Showing posts with label QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

If you have a question, ask the Dharma

studying the Dharma in Amidaji library
 It is the way of Amidaji to always ask the Dharma in both the most important aspect of the afterlife as well as the details of our daily life.

Do you want to understand samsara? Contemplate the Dharma texts which describe the various sufferings of samsaric existence.

Do you want to escape samsara? Contemplate the teachings of Shakyamuni and the Masters of our lineage on the salvation offered by Amida Buddha and never forget the simple requirements from His Primal Vow, “entrust to me, say my Name and wish to be born in my land”.

Do you want to know about Amida and His Pure Land? Do not ask deluded scholars and priests who complicate their minds and others with difficult theories and who cannot accept their real existence. Better ask Shakyamuni and read the testimony of Ananda and all those present on Vulture Peak when the Larger Sutra was taught, who actually saw Amida and His Pure Land with their very eyes! 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Where is Amida Buddha? (very short answer)

Where is Amida Buddha?

My answer:
Amida Buddha is in three places at the same time:

1) in ultimate Dharmakaya beyond form,
2) in Sambhogakaya form in the Pure Land, and
3) in various, unlimited manifestations or Nirmanakayas which are spread everywhere in the ten directions.

Amida’s Dharmakaya has no beginning and no end, because it is uncreated, and always existing. This is the Buddha-nature which does not depend on causes and conditions. Amida’s Sambhogakaya or transcendental (recompensed) body which He has manifested in the Pure Land has a beginning, when Bodhisattva Dharmakaraattained Enlightenment and became Amida Buddha, and will have no end, as He promised in His 13th Vow.
The various Nirmanakayas (accommodated/transformed) bodies have a beginning when Amida in Sambhogakaya form decides to emanate them and an end if He decides to terminate them.

When we ourselves will attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land, we’ll have access to the ultimate reality beyond forms (Dharmakaya), we’ll dwell forever in transcendent form (Sambhogakaya) in Amida’s Pure Land, and in the same time, we’ll go in all the places of the universe in various bodies of accommodation or transformation (Nirmanakayas) to save all beings.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A question on spirits

"If I see or feel the presence of negative spirits arround me, how do I send them away? And what if they refuse to leave?"

My answer:
Why send them away? Just leave them alone. Let them stay and listen to your Nembutsu, let them hear your thoughts and words of faith. One day, they will become bored with a guy like you who minds his own business and constantly says Nembutsu, or even better, they might be influenced by your devotion and entrust to Amida themselves. In Jodo Shinshu we do not exorcize, nor fight with spirits, rather we convert them by our example. The urge of Shinran, "receive yourself faith and help others receive faith" applies to this, too.

It is good to be friendly towards the spirit world. Realize that spirits, ghosts and various types of nonhuman beings inhabit the same space with us. Your land is their land, too. Some are in the same place for hundreds or thousands of years, so they have the same right as you to be here. Who are you to tell them to go away? Let them be and focus on living a life of gratitude with as little damage as possible to other beings, and focus on Nembutsu.

All beings suffer, no matter they are humans or non-humans. Some spirits may like you, feel neutral towards you or may be inclined to hate you due to karma from the past. No problem! Let them hate you, while you just focus on Nembutsu. How much can somebody hate another person if that one does not respond to the hate and minds his own business!
Offer incense to Amida Buddha in the name of all beings, including the spirits of the place where you live, and make aspirations for them - "may they be healthy in body and mind, may they have all the necesities of life, may they create indestructible connections with Amida Buddha, entrust to Him, say His Name ( Namo Amida Bu) and wish to be born in His Pure Land". Also pray to Amida to help them, although He already tries His best to help. However, if you pray for them, they will feel your good intentions.

If you think this way, if you say Nembutsu and have devotion and faith, the invisible beings who happen to live there or just pass through, will know your thoughts and might be inspired to entrust to Amida and say Nembutsu themselves, and if not, they will finaly leave you alone as they see that you are no threat to them. In fact, they cannot harm you even if they try, because if you have faith (shinjin) you automatically benefit from the protection of Amida and all Buddhas.
So again, no matter what you see, hear, or feel arround you, just focus on Nembutsu and mind your own business.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

No need for special consecration ceremonies for Amida's images

Question: Should I ask a priest to consecrate the image of Amida Buddha before or after I install it on my altar?

My answer: There is NO need for that. You can simply ask nicely Amida Buddha to bless your image or statue, and I am sure He will not refuse you 🙂. But you do not even need to ask or think about a blesing or consecration as Amida's blessings are always received by those who have faith in Him. If you say Amida's Name in faith while looking to an image of Amida, that is all the consecration you need.

Why should somebody intervene between you and Amida Buddha? The role of the priest or teacher is only to guide you to become more open to Amida, answer your questions, teach you the right Amida Dharma, warn you against wrong views, etc, and nothing more. The priest does not have special powers to attract Amida's blessings than any other ordinary person of simple faith. So don't worry and don't fall prey to those who pretend to be followers of our school and assume such a fake mystical role.

Jodo Shinshu Buddhist path (Amida Dharma) is a personal relation between Amida Buddha and you. As long as you say His Name in faith, Amida is always present. In fact, He has been present for all beings since He attained Buddhahood, always trying His best to make them trust Him and connect to His Pure Land. However, because everything is cause and effect, one who is not opened or not connected to Amida, cannot receive His blessings, just like a TV set cannot work if its not connected to a power outlet.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ceremonies for joining the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist school

Question: What kind of lay ceremonies are offered for those who wish to enter Jodo Shinshu?

Answer: The following is only a short answer without entering into details.
In Jodo Shinshu lay people can receive: 1) confirmation ceremony – kikyoshiki or 2) refuge ceremony - kieshiki.

1)      Kikyoshiki (confirmation ceremony) can be given only by the Monshu-sama (Head Priest) of Nishi Hongwanji main temple in Japan, by the retired Monshu (Zenmon-sama), or by somebody appointed by them

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

No need for ritual empowerment or initiation to connect with Amida Buddha

Question: Do I need to receive rituals of empowerment or initiations in order to connect with Amida Buddha?

My answer: You don't need empowerment to connect with Amida Buddha. The greatest of all Buddhas is always available to you and offers His salvation freely and without any intermediary.
All you need to do is accept His helping hand, say His Name in faith and wish to be born in His Pure Land after death. In His Primal Vow, Amida did not mention any empowerment, but only "entrust to me, say my Name and wish to be born in my land". If nothing else was mentioned there, then you do NOT need anything else. Through following the three requirements of His Primal Vow you enter into karmic relation with Amida Buddha and into the stage of those assured of birth on His Pure Land. 
Any other practice associated with Amida Buddha which is not related with the three elements of His Primal Vow should NOT be your concern, because it does not constitute Amida's main intention. Jodo Shinshu is the school of the Primal Vow. We follow exclusively the requirements of the Primal Vow and by doing this we are always in direct connection with Amida Buddha.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Attitudes when doing ordinary offerings or Dharma offerings

Question: What should be the attitude when we help others with material things or if we are priests and offer teachings?

My answer:  When you give something to a poor person, (and I encourage my Dharma friends to make constant offerings of food, money, clothes, or whatever one can, to those who are in difficult situations), you should be humble, respectful and grateful to them for accepting your offering.
Be respectful as poverty is hard to bear and any insult can add immensely to their suffering. Be humble and grateful at being offered the opportunity to help them, as this will also help you to develop compassion and fulfill your filial duty towards your parent like sentient beings.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Our attitude towards those who try to harm us or lead us away from Amida Dharma

"While holding the Nembutsu in your heart
and saying it always, please pray for the present
life and also the next life of those who slander it
Question: What attitude should I have, as a Jodo Shinshu disciple, towards those who try to harm me or lead me away from Amida Dharma?

Answer: The truth is that there is NO being who was not, somewhere in the beginingless past, your own mother and father. So, you should look to them as to your own parents who went mentally sick, and cannot recognize you. This is not just a metaphor, but the truth in accordance with the Buddhist teaching. Samsara is a disturbed horror movie, in which loving parents from a previous life may kill their children in the next, and vice versa. However, even if we accept this Buddhist truth of inter-relatedness of all beings, we should be aware of our present limitations and do not pretend to be saints when we know we are not, so perhaps for the majority of us is better to stay away from those who wish to harm us or lead us astray with their behavior. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Don't bring worldly activities into the temple

inside the Hondo (Dharma Hall)
of Amidaji temple

Question: What do you think about the idea of having a bar in the temple – I heard some Japanese priests are doing it to attract people. Other temples organize parties or cultural events for the same reason.

Answer: I saw a lot of people praising that bullshit with Japanese Buddhist priests transforming temples into bars or having a bar on the temple grounds to attract people. Also, other Jodo Shinshu temples around the world organize bazaars, and even parties with alcohol for members and visitors. I find this to be disgusting. Such things will never happen at Amidaji. The temple should be a gate to the Pure Land, a place for listening deeply to Amida Dharma, and NOT for promoting our blind passions and worldly amusements.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Nembutsu vs mantras and dharanis related with Amida

Amida Buddha image
at the altar of Amidaji temple
Question: Can we chant various mantras or dharanis associated with Amida Buddha/Amitabha from the esoteric schools instead of His Name? 

Answer: In His Primal Vow (18th Vow) Amida Buddha exclusively mentioned the saying of His Name (Nembutsu), so we only say His Name. As no mantras or dharanis are mentioned there, we do not recite them. From the myriads of practices, related or not related with Him, Amida chose His Name, so we must be in accord with His wish. I explained this aspect in more detail here (click to read).

Being a Buddha, He knows better why He only chose the Nembutsu in His Primal Vow, so we should not busy our minds with something that goes beyond our limited capacities, but follow His command and say His Name exclusively. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Is Amida Buddha a real person or a symbol/metaphor?

the altar of Amidaji temple
- fragment from a letter to a friend - 

Question: Is Amida a symbol or metaphor for Wisdom and Compassion? Some scholars nowadays support this idea.

Answer: Those scholars are wrong. Amida Buddha is NOT a symbol or metaphor for Wisdom and Compassion, but a real, existing Enlightened Person possessing Infinite Wisdom and Compassion. 
I always insist on the actual, literal existence of Amida Buddha and His Pure Land because without realizing and accepting this existence, faith of unenlightened people becomes abstract and false. There can be no real faith without a real object of faith – in our case, Amida Buddha.
If you can’t say it to yourself and others that the object of your faith is a real, living Buddha, then you don’t have faith. No matter how great scholar you are, if your knowledge and study has not simplified your faith, and if you can’t talk about faith in simple terms, then you don’t have faith.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Nembutsu of faith - the genuine saying of the Name of Amida Buddha

last updated and revised December 19th 2018

Question: How can I be sure that I say Nembutsu in the right way? You often use terms like “the genuine/true Nembutsu”. What is it exactly and how it differs from a Nembutsu said in the wrong way?

Answer: The Name of Amida Buddha is not your property, and it does not work because of you. It works because of Amida. Your saying of the Name is effective because Amida put all His Power and infinite merits in His Name.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A short discussion on suicide by Pure Land followers

Victory Banner - symbol of the victory
of Buddha Dharma. People of shinjin are victorious
  over death and rebirth, because they entrust
themselves to Amida's Power, and are assured of birth 
in the Pure Land, so their last life as samsaric beings may
be one of service, helping others to entrust to Amida and 
be sure of birth in the Pure Land. 
Question by D.K.: Some ancient accounts tell of Pure Land disciples committing suicide in order to go to the Pure Land. I've heard some Buddhist scholars say that this is equal to killing a Buddha... because by killing oneself one is tampering with karma and because we ALL have a Buddha nature. Please tell me dear Rev. Josho what your take on this is. Namo Amida Bu

My answer: Killing oneself is NOT the same with killing a Buddha. This does not even worth discussing. All I can say is this - if one has shinjin (faith in Amida) the conditions of his death (suicide or other causes) does NOT matter because he will certainly go to the Pure Land. However, a person of shinjin can continue his life in human form to help others receive shinjin too, as Shinran advised, "receive yourself shinjin and help others receive shinjin". This is the attitude of our school, and not like those people from who knows what "ancient account" (definitely NOT from the account of our school!). 

What is the rush to go to the Pure Land by suicide, when we’ll certainly die sooner or later? Lets live a life of faith, try to be an example of faith for others, spread the Amida Dharma or help others spread it, and don't make society think that we are a sect of desperate suicidal people who can't handle life.

D.K.: I agree. I myself have entrusted myself and my karmic destiny to Amida. So my future in this realm of Samsara has been entrusted to Him.  I was just curious as to our school's view on this topic.
My answer: Certainly I have never seen in Shinran's writings any condemnation, or encouraging of suicide. But I clearly saw an encouragement to live a life of faith and helping others receive faith. This being the case, I gave the above answer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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

 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?

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:

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Question on Buddhism and science

click here for the source of this cartoon
Question: Do you think that Buddhism should take into account scientific discoveries, and even change to accommodate science?

Answer: Many people nowadays bow to science like to an all-powerful and supreme god. But in samsara, and especially now in this dark (mappo) age, nothing is supreme and all-knowing, including what nowadays people call, "science". Whenever somebody wants to argue about something, he says, "it was proven by science".... But what some scientists agree upon, others may disagree, so I don't see the point in praising a transitory "truth". 

I do not deny the benefits brought by science in various fields, nor its usefulness in discovering the laws of the material universe, but I am against using science as a standard for religious truths. No matter the immediate, material benefits it brings, we must never forget that science is the product of unenlightened minds, and so it doesn't have the supreme authority of a Buddha who is perfectly Enlightened, nor it has any authority over the Path that leads to Enlightenment and freedom from the repeated births and deaths.

So, let's use science in worldly matters and Buddha Dharma in religious matters. We must never attempt to modify the Buddha Dharma to accommodate it with various scientific theories.

I especially like these words of Chamtrul Rinpoche:

"If you took all of the knowledge that this world has ever produced, and compared it to the knowledge of an omniscient mind of a Buddha, it would be like comparing a single drop of water to the entire ocean."

Friday, May 26, 2017

Unenlightened beings are not the same with Amida Buddha

Recently a F.B. friend of mine has starting posting statements that "I and Amida are one and the same." This person is an avid reader of Ippen Shonen, the Hijiri, and has come to share many of the Zen / Pure Land views that Ippen taught concerning interconnection of all things. Personally I cannot agree with this line of thought as I see it as presumptuous, arrogant and quite possibly slanderous.
Please give me your take on this line of thinking and tell me if you think it goes against the teachings of our Pure Land Masters.
Gassho _/l\_
Dave Kruemcke

Please feel free to share this conversation with others if you feel it will be in any way beneficial to The Dharma.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Do not worry about the salvation of your loved ones

One of my dearest Nembutsu friends wrote to me recently and expressed his worries about some of his deceased or living relatives who haven't received faith in Amida yet, and who might now dwell (or will be born after death) in various painful states of existence, even in hell. He was concerned that there is too much time left until he reaches the Pure Land and will be able to save them.
The following was my answer to him:

Dear M:
We never really know what others may become after they die. Certainly, if they did not have settled faith in Amida during their present life, they will not be reborn in the Pure Land and immediately attain Buddhahood. But this does not mean they will absolutely go to hell. The truth is we can never know what karma may manifest during their bardo (intermediary state between death and the next rebirth).

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Don't do many things, just focus on the recquirements of the Primal Vow

Recently, a reader wrote to me:

"We do many things at our temple, we meditate, do various practices, so we never become bored. Why don't you do the same to attract new members?"

In His Primal Vow Amida Buddha mentioned that we should do three things only and exclusively, "entrust yourself to me, say my Name, and wish to be born in my land". All these three are expressed in the Nembutsu of faith.

Its a pity you are bored with the Primal Vow, and that you and your temple sangha are not focused on what Amida asks you to do.  If in the Primal Vow meditation was mentioned, then I would teach and practice meditation. But as only faith, nembutsu and wish to be born in the Pure Land are to be found there, I obey and limit myself to them. Please do the same if you wish to be born in the true fulfilled land of the Pure Land[1]. Our school is the school of the Primal Vow, so if you consider yourself a member, then be a follower of the Primal Vow.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A short question and answer on worshiping Maitreya and Amida Buddha

Amida Buddha and Eight Great
Bodhisattvas, among which there
is Maitreya
I respect and worship both Maitreya and Amida Buddha. They have their own realms and practices associated with them. I also worship and respect all Buddhas. What is your opinion about this?

Its good to respect all Buddhas, but we must remember that each Buddha has His own way of relating with sentient beings. Maitreya has a different way, and Amida has a different way. If we want to connect with Amida Buddha we must follow His instructions from His Primal Vow "entrust to me, say my Name and wish to be born in my land". Nothing else. So, in order to be born in Amida's Land we must focus on Amida exclusively, that is, entrust only to Him, say His Name only, and wish to be born only in His Pure Land. This is very easy to understand.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A short Dharma dialogue on meditation in relation with Jodo Shinshu

Question by Zakaj:
You say meditation is useless. But what if someone were to tell you: "Yes, I know meditation is useless for attainment of Enlightenment in Mappo era. But I don't do it for that reason. I do it for the neurological benefits that are proven by science" - what would you reply then? Thanks.

NEW poems by Gansen John Welch