Monday, April 23, 2018

The Ten Benefits of faith in Amida during this life: 8.The benefit of being aware of Amida’s benevolence and of responding in gratitude to His virtues; 9.The benefit of constantly practicing great compassion





As I explained at the chapter related with the Primal Vow, faith gives us two kinds of awareness:
1) that we are people of deep karmic limitations, incapable to attain Buddhahood through our own power; and
2) that only Amida Buddha can save us through His Vow Power (Other Power), without asking anything from us.

The repeated births and deaths of samsaric existence are not a matter of mythology but a real danger for the unenlightend beings and the most important problem to be solved while we are still enjoying the rare karmic circumstance of being born a human being and meeting Amida Dharma. If the follower deeply realizes that samsara is not the place where he should build himself a destiny, but a never-ending cycle of momentary or false hapiness and disatisfaction, and that he cannot escape from it through his own powers, he may reach the point when  he accepts Amida Buddha’s helping hand that is extended to him.
In the next passages we see  how Shinran expressed his awareness of Amida’s benevolence after he received faith:

„Under the guidance of Buddhas who appeared in this world,
Three times the sands of the Ganges in number,
We awakened the aspiration for supreme Enlightenment,
But our self-power failed, and we continued to transmigrate.”[1]

"Were it not for the ship of Amida's Vow,
How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?

With minds full of malice and cunning, like snakes and scorpions,
We cannot accomplish good acts through self-power;
And unless we entrust ourselves to Amida's directing of virtue,
We will end without knowing shame or self-reproach"
.[2]

He also said:

„Ah, hard to encounter, even in many lifetimes, is the decisive cause of birth in the Pure Land, Amida’s universal Vow; and hard to realize, even in myriads of kalpas, is pure shinjin (faith) that is true and real. If you should come to realize shinjin, rejoice at the conditions from the distant past that have brought it about".[3]

„Although we feel the weight of the Buddha’s compassionate benevolence, it is indeed difficult to repay it."[4]

It is difficult to repay Amida’s benevolence, that is, to respond in gratitude to His virtues. As Shinran said, even if the virtues of Amida would be praised „for a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas, by tongues a hundred thousand countless kotis of nayutas in number, each tongue producing countless voices, still those virtues could not be exhausted."[5]

However, there are two things we can do. We can say the Name of Amida Buddha as an expression of faith and to say „thank you” for His unconditional salvation and we can help other beings to enter into contact with Him:

"To spread great compassion everywhere and guide others
Is truly to repay the Buddha’s benevolence."[6]

„ 'What is 'great compassion'? Those who in their turn encourage others to practice the Nembutsu are called those who practice great compassion.'"[7]

So, it is clear that the benefit of constantly practicing great compassion in this life (the 9th benefit) means to encourage others to say the nembutsu of faith in Amida. This is in accordance with Shinran’s encouragement: „entrust yourself in Amida and help others entrust to Him[8]:

"Let those who realize shinjin that is Other Power,
In order to repay the Buddha's benevolence,
Spread the two aspects of Amida's directing of virtue
Throughout all the ten quarters".[9]

To „spread the two aspects of Amida's directing of virtue” means to convince people of the truth that Amida can save them by bringing them to His Pure Land where they attain Buddhahood/perfect Enlightenment (the first aspect of Amida’s directing of virtue) and that once they become Buddhas in the Pure Land they are able to return in various samsaric realms to guide others to the Pure Land (the second aspect of Amida’s directing of virtue).

"Foolish beings of the lowest level, fettered by their karmic acts and blind passions, are transmigrating in the five evil courses for a hundred thousand myriads of kalpas. But suddenly hearing of the Pure Land, they awaken aspiration and seek to be born there. [...]

Know that such an encounter is rare, even in a myriad kalpas. In a thousand lifetimes, a person might encounter the Vow but once. From this day to the very end of time, wherever you are, give praise to the Vow, and wherever you may go, encourage others to hear it."[10]

"It is the most difficult of difficulties for one to believe in the teaching of Nembutsu and make others believe it, too. To transmit the great Compassion of Amida Buddha to others and to spread His teachings far and wide is the true repayment of the benevolence of Amida Buddha."[11]

By receiving shinjin (faith) we become part of the salvation work of Amida Buddha, a link in His chain of Great Compassion. As people of faith, we can naturaly influence others towards faith if they are open enough, or at least we can help them make a little connection with Amida. Every person, human or non-human, who knows somebody who has genuine faith in Amida can somehow make a little step further towards Amida.
Not all those who have faith become teachers or priests, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be living examples of faithful devotees. Also, people of faith can do various activities in the benefit of Amida Dharma by sharing texts related with Amida, supporting true teachers and temples, etc. Any of the  actions mentioned in this article are a natural manifestation of the need to repay the benevolence of Amida Buddha and are the way we practice great compassion in this life.





[1] 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.403 
[2] Shozomatsu Wasan, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.421-422
[3] Shinran Shonin, Passages on the Pure Land Way, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.303
[4] Shantao quoted by Shinran in Kyogyoshinsho, VI, Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 271
[5] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Pure Land , The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.321
[6] Master Shan-tao quoted by Shinran 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. 130
[7] Kyogyoshinsho – On Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment, chapter III, translated by Hisao Inagaki, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Kyoto, 2003, p. 129
[8] Rennyo Shonin also said: „Settle your shinjin well and make others settle their shinjin.", Thus I Have Heard from Rennyo Shonin (Rennyo Shonin ‘s Goichidaiki Kikigaki), translated by Hisao Inagaki, Dharma Lion Publications, Craiova, 2008, p.20
[9] Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Dharma Ages, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.419
[10] Shinran Shonin (Gutoku's Notes), quoting The Commentary on the Amida Sutra by Yan-chao, master of the Vinaya school (Master Tai-chih), The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.598
[11] Master Shan-tao, Hymns in Praise of Birth in the Pure Land, quoted by Honen Shonin in Commentary on the Three Sutras of Pure Land Buddhism, 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.87

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