Monday, July 28, 2008

Pure Land is NOT here and now

updated: December 13th 2011
“1. I sometimes think the central theme of Buddhism is that it all comes from Avidya (ignorance) and this makes us view the world as samsara rather than Nirvana. I wish to know what some Buddhists mean when they say there is no distinction between the two.
Also, related to this and bringing it back to Jodo Shinshu: Is the Pure Land here and now, or not? Or is it to be reached after death when we become Buddhas? Personally, I think it has to be here and now or it is nowhere. For me this is what I thought was the essence of Shinran's teaching, and why I was attracted to it.”

2. As far as the nembutsu is concerned does it have a particular form? Or rather is it a door through which ignorance is cleared and we realize we have always been in the Pure Land?”

My answer:
Yes, ignorance makes us see samsara (world of illusion, suffering, birth and death) as different from Nirvana, and when Buddhas or Enlightened Masters talk about them as being in unity and not different they are truly capable to incarnate this ultimate truth, because they became enlightened. Their understanding is not just an intellectual one.

I, as an unenlightened person, can speak about the unity between samsara and Nirvana for days and nights but I use only mere words and still remain caught in my limited mind. No matter how much I speak about this, I still don’t become a Buddha.
Only from the Buddha’s perspective (the absolute truth), Nirvana and samsara are one, but from the perspective of an unenlightened person, these two are different. Thus, samsara and Nirvana will remain different as long as we are not Buddhas, no matter how much we speak about unity.

And about the Pure Land:
Shinran Shonin is quoted as saying in chapter fifteen of Tannisho:

“According to the true essence of the Pure Land way, one entrusts oneself to the Primal Vow in this life and realizes Enlightenment in the Pure Land ; this is the teaching I received.”

To entrust in the Primal Vow of Amida in this life is the same as saying the nembutsu. Namo means “to take refuge” and also it means “homage to”, so it’s an expression of faith and gratitude.
There is no other meaning related to the Nembutsu in our Jodo Shinshu teaching.

"Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida's Vow, I shall realize birth in the Pure Land": the moment you entrust yourself thus to the Vow, so that the mind set upon saying the nembutsu arises within you, you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida, never to be abandoned.”

So, Shinran says that in the moment you entrust to the Vow (and because of this you say the nembutsu) "you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida, never to be abandoned." This means that you enter in the stage of those assured of Nirvana or the stage of non-retrogression. What is the stage of non-retrogression? It means that the root of your karma is cut, that is, although you continue to experience the results of past karma and to act as a being full of illusions and blind passions until the moment of your death, your karma cannot plant further seeds into another life.

Because of the merit transference from Amida, you are now assured of Buddhahood, which you will attain in the moment of your death, when you are born in the Pure Land. You are established in this stage of non-retrogression, not by yourself, but by Amida ("being grasped by Amida") who will never abandon you ("never to be abandoned") – this is what is mean by non-retrogression, or assured of Nirvana.

Master Rennyo used the six character name (NA MO A MI DA BUTSU), although the ten characters Name[1] and the nine character Name[2] are the same with the six character Name because they express the same faith in Amida Buddha.

We should not forget that the Name is made to be easy to recite, and it doesn’t have any hidden meaning, esoteric or some “Zen meaning”. It simply means to entrust in Amida’s saving power.

The Name was not created in order that we understand the Pure Land is here and now. For us, unenlightened beings, here and now is only samsara, the world of illusion and suffering. We can be born in the Pure Land and become a Buddha even if we don't understand the ultimate unity between samsara and Nirvana.

Nembutsu being the same with shinjin (this is why I always call it “nembutsu of faith”), it means to be aware of two very important things (“the doctrine of the the Twofold Profound Convictions or nishu jinshin)”:

1. Profound understanding of the fact that we are merely mortals influenced by our negative tendencies and with no hope of salvation through our personal powers. This represents the deep mindfulness of the human nature just as it is.

2. Profound understanding of the fact that Amida’s Primal Vow will save us with no exceptions and that it is regarding precisely beings like us. This represents the wholeheartedly reliance on Amida Buddha’s Compassion.

So, as you see, shinjin and the nembutsu of shinjin does not mean that “the Pure Land is here and now” or to “realize we have always been in the Pure Land ”. Nowhere in the writings of Shinran or Rennyo is to be found such an interpretation, not to mention the Three Pure Land Sutras about Amida which are the words of Shakyamuni Buddha himself.

But why some followers insist on spreading false views like “the Pure Land is here and now” or in presenting Amida as a symbol, myth or fictional character? The answer is simple – it is because they cannot accept in their hearts the words of Shakyamuni and the Masters and are blinded by their own limited opinions to which they try to adapt the Jodo Shinshu teaching. For them the Dharma must necessarily adapt to the materialistic or so called “modern” visions of a world incapable to go beyond what can be seen with naked eyes. Like our eyes or limited mind are the only criterion upon which we can judge what is real from what is not real in the universe and what we don’t see, touch or smell, etc. automatically doesn’t exist.

Only in the moment of death, when we are born the "birthless birth" in the Pure Land and we become Buddhas, we’ll understand what our present mind and senses can’t understand – the unity between samsara and Nirvana, "non-arising of all phenomena" “emptiness”, etc.

[1] KI MYO JIN JI PO MU GE KO NYO RAI – Homage to the Tathagata of Unimpeded Light Pervading the Ten Quarters.
[2] NA MO FU KA SHI GI KO NYO RAI – Homage to the Tathagata of Inconceivable Light.

1 comentarii:

Paul Roberts said...

Excellent teaching, Dharma Friend.

All these people who say "samsara is nirvana" simply don't KNOW what they're talking about. They may have some intellectual apprehension, but their lives are riven by duality and disconnectedness just as yours and mine.

That's why Master Shinran and Master Honen never talked in non-dual terms of the classical Mahayana (Path of the Sages). They were deeply honest - honest enough to admit they simply didn't KNOW that samsara is nirvana, the way Shakyamuni Buddha, or Mahasattva Nagarjuna, know it.

So they concentrated their message on what they DID know. And what was that? They knew (as you say) that they were grasped by the real and true Buddha Amida - that the root of their karma had been cut - and that they would take birth and attain Buddhahood in Amida's Pure Land.

And we can know the exact same thing, in the exact same way. That - and that alone - is what SHINJIN is.