Monday, November 24, 2014

"Good" for birth in the Pure Land

 - fragment from a letter to a friend - 

Question: I found the expression “good men and women” in a passage from the Smaller Amida Sutra. Should I become a “good man” in order to be born in the Pure Land? I am not a scholar, so please give me a simple answer, without entering into difficult details.

Answer: In fact, the expression you found in that passage is  "good men and women of faith”. “Of faith” is the key element of this expression and you should rely on it in order to understand the entire passage:

"Sariputra, those who have already aspired, now aspire, or in the future will aspire to be born in the land of Amida Buddha all dwell in the stage of non-retrogression for realizing highest, perfect Enlightenment. They have already being born, are now being born, or will be born in that land. Hence, Sariputra, good men and women of faith should aspire to birth there."
Shakyamuni Buddha - Smaller Amida Sutra (Amidakyo)

 "Men and women of faith” are called "good", not because they must be virtuous as a necessity for birth in the Pure Land, but because they are given Amida’s perfect virtues through faith.  In other words, Amida makes them good (suitable) for birth in the Pure Land, that is, he provides them with all that is necessary for rebirth there.

So, “faith” (shinjin) is the implicit meaning and the essence of this passage. Without reliance on Amida’s Power, one cannot go to the Pure Land as his/her “goodness” or personal virtues are simply not enough for such a goal.  But if men and women entrust in Amida Buddha, they “dwell in the stage of non-retrogression” in this life, and at the moment of death they are reborn in the Pure Land, where they attain the “highest, perfect Enlightenment”.

Thus, instead of struggling yourself to become worthy of the Pure Land, you should simply entrust to Amida and let him carry you there.

Namo Amida Butsu

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