Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Ten Benefits of faith in Amida during this life: 7. The benefit of having great joy in our hearts

The receiving of faith (shinjin) is equivalent with escaping a great burden. We know that we’ll become Buddhas in the Pure Land of Amida, no matter our present situation. This joy is like the relief you feel when a great burden is taken from your shoulders, and indeed there is no greater burden than to be unenlightened and a slave of samsaric existence. The burden of your liberation is carried by the Buddha called Amida, who already crossed the Path for you. Anybody who carries a great burden is happy when that is taken away from him, so you can be happy or feel relief when you first entrust to Amida Buddha, if attaining Buddhahood or final liberation from birth and death is the most important matter for you. However, this doesn’t mean that hour by hour, minute to minute, second to second, you will think on Amida or feel a continuous joy as to jump in the air. Our lives are in such a way that we can always be overwhelmed by daily problems and worries. But its ok, its simply ok to be like this. We are not compelled to always jump with joy because we are saved by Amida. Despite of this, the salvation of Amida is always present, as our simple faith in Him remains with us since we first received it in our hearts. I usually explain that faith, once received, becomes like breathing, always being there although you don’t always express it consciously. We don’t always feel our breathing, but this doesn’t mean that breathing doesn’t exist. Sometimes we feel it better when, for example, we are fascinated by the clear air of the mountains or of a beautiful morning and we take long and deep breaths, while some other time we are too hurried and busy in our daily life to concentrate on it.

But the breath has always been there with you since you were born, being a part of yourself, just you don’t express it consciously every minute. The same applies to faith and Nembutsu. The faith is there, inside you, since the first time you entrusted in Amida Buddha and you’ve become a person of faith. No matter what you do in your every day life, eating, sleeping, going to toilet, spending time with your girlfriend or boyfriend, being sad or happy, sober or drunk, the faith is there and cannot be destroyed (once received) by anything, not even by the worst of your blind passions. From time to time you remember that you are accepted as you are and saved by Amida Buddha, feel again the relief of somebody who no longer needs to rely on himself to attain freedom from birth and death, and so you express this faith and say „thank you” to Amida with Namo Amida Butsu.

We can also compare the situation with being in prison. Just imagine that somebody you trust assures you that you will be released in one year. That one year in which you are still in prison is of course difficult, but you also know for sure that your day of freedom will soon come. So you are able to feel relief and joy remembering your assurance, no matter how hard your everyday life in prison still remains. As Shinran explained:

„'Joy' (kangi): means to rejoice beforehand at being assured of attaining what one shall attain.”[1]

However, and I say it again because it’s extremely important - 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 should always  be ready to go to the Pure Land. So, I explain the joy mentioned at this benefit as a kind of relief at knowing that you will attain birth in the Pure Land at the end of your phisical body, and NOT as a constant ecstasy, happiness, serene state of mind, or something like that. We know we are assured of the attainment of Nirvana when we die and we are born in the Pure Land, but until then we remain ordinary beings filled with attachments to our bodily existence. Thus, even if our every day sorrows, difficulties and attachments cover the sky of faith, we know deep inside that we are assured of Amida’s salvation and that the suffering of samsara will not last long for us anymore:
As Shinran said:

„The clouds and mists of greed, desire, anger, and enmity
Continually cover the sky of true faith;
Yet, just as the sunlight is obstructed by clouds or mists,
Below them it is light and there is no darkness.”[2]

[1] 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.474
[2] [2] Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, chapter II,  translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 76-77

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