Saturday, December 29, 2012

The peace and happiness of faith (shinjin) - explanation of the 33rd Vow of Amida Buddha

last revised September 26th 2019 

The 33rd Vow can be linked with the first part of the 11th Vow because it refers to the present life of a Nembutsu devotee when he entrusts to Amida Buddha and immediately enters the stage of being assured of Nirvana (the “definitely assured state”):

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten directions, who have been touched by my light, should not feel peace and happiness in their bodies and minds surpassing those of humans and devas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment”.[1] (33rd Vow)

Sentient beings touched by the Light of Amida are those who entrust to His Primal Vow. They accept this Light, that is, His method of salvation. To be touched by Amida’s Light means to be opened to Him, to hear Amida’s call of “come as you are”. Such sentient beings, although remaining ordinary people until their birth in the Pure Land, they feel the happiness of knowing that they are free from birth and death, which is a freedom that not even devas (gods) experience. Indeed, what they received from Amida Buddha through faith (shinjin) cannot be compared with any attainment of unenlightened beings, no matter what high place they occupy in samsara. 

We may call this peace and happiness a form of relief, like when a great burden is taken from our shoulders, and indeed there is no greater burden than to be unenlightened and a slave to samsaric existence. No matter how much happiness the great gods who live eons of joy may experience, we ordinary people who entrust in Amida Buddha know that we received something which even they don’t have – the assurance that when our present life is over we will attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land.

We can compare the situation with being in prison. Those who know they will be released from it have more reasons to be happy than those who have all the pleasures in the world but continue to remain under bars. We are those who are promised freedom, so it’s normal that our happiness is greater[2].

It is very important to understand that the peace and happiness mentioned in the 33rd vow are not those which occur after the blind passions and ignorance are extinguished from the mind, because such peace and happiness comes only after birth in the Pure Land. The peace and happiness we feel upon entrusting in Amida Buddha is the relief of knowing that no matter what problems and sufferings we might still experience in this life, due to our attachments and karmic consequences, we know that this is our last life as ignorant beings and that our misery will not continue into another. We know that we are received as we are by Amida Buddha, with our minds that do not dwell in the peace of Nirvana here and now, but in hate, attachments, lust and all the 108 bonnos[3]

It is also the peace of knowing that no matter how we die, in our bed, or in the street like homeless people, no matter we feel good or bad, if we smile and die peacefully with the appearance of wise persons or we cry because of pain or fear, no matter if our death makes a good impression or not, if we die of old age or in our youth, we are accepted exactly as we are and we’ll be born directly in the Pure Land.

In His Primal Vow, Amida Buddha did not mention a special condition in which Nembutsu followers must live or die in order to be born in the Pure Land; He just promised that those beings who entrust in Him, wish to be born in His land and say His Name will be born there. 

Shakyamuni said in the passage showing the fulfillment of the 33rd vow from section 11 of this sutra:

“If sentient beings encounter His light, their three defilements are removed; they feel tenderness, joy, and pleasure; and good thoughts arise.”[4]

Again, this does NOT mean that we have no more delusion, greed, hate (the three defilements), or other blind passions while we are still here in our present bodies, but that they cannot plant their seeds into another life of samsaric existence and do not constitute an obstacle for our birth in the Pure Land. The joy, tenderness and pleasure is as explained above – to know we are saved and assured of birth in the Pure Land, to have the burden of our liberation carried by Amida, to no longer need to rely on ourselves on matters which are beyond our spiritual capacities, like attaining Enlightenment. The “good thoughts” that arise due to faith, which is the manifestation of Amida’s Light into our hearts and minds, are thoughts of a faithful mind, like knowing that we are saved unconditionally and that this is our last life as unenlightened beings, etc.

So, this is the peace and happiness of ordinary people who have faith in Amida. We can’t achieve more peace in this life, than the peace of faith (shinjin).

[1] The Three Pure Land sutras, translated into English by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, revised second edition, BDK English Tripitaka12-II, II, IV, Numata Center for Buddhist translation and Research, 2003, p.18
[2] However, we should not think that we must always feel such joy as to dance in the air in every moment of our life and that we are always ready to go to the Pure Land. This aspect is well explained in the ninth chapter of Tannisho. We know that we are assured of the attainment of Nirvana when we die and are born in the Pure Land, but until then we remain ordinary beings filled with attachments to our bodily existence. Please read „Commentary on the ninth chapter - no need of special feelings to be born in the Pure Land”, from my book, The Path of Acceptance – Commentary on Tannisho”, Dharma Lion Publications, Craiova, 2011. 
[3] Bonnos – illusions and blind passions.
[4] The Three Pure Land sutras, translated into English by Hisao Inagaki in collaboration with Harold Stewart, revised second edition, BDK English Tripitaka12-II, II, IV, Numata Center for Buddhist translation and Research, 2003, p.25

2 comentarii:

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful commentary :)
And absolutely true.

Josho Adrian Cirlea said...

I am glad you find it useful, Dave! Please go in the left column and download the whole book The 48 Vows of Amida Buddha. Here is also a link

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