Friday, February 24, 2012

All Buddhas praise Amida's Name (short explanation of the 17th Vow of Amida Buddha)

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, innumerable Buddhas in the lands of the ten directions should not all praise and glorify my Name, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.” 
-the 17th Vow

In this vow Dharmakara promised that when he becomes Amida Buddha his Name will be praised by all Buddhas so that sentient beings are encouraged to entrust to it and say it in faith. Thus, the 17th Vow supports the 18th Vow (the Primal Vow) in which the saying of Amida’s Name in faith and with aspiration to be born in his PureLand is mentioned:

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment”[1].
               -the 18th Vow

Shinran said in Notes on Essentials of Faith Alone:

“This Vow of Compassion [the 17th] already shows that the Primal Vow, which encourages the saying of the Name, is the true cause of birth[2] selected by Amida”.

The method of saying the Name in faith[3], which is mentioned in the Primal Vow of Amida (18th Vow), is the easiest of all methods created by any Buddha to bring sentient beings to supreme Enlightenment. As it requires no special spiritual capacities or merit on the part of the practitioner, it means that all beings can attain freedom from birth and death through it. The true reason of any Buddha’s appearance in the world is exactly this, to save everybody, with no distinction whatsoever, letting no one outside. Buddhas have only this goal in mind, to help all beings attain Buddhahood and because of this they develop various methods and do their activities in many forms and places.

Seeing Amida’s method of salvation contained in the 18th Vow (nembutsu of faith) all Buddhas praise it because they realize that in comparison with the methods created by them this is the easiest and most effective in all times and places, especially when the capacities of beings are very low or actually inexistent like in this last Dharma age. They all praise and glorify the Name of Amida in order to encourage beings everywhere to say it themselves. Thus the Buddhas become living witnesses of the efficacy of saying Amida’s Name in faith.

So, this vow shows that Amida has the perfect method among all methods and thus he is the supreme Buddha among all Buddhas. To be the supreme Buddha does not mean he is the boss of all Buddhas, but that he has the best method of saving sentient beings. Not only other Buddhas praise Amida’s Name, thus encouraging beings everywhere to say it in faith, but they also work in many hidden and unknown ways to guide us and make us all accept Amida’s method of salvation. This is also the meaning of the 17th Vow.

This vow also shows that the Name of Amida Buddha is not just another name like for example, “John” or “Smith” and saying of this Name is not an ordinary saying of any name. On the contrary, it is the Name that all Buddhas say and glorify. Buddhas are supreme in the universe, no one is their equal in Wisdom, Compassion or anything else, and so if the Name of Amida is recited and glorified by all Buddhas it means that this Name is also supreme in the universe.

The Name, Namo Amida Bu, contains all the merits and virtues of Amida Buddha and is the manifestation of his Enlightenment. Through Amida’s Name ultimate Buddhahood is made accessible to all beings upon birth in the Pure Land. Ordinary unenlightened beings can attain Buddhahood and freedom from birth and death only through Amida Buddha’s Name said in faith.

[1] See the commentary on the 18th Vow in my article „Three Vows of Salvation” where I also explain the 19th and the 20th Vows.
[2] Birth in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha.

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