Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Five conditions for birth in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha

- updated and revised on Oct 26th 2016 - 

Master Rennyo
According to Master Rennyo , there are five conditions that someone must meet in order to be born in the Pure Land:

1) stored good from the past
2) a good spiritual teacher
3) Amida’s light
4) the entrusting heart (shinjin)
5)  the saying of Amida Buddha's Name (nembutsu)

1) The stored good from the past
The "stored good from the past" represents our good karma from past lives and this life which manifests itself as an opening or receptive state of mind towards the message of the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha.
A lot of people hear the teaching about the Primal Vow but few are opened to it. This openness is very important in our tradition and is the manifestation of the good stored from the past. Also, if you listen again and again to the teaching in this life, thus becoming immersed with all your being in the Dharma, this listening will become a “stored good” which will make you open to the call of the Primal Vow.

2) The good spiritual teacher
The good spiritual teacher is the one who guides us to the Path of reliance on the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. He (or she) is the messenger who urges us to take refuge in Amida and his apparition is also a manifestation of the stored good from the past. His message can be received only in the opened state of mind I explained before.
In Jodo Shinshu the teacher is called Zenjishiki (kalyanamitra in Sanskrit) which is translated as a “good friend on the path”. It is not to be mistaken for the role of the Master or Guru in other Buddhist traditions.

The good spiritual teacher can also be a book written by somebody who had true faith and was loyal to the true teaching on Amida Buddha, or a sacred text. Thus, the good spiritual teacher might be someone who already went to the Pure Land but whose words and instructions help you to become open to Amida Buddha and entrust yourself to Him. In my case, I can say that I found answers to all my questions after reading A Standard of Shinshu Faith and other booklets by Ryosetsu Fujiwara, as well as various sacred texts in our tradition, like Tannisho, Shinran's Letters, Rennyo's Letters and the Pure Land sutras themselves. Thus, I cannot say that I had a living teacher or mentor.  

3) Amida’s light
Amida's Light represents the working and the wish of Amida Buddha to save (lead to Buddhahood) all sentient beings drowned in delusion. The manifestation of this work and wish is His Primal Vow.

Amida’s Light is a permanent presence upon beings everywhere, opened or not opened to it. Through His Light Amida tries constantly to influence beings and make them accept His salvation contained in the Primal Vow. 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, but Amida will continue sending it until all samsaric realms become empty and all beings attain Buddhahood. 

4) The entrusting heart (shinjin)
Because of the good stored from the past, we meet with a good spiritual teacher and we are open to his message – the Primal Vow (Amida’s light). At this very moment the so-called “Awakening of Faith” or the apparition of the entrusting heart (shinjin), takes place.
The entrusting heart (shinjin) means that the follower accepts the existence of Amida Buddha and relies exclusively on Him for the attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land.

5)  The saying of Amida Buddha's Name (nembutsu)
The true saying of the Name (“Namo Amida Butsu”) appears in the same time with the Awakening of Faith, as an expression of it and of gratitude towards Amida Buddha who saves us exactly as we are. This is the only nembutsu accepted in our tradition – the Nembutsu of faith and gratitude.

The “stored good from the past” and the “spiritual teacher” are only conditions which create a beneficial environment for Amida’s Light to manifest, but they are not the direct causes of our birth in the Pure Land. Only the entrusting heart (shinjin) is the direct cause.
The “entrusting heart” and “saying of the Name” are the manifestations of Amida’s Light in the heart of the practitioner, and cannot exist independently of Amida’s Light. Only because of Amida’s working and His wish to save us are we able to entrust in Amida and say the nembutsu. 

Master Rennyo explained in one of his letters:

“Prompted by the working of this light [Amida’s light], those endowed with past karmic good have come to attain the entrusting heart of Other Power. Thus, it has now become clear that the entrusting heart is bestowed by Amida Tathagata. Accordingly, we now clearly know that this is not the mind created by the followers but the great entrusting heart of Other Power given to us by Amida Tathagata.”

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