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

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Good" for birth in the Pure Land

 - fragment from a letter to a friend - 

Question: I found the expression “good men and women” in a passage from the Smaller Amida Sutra. Should I become a “good man” in order to be born in the Pure Land? I am not a scholar, so please give me a simple answer, without entering into difficult details.

Answer: In fact, the expression you found in that passage is  "good men and women of faith”. “Of faith” is the key element of this expression and you should rely on it in order to understand the entire passage:

"Sariputra, those who have already aspired, now aspire, or in the future will aspire to be born in the land of Amida Buddha all dwell in the stage of non-retrogression for realizing highest, perfect Enlightenment. They have already being born, are now being born, or will be born in that land. Hence, Sariputra, good men and women of faith should aspire to birth there."
Shakyamuni Buddha - Smaller Amida Sutra (Amidakyo)

 "Men and women of faith” are called "good", not because they must be virtuous as a necessity for birth in the Pure Land, but because they are given Amida’s perfect virtues through faith.  In other words, Amida makes them good (suitable) for birth in the Pure Land, that is, he provides them with all that is necessary for rebirth there.

So, “faith” (shinjin) is the implicit meaning and the essence of this passage. Without reliance on Amida’s Power, one cannot go to the Pure Land because his/her “goodness” or personal virtues are simply not enough for such a goal.  But if men and women entrust in Amida Buddha, they “dwell in the stage of non-retrogression” in this life, and at the moment of death they are reborn in the Pure Land, where they attain the “highest, perfect Enlightenment”.

Thus, instead of struggling yourself to become worthy of the Pure Land, you should simply entrust to Amida and let him carry you there.

Namo Amida Butsu

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What is the meaning of faith and nembutsu?

When one has faith (shinjin), one is convinced that Amida Buddha and His Pure Land exists, and that the Promise He made in His Primal Vow is true, so he simply entrusts to this Buddha and wishes to go to His Pure Land (Buddha-field of Amida) after death. Saying Namo Amida Bu often or seldom means exactly this – “I entrust to Amida Buddha/I take refuge in Amida Buddha and I wish to go to His Pure Land”. It also means, “Thank you Amida Buddha for saving me and taking me to your Pure Land at the end of this physical body”.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Shinjin is not mind-created

-fragment from a letter to a friend-

Shinjin is just a simple faith, a simple entrusting to Amida Buddha in the matter of your rebirth in the Pure Land. It is not a mind-created intellectual system or a certain imposed state of mind. So please, do not force your mind and heart into always thinking the right thought, or to feel the right feeling…. You are who you are, an ordinary person with ups and downs, with moments of joy, and moments of sadness or depression. Indeed, there is not easy to be an unenlightened person, and no one leads an easy life here in samsara. But what you must never forget is that you are accepted as you are by Amida Buddha and that your birth in his Pure Land is assured at the end of your physical body. No matter how you live or how you die, you will surely go there, if you simply entrust yourself to Amida.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Just say the Name in faith

- fragment from a letter to a Dharma friend - 

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
When you say the Name, just say the Name. No matter if you feel something good or bad, if you are calm or have an agitated mind, just say the Name. When you say this Name you do not take refuge in your own mind, in the thoughts that appear in it, in your feelings or ideas, but in Amida Buddha who is outside of your mind.

Why bother with having the best attitude of mind when you say the Name?
This Name does not belong to you and its power is the Power of Amida Buddha, so you cannot improve it or damage it by anything that can be found in your mind.
I am telling you all these things repeatedly and in many letters, so that you do not have any fear that somehow, something that exists in your mind can be an obstacle to the saving activity of Amida Buddha. If you simply entrust yourself to Amida, and saying His Name means exactly this (that you entrust yourself to Him), you are saved just as you are, and no matter what happens to you or with your mind while you are still in this illusory body, your birth in the Pure Land is safe and you will surely go there, at the end of this present life.

Again, please do not busy yourself with your unpredictable mind; do not worry about it. It is normal for an ordinary, unenlightened person like you to have an unstable mind, and the Compassion of Amida Buddha is especially directed to such people.  You just say the nembutsu of faith and relax. Yes, you can relax, because your salvation and birth in the Pure Land does not depend on you, but on Amida’s Power. This is exactly why you say His Name, „Namo Amida Bu” (I take refuge/entrust in Amida Buddha), Namo Amida Bu, Namo Amida Bu…. You rely on Him, not on yourself. This is the true nembutsu – the nembutsu of faith.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Question: What part of our mind goes to the Pure Land?

Question: What part of our mind goes to the Pure Land? Is it the mind we currently have, in others words is it who we are now that goes to be born in the Pure Land?”

Answer: What we know for sure is that birth in the Pure Land takes place after physical death. This is what the Masters of our tradition clearly said, so we accept it.

At death, what we call ‘mind stream’ leaves the physical body and instead of passing through bardo (intermediary state) and then to other states of existence, it goes directly to the Pure Land where Enlightenment happens immediately. At that very moment, the delusions of our ‘mind stream’ are naturally melt like ice meeting fire, and our true enlightened nature will appear. So, we may say that we go to the Pure Land as we are, but once born there, in the safe and enlightened realm of Amida, ‘we’ transform into something completely different, that is, fully Enlightened Buddhas.

But all these things are inconceivable and beyond conceptual understanding, so I cannot enter into further analysis. Some aspects are imposibile to understand at the level we are now as unenlightened beings. Now all we need to do is to simply entrust to Amida. Jodo Shinshu is the path of simple faith, not of profound understanding in this life of the ultimate nature of mind.

Friday, April 18, 2014

No meditation, just nembutsu

UPDATE (April 22) - read bellow the initial article

Question: Is it ok for a nembutsu devotee to also practice various Buddhist or non-Buddhist meditation techniques and mantras, as a mean to calm one's mind or because of various positive effects these might have in one's daily life?

Answer: NO, it is not ok.
Your mind will never be calm – please learn to live with this. Life as an unenlightened person is hard, and there is nothing you can do to change this. So, just say the nembutsu of faith in Amida and wish to be born in His Pure Land after death. If you want to  busy your mind with something until you die, then say nembutsu as often as possible; say it many times and concentrate on it. Sometimes your mind might become calmer if you focus on nembutsu, even if calming the mind is not the goal of nembutsu. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Do not worry about wandering thoughts

Question: Whenever I say the nembutsu many good or bad thoughts appear into my mind. What should I do about them?

Answer: When you say the Name in faith, treat this nembutsu as the host and the wandering thoughts as guests. Just say the Name and let the good or bad thoughts arise and vanish, let them come and go as they please. Do not busy yourself with them, you just say the Name and entrust to Amida Buddha. There will always be something to appear into your mind and you simply cannot do anything about this. So, just entrust in Amida and let your changing mind be a changing mind.
Namo Amida Butsu

Monday, January 27, 2014

The safe enlightened realm of Amida Buddha

Question: Why are we urged to aspire to birth in the Pure Land, and why not try to attain Enlightenment here, in this world?

Answer: The environment in which we now live is the product of our karma and the inter-related karma of all beings. This impure common karma gave rise to an impure environment which also influences us and in which it is hard to have a true spiritual evolution. We ourselves are sick, our fellow beings are sick and the environment is also sick. This is why we are urged to aspire to be born after death, in the Pure Land. This land is the healthy enlightened realm of Amida, a suitable environment which is not the product of evil karma but of His pure karmic merits. Once born in such a sane environment our insanity is cured instantly, our delusions are naturally melt like ice meeting fire, and our true enlightened nature will appear.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What do I mean by "modern heresies"

- Fragment from a letter to a friend (please check the links embedded in the text) - 

Question: You often use the term "modern heresies" and equate these with slandering the Amida Dharma. Please explain in a few words what do you mean by it.

My answer: To deny the authenticity of the Pure Land sutras and the existence of Amida Buddha by calling Him a metaphor, symbol, fictional character or anything else than a real and living Buddha, to say that His Pure Land is in one’s mind, denying that birth in the Pure Land takes place after death, or mixing Amida Dharma with various non-Buddhist philosophies and worldly ideologies – this is what I call slandering the Dharma, becoming an enemy of the Dharma and cutting the root of the Dharma in one’s heart.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Letter to a non-Jodo Shinshu friend about modern heresies and respect for all Buddhist schools

This short letter was sent by me to a Buddhist friend who is not a Jodo Shinshu follower and who asked me about my “uncompromising attitude” in teaching Amida Dharma. I decided to post the letter here because it might be useful to others.

Dear M,

I really have no problem with various interpretations of Amida Buddha and his Pure Land if these are made from the perspective of other Buddhist schools. I do not mind if, for example, in many Zen circles from China and Japan, there is a clear rejection of faith in Amida as a real and living Buddha and of his Pure Land to be attained afterdeath. I also have no problem if somebody from Shingon claims that Amida resides only in one’s heart. This is because I accept that those who express such views are practicing a different Dharma gate than the Pure Land gate of Jodo Shinshu. But, as Honen Shonin said, we should clearly show the difference between the teaching of our school and other schools, and do not mix them:

Friday, August 26, 2011

The nembutsu meetings in the Romanian Shinshu Sangha

I was asked many times how we do things in the Romanian Shinshu sangha. How do we chant, if we do meditation, how is the Dharma talk, etc. The following is a short answer I gave today to a friend:

At Amidaji temple  and the dojos affiliated with it we chant (recite) in the traditional way - in sino-japanese, but we have the Romanian translation of the texts we use and the phonetic transcription. We usually recite either Shoshinge (hymn composed by Shinran), Sambutsuge (hymn from the Larger Sutra), Juseige (hymn from the Larger Sutra) or Amidakyo (Smaller Amida Sutra) followed by a (not fixed number) of Nembutsu recitations in the form of “NA MO AMIDA BU”. Thus, when we meet with  Jodo Shinshu followers from other countries, we can also have a common religious service (which is very easy to learn given the phonetic transcription), no matter which is their mother tongue. I find it wonderful to see people of different countries having a little service together, while they also have the translation in their own languages. This is also the reason why services are held at Hongwanji mother temple (Kyoto) in exactly the same way. However, our services are not complicated, and do not last long, as we give the most of our attention to Dharma talks and discussions.

I also make refuge ceremonies for those who wish to enter the sangha, when the new member chants together with the sangha The Three Refuges  followed by Ryogemon (Shinshu Creed) in Romanian. I also ask my members to learn Ryogemon by heart.

After the chanting, I give a Dharma talk on various topics of Jodo Shinshu teaching followed by questions and answers. I often ask my members various questions to check their understanding. The teachings I give are based exclusively on the sacred texts from the canon of our school. This is because in the Jodo Shinshu sangha of Romania ONLY the words of the sutras and the commentaries of the Masters of our tradition (Shinran, Rennyo, etc) are considered to be the true and real Jodo Shinshu teaching. In the rule 8th of  the dojos/temples from Romania it is written:

In the dojo only the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist teaching is taught in the exact way it was presented in the canonical texts of our school. Those who distort the teaching or wish to spread false views that are not present in the canonical texts, don’t have access at the dojo or temple. This rule applies to visiting teachers/priests, too “
No meditation is taught in the Romanian dojos/temples because Shinran and Rennyo did not taught meditation and our tradition is not about meditation. Also, in the Primal Vow, only Nembutsu, Faith and the wish to be born in Amida's Land are mentioned, and we do not feel the need to add something to it. Jodo Shinshu is a Buddhist teaching complete in itself and our single desire is to be in accord with the Primal Vow.
The greatest importance in the Romanian Shinshu sangha is placed on understanding the Dharma, listening the Dharma over and over again, asking questions, etc. Listening the Dharma is the only way to open the mind and heart to the Call of Amida Buddha.  This is in accordance with the teaching and instructions of Shinran and Rennyo who always emphasized listening the Dharma.
Chanting at the beginning of the meeting  is only as a prelude to listen to the Dharma and to express gratitude. But of course, if some people can't chant (although it is very easy and chanting can be learned in a few minutes by phonetic reading), they can simply stay silently with their hands in gassho and join us in the Nembutsu. 
At the beginning of the meeting, when people enter the dojo, they bow to the sacred image of Amida at the entrance, then they bow to greet the other members. They do the same at leaving the dojo. All members and visitors, no matter they are priests or lay, must follow the rules of the dojos.

I am trying to make my members aware of the modern divergences from the Shinshu teaching that are prevalent in our days so that they can stay away from them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The reason for the western location of the Pure Land and its wonderful description in the sutras

Question: „Why the Pure Land of Amida Buddha is called „the Western Pure Land” or „the Pure Land of the West”? Why the „west” is so much emphasized in many of the sacred writings related with Amida? And also why the Pure Land is described in such a fantastic way in the sutras?”

Answer: In order to show that Amida’s Pure Land is not a metaphor, but a real place in which people can actually aspire to be born after death, the land is given a direction and is described in great details in the sutras.
Some say that the direction „west” and the marvelous descriptions of the Pure Land are a proof for its non-existence or for its existence  as a symbol or metaphor only.

But the truth is that by making the effort to describe in many words the wonders of the Pure Land and by pointing to a direction where to face the Pure Land when worshipping Amida, Shakyamuni Buddha wants to emphasize its actual existence as a place where sentient beings should aspire to be born without worry and doubt.
It is like I speak to you about a beautiful park which I would like you to visit. If I tell you, „its there, in the west of the town” and I start describing it to you, then you will have no doubt about its existence and you will wish to see it. Its the same with the expression „Pure Land of the West”.

The exaltation with which Shakyamuni describes the Pure Land of Amida in the Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) without even being asked to do it[1], or the radiant light that emanated from his body when he delivered the Larger Sutra in which he expounded the story of Amida and his 48th vows[2], are both an indication that his words were true and his listeners should accept Amida as a living Buddha and his Pure Land as a real place.

[1] The Smaller Amida Sutra (Amida-kyo) is a sutra spontaneously delivered, not in response to a question, which is a proof of the importance of the teaching about Amida Buddha. In this discourse, Shakyamuni begins every description with great enthusiam, repeating the name of his main listener, Shariputra, telling him the wonders of the Pure Land and the uniqueness of Amida Buddha among all Buddhas.
[2] It is recorded in the Larger Sutra on Amida Buddha that when Shakyamuni was about to deliver it“all the senses of the World-Honored One radiated joy, his entire body appeared serene and glorious, and his august countenance looked most majestic.” After Ananda asks him which is the reason of these wonderful manifestations, Shakyamuni reveals to him the true goal of his coming to this world, by presenting the story of Amida Buddha, the 48th Vows and encouraging sentient beings to aspire for birth in the Pure Land. In the same sutra, the whole gathering listening to the discourse, including Ananda, had a vision with Amida Buddha and his Pure Land, which is another proof that Shakyamuni speaks about real things, not symbols or fictions.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Don’t misinterpret the saying, „all beings will eventually become Buddhas”

To think that all beings will eventually become Buddhas is a dangerous trap for ordinary, unenlightened people who thus might strenghten the reliance on their false ego. It is another delusory thought of those who „copy and paste” the words of Enlightened Beings without discrimination.

„But the Buddha said this”, can someone argue....
Yes, He said it, but the meaning is that He as a Buddha will never stop until all beings will also become Buddhas. It is not that ordinary people will become Buddhas by their own power, at some time in the future, but that the Buddhas will do everything in their power to make this aspiration come true. That sentence is the wish and aspiration of the Buddhas, not what people will actually do without their help. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Self-power as obstacle to nembutsu

 “Quite often it seems that we want it both ways........'our power' and Other Power. 
Could we think about it this way,  'self-power' is an illusion that exists within Other Power, and even this illusion cannot obstruct the nembutsu ?   

I think we should not complicate our minds. To rely on your own power cannot lead you to Buddhahood in the Pure Land. It’s as simple as that. To rely on your own power will obstruct the nembutsu and your birth in the Pure Land. In the true Other Power faith there is no trace of self power. You rely on Amida Buddha or not. Mixed faith is not true faith.

When it is said in the sacred texts that nothing obstructs the nembutsu this means that no matter how heavy your karma, you are saved by Amida if you fully entrust in him. In this sense, your illusions or blind passions cannot be an obstacle to the nembutsu. But self power simply means that you do not rely at all or not exclusively on Amida for your attainment of Buddhahood in the Pure Land. This is why self power is an obstacle for the nembutsu, because in reality, the vehicle that takes you to the Pure Land is Amida’s Power, not your own power.

We also have to understand clearly the meaning  of the terms “self power” (jiriki) and “Other power”(Tariki).
They are related only with the ultimate goal of becoming a Buddha in the Pure Land. They have nothing to do with our daily activities related with work, family, health, business, etc. In everyday life one can make efforts to be successful, to be a good husband, a good doctor, a good engineer or teacher, etc, but in matters related with Buddhahood one should rely only on Amida Buddha and on nobody else, especially not on himself.

To become a Buddha is the problem of Amida, not yours.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

No self improving programs for Jodo Shinshu followers

It must be very well understood that when I speak about trying to have a good behaviour towards others in our daily lives, I do not propose self improving programs for Jodo Shinshu followers, and do not say that we should do this or that good deed in order to be born in the Pure Land.

Birth in the Pure Land and, for example, my trying to not beat people when I become angered, or not to cheat my girlfriend when I meet with temptations has no connection with one another. I am saved exactly as I am, no matter if I am calm or I burst into anger, if I am a good partner or a bad partner, a drug addict, or anything else. The Jodo Shinshu teaching is very clear on this aspect: “No evil act can bring about karmic results, nor can any good act equal the nembutsu”.

But why not trying to abstain from all these when no matter if I succeed or not, I am still loved and accepted by Amida Buddha. Why not trying – to try is the key word. If I change something within me even for a second its ok, if I fail, its ok, too.
This is, I think, the meaning of “don’t make a linking to poison because you have the antidote” from Tannisho, or some letters written by Shinran, in which he speaks about not encouraging people to intentionally do evil. Shinran never said, “go and kill everybody because you are saved by Amida”. Jodo Shinshu teaching does not say “rape, kill, and torture people”.

Although it saves evil people, Jodo Shinshu is not an encouragement to do evil. A mother never encourages her children to do bad deeds, but even if they do all the evil things in the world, she still loves them and accepts them. This is the meaning of “no evil act can bring about karmic results, nor can any good act equal the nembutsu”.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Realizing our limitations in daily life

- all articles in this section are from my correspondence with various nembutsu friends-

Can "worldly Way" actually assist us in realizing shinjin, by making clear to us that we are unable to help ourselves reach Nirvana, Enlightenment, and the Pure Land ?

My answer:
I do not know if I understand correctly what you mean by “worldly way”, but into my opinion, everything can teach us important lessons if our minds are ready. When one is ready to learn, everything becomes a teacher and a guide.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On returning from the Pure Land

“Do you think all beings who are born in the Pure Land will return to this world in order to help others? Or only some great teachers like Honen and Shinran? If all beings return, would they have some knowledge on this (that they came from the Pure Land?) It seems Honen, for example, only realized this (or mentioned it to his students) when he was about to die. Also, I wonder what the difference is between returning to this world from The Pure Land and returning to this world for an ordinary next life (without achieving Ojo[1] first). I you have any thoughts on this, I'd be happy if you share them with me.”

Not all beings who are born in the Pure Land will immediately return to this world to help others. Those who have faith mixed with doubts will stay a period in the border land of the Pure Land. They are those born in the Pure Land through the 19th and the 20th Vows[2]. But those who enter the Pure Land through the gate of the Primal Vow (18th Vow) will immediately become Buddhas and they will be able to quickly return to this world in various forms, to help others.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How can one know that he received shinjin if he has no access to a temple or priest?

“Because nothing physical happens, or is done, to the person receiving shinjin (baptism /Dharma transmission etc.) how can that seeker know he/she has indeed received shinjin and attained the rightly established state?
This question above assumes that the person or persons referred to has no physical access to a Shinshu Buddhist Temple or priest, which is a sad reality in much of the eastern USA. “

Fortunately, in our school there are neither gurus nor masters who can give or confirm the receiving of faith in the heart of the practitioner.
Jodo Shinshu is a personal and exclusive relation between Amida Buddha (a real and living Buddha) and the person who has faith in him. They are like mother and child.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

About petitionary prayers

In the Kyosho (Essentials of Jodo Shinshu) it is said:

"..we shall live expressing our gratitude without depending on petitionary prayer and superstition. "

Here we see that petitionary prayer is linked to superstition as both are put in the same category of the things we, as Jodo Shinshu followers, should not do.

But what does it mean to use nembutsu as a petitionary prayer or superstition? Simply stated it is to say the Name of Amida in order to receive worldly benefits, like wealth, possessions, success in love affairs, etc. Or to think that by reciting it in a certain manner this will bring good luck and good fortune.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Question: are gay and lesbians welcomed in the dojo or temple?

I was asked this kind of question from time to time so I thought is good to post an answer here:

All people without exception are welcomed in the dojo or temple if their reason for being there is to listen to Amida Dharma and receive shinjin (faith). This should be very well understood.

But if you come to the dojo and tell me „I am gay”, I will reply, „did I asked you something?”
If you also come to the dojo and tell me, „I am heterosexual”, I will give you the same reply, „did I asked you something?”