Sunday, July 20, 2008

Amida as a Sambhogakaya Buddha

On the true shinbuddhism yahoo group, Paul Roberts posted the following article after he quoted
So, please first read my article and then, read this one.
I will soon post more articles on this topic, “the nature of Amida Buddha” at the section Amida Buddha of this blog, in order to fight against many of “modern” divergences from the true teaching of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism as presented in the sutras and commentaries of our Masters - which anyone can find in the Jodo Shinshu (Shin) traditional canon.

"…………I think this is a subject of extreme importance, because today the most lamentable divergence in the Sangha is false teachers declaring that Amida Buddha is only a symbol.

It is also critical to recognize that there are essentially two different means of talking about Buddhism that correspond to the two essentially different paths of self-power and Other-power.

Because Shin Buddhism depends entirely upon Other Power, it is critical that our Dharma dialogues - our preaching and our teaching - be based on that dualistic view, rather than the monistic view which undergirds self-powered Buddhism.

Speaking plainly, when Shin Buddhist teachers start to talk as if they're Zen Buddhist teachers or Tibetan Buddist teachers, it simply leads to confusion and decline in the Sangha - the very problems that we are having today, and that Master Rennyo had in his day as well.

“.....If we're going to speak of orthodoxy of the Mahayana, and the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way (Shin Buddhism) it is very important to say this: there is nothing that makes one body or manifestation of a Buddha any more or less "absolute" than another.
The truth is, living as plain people in the Age of Dharma Decline, we have no direct experience of what "absoluteness" might be like from a Buddha's perspective - or even the perspective of a Bodhisattva who has reached the stage of non-retrogression.

I stress this point because of the tendency today, among many Shin Buddhist teachers, as well as among other Buddhist teachers, to subtly or overtly lessen or devalue the reality of Amida Buddha in his transcendental form (Sambhogakaya) . Ask a bunch of Shin Buddhist scholars at a conference, and you'll get all sorts of answers that diverge from the basic truths taught by Master Shinran. And, unfortunately, that is just as true for some teachers who claim to be disciples of Master Honen rather than Master Shinran.

Of course, this isn't true of ALL Shin Buddhist scholars. When I first met Eiken Kobai Sensei, and really for a long time afterwards, I questioned him closely about the reality of Amida Buddha from his own perspective as a Shin Dharma teacher. I became satisfied that his own perspective was exactly the same as Master Shinran's, Master Rennyo's, and Master Honen's - and ALL the Pure Land Masters who form the backbone of our Dharma school.

And I know there are other Shin scholars - and other Shin priests - who are of the exact same mind.

But...I also know that MANY Shin Buddhist scholars - and their students - have a very uncomfortable relationship with the BASICS of Shin Dharma. They have trouble accepting the plain sense of the discourse of the Larger Sutra - so they've been taught to avoid it, and to talk instead in terms that leave the whole question of
transcendental Buddha figures like Amida Buddha aside.
Said in Buddhist technical language - they can't accept the reality of SAMBHOGAKAYA - the idea that there are countless real, true, individuated Buddha figures reigning over countless Buddha-lands, emitting countless Buddha-fields. So instead, they retreat into esoteric discussions about DHARMAKAYA - the non-dual Buddha body of ultimate reality.
Of course, you can't possibly explain DHARMAKAYA - the non-dual Buddha body of ultimate reality - to someone who doesn't have a relatively deep background in the intellectual propositions of Mahayana. It's just not something for the man (or the woman) in the street.
You couldn't explain it to your kids - or to an adult who suffered from mental retardation.

But, because these teachers are not people of the same SHINJIN as Master Shinran - or (in fact) as many of the people in this online Sangha - they can't talk about Amida Buddha as a True Transcendental Buddha in the same terms Master Shinran does - or Eiken Kobai Sensei does - or I do. They just don't believe it's true, in the same way we do.

What is troubling many of these folks - even when they are well intentioned in their efforts - is the APPARENT dualism in classic Shin Buddhist teaching. They're not comfortable with the idea of a savior (Amida Buddha) saving people who need to be saved (plain people, ignorant people, evil people). It makes them wonder if Shin Buddhism sounds too much like Western religion, which is based on the duality of creator and created, in the abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
So part of what we need to do is set the record straight, in order to answer these modern divergences from the true teachings.

In modern quantum physics, we know that light can be perceived (in an experiment) as either a particle or a wave. Both realities are equally true: light behaves as a series of discrete, individuated particles - and also as a non-discrete or unitive wave function.


Rather, depending on HOW we observe the light, we will be able to see one or the other of its manifestations.

Here's how this analogy applies to the True Teaching: both the monistic, non-dual, unitive vision of DHARMAKAYA (Buddha as suchness, Buddha as voidness, etc) and the explicitly dualistic vision of SAMBHOGAKAYA (individuated Buddhas of transcendental bodies, like Amida Buddha) and NIRMANAKAYA (individuated Buddhas of enfleshed bodies, like Shakyamuni Buddha when he walked the earth) are equally correct - equally true - and equally absolute.

Let me say that again: both visions are equally correct - equally true - and equally absolute. The monistic vision is not more true or absolute than the dualistic vision (as it is in some monistic eastern religions and their modern descendants) - nor is the dualistic vision more true than the monistic vision (as it is in western religions).

But what is REALLY important is: what do we teach in the Shin Sangha
- and why?
The truth that Master Shinran asserted over and over again - which he heard from his teacher Master Honen - and was repeated by Master Rennyo 200 years later - was that the correct teaching for the Shin Sangha was the dualistic vision teaching - the teaching of the SAMBHOGAKAYA (transcendental Buddhas) and NIRMANAKAYA (enfleshed Buddhas).

Why? Because only those who can climb the mountain on the Path of the Sages - who are capable of heroic discipline - who have the ability to concentrate their minds mightily - who are not subject to the thousands of distractions that plague us - can really apprehend, even
a little, the non-dual vision of DHARMAKAYA.

For the rest of us, we're just talking through our hats, really and truly.

And of course, with the internet, with Google, with the spread of intellectual knowledge, with the availability of programs that can get you a Ph.D. in Buddhism if you want one - we can talk. We can talk ENDLESSLY - and many do.

But, Dharma Friends, what we cannot do - from our lowly perch here in Samsara in this age of Dharma Decline - is KNOW.

And KNOWING is everything.

But while I cannot KNOW anything real, true and useful about the non-dual vision of DHARMAKAYA, I can know what is real, true and useful about the dualistic vision of SAMBHOGAKAYA and NIRMANAKAYA.

To say it in the plainest possible language: I can know that Amida Buddha is a real, true Buddha. I can know that he once was a king, who became a monk. I can know that he took birth countless times, always increasing his store of merit over countless ages, until he became a Bodhisattva of the highest degree. I can know that he visited other Buddhas in their Buddha Lands, and made vows, and created his own Buddha-land. I can know that He developed a way to bring ignorant, endarkened beings - and sages too - to the end of their own journey quickly and easily. And I can know that if I entrust myself to Him, he will cause me to take birth in His Pure Land
directly at the end of this life, where I will complete my journey and become a Buddha at last.

I can know it - and I DO know it.

And so do many others, including many here in this online Sangha.

But many others within the Shin Sangha do NOT know it. And - for too many of them - the reason they do not know it is that there is no true teacher - no person of the same SHINJIN
as Master Shinran - who is able and willing to explain the dualistic SAMBHOGAKAYA vision of Shakyamuni Buddha given that day on Vulture Peak, in response to a question from his cousin, the monk Ananda.

That question, Dharma friends, was the single most important question ever asked during Shakyamuni Buddha's earthly sojourn. And what we need in the Sangha today is 100 - or 1000 - or 10,000 who can give the SAME answer to that question today as Shakyamuni gave back
then, because they have received the revelation that Amida causes to be revealed in the human heart that listens deeply to the historic Dharma of Master Shinran - and not some watered down, polluted hybrid Dharma that Master Shinran himself would not even recognize, much less
approve of.

So - in closing - I want to encourage EVERYONE who is of the same SHINJIN as Master Shinran to be totally comfortable and to have no intellectual embarrassment whatsoever - in affirming the ultimate reality in the form of SAMBHOGAKAYA. Master Shinran tells us that ALL the Buddhas in the ten directions continually praise and honor Amida Buddha because of his supreme work on behalf of each and every sentient being. His own Pure Land is a true and real place - the very EPICENTER of the great work, constantly being visited by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, even as Shakyamuni Buddha was visiting it that day on Vulture Peak, when his face shone with an entirely unearthly glow that Ananda saw, and which provoked his questioning of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Once again, I want to repeat Master Rennyo's quote - because now (I believe) the REASON he said what he did in his letter will be clearer than perhaps it might have been before:


(From Fascicle 4:6 - ON THREE ITEMS)

The thanksgiving services this month are held as an annual ceremony of long standing, marking the anniversary of the death of our founder, Master Shinran. Consequently, followers of our tradition in provinces far and near are filled with eagerness for the pilgrimage, and wish to express the sincerity of their gratitude on this occasion.

And so it is that, for seven days and nights every year, they concentrate on and devote themselves to Nembutsu services. This is precisely why practicers of true and real faith are flourishing. Indeed, we might almost say that the period of firm practice of the
Nembutsu has come.
Among those who make pilgrimage during the seven day period as a result of this, there may indeed be some who come to worship before the revered image of the founder only in imitation of others. These people should promptly kneel before the revered image and, through a
turning of the mind and repentance, enter into the true purport of the primal vow - and attain true and real faith with the awakening of the one thought moment of entrusting.

We must realize that "Namu Amida Butsu" is the essence of the settled mind for Nembutsu practicers. This is because "Namu" means "to take refuge". We must know that, for ordinary beings like ourselves who lack good and do evil, "taking refuge" expresses the entrusting mind
that relies on Amida Buddha.

This entrusting mind is none other than the mind of Amida Buddha, who receives sentient beings into His great light of 84,000 rays - and grants to sentient beings the two aspects of the Buddha's directing of virtue: outgoing (from birth and death), and returning (into birth and
death). Thus, faith has no other meaning than this. Everything is encompassed within "Namu Amida Butsu". Recently, some people have been thinking otherwise.



So...if you want to go to Buddhist graduate school, that's fine. If you've come to Shin Buddhism from some one of the countless other paths within Buddhism, that's fine.

But when we stand up in the Sangha - and preach and teach the Dharma - and try to listen to it, and to help others listen as well, let's just stick with the program that is appropriate for US - and not for others who are people of different capacities than we are.

The whole point, after all, is not to gain knowledge, or even wisdom.
It is to become a Buddha.

And for us, to become a Buddha, we need to attain SHINJIN - true faith - in this life. That happens in the very moment that we truly believe in and depend on the simple Dharma that Master Shinran and Master Rennyo taught to the learned and unlearned alike. Everything else
is unimportant.

That's why the Shin Sangha get back to Master Shinran's fundamentals - and STAY there - so it can fulfill its mission to all who are being called by Amida Buddha in our day.


Paul R"

3 comentarii:

Jeremiah said...

Thank You Josho Adrian for posting Paul's explanations on this Subject. Paul's teachings are very clear and easy to understand Just Like your teachings Josho Adrian. We are blessed By Amida to have great teachers like you Guys:) Namo Amida Buddha!!!

Jeremiah said...

Thank You Josho Adrian for posting Paul's explanations on this Subject. Paul's teachings are very clear and easy to understand Just Like your teachings Josho Adrian. We are blessed By Amida to have great teachers like you Guys:) Namo Amida Buddha!!!

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

Thank you, dear Jeremiah for your comment! Me and Paul are happy that we can be useful.
Namo Amida Butsu

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