha (with no double-mindedness, with steadfast, and with the single thought that Amida saves her in regard to the afterlife) a woman will readily become a Buddha. If this mind is free of the slightest doubt, she will unfailingly go to the land of utmost bliss and become a splendid Buddha.”
“All women – if they are concerned about the afterlife and have a sense of reverence for the Buddha Dharma – should simply entrust themselves deeply to Amida Tathagata, cast off the sundry practices, and rely single-heartedly and firmly on Amida to save them [bringing them to Buddhahood] in the afterlife. They should have no doubt whatsoever that such women will be born without fail in the land of utmost bliss.”
Especially in the letter “On Women Attaining Buddhahood”, Rennyo Shonin speaks about the 35th Vow of Amida Buddha, which he calls “the Vow of Women’s Attainment of Buddhahood”:
“Amida Tathagata himself made the supreme great Vow concerning women who are abandoned by all other Buddhas, thinking, “If I do not save women, which of the other Buddhas will save them?”
Resolving to go beyond all other Buddhas and save women, he meditated for five kalpas; undergoing practices for numberless kalpas, he made the all-surpassing great Vow. Thus it is Amida who originated the incomparable Vow, “Women’s Attainment of Buddhahood”. For this reason, women who deeply rely on Amida and entrust themselves to him to save them in regard to the afterlife, will all be born in the land of utmost bliss.”
All these passages prove that there is no discrimination of women in the salvation of Amida Buddha. Especially because other practices or religious systems might discriminate women, Amida wants to reassure them that in his case, they need not worry about anything. Although his Primal Vow already made no discrimination among sentient beings, he wanted to make another Vow to be sure that nobody will never EVER say that women are not included in his salvation. Thus, we may say that the 35th Vow supports the 18th Vow by emphasizing that ALL beings, including women, are born in the Pure Land and become Buddhas if they entrust to Amida.