Thursday, April 27, 2017

Don't do many things, just focus on the recquirements of the Primal Vow


Recently, a reader wrote to me:

"We do many things at our temple, we meditate, do various practices, so we never become bored. Why don't you do the same to attract new members?"

In His Primal Vow Amida Buddha mentioned that we should do three things only and exclusively, "entrust yourself to me, say my Name, and wish to be born in my land". All these three are expressed in the Nembutsu of faith.

Its a pity you are bored with the Primal Vow, and that you and your temple sangha are not focused on what Amida asks you to do.  If in the Primal Vow meditation was mentioned, then I would teach and practice meditation. But as only faith, nembutsu and wish to be born in the Pure Land are to be found there, I obey and limit myself to them. Please do the same if you wish to be born in the true fulfilled land of the Pure Land[1]. Our school is the school of the Primal Vow, so if you consider yourself a member, then be a follower of the Primal Vow.

Master Shantao said:
"Abandon the teachings that Amida Buddha abandoned, observe the practice that Amida Buddha observed, and leave the practices that Amida Buddha left. This is said to be 'in accordance with the teaching of Amida Buddha' and 'in compliance with the intent of Amida Buddha'. Such a person is referred to as the 'true disciple of Amida Buddha'".[2]
(Master Shan-tao quoted by Honen Shonin in An Outline of the Doctrine for Birth in the Pure Land)

The passage is very clear - we must abandon everything which is not mentioned in the Primal Vow, where only faith, saying of the Name in faith and wish for birth in the Pure Land are taught. If you do this, if you say Amida's Name in faith and wish to be born in His Pure Land, you are in accord with Amida Buddha's Primal Vow and you are a true disciple of Amida Buddha. Any practice or teaching which are not mentioned in the Primal Vow, like various meditation methods, mantras or anything else, should not be followed because they do not lead to birth in the true fulfilled land of the Pure Land[3].

As for attracting new members, Master Rennyo said:

"The prosperity of this school does not lie in showing off with large gatherings. If
even a single person gains shinjin (faith), this is a true sign of prosperity. For this reason, it is
said (in the Hoonkoshiki), 'The teaching of exclusive performance of the right practice
thrives owing to the power of the devotion of Shinran's followers'."

So, my interest is not in numbers, but in helping people to be in accord with the Primal Vow. The right practice is the Name of Amida Buddha[4] and should be said exclusively while relying on Amida's Power to save. Only by saying Amida's Name in faith we bring spiritual prosperity to this school. Various so called Jodo Shinshu temples arround the world which added alien practices or meditations to Nembutsu although they are rich in members, they actually bring our school to spiritual poverty. They should repent and return to the Name which is complete in itself and already contains all practices:

"The ultimate teachings of the One Vehicle all point to the Land of Bliss as the last refuge. The Name of Amida’s Buddhahood is most distinguished as the embodiment of the perfect
virtues of myriad practices."[5]
Shinran quotes Master Ch’ing-wen in Kyogyoshinsho, II

"All of the merits of the teachings, the meditative practices on the phenomenal aspect of reality and the noumenal principle, the unmatched power acquired through meditation and wisdom, the wisdom of inner realization, and the merit of external activities, as well as all of the virtues and undefiled Enlightenment of Tathagata Amida, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, Bodhisattva Samanthabhadra, Bodhisattva Manjusri, Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, Nagarjuna, and the Bodhisattvas and Sravakas of the Pure Land are encompassed in the three characters of the Name of Amida. This being so, would there be any Dharma not included in the teaching for birth in the Pure Land?"[6]
Honen Shonin, Commentary on the Three Sutras of Pure Land Buddhism


- fragment from a letter to a friend -







[1] Please reffer to my article, The Two Aspects of the Pure Land.
[2] The Promise of Amida Buddha - Honen's Path to Bliss; English translation of the Genko edition of the works of Honen Shonin - Collected Teachings of Kurodani Shonin: The Japanese Anthology (Wago Toroku), translated by Joji Atone and Yoko Hayashi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2011, p.106
[3] Those born in the Fulfilled Pure Land (please reffer to my article, The Two Aspects of the Pure Land) are followers of the true faith (shinjin) of the 18th Vow (Primal Vow) and they immediately attain Nirvana or Buddhahood, while those who are born in the Transformed Pure Land are followers of the 19th and 20th Vows. The later are people with mixed faith, and so they need to stay for a while in that place until they overcome their doubts. Followers of the 19th Vow, for example, do not follow exclusively the saying of the Name in faith, but mix it with various other practices, while followers of the 20th Vow although they say the Name exclusively, they make it their own practice and their own merit, that is, they think that the saying of the Name works because of them, on how often they say it, or on the state of mind they are in when saying it. Thus, they fail to realize that the Name works only because of Amida, and is completely the Power of Amida, containing no trace of self-power. For a detailed explanation of this, please reffer to my article, The Name of Amida Buddha is the Great Practice. 
[5] Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 51
[6] The Promise of Amida Buddha - Honen's Path to Bliss; English translation of the Genko edition of the works of Honen Shonin - Collected Teachings of Kurodani Shonin: The Japanese Anthology (Wago Toroku), translated by Joji Atone and Yoko Hayashi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2011, p.83

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