Friday, June 20, 2014

We cannot mix Nembutsu with Zazen

In zazen, one simply dwells in awareness and lets go to any thought that appears in one’s mind. Even if the thought of Amida and of saying His Name appears, the Zen practitioner will simply let it go; he does not reject it, but also does not embrace it, either. However, this attitude is not in accord with the teaching of our school, where we “cling to Amida’s sleeves’, take refuge in Amida, and say His Name in faith. So, a true Jodo Shinshu follower who entrusts to Amida cannot engage in the practice of zazen, because in the very moment he refuses to say the nembutsu, or lets go to the thought on Amida, he in fact, abandons the Pure Land path. Similarly, in the very moment a Zen practitioner takes refuge in Amida and says the nembutsu of faith, he abandons the Zen path or the Zen attitude of mind.

At the level we are now, as unenlightened ordinary beings, we cannot truly practice the Pure Land Path and the Zen Path in the same time; if we try doing this, we do not get any benefit from either one. As both paths have their origin in the teaching of Shakyamuni, both are true gates to the same ultimate reality or Dharmakaya, but they contain different approaches to it. The situation is like walking or travelling by boat or by plane. One cannot walk and fly or swim in the same time, so one must chose one path versus the other.

In Jodo Shinshu, we rely on the Primal Vow, which means that we entrust to Amida, say His Name in faith and wish to be born in his Pure Land after death. In Zen, practitioners rely on the specific posture, breathing and ‘attitude of mind’ they call ‘zazen’. Shinran and Rennyo, the most important teachers of our school, as well as Honen Shonin, relied only on the Primal Vow, while Dogen, the founder of Soto-Zen, practiced only zazen. I have never heard of Shinran, Rennyo or Honen taking a break from nembutsu or from the contemplation/study of the Pure Land path,  for practicing zazen, or any other Buddhist or non-Buddhist meditation. I think we should never forget their example and rely  only on the nembutsu of faith

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