Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Ten Benefits of faith in Amida during this life: 2. The benefit of being possessed of supreme virtues

This benefit means that by entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow we receive His merits and virtues which cause us to attain birth in the Pure Land:

"When sentient beings of this evil world of the five defilements
Entrust themselves to the selected Primal Vow,
Virtues indescribable, inexplicable, and inconceivable
Fill those practicers".[1]

„All beings, having heard Amida’s virtuous Name,
Attain joyful faith, rejoice in what they hear,
And call his Name even once. The person of sincerity, Amida,
Endows merit to them. All who aspire for birth in the Pure Land attain Birth there.
Hence, I prostrate myself to worship him and aspire to be
born there.'"[2]

Shinran Shonin explained in his work “Passages on the Two Aspects of The Tathagata’s Directing of Virtue”:

“Concerning the directing of virtue through the power of the Primal Vow, the Tathagata’s directing of virtue has two aspects: the directing of virtue in the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land and the directing of virtue in the aspect for our return to this world.”[3]

The directing of virtue (merits) in the aspect for our going forth means that by receiving shinjin during this present life we are made to be born in the Pure Land where we become immediately Buddhas[4]. The directing of virtue for our return to this world means that as soon as we become Buddhas in the Pure Land we return to this world in various forms to help all beings. Both these aspects are the transference of merit from Amida Buddha to us which we receive in the form of shinjin (faith/entrusting heart) and nembutsu (saying of the Name). In fact, every one of the benefits presented in this study are the manifestation of Amida’s transference of His store of karmic merit to us; they are all the gifts of Amida.

Here it is a question about the merit transference from Amida Buddha and my answer:

Question:
“When I first experienced gratitude and said the Nembutsu, Paul[5] wrote and said, “He (Amida) not only knows your name, but He has given to you His own store of infinite karmic merit.” Does that “karmic merit” only apply to what happens after this life?”

Answer:
In the moment you receive shinjin, as Paul said, you also receive Amida Buddha’s store of infinite karmic merits. This means that you have entered the stage of non-retrogression in this life (see the 10th benefit) and you become assured of birth in the Pure Land exactly as you are. In this way Amida’s karmic merit applies in this life. But this doesn’t mean that you are free of any suffering while still alive. You can’t always experience happiness in this world because your mind still remains unenlightened until you die and you are actually born in the Pure Land.

You ask questions like why are you not happy here and now since you have shinjin, but the answer is that you are not happy because you are not a Buddha yet! An unenlightened mind cannot be happy, no matter what it has and what kind of pleasant circumstances it encounters. On the contrary, you can experience bliss and lack of suffering when you are born in the Pure Land because then you become Enlightened. Only an Enlightened mind can be truly happy. This is why Amida’s Pure Land is called “The Land of Peace and Bliss”.
Jodo Shinshu is not a path of becoming a Buddha in this life, so you cannot become perfectly happy here. Only a Buddha can be perfectly happy in this world, because His mind is a Buddha Mind, an Enlightened Mind, Awakened and Free.  Anywhere He goes he is free and happy. However, with shinjin your unenlightened mind is assured of birth in the Pure Land – this is the meaning of this second benefit.




[1] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Dharma Ages, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.406
[2] Hymns in Praise of Amida Buddha (Tsan a mi t’o fo chieh) composed by Master T’an-luan, as quoted by Shinran Shonin in Kyogyoshinsho, chapter III,  On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 88
[3]Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.633
[4] See the 10th benefit.
[5] Paul Roberts, disciple of Eiken Kobai Sensei and webmaster of the Shin Ugly Blog and the True Shin Buddhism Yahoo! group.

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