Friday, April 20, 2018

The Ten Benefits of faith in Amida during this life: 4. The benefit of being protected and cared for by all the Buddhas and 6. The benefit of being protected constantly by the Light of Amida's heart



If the 1st benefit described the protection of various powerful unenlightened beings (worldly protectors), the 4th speaks about the protection of all Buddhas (enlightened protectors), and the 6th refers to the special protection of Amida Buddha himself. I decided to explain the 4th and 6th benefit together because they are interrelated.

The 4th and 6th benefits include but are not limited to, protection against various influences from external evil forces, sorcery, black magic, evil spirits, etc.
Shinran Shonin said:

„That the Buddhas protect persons of shinjin is truly beyond doubt”.[1]

"The Nirvana Sutra states:
The Buddha said to Bodhisattva Kasyapa, 'If there are sons or daughters of good families[2] who always sincerely perform the exclusive practice of the Nembutsu, whether they dwell
in mountain forests or in villages, whether they practice it in the daytime or at night, and whether they do so while sitting or lying down, Buddhas and World-honored Ones always
watch over them just as if they were before their eyes, and are ready to accept their offerings and endow merits to them.'”[3]

"When you singlemindedly recite Amida’s Name, Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta will always follow you and protect you, just as shadows follow objects. They are like your close friends and teachers".[4]

„When we say 'Namo Amida Butsu',
Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta,
Together with Bodhisattvas countless as the Ganges' sands or as particles,
Accompany us just as shadows do things.


Countless Amida Buddhas reside
In the Light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light;
Each one of these transformed Buddhas protects
The person of true and real shinjin

When we say 'Namo Amida Butsu',
The countless Buddhas throughout the ten quarters,
Surrounding us a hundredfold, a thousandfold,
Rejoice in and protect us."[5]

„Shakyamuni, Amida, and the Buddhas of the ten quarters, all with the same mind, are no more apart from sentient beings of the nembutsu than shadows from things.”[6]

"'When I [Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta]was in the causal stage,
I realized insight into the nonorigination of all existence
By coming to possess the mind of nembutsu;
Hence now, in this world of Saha,
I embrace persons of the nembutsu
And bring them into the Pure Land.'”[7]


"Amida and a vast and numberless saintly host, consisting of innumerable manifestation-bodies of Buddhas, of Avalokitesvara, and of Mahasthamaprapta, appear in person to be alongside and always protect those who have realized true and real shinjin, at all times and in all places".[8]

„Since persons of true shinjin are guarded in this world, the Smaller Sutra of Immeasurable Life speaks of 'the protection of the countless Buddhas in the ten quarters'. This does not mean that they guard such persons after birth into the Pure Land of peace, but rather that they watch over them with protecting thoughts while such persons are still in this Saha world."[9]

Shinran Shonin quoted Master Shan-tao in his Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling:

"'There are sentient beings who solely think on Amida Buddha; only these people are constantly illumined by the Light of that Buddha's heart, grasped and protected, never to be abandoned. It is not at all stated that any practicers of various other acts are illumined and embraced. This is being protected in the present life, a manifestation of the decisive cause of birth in the Pure Land'.[10]

Then he explained some words of the passage as follows:

"'There are sentient beings who solely think on Amida Buddha': signifies entrusting oneself with wholeness of heart to Amida Buddha.

'These people are constantly illumined': 'constantly' means ever, without pause.
'Without pause': the person of true and real shinjin (faith) is ever illumined and protected, at all times and places. Since he or she is constantly protected without pause by the heart of Amida, this Buddha is called the Buddha of Unceasing Light.

'Protected' means that the Buddha protects the person of shinjin without pause - in all places, at all times, and without discrimination among people. 'Protected' means that one cannot be deterred by those who have taken up other teachings and beliefs, nor obstructed by those of different understandings and practices; one is not threatened by the heavenly demon Papiyas, nor troubled by evil gods and demons.”[11]

As we have seen in the last passage mentioned above, protection of Amida’s Light can also be understood in the sense that shinjin (faith) can’t be lost once we receive it from Amida. This is why it is said:

'Protected' means that one cannot be deterred by those who have taken up other teachings and beliefs, nor obstructed by those of different understandings and practices”.

In chapter seven of Tannisho it is also said:

"To practicers who have realized shinjin, nonbuddhists present no obstruction."[12]
There were some non-Buddhists in my life who tried to convince me that I will go to hell because of not following their religion. Of course, such attempts to frighten me failed not because I posses some special powers, but because my faith (shinjin) is not an intelectual creation which sometimes I have and at other times I don’t.

It is not by accident that in Jodo Shinshu we have the expression “diamond-like shinjin”. That which gives power to our faith is its origin – the Mind and Heart of Amida Buddha[13]. We are stable and constant in our faith due to Amida’s influence on us, His protection and the protection of all Buddhas. Amida’s Power is always working inside our minds and keeps us on the right Path to His Pure Land. A person who has genuine faith in Amida will never fall back to nonbuddhist paths, never embrace wrong views or doubt Amida’s salvation. On the contrary, he will, due to Amida’s protection and the protection of all Buddhas, be constant in his profound understanding that self-power is useless in attaining supreme Enlightenment, and so he will never waver from true and real faith (shinjin) in Amida which is so rare to meet in our decadent age:

"Through the words of the witness and protection
Of the countless Buddhas throughout the ten quarters,

We should realize that the mind of self-power aspiring for supreme Enlightenment
Is incapable of reaching fulfillment.

Realization of true and real shinjin
Is rare in the defiled world of the last Dharma-age;
The witness of Buddhas countless as the sands of the Ganges
Reveals how difficult it is to attain[14]".[15]

All Buddhas give witness to and praise the wonderful salvation work of Amida. Thus, they act like compassionate parents who only wish the best for their children, carrying for us, nurturing us, leading us to faith (shinjin) in Amida, and being sure that we do not deviate from it:

"Sakyamuni and all the other Buddhas
Are truly our compassionate father and mother.
With various compassionate means they lead us to awaken
Supreme shinjin that is true and real."[16]

„Shinjin is bestowed through the compassionate means of Sakyamuni, Amida, and all the Buddhas in the ten quarters”.[17]

As all Buddhas are involved in the process of our entrusting to Amida, it’s logical that they will never leave us after we actually entrust to Amida Buddha.
If   „the true and fundamental intent for which all the Buddhas, past, present, and future, appear in this world, is solely to teach the inconceivable Vow of Amida"[18], then there is no reason to doubt that these Enlightened Ones will always protect the people who are in accord with Amida’s Primal Vow (Amida Dharma):

„The Buddhas of the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges,
Teach this Dharma (Amida Dharm/the Primal Vow) that is most difficult to accept;
For the sake of the evil world of the five defilements,
They bear witness to the teaching and protect beings who take refuge in it.”[19]

Coming back to Shinran’s explanation of the passage quoted previously from Master Shan-tao, we read:

„'Never to be abandoned': these words teach us that the person of shinjin is embraced and protected by the heart of the Buddha of Wisdom-Light and that he or she is never abandoned, but always resides within that heart of light.

'It is not stated at all that any practicers of various other acts are illumined and embraced': 'various other acts' signifies all the various kinds of good acts. Thus, it is not the case that any who perform sundry practices and incline toward different forms of discipline are illumined and embraced; they are not protected. This sentence urges us to realize that such people do not receive the benefit of being grasped by Amida, for they are not practicers of the Primal Vow. It means that they are not protected in the present life.

'This is being protected in the present life' means that Amida protects us in this world. This karmic power of the Buddha, fulfilled through the Primal Vow, is the strong cause of the attainment of Birth by the person of shinjin; hence it is called the decisive cause".[20]

Honen Shonin also said in relation with this:

" The merit of protection by Amida Buddha is received in daily life. This is because one who has genuine belief in birth in the Pure Land holds no doubt. Amida Buddha casts eighty-four thousand rays of His Light of compassion upon one who is resolute in the attainment of this goal. Amida Buddha shines this Light continually on the nembutsu practitioner in daily life and up to the final moment of that person's life. For this reason, it is called the 'Vow by which Amida Buddha never abandons the nembutsu devotee."[21]

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 permanently 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. However, if one is not yet opened to Amida’s Light (His Primal Vow) one cannot benefit from the blessings and protection this Light gives during the present life. This is why Shinran said, „such people do not receive the benefit of being grasped by Amida, for they are not practicers of the Primal Vow”The path of birth in the Pure Land is stated clearly by Amida in His Primal Vow: „entrust yourself to me, say my Name and wish to be born in my land”. If people do other practices than the above three recquirements, that is, if they are ‚practicers of various other acts” or if they „perform sundry practices and incline toward different forms of discipline” (other Buddhist or non-Buddhist methods) if they rely on their self power to attain birth in the Pure Land or if they have the goal of attaining Buddhahood in the present life, etc, then they do not benefit from the protection of Amida’s Light. This is not because Amida is angry at them for not following His Primal Vow, but because they refuse to make the karmic connection with Him that will make them being born in His Land. By closing their minds to Amida’s method of salvation, they cannot benefit from what Amida is offering to them. The path leading to birth in the fulfilled land of the Pure Land is made up exclusively of : „entrust yourself to me (Amida), say my Name and wish to be born in my land”. Anything else leads to various other places or realisations, but not to the Pure Land, so its logical that they cannot benefit from the protection and guidance of the Master of the Pure Land.

Here it is a question and answer on the protection of all Buddhas and Amida in this life which I think it might be useful to prevent possible misunderstandings:

Question:
“I still don’t understand how a person is ‚protected’ by these various Buddhas and by Amida if a person’s karma can’t be changed in the present life”.

Answer:
In the moment you entrust to Amida Buddha your karma has its root cut off or sterilyzed, in the sense that it cannot plant its seeds into another life – that is, you will no longer be subject to birth and death. But in this life you continue to experience the effects of your past actions from previous lives or of those actions you commit until the moment of death. So, we should not make any confusion and think that after we receive shinjin we should always be happy or always experience happy circumstances.

Since, with shinjin, we are protected from rebirth in the unenlightened states of existence, no being (visible or invisible) can destroy our faith or divert us from the Buddhist path, and the attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land is guaranteed. These are some ways through which the benefits of being protected and cared for by all the Buddhas and of being protected by the Light of Amida’s heart manifest themselves.





[1] Shinran Shonin, Shoshinge, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.305
[2] The expression “sons and daughters of good families” means males and females disciples of Buddha.
[3] Nirvana Sutra, as quoted by Shinran in his Kyogyoshinsho, chapter III, Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 127-128
[4] Shinran Shonin quoted Master Shantao in Kyogyoshinsho, chapter III, Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 132
[5] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Pure Land (Jodo Wasan) - Hymns of the Benefits in the Present, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.352-355
[6] Shinran Shonin, Lamp for the Latter-Ages, letter 2, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.526
[7] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Pure Land - Hymns to Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, based on the Sutra of the Samadhi of Heroic Advance,The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.357
[8] Shinran Shonin, Notes on the Essentials of Faith Alone, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.453
[9] Shinran Shonin, Lamp for the Latter-Ages, letter 7, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.532-533
[10] Shan-tao's Methods of Contemplation on Amida Buddha as quoted by Shinran Shonin in his Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.478
[11] Shinran Shonin, Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.479
[12] The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.665
[13] See the chapter
[14] Because people tend to dismiss the path of birth in the Pure Land through simple faith in Amida as being too easy to be true, all Buddhas give testimony to it, thus attesting to the effectiveness of this path  its utmost importance.
[15] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Dharma Ages (Shozomatsu Wasan, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.409-410
[16] Shinran Shonin, Hymn of the Two Gateways of Entrance and Emergence, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.629
[17] Shinran Shonin, Lamp for the Latter-Ages, letter 2, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.527
[18] Shinran Shonin, Passages on the Pure Land Way, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.260
[19] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Pure Land (Jodo Wasan), The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.347 
[20] Shinran Shonin, Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.478-480
[21] Honen Shonin, Essential Discourse on Birth in the Pure Land through Nembutsu, The Promise of Amida Buddha - Honen's Path to Bliss; English translation of the Genko edition of the works of Honen Shonin - Collected Teachings of Kurodani Shonin: The Japanese Anthology (Wago Toroku), translated by Joji Atone and Yoko Hayashi, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2011, p.126

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