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

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 faith in 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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The certainty of attaining Enlightenment in the Pure Land


Question:
If I am in the Pure Land created by Amida Buddha's Perfect Will Power after I die, what would happen if I never get enlightened? Is there a time limit to attain Enlightenment in the Pure Land? I’m scared as I don't want to experience birth, age and death anymore.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A bad Buddhist who entrusts to Amida


Some time ago I was in correspondence with a drug addict who showed great interest in the Jodo Shinshu teaching. He had a hard time trying again and again to give up taking drugs but he always returned to his bad habit. More than this, he was afraid that he cannot be saved by Amida as he is. 

I said to him:
Just entrust to Amida Buddha as you are. If you can abstain, and is useful to try, this would be good for your health, but if you cannot, don’t worry. Jodo Shinshu is especially for people who cannot abstain, who are incapable of any practice, for those that any advice or any treatment is useless, for people whose minds are too sick to recover from their problems, anxieties, and deviations. Its not that they especially want to be like this, but their habitual karma is too strong for them to overcome. After many years and even many lives of taking the drugs of ignorance and blind passions how can one think and act like a normal person? How can one practice Buddhism and become a Buddha by himself?

I met many times with alcoholics  and told them the same if they asked me questions on Buddhism. If you tried and cannot give up, then be an alcoholic who entrusts to Amida. Be an alcoholic or drug addict nembutsu follower.  Be a bad Buddhist who entrusts to Amida.

 Jodo Shinshu is the path for sick people, for those without hope. Its the path for alcoholics, drug addicts, and all kind of people with strong attachments. All are equally accepted by the Compassion and Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. So please, come as you are.  Your salvation is in Amida's hands, not yours.

You can try to cure yourself of any addiction you have, but do NOT postpone taking refuge in Amida Buddha until you become ready, or clean or worthy...  You are saved not because you "deserve", but because Amida loves you unconditionally.

Namo Amida Butsu

Monday, April 27, 2015

Belief in a creator god is an obstacle to faith in Amida Buddha



Please, read carefully the other articles in this category:


Question[1]:
“A lot of folks who end up in Shin Buddhism here in the West have a lot of vestigial concepts from our Abrahamic background - whether or not they were ever "believers" [in God] themselves.  And they carry those vestigial ideas with them when they start in as Buddhists. Some don't do that of course - particularly the ones who are given to serious study, and really consider it important to know what Shakyamuni actually taught.  But as you know from your time in both the Zen and Shin Sanghas, such study is often not the primary focus - or even as great a focus as it is in the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist Sangha groups. […]

So, in your opinion, based on your own reading and contemplating, is it possible for an ignorant, yet well meaning person to come to settled shinjin (faith) if he or she has never actually studied the subject[2], and has some mixed up ideas about eternalism stuck in his mind stream? Or is the presence of such thoughts a necessary karmic obstacle that must directly be addressed and removed before the person can receive Amida's gift of shinjin?”

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, 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

Master Shan-tao saying exclusively the
Name of Amida Buddha
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 – these are some examples of 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:

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.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Self-power as obstacle to nembutsu

Question:
 “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 ?   

Answer:
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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Realizing our limitations in daily life


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

Question:
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.

NEW poems by Gansen John Welch