Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Ten Benefits of faith in Amida during this life: 1. The benefit of being protected and sustained by unseen powers and divine beings



This benefit means that those who have shinjin (faith in Amida) are protected against various influences from external evil forces. Thus, the nembutsu follower has no reason to be afraid of sorcery, black magic or evil spirits. Shinran Shonin said in Hymns of Benefit in the Present:

"Those who deeply entrust themselves to the Buddha's teaching are protected by all the gods of the heavens and earth, who accompany them just as shadows do things."[1]

„When we say ‚Namo Amida Butsu,’
Brahma[2] and Indra[3] venerate us;
All the benevolent gods of the heavens
Protect us constantly, day and night.

When we say 'Namo Amida Butsu',
The four great deva-kings together
Protect us constantly, day and night,
And let no evil spirits come near.

When we say 'Namo Amida Butsu',
The earth-goddess called Firmness
Reveres and protects us constantly, day and night,
Accompanying us always just as shadows do things.

When we say 'Namo Amida Butsu',
Nanda, Upananda, and the other great nagas,
Along with the countless naga-gods, revere
And protect us constantly, day and night.

When we say 'Namo Amida Butsu',
Yama, the king of the dead, reveres us,
And the officers who judge the beings of the five courses of existence
All protect us constantly, day and night.

When we say 'Namo Amida Butsu',
We are protected by the great king of maras
Residing in the sixth heaven;
This he vowed to do in the presence of Sakyamuni Buddha.

The gods of the heavens and earth
Are all to be called good,
For together they protect
The person of the nembutsu.
"[4]

The beings mentioned above like Indra, Brahma, the four Deva kings, some nagas, etc, are unenlightened powerful gods or spirits (worldly protectors) who converted to Buddha Dharma and made vows that they will protect people who entrust to Shakyamuni’s teaching, Amida Dharma included:

"Then the Buddha said to the ten billion deva-king Mahabrahmas, 'I place in your hands all beings who practice the Dharma, abide in the Dharma and accord with the Dharma’”.[5]

"Chapter on Forbearance, part sixteen, of the Moon-Matrix Sutra, fascicle eight, states:
'At that time, all the devas, nagas and so on, including all kataputanas and nonhuman beings, joined their palms in homage and said: 'We will consider as our teachers and elders all those who are the Buddha's disciples and those who, though they do not observe the precepts, shave their hair and beard and wear a monk's robe at their shoulder. We will protect and sustain them. If other devas, nagas and so on, including kataputanas, cause them distress or even look on them with evil thoughts, we will all together deprive them of their characteristics as devas, nagas, putanas, and so on, and make them ugly and unsightly. We will make it impossible for them to live together with us or to take meals with us. They will not be able to laugh or sport in the same place with us. In this way we will shun them and inflict punishment on them.'"[6]

"The Sutra of Ritual Sprinkling states:
‚Without revealing themselves, the thirty-six spirit-kings, together with their followings of spirits numerous as the sands of the Ganges ten billion-fold, will take turns protecting those who receive the Three Refuges.'"[7]

There is an interesting statement made by Shinran in the quote I gave from Hymns of the Pure Land, that „we are protected by the great king of maras, residing in the sixth heaven”. We know that maras are demon gods who usually hinder and lead into delusion those who try to advance to Enlightenment. Well, in the case of those who entrust to Amida Buddha, there are some maras who even promised that they will protect us! These are the maras led by Papiyas. Shinran quoted many passages from various sutras in chapter six of his Kyogyoshinsho in support of this idea:

"Chapter Ten, 'The Maras' Attainment of Reverent Trust' of the Moon-Matrix Sutra, fascicle seven states:
'At that time there were ten billion maras. All together, at the same time, they rose from their seats, and joining their hands in homage, faced the Buddha, touched their heads to the Buddha's feet, and said to the Buddha: 'World-honored One! Awakening great courage, we will protect and sustain the Buddha's right Dharma and cause the seeds of the three treasures to flourish and to long abide in the world. We will now cause the vital energy of the earth, the vital energy of sentient beings, and the vital energy of the Dharma all to increase. If there are disciples who listen well to the World-honored One, abide in the Dharma and accord with the Dharma, then we will all protect and sustain those people.’”[8]

"Chapter Ten, 'Buddha-Mindfulness Samadhi' of the Sun Matrix Sutra, fascicle nine, states:
'When Papiyas finished delivering his verse, there was a mara woman in the assembly named Free-of-Darkness. This mara woman had, in the past, planted various roots of good. She stated, 'The sramana Gautama is called by a name meaning 'virtues'. If sentient beings are able to hear the Buddha's Name and wholeheartedly take refuge in Him, no mara is capable of inflicting harm on them. [...] If sentient beings take refuge in the Buddha, those people will be fearless in the face of a hundred billion maras.'".[9]

„Chapter Thirteen, ‚Protecting Stupas’, of the Sun-matrix Sutra, fascicle ten, states:
‚Then the mara Papiyas, surrounded in front and behind by eighty billion kinsmen, went to the place of the Buddha. On reaching it, he touched his head to the Buddha's feet and paid homage to the World-honored One. Then he stated in verse....

All Buddhas of the past, present, and future, with great compassion,
Accept my homage! I repent all my evil acts.
In the two treasures of Dharma and sangha, in the same way.
I sincerely take refuge without any other thought.

May I, this day, make offerings to, revere,
And venerate the guiding Master of all the world.
All evils I extinguish forever and will never commit;
To the end of my life, I will take refuge in the Tathagata's Dharma.’

The mara Papiyas, when he had finished stating this verse, said to the Buddha, 'O World-honored One! The Tathagata, possessing a mind of equality and nondiscrimination with regard to me and all sentient beings, is always filled with joy and with compassion and forbearance."

The Buddha said, ‚So it is’.

Then the mara Papiyas greatly rejoined and awakened the mind of purity. Again, before the Buddha, he touched his head to the Buddha's feet in homage. He then circumambulated the Buddha three times to the right, reverently placed his palms together, and withdrew to one side, where he stood gazing at the Buddha without wearying.”[10]

While the above passages mentioning the protection by various gods, spirits and maras, were not referring exclusively to followers of Amida Dharma, Shinran Shonin used them for this purpose too, because in his view, the main reason of Shakyamuni and all Buddhas appearance in the world is to teach Amida’s unconditional salvation. Thus, according to Shinran, the worldly protectors will even more sustain and protect the followers of Amida Dharma.



[1] Shinran Shonin, A Collection of Letters, Letter 4, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.563
[2] Brahma is the Lord of the first Dhyana Heaven from the World of Form. For a detailed explanation of the six realms of samsaric existence, see chapter, „Samsara is suffering” from my book, The Four Profound Thoughts Which Turn the Mind Towards Amida Dharma, Dharma Lion Publications, Craiova, 2018, p.77, http://amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.ro/2017/11/my-new-book-four-profound-thoughts.html
[3] Indra is the Lord of the heaven of the thirty-three gods (Trayas-trimsa).
[4] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Pure Land (Jodo Wasan) - Hymns of the Benefits in the Present, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.353-354
[5] Chapter Nine, "The Deva Kings' Protection," in the "Moon-Matrix" section of the Great Collection Sutra, fascicle six, quoted by Shinran in Kyogyoshinsho, chapter VI, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.267 
[6] Kyogyoshinsho - The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.272
[7] Kyogyoshinsho, chapter VI, Kyogyoshinsho - The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.273
[8] Shinran Shonin, Kyogyoshinsho, chapter VI, Kyogyoshinsho - The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.270
[9] Shinran Shonin, Kyogyoshinsho, chapter VI,  The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.257
[10] Shinran Shonin, Kyogyoshinsho, chapter VI,  The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.259

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