Saturday, March 31, 2012

Short explanation of the 12th Vow - the Infinite Light of Amida Buddha

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my light should be limited, unable to illuminate at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
                                                                                                            the 12th Vow

This is the Vow in which Dharmakara, the future Amida Buddha promises that his Light as a Buddha will be infinite.
This infinite Light embraces, protects and brings the wisdom of faith (shinjin) into the hearts and minds of people who are open to Amida’s message of salvation. 
In the Contemplation Sutra, chapter 17, it is said:

Buddha Amitāyus[1] possesses eighty-four thousand physical characteristics,
each having eighty-four thousand secondary marks of excellence. Each
secondary mark emits eighty-four thousand rays of light; each ray of light
shines universally upon the lands of the ten directions, embracing and not
forsaking those who are mindful of the Buddha.

Shinran Shonin also said in his Hymns of Benefit in the Present:

Countless Amida Buddhas reside
In the light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light;
Each one of these transformed Buddhas[2]  protects
The person of true and real shinjin.[3]

This Light of Amida dispels the darkness of the minds of sentient beings giving them the capacity of seeing themselves as they really are, that is with no chance of attaining Buddhahood by any self power practice and of perceiving the salvation of Amida as true and real, capable to liberate them forever from birth and death. This twofold vision is the effect of Amida’s Light into the minds and hearts of the devotees. This is what we feel, understand and accept when we become open to the Light of Amida, that is when we receive shinjin. The Light of Amida also protects us from wrong understanding of the teaching. False teachers can’t influence us and we’ll never distort the essentials of the Jodo Shinshu Dharma in our presentations.

The Light of Amida is always sent toward beings in all the corners of the universe – “hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands”.  “A thousand kotis” is a symbol for infinite, “kotis” being an incomprehensible number, beyond our capacity to calculate. “Buddha lands” are all the places and worlds in the universe as it is considered that each world system is governed or taken care of by a Buddha who appears and preaches the Dharma there. Some world systems are lower or higher on the spiritual evolution scale while some are especially manifested by the Enlightenment and Vows of great Buddhas, like the Medicine Buddha (Yakushi Nyorai), Green Tara’s Land, etc. The devotees of each great Buddha who owns a special Pure Land will go there through various practices that make them connected with that specific place and once born there they continue their practice under the guidance of that Buddha. But in all these Pure Lands, the Light of Amida is also seen and praised, especially by the Buddhas who govern those lands and who show it to their devotees. This is because all Buddhas are aware of the wonderful method of Amida’s salvation and recommend it to all beings[4].

In the chapter eleven of the Larger Sutra it is said:

“The majestic light of Buddha Amitāyus is the most exalted. No other Buddha’s light can match his. The light of some Buddha illuminates a hundred Buddha lands, and that of others a thousand Buddha lands. Briefly, that of Amitāyus illuminates the eastern Buddha lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River. In the same way, it illuminates the Buddha lands in the south, west, and north, in each of the four intermediate directions, and above and below.” […]

“The light of Amitāyus shines brilliantly, illuminating all the Buddha
lands of the ten directions. There is no place where it is not perceived. I am
not the only one who now praises his light. All the Buddhas, śrāvakas,
pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas praise and glorify it in the same way”.

So, Amida’s Infinite Light is a transcendent manifestation capable to go anywhere in the universe. It can be seen by beings of superior capacities, humans or non-humans, and felt in the hearts and minds of the believers in the aspect of shinjin. Amida’s Light is a permanent presence upon beings everywhere, opened or not opened to it. Through his Light Amida tries permanently to influence beings and make them accept his salvation contained in the Primal Vow (18th). It is like an immense magnet attracting all beings to him. Some become opened to it sooner while others will do so in the future. Amida will continue sending it until all hells are empty and all beings will become Buddhas. 

Read my commentaries on other Vows in the category 

[1] Amitayus means „infinite Light” while Amitabha stands for „infinite Life”, the two aspects of Amida Buddha.
[2] Manifestations of Amida Buddha which accords with the particularity of each being.
[3] Read my article “The Ten Benefits in this life of a Nembutsufollower”, especially the fourth and sixth benefit.

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