Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The meaning of praising or glorifying Amida’s Light – commentary on the third part of section 11 of the Larger Sutra

Shakyamuni Buddha said:

“The light of Amitayus (Amida) shines brilliantly, illuminating all the Buddha lands of the ten directions. There is no place where it is not perceived. I am not the only one who now praises His light. All the Buddhas, Sravakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas praise and glorify it in the same way. If sentient beings, having heard of the majestic virtue of His light, glorify it continually, day and night, with sincerity of heart, they will be able to attain Birth in His land as they wish. Then the multitudes of Bodhisattvas and Sravakas will praise their excellent virtue. Later, when they attain Buddhahood, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the ten directions will praise their light, just as I now praise the light of Amitayus.’

Monday, February 18, 2019

To encounter or see Amida’s Light – commentary on the second part of section 11 of the Larger Sutra

Amida's Light sent to His
devotee shown in the lower part 

After describing the twelve Lights of Amida Buddha, Shakyamuni continues:

“If sentient beings encounter His light, their three defilements are removed; they feel tenderness, joy, and pleasure; and good thoughts arise. If sentient beings in the three realms of suffering see His light they will all be relieved and freed from affliction. At the end of their lives they all reach liberation.”[1]

All the benefits enumerated there, like the removal of defilements, the feeling of tenderness, joy and pleasure, apparition of good thoughts, freedom from suffering and liberation, come from the Light of Amida and become effective due to encountering (“if sentient beings encounter His light”) and seeing this Light (“if sentient beings in the three realms of suffering see His light”).

Friday, February 15, 2019

The twelve Lights of Amida Buddha – commentary on the first part of section 11 of the Larger Sutra

Image of Amida Buddha at the altar
of Amidaji temple
  fragment from my commentary on the Larger Sutra

The whole section eleven should be read in connection with my explanation of the 12th Vow where Bodhisattva Dharmakara promised that His Light as a Buddha will be infinite.
Now Shakyamuni himself speaks about the Light of Amida Buddha, praising it as supreme among the lights of all Buddhas and describing it as having twelve special characteristics, corresponding to twelve names:

 “‘The majestic light of Buddha Amitayus (Amida) is the most exalted. No other Buddha’s light can match His. The light of some Buddhas illuminates a hundred Buddha lands, and that of others a thousand Buddha lands. Briefly, that of Amitayus illuminates the eastern Buddha lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River. In the same way, it illuminates the Buddha lands in the south, west, and north, in each of the four intermediate directions, and above and below. […]

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. 

NEW poems by Gansen John Welch