Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Why did Shinran say that we should not wait for Amida’s coming at the moment of death?



Question:
 Why did Shinran say that we should not wait for Amida’s coming at the moment of death? Will Amida not come for people of shinjin?

Answer:
The person who has faith in the Primal Vow does not wait for the final moment of death to have a good state of mind in which to say Nembutsu and be welcomed by Amida Buddha, but receives faith during his present life when he  becomes assured of birth in the Pure Land, which will actually happen at the moment of death, when he is naturally welcomed  by Amida Buddha and attains Budhahood. The Nembutsu one says during one’s whole life is thus the expression of faith and gratitude, and not the self power nembutsu. When Shinran said that we should not wait for Amida's coming at the moment of death, he did not mean that we are not actually received by Amida in His Pure Land when we die or that He might not send one of His manifestations to us in our final hours before death! Of course Amida can do that if He wants! What Shinran meant is that we should not think that the moment of death is more important than our daily lives, and we should not attach a false significance to it, fearing that if we do not have a good state of mind or concentration in those final moments, then we will not go to the Pure Land. No matter we are or we are not in a concentrated or good state of mind when we die, no matter if we say the Nembutsu or die without saying it because of unforeseen circumstances, we will be welcomed by Amida Buddha in His Pure Land if we already entrusted ourselves to Him and said His Name in faith during life. Shinran explained:

"I, for my own part, attach no significance to the condition, good or bad, of persons in their final moments. People in whom shinjin is determined do not doubt, and so abide among the truly settled. For this reason their end also - even for those ignorant and foolish and lacking in wisdom - is a happy one.”[1]

 Thus, our birth in the Pure Land does not depend on our saying the Nembutsu often or seldom, or if we say it in the special moment of death, but on the faith we have in the Power of Amida Buddha, which is what makes the Nembutsu effective and our birth there attainable.
As Honen said,

 "Nembutsu relying on Other Power [i.e. Amida Buddha] makes birth in the Pure Land possible, but nembutsu relying on self-power will never result in birth in the Pure Land".[2]

A person of true faith says the Nembutsu without attaching a special significance on time, place or circumstance. Honen Shonin also said,

Our daily nembutsu and nembutsu at the time of death are no different at all. When we are visited by death, our daily nembutsu becomes nembutsu at death; if our life is prolonged, nembutsu at death becomes nembutsu of daily life."[3]

Namo Amida Bu



[1] Shinran Shonin, Lamp for the Latter Ages, letter 6, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.531
[2] 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.119
[3] 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.125

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