Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nembutsu of faith and gratitude

We often speak in our tradition about nembutsu as being the expression of gratitude for the assurance of birth in the Pure Land by Amida Buddha.
Its a correct understanding and Master Rennyo especially emphasized this aspect in his letters in order to help people not to fall in the wrong view of considering nembutsu a self power practice like for example, the better or longer you recite the Name, the more chances  you have to be born in the Pure Land.

But in the same time with being the expression of gratitude, nembutsu is also the expression of faith and one can find the same Master Rennyo using for example, words like „recitation of the nembutsu arising from True Faith” in his Goichidaiki Kikigaki (Thus I Have Heard from Rennyo Shonin). Both aspects, nembutsu as expression of faith and nembutsu as expression of gratitude appear in Master Rennyo and Master Shinran’s texts. 

„Namo” from „Namo Amida Butsu”, means „homage to”, which expresses gratitude and also „to take refuge” which expresses faith (shinjin). It is logical that one cannot feel gratitude to Amida if he has not received faith in Him.  Only because I entrust in Amida, being convinced that His Primal Vow is true and reliable, I am capable to express gratitude. This is why I always explain the nembutsu as the natural expression of faith and gratitude.
It is natural because it is not forced by my will and not created by my own power.  It is natural because in reality both faith (shinjin) and saying of the Name (nembutsu) comes from AmidaIt is the calling of our mother, Amida Buddha, to whom we, her children lost in the dangerous streets of samsara, answer immediately. It is due to the power of the Mother’s call and her love that the child is capable to answer and say, Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu, thus taking refuge and expressing gratitude. The child’s answer is the mother’s call that manifests like an echo in his heart and he answers, Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu.


Now there is another matter that troubles some people in relation with the Nembutsu.
One day we say nembutsu often, while the next day we might say it a few times. But there is no problem with this. Don’t worry. The number is not important.

Faith does not increase or decrease because we say the Name often or seldom in the same way gratitude to our phisical mother does not increase or decrease because we say „I love you, thank you” often or seldom. The gratitude and faith in your mother is there in your heart, no matter how often you express it verbally.
If you allow me another comparrison I used some other time –  we don’t always feel our breathing, but this doesn’t mean that breathing don’t exist. Sometimes we feel it better when, for example, we are fascinated by the clear air of the mountains or of a beautiful morning and we take long and deep breaths, while some other time we are too hurried and busy in our daily life to concentrate on it.
But the breath has always been there with you since you were born, being a part of yourself, just you don’t express it consciously every minute. The same applies to faith and nembutsu. The faith is there, inside you, since the first time you entrusted in Amida Buddha and you were born as a person of faith. No matter what you do in your every day life, eating, sleeping, going to toilet, spending time with your girlfriend or boyfriend, being sad or happy, sober or drunk, the faith is there and cannot be destroyed (once received) by anything, not even by the worst of your blind passions. From time to time you express this faith and your gratitude to Amida Buddha by saying vocaly or in your mind, Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu. 

So, don’t worry about anything, relax and enjoy saying the nembutsu of faith and gratitude whenever you like it. Amida doesn’t keep a record of how many times you said His Name :)). 

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4 comentarii:

Melvin Lim said...

Great post!


Unknown said...

My good friend Adrian is a a true student of Master Shinran. His Dharma messages are a reliable source of truth.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a Buddha at the end of this life should listen carefully to what Adrian has to say. That includes his exposition of the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way, and his teachings about divergences from the True Teaching.

Thank you, Adrian, for being a courageous voice of integrity in the Shin Sangha.


Paul Roberts


Anonymous said...

Dear Adrian,
I am confused about the relation of nembutsu recitation and shinjin. My current understanding: shinjin comes from the grace of Amida after I listen deeply. Nembutsu recitation is an expression of faith or gratitude, not a good act.
So what is the role or significance of nembutsu BEFORE shinjin? Should I do it? And if I should? Why?
Is Honen's view of the nembutsu different to Shinran's?

Richard (UK)

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

You can say nembutsu anytime, if you received or not have received shinjin yet. It is good to say the Name of Amida, even before shinjin. Just only after you receive shinjin, your nembutsu is truly in accord with Amida’s Primal Vow. This is the difference. As far as I know there is no instruction in the works of Shinran and Honen that one should not say nembutsu before shinjin.

To your question why should you say nembutsu before shinjin, I simply answer, why not ? :)
Say the Name of Amida whenever you like. Even those who say nembutsu with doubts, they in fact make a step closer to Amida’s true intention.
Not all people reach directly and immediately the nembutsu of faith and gratitude, or the nembutsu in accord with the Primal Vow. But this does not mean they should not say it.
So, I encourage people to make as many connections as possible with Amida Buddha and His Name, to simply say it and develop veneration toward this Buddha, listen to the teaching about Him and one day, they will reach that moment when they will say the Name in faith.

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