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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Unenlightened beings are not the same with Amida Buddha

Question:
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

P.S.
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.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The meaning of Arya Sangha in Jodo Shinshu

Question:
When you say the Three Refuges and take refuge in the Sangha, do you take refuge in ordinary unenlightened people or in the Arya Sangha, like other Buddhist schools do?

Answer:
In Mahayana Buddhism, the term Arya[1] Sangha represents the sangha at the ideal level, that is, all of the Buddha’s followers, lay or ordained, who have at least attained the first level of the ten bodhisattva stages (ten bhumis)[2]. This is to separate it from the sangha in its conventional level which means all Buddhist monks and nuns.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A short question and answer on worshiping Maitreya and Amida Buddha


- adapted from a letter to a friend - 

Question:
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?

Answer:
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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Some elements of genuine faith (shinjin) in Amida Buddha


Question:
Thank you for writing to me about the elements of listening deeply to Amida Dharma. Would you please make a short list with some important elements of true faith (shinjin)?

Answer:
- to accept the actual, literal existence of Amida Buddha and His Pure Land. I explained this in my article, If  Amida's Primal Vow is True. Please read it carefully. Without accepting the actual, literal existence of Amida Buddha there can be no true faith, no true salvation and no real birth in His Pure Land. 
- to accept the story of Amida Buddha as told by Shakyamuni Buddha
- to wish to attain Enlightenment/ Buddhahood
- to wish to be born in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha for the attainment of Enlightenment/Buddhahood

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Some elements of listening deeply to Amida Dharma


Question:

What should I do in order to listen deeply to Amida Dharma? Please, give me some examples of listening deeply.

Answer:
- Think that solving the matter of repeated births and deaths is the most important thing in your life.
- Put aside all other Buddhist or non-Buddhist teachings, philosophies, and opinions and listen (reading is also listening) only to Amida Dharma.
- Put aside what you think you know and listen to what Amida Dharma has to say. Empty your cup (mind) of your so called, personal "wisdom", and stay open to receive the nectar of Dharma. Consider that you know nothing and that Amida Dharma knows everything.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A question on shinjin (faith) and Amida's attainment of Buddhahood


Question:
"Amida attained Buddhahood for all of us when he became Enlightened. 'Shinjin' is simply the realisation of that fact with total conviction which in turn compels us to recite in thanksgiving "Namo Amidabutsu" ("Namo Amitofuo"). I wonder if it contradicts Jodo Shinshu".

Answer:
Shinjin (faith) is NOT only the realisation of the fact that Amida attained Buddhahood. Of course, Amida did attained Buddhahood in order to save us all, but this is not enough. All Buddhas attained Buddhahood and wish to save us, but this does not mean that sentient beings are saved just because Buddhas are Enlightened. We must follow the method prescribed  by each Buddha if we want to attain Enlightenment ourselves. So, Amida Buddha made His Primal Vow in which He said we should entrust to Him, say His Name in faith and wish to go to His Pure Land.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I don't miss meditation since I met the Primal Vow


Question:
Do you ever feel like anything is "missing" for you without regular meditation?

My aswer:
I really do not feel something is missing... For an ordinary person meditation is useless anyway because no one can attain Enlightenment through it in this last Dharma age. More than this, meditation can even be a distraction from the Primal Vow. If Amida wanted us to practice meditation and considered meditation to be helpful to us, then He would have included it in His Primal Vow, which He didn't. As Honen said, Amida chose only His Name from the myriad practices. Why? Because this Name is supreme and all-powerful, and will take us quickly to freedom from birth and death.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My answer to a comment comparing Zen with Jodo Shinshu

Faith, saying of the Name and wish to be born
 in the Pure Land are the only three elements
 of Amida's Primal Vow. 
A person wrote to me recently as a comment to my article, "Faith is simple, nothing special", comparing Zen with Jodo Shinshu. Here are some ideas that he expressed:

"I just want to add that in other traditions to "gain mind" is also deprecated. In Soto Zen the ideal state is the Mushotoku (no gain mind), achieved by growing Bodaishin / Boddhichita. The practice of Shikantaza in Soto Zen is not successful if not "just sit". There is no  egoic intent to achieve something in Shikantaza".

He also compared the koan in Rinzai Zen with what Shinran called, giving up to any calculations. Then he mentioned this: "I would say that any practitioner of any Mahayanist school who is practicing with an obsessive mind for results, is in error". 

This was my answer:
As long as they are not enlightened, sentient beings will always have an obssesive mind. Only a Buddha can just sit in shikantaza; any other person is just an immitator. Also, only the Buddha can be without ego, sit without ego, and do whatever He wants without any personal goal. Thus, only a Buddha is trully Mushotoku.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Amidaji is strictly a Jodo Shinshu temple - short discussion between me and Zuio Inagaki Sensei

the altar of Amidaji Temple
I was recently asked by Rev Zuio Hisao Inagaki (June 22nd 2016):

"I wonder if your temple is purely Jodo Shinshu or Zen or combination of both. I am in favor of seeing a combination of both, or a new way of Buddhism".

This was my answer:

My temple is strictly Jodo Shinshu. I am strongly against any combination between Jodo Shinshu and Zen or Jodo Shinshu and anything else.

As Shinran or Rennyo did not make any combination, I myself will make none. We are ignorant, unenlightened beings and so we do not have the authority nor the wisdom to play with various Dharma gates  or create a "new way of Buddhism", as you say. I even think that this is very dangerous and leads people into confusion. We, as priests and teachers should try to be as simple as possible, so that even illiterate can understand the Call of Amida, and have a simple faith in Him. We live in times of great confusion in the international sangha with various clerics and scholars teaching many wrong views, like the "Pure Land is here and now" or "in our minds", or describing Amida as a metaphor, fictional character, etc, and this makes ordinary people to depart from true birth in the Pure Land. To add another obstacle to this big mountain of confusion, like mixing Jodo Shinshu with Zen, is something I will never do.

My goal is to escape Samsara as quickly as possible, and to help others escape it as quickly as possible. Without the Primal Vow, there is no chance of doing this, and in the Primal Vow there is no mention of anything else than entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha, say His Name in faith and wish to be born in His Pure Land. Thus, Amidaji is a temple which limits itself to the Primal Vow. 

***
Here is another short question and answer between me and Inagaki Sensei:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Dharma activities go beyond any affiliation and institution


Recently a member of Higashi branch of Jodo Shinshu wrote to me and said that although he likes the way I teach Jodo Shinshu and how I stand up against modern divergences, he does not like the idea of leaving his branch or joining a new one.

I answered that my intention is NOT to create another branch of Jodo Shinshu, nor to attract people to the Nishi (Hongwanji-ha) branch, but to awake followers of all Shinshu branches, or without any affiliation, to the true Amida Dharma as it was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, Shinran and Rennyo. When I teach or discuss the Amida Dharma I don't make any distinction between followers of Nishi, Higashi or any branch. All I want is that the seed of true teaching be planted in the minds and hearts of all followers of Shinran Shonin, and the bad roots of wrong views be cut forever from all various Jodo Shinshu branches. So I think that my attitude would be better described by words such as, orthodox, non-sectarian and all-inclusive.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Depend on Amida, not on your feelings


There is no need to create something
special into your mind.
By saying Namo Amida Bu in faith 
you accept that everything necesary 
to your salvation depends entirely 
on Amida Buddha. 
Question:
How can I say that I have or don't have shinjin (faith) if there is no special feeling I should associate it with?

Answer:
Rather than asking yourself, "do I feel the right thing" in relation with shinjin (faith), you should better ask:

- do I accept Amida Buddha's salvation as promised in His Primal Vow, that is, do I entrust myself completely to Him?
- do I accept that only Amida Buddha can save me through His Power from birth and death and that nothing which can be found in my unenlightened personality can help me in any way in achieving this goal?

If your answer to the above questions is YES, I DO, then you are a person of faith.

So, you are a person of faith not because you feel the right thing, or because you have an intelectual understanding of all Buddhist concepts, including faith, but because you accept and you know  that Amida Buddha and His Pure Land are real and that He saves you by assuring your birth there after death.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rights versus Dharma Responsability

- fragment from a letter to a priest who embraced wrong views -
  
Recently, a priest wrote to me:
"I have the right to my own views. What you do in your books and on your website is to judge others because you do not agree with them. This is outrageous".

My answer:
From the legal or juridical point of view, you have the right to do everything you want with Amida Dharma. This is because we are fortunate to live in countries where freedom of speech is guaranteed.  But from the moral and Buddhist point of view, you do not have the right to change Amida Dharma, and the reason for this is very simple -  you are not a Buddha. 

As a priest and teacher you do not have rights, but responsabilities toward the Amida Dharma and sentient beings who come in contact with it. This is not a matter of you and me agreeing with each other. The sangha is not a social club, but a place where we should be in harmony with the Dharma. Please bear this in mind.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A short question and answer on the home altar

Yasodhara venerating the Buddha by placing her head upon His feet.
I myself like to place my head on the feet of Amida images/statues and kiss them. 
Question:
"Some say that a Jodo Shinshu follower must have a home altar (butsudan), while others say this is not important. What do you think?"

Answer:
I think it depends on each person. Let me give you an example from daily life.
Some are capable to remember their loved ones even if they don't carry their photos with them every day. Others, even if they also never forget their loved ones, they enjoy looking with love and affectionate thoughts to their photos. I myself never forget the girl I love, even when I do not see her for many days or weeks, but I like to look at her photo anytime I can, so I always carry  one of her photos with me, in my pocket. It is the same pocket I carry a photo with Amida Buddha, too :)

This is somewhat similar with having an altar dedicated to Amida Buddha and an image with Him in your own room. You are never far from Amida, and you know He is always with you, but because your unenlightened eyes of flesh cannot see Him, you may wish to have a painted image with Him and His Name in Chinese or English characters. There is nothing wrong with this, but on the contrary, it may prove helpful.

Also, have you ever kissed a photo of your dear ones, when you thought to them or missed them, or simply out of love for them? In the same way, you can have an image of Amida Buddha to whom you can offer flowers or bow to it, or touch your forehead with it, or even kiss it with devotion. I myself like to do all these things with images of Amida Buddha. It is the way this ignorant and devotional peasant likes to express his devotion to his Savior.

But of course, you may be different and you might not feel the need to have sacred images at home. Both choices are ok, as long as you have faith (shinjin), because faith is all that matters. And if you are not yet established in faith, sacred images may help in creating connection with Amida Buddha, along with listening to the true teaching about Him.


- fragment from a letter to a friend -

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Why do I call myself an orthodox priest


Before reading Dharma texts we raise them to the forehead.
This signifies the Dharma is supreme and above personal
views and opinions.
I was recently asked how I dare to consider myself an orthodox Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest and say that some other nowadays teachers/priests are mistaken...

My answer is that I do NOT dare anything in relation with Jodo Shinshu! On the contrary, I am very "frightened" when I think to Amida Dharma. Since I have become a priest and started to wear the kesa of Nembutsu faith I am constantly under a great fear. It is the fear that I can make a mistake and somehow misguide people with personal ideas. And it is because I have this fear that I stick to the words of the sutras and the Masters of our lineage.
Because I am stupid and they are all-wise, because I am nothing and they are supreme, because I am unenlightened while Shakyamuni who told the story of Amida Buddha was Enlightened. This is why I am an orthodox Jodo Shinshu follower.

I am an orthodox Jodo Shinshu priest because I am responsible and I know my place and limitations. Just like I do not dare to behave like a surgeon and operate people on open heart, I also do not dare to behave like a Buddha and change His Dharma. This unique Dharma (Amida Dharma) can save beings from birth and death only if it is followed as prescribed by the Buddha and the Masters, so I do not dare changing it.  

I am an orthodox Jodo Shinshu follower and priest because I have abandoned any idea of personal authority over the Amida Dharma. It is because I humble myself at the feet of Shakyamuni and the Masters of our tradition, not teaching what they did not teach, and not transmitting to others what they did not transmit, that I call myself an orthodox Jodo Shinshu follower. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pure Land as a state of consciousness or a real place?


Question: I was told that the Pure Land is a state of consciousness and not a real place with forms and manifestations. What do you think?

Answer:
States of consciousness do not exclude forms and manifestations. In fact, depending on the states of consciesness one dwells in, various forms appear. Thus, for unenlightened beings, samsaric bodies and realms come into existence as effects of their specific karmic obscurations. When one becomes a Buddha, transcendental manifestations arise (see the article on Three Bodies/Aspects of Amida Buddha) as the effect of Enlightenment and the wish to save all beings.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Question and answer on intellectual obstacles to shinjin


Question:
Recently, I have been reflecting on my not having shinjin. The problem is I don't know WHY. Any blocks or obstacles to my receiving of Amida's gift of shinjin must be unconscious as I don't have any conscious obstacles at all.

Answer:
What can I say….
Have you ever wondered that perhaps you complicate your mind? I mean what do you want this shinjin to be, that you stress your mind about it, so much? 
It is especially because people tend to complicate their minds and think that shinjin must be this or that thing, that I wrote the article, Faith is simple, nothing special.

Perhaps your mind still thinks that something must happen when you entrust to Amida, or is waiting for something to happen when you have faith. Dear friend, you will NOT change a bit after entrusting yourself to Amida. You are not supposed to constantly feel anything special if you entrust to Amida. There is really nothing there if you entrust to Amida, except a simple faith and Amida who helps you – assures you of your birth in His Pure Land.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A question and answer on samsaric realms and the Pure Land


Question:
If the Pure Land actually exists as real place, that means that the hellish realms and other samsaric places exist literally as well - as a result of our collective karma, as you said in your book. So I would like to know your thoughts about this: if the Pure Land is not symbolic and exists in a specific place (like to the west), does that mean that places such as hells also exist literally in specific places outside of our minds? 

Answer:
Yes, the hells exist specifically as places outside of our minds, too, but they exist because of the minds of those who have a hellish karma. The realm we are living in now exists outside of our minds too, because, as we see, we have these bodies, we have mountains, oceans, forests, etc, I can look to you and you can look to me (there is nothing mythological or symbolic or fictional in this), but in the same time, it exists because of our minds and our karma. My mind, your mind, plus all the other minds of human beings and their karma are the causes for such a human place to exist. The mind streams of beings need their vehicles, and so the worlds and bodies come into existence due to the individual and collective karma of various mind-streams.