Month: November 2015

Pundarika – Rick St Clair

           AMAZING JOURNEY – Finding A True Teacher of Shinjin

pundarika-fa

Pundarika – a rare White Lotus Flower that rose from the mud of blind passions…

All mundane foolish persons whether good or evil
Having heard and entrust in the Universal Vow of The Tathagata
The Buddha called them persons of vast excellent understanding
Who are also named by people as ‘Pundarikas’.

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Rick St Clair is a moderator of the On-line Sangha, True Shin Buddhism Yahoo Group. He joined this Sangha in May 2009 after a tortuous search for a path that will free him permanently from samsara, the relentless cycle of birth, suffering and death. Having found for himself, a good teacher of True Shinjin and a great Dharma friend in Paul Roberts, they set out strongly to spread the wonderful True Pure Land Teachings of Master Shinran, acting as links to Amida Buddha’s Golden Chain. Their efforts have brought many ignorant, foolish lay seekers to Listen Deeply to The Inconceivable Dharma message of Master Shinran and to HEAR The Call of Boundless Compassion.

Since then, Rick, who is an accomplished musician, has presented many beautiful musical compositions with his videos on You Tube, gratefully showcasing the wonderful poems and teachings of Master Shinran to the world.

Sharing his Amazing Journey to JodoShinshu, Rick personally writes…

The saving light of Amida Buddha shines ceaselessly
 Upon all suffering beings of the ten directions
 Even on such a foolish being of evil karma as myself :
 One such as this is Amida’s foremost object of compassion!

There is no greater good than the Nembutsu!
There is no evil that can overcome the Nembutsu!
Saved by the power of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow
I say the Nembutsu in heartfelt gratitude.

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As a child and young adult I was never very interested in religion. I avoided going to church as much as possible, playing sick when I could get away with it. When I was a teen, I was asked (it wasn’t put as a request however) to go through confirmation in the Presbyterian Church, which I did. I learned all the Beatitudes, the names of the Old and New Testament books in correct order, and all of the Ten Commandments by memory. I was active in church as a singer, but my interest wasn’t really spiritual. I never read the Bible or any spiritual writings, just wasn’t interested. One amusing thing, though, when I was a pre-adolescent, I was awestruck by our Presbyterian minister, who was a firebrand. I dressed  up like a minister and gave “sermons” imitating him in the living room of our house. But it was all just a lark.

As a college student I forgot all about religion completely until someone who was counselling me told me about Paramahansa Yogananda. Out of curiosity I sent away for lessons from the Self Realization Fellowship and practiced for a few weeks, but lost interest quickly. However, the experience did pique my interest in spirituality for the first time, and I got interested in unitarianism. I didn’t believe in the Trinity, just a divine presence, so unitarianism was a good fit for me at that time. Before long though, due to complex emotional problems stemming from an abusive childhood, I was induced into joining a religious group which turned out to be a cult. There was a lot of brainwashing, and I came to fear God as a judge, with very little hope of redemption outside of the religious group.

After 17 years of that experience, which was a terrible downward spiral, I had a spiritual crisis and walked away from the group, completely disillusioned about spirituality and religion in general. Instead I turned to psychotherapy. It was in psychotherapy that I made a lot a progress in my emotional issues, but after a few years I came to a dead end. My therapist suggested I might benefit from Buddhism, and recommended looking into the writings of Pema Chodron and the Dalai Lama. I began dabbling in Buddhism.

First, I checked out from the library some of the discourses of the Buddha from the Pali Canon. I was immediately struck by the clarity of the Buddha’s teaching, and for the first time I felt like my spiritual boat had a rudder. I read many books on Buddhism and started going to various Buddhist meetings. The emphasis was on either meditation or chanting or a combination of the two. In my previous experience in a religious cult, the practice of ritual was strongly emphasized, and I felt turned off by meditation and chanting because they reminded me of the bad experience in the cult. But now I considered the Buddha as my spiritual teacher and guide.

On my own, I took the Three Refuges. I took a three-day retreat in Tibetan Buddhism on Dependent Origination. Although the chanting bothered me a lot, the logic of the presentation of Dependent Origination convinced me that Buddhism, at least in theory, was TRUTH, was something that deserved my full attention and devotion. One of the chanting groups I went to was a Nichiren Shu organization. The emphasis was on the Lotus Sutra and chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. I was entranced with the writings in the Lotus Sutra and even set some of the verses in the sutra to music (I am a professional classical composer). But the chanting was a problem for me.  Nichiren, a 13th century radical Buddhist teacher, was very opinionated and intolerant of all forms of Buddhism that did not conform to his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. He was especially intolerant of the Pure Land sect founded by Honen Shonin, which he blamed for all the problems in Japan, political, social, and religious.

It was Nichiren’s rant against Honen in his tract Rissho Ankoku Ron that spurred my curiosity about Honen, and so I began to look into Honen and the Pure Land sect. I also started to read books about Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. Very quickly I found a book about Shinran Shonin, “Shinran’s Gospel of Pure Grace,” by Alfred Bloom. I devoured the book and was completely convinced that Master Shinran was the teacher I had unwittiingly been looking for all my life. Pure grace sounded like just what I needed – not a boatload of religious practices, but simple FAITH. So I got in touch with Alfred Bloom, studied his online course, and considered him my teacher. However, it became clear to me very quickly that there was a problem. Shinran’s “gospel of pure grace” seemed like a sure thing, but when I read the fine print in Bloom’s writings, it appeared that I needed to study very hard in order to “get” just how that “gospel” “worked”. (NB: Master Shinran wrote that NO WORKING IS TRUE WORKING, and Bloom completely missed the boat on that crucial point.) Every successive book of Bloom’s I purchased and read cover to cover, but my frustration only grew.

I thought if I started a sangha and had Shin Buddhist teachers come to teach the Dharma, then I would have answers to my questions. So I did. I organized a sangha, and we had monthly meetings for a number of years in my hometown in the Boston area. The Shin teacher who was most helpful in organizing the sangha was Taitetsu Unno, like Bloom a famous teacher and writer on Shin Buddhism. Also helpful was Rev. T. K. Nakagaki, then minister of the New York Buddhist Church. I felt with Unno and Nakagaki behind it, the sangha would be a great success. But the way Unno wanted the sangha to be set up, and Nakagaki agreed, was to have a lot of ritual – chanting, rice offering, bowing, incense – followed by a “dharma talk”. I was uncomfortable about the rituals, but I thought this was what was necessary for a “legitimate” sangha, so I went along with it.

However, the chanting was all in Japanese! I didn’t understand what we were chanting. Nobody did. Then we chanted the Nembutsu, but nobody told us what the meaning of that was. The “dharma talks” did not say anything about the meaning of Amida Buddha, the Primal Vow, Other Power, and the Pure Land. Instead, they talked about life, daily problems, and occasionally about Buddhist-related ideas, but never about the teachings of Master Shinran or Master Rennyo. Master Rennyo wrote, famously, that “In our sect, SHINJIN IS EVERYTHING.” Shinjin is the faith-mind consciousness given by Amida Buddha to any and every person who turns over their entire karmic destiny, without any doubing or doublemindedness, to the care of Amida Buddha’s Other Power. Shinjin is SALVATION IN THE PRESENT. But in the Boston sangha, the teachers NEVER talked about Shinjin. In the several years that I organized and ran the sangha, I do not recall any of the ministers EVER ONCE mentioning the concept of Shinjin, or even the WORD Shinjin.

And that is precisely why the Boston Shin sangha failed. The ministers who should have been teaching the pristine Dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha, Master Shinran and Master Rennyo were doing just the opposite, they were teaching their own ideas and cloaking it in the veneer of Shin ritual. And so the Boston Shin sangha failed. There was no interest, because there was no real teaching happening, just a lot of modernist talk and empty ritual. I had to close down the sangha when the membership dwindled down to a handful of regulars. But I didn’t fully realize at the time what the problem really was. Somewhere in my mind I knew that the teachers had failed, but I didn’t know why. The reason is that I wasn’t yet a person of Shinjin. I was still enamored by the seductive prose of Unno’s and Bloom’s books, which SOUNDED profound but really weren’t saying anything beyond their own personal opinions mixed in with western philosophy and a lip service to the Dharma Masters.

I joined an email discussion group of Shin Buddhists, and we batted around ideas, but we were all just as confused as our teachers. One day, Paul Roberts appeared on the list and started talking about the pristine Dharma taught by Master Shinran and Master Rennyo. We all thought he was crazy. I’m ashamed to say that I called him a troublemaker. Paul left under a storm of abusive posts and instead set up his own blog, the Shin Ugly Blog. I was really spiritually lost at that point. I wasn’t ready to hear Paul’s message. I was confused and in a sea of doubt and modernist disinformation.

On one occasion over the phone my teacher, Alfred Bloom, actually confided to me, “Of course, there is no Amida Buddha.” I was floored. But in a real way it was what I needed to hear. I needed to hear what he REALLY felt behind the facade of honored teacher and celebrated writer. If there is no Amida Buddha, then what are we doing here? So I went into a spiritual tailspin. I was practically on the verge of giving up on Shin Buddhism totally. I looked into all sorts of other, non-Buddhist paths, Theosophy, Kaballah, Rosicrucian, Islam, Quaker, etc., and each time felt more empty than the last. I was at the end of my rope.

However, little could I have realized at the time, my karma was ripening to receive the true teaching. But I remembered Paul’s posts on the email list. Out of sheer desperation, and feeling I had nothing left to lose, I contacted him and laid out my predicament. Right away Paul confirmed to me that Amida DOES exist, Amida is a REAL BUDDHA, and the Pure Land is a real place. In just a few emails and phone calls, with Paul’s help, I quickly came to Shinjin and jettisoned all the doubts and confusions of the modernists that I had been laboring under for twelve long and frustrating years. This whole experience, painful and protracted as it was, taught me a very profound lesson. Unless Shin Buddhism teachers are persons of Shinjin, as Paul Roberts is, the true teaching cannot be communicated. If Shin Buddhist teachers mix their own personal views as part of their lessons, the true teaching cannot be communicated. And CLEARLY, the global Shin Sangha is in a terrible state if the most prominent and famous teachers and writers are teaching modernist gobbledygook instead of the pristine true teachings of Shakyamuni, Shinran, and Rennyo.

Thanks to Paul as my mentor, I have grown into my own role as a teacher of True Shin Buddhism and am active on the Yahoo group, True Shin Buddhism. Even though I know I am still a bombu, a “spiritual idiot” as Paul likes to say, the fact that I am a person of Shinjin teaching according to the plumbline of the Dharma Masters means that I am in the sacred position of transmitting the very Dharma that has SAVED ME and assured that I will be reborn as a Buddha in Amida’s Pure Land when my life here ends. So now, when I say the Nembutsu – Namu Amida Butsu – it is not “chanting” some mechanical ritual or mantra, it is a natural, heartfelt expression of GRATITUDE to Amida Buddha for his great gift of Shinjin and his promise to me of Buddhahood in His Pure Land. I live my life naturally, without effort, calculation, or worry about my spiritual future. I have been saved by Amida Buddha for all time.

Namu Amida Butsu! – Thank You, Amida Buddha!!

Gassho,

Rick St Clair

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By Rick St Clair on The Call Of Boundless Compassion

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HOME PAGE – The Call Of Boundless Compassion

Page 2 – The Primal Vow

Page 3 – Gatha of True Faith

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Pundarika – Camille’s story

                Amazing Journey – Finding my True Dharma Family

pundarika-fa

Pundarikas – rare White Lotus Flowers that rose from the mud of blind passions…

All mundane foolish persons whether good or evil
Having heard and entrust in the Universal Vow of The Tathagata
The Buddha called them persons of vast excellent understanding
Who are also named by people as ‘Pundarikas’.

>>>

Camille joined the On-line Sangha, True Shin Buddhism Yahoo Group in April 2014. She was very new to Buddhism, had never heard of Master Shinran or met a Shin Buddhist in real life – she is not even a Buddhist. She has no doubt that she had been compassionately guided on this Amazing Journey to receive Amida Buddha’s Precious Gift of Shinjin. Her one-thought moment of true entrusting  in Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow coming in just a short period of four months of deep listening to The Pristine Teachings of Master Shinran, demonstrates to us the inconceivable effect of good karma from the past ripening at the right time, nurtured and brought to fruition in the right environment of True Teachers of Shinjin – Paul and Rick.

She shares with us now her wonderful story, opening with two beautiful poems adapted from Rick’s compositions…..

My thanks to Amida seems so small
Yet I offer it up to this greatest Buddha
Who saves me in spite of myself
Because of myself.

Snow falls and karma ripens –
As time passes

So my journey To the Pure Land
On Amida’s great ship nears its end.

Namu Amida Butsu.

>>>

I was brought up in a no faith family – as my parents and larger extended family didn’t believe in such things.  I was drawn to pictures of the Buddha at an early age, not knowing why or even who he was; and I can’t for the life of me imagine WHERE I saw these pictures or got hold of them either; but while my friends had pictures of pop stars on their walls as they got older, I had pictures of Shakyamuni Buddha on mine 🙂  I found them comforting, even though I had no concept of who he was for many years after that.

Also from the earliest age I was well aware of karma and that was something I naturally knew from my earliest memories!  I belief these knowings came from an earlier life as there is no other reason for them. So as I grew up I left my pictures behind, got married, had a family, and put my longing to find that which was hidden from me on hold.  Then in my late 20’s I started again; this time as an adult searching; for what I didnt know! I knew there was something so much more and so much greater than I could fathom, but where to find it was the question!!

Eventually I got involved in the Mormon Church and Christianity, and found that this was not something I could go along with or agree with for so many reasons. So with this sadness at giving up my friends and people I loved dearly in the church; and guilt, uncertainty and fear in my head, I left and started my search once again.  I looked at so many things – Taoism, Sikhism, Eckhart Tolle, A Course in Miracles, Islam, Baha’i etc. etc., so many things….  But no matter what I researched something kept drawing me back to Buddhism and frankly I didn’t actually know anything about it so it was strange!

My personal blockage to Buddhism was that I had the belief in God still in my heart, and so I kept LOOKING for a way to have God and Buddhism too 🙂  And even though I kept being pulled towards Buddhism, I gave up time and time again due to my belief – If God didn’t  fit, which of course didn’t  happen then it wasn’t  for me, and so I gave up!!   So I learnt nothing intellectually due to my God bias, and yet I STILL felt an incredible pull to Buddhism for reasons that were not clear to me. Eventually I thought, Oh My Gosh! I’m being pulled back over and over to Buddhism and in particular Shin Buddhism, which I knew virtually nothing about so I found the True Shin Buddhism Yahoo Group which I joined.

When I first started reading the posts I didn’t really understand it; I thought about leaving a few times but something told me to stay, and so I did.  I was feeling very confused; and burnt out with all my study of different religions and I was at the point of giving it all up.  I had a small burst of energy, and thought OK this is it, my FINAL try…   I was fed-up with the constant searching and never finding. So one day I thought, I have been drawn to this path for so long – I have issues that I cant overcome, and I’m going to email Paul with my deepest question – and that was about God.  This was a huge deal for me at the time, because God was something I kept close and in my heart, and I didn’t want anyone tampering with it!!  However I took the chance and I asked Paul my questions; and he gave me the answers.

He didn’t in anyway tell me what I wanted to hear; BUT he told me the TRUTH; and again instinctively I felt I should really listen to this guy 🙂   So glad I did.  We had a conversation over some days back and forth, and he was really marvellous, always speaking from the standpoint of the Dharma Teachings, but also he was very gentle and kind and there was no pushiness at all, which was a welcome change from the Christian teachings.  He also didn’t  tell me I HAD to believe this or that, but spoke saying the Masters said this or that, put it in simple terms for me to understand and left it with me to think about on my own, while willingly answering any questions I had.

I had at that point decided that this was my last try!!!  If this wasn’t it, then I was giving up and just getting through this life as best and as happily as I could, knowing that I couldn’t find IT this time round! So I decided to give it all I had, to put God on the back burner so to speak, and to see one way or another if this was the true path for me.  I went around the house, and put all the ‘stuff’ I had away in a box and out of the house.  Books of which there were box loads, ornaments, reminders, Bibles, assorts of ‘stuff’ I had that would link me back to my past, or draw me back into being torn between different teachings.  So this I did.  It felt good to be focused on one path rather than dashing from one to the other and back again, just digging a bigger pit of confusion for myself.

So after I spoke with Paul, I started reading his book in the files section ‘Shin Buddhism 101’ and I came to a paragraph on page 126, which read… You can recognize that there is no comparison between what some modernist scholar might say, when compared to what a true Buddha such as Shakyamuni Buddha says. If you simply put aside any and all of your pre-existing beliefs and ideologies, and ask deep within, you will KNOW who to believe as the teller of TRUTH, and who to reject as a teller of something LESS than the truth. You can actually ask directly: Amida, if your light is infinite, shining EVERYWHERE in the ten directions like Shakyamuni says:
” will you allow me to see it – not with my outer eyes, but with my inner eye. Please show me YOUR light.” WOW!!  This, as SO much in Paul’s book, just touched me very very deeply. So I asked Amida to show me, right there on the floor where I was sitting;  I felt that one thought moment of complete and total trust within and I received Shinjin immediately.

It was much unexpected for me as I had only just committed myself to this path; and also I knew very little about Buddhism even though I had been lead here without a doubt!!  There was also a feeling of a great weight being lifted from my shoulders and a deep feeling of peace, finally 🙂 How grateful I am that I gave Shin Buddhism a go, even when my logic and my God barriers told me ‘how could this possibly be’!!  When I received Shinjin I had to work through my initial surprise/shock as it was so sudden and quick for me!  I can tell you without a doubt that Shinjin for me was the most wonderful experience, and unlike ANYTHING else – it is a KNOWING rather than a hope.

After Shinjin my learning flourished right away – things I had been reading only a few days earlier, made PERFECT sense, and it was like I was reading the Masters works with new eyes.  It was astounding 🙂  So from that time until this day I KNOW I have found what I have been searching for my whole life.  There has never even for an instant been any doubts, no matter what has been going on for me physically, and I KNOW without ANY DOUBT AT ALL that when this life ends I will become a Buddha and join Amida and many others to help all sentient beings – and I am so thankful to Amida for giving me this greatest of gifts – and to Paul who was and is my Mentor, teacher and friend & who was an integral part of my journey to Amida.

So we all have our own story and our own journey to this point, and each story is as individual as we who experience them.  What worked for me may not work for you and vice versa; we each have our own path to reach the ripeness of our karma which is a part of our individual journey, and never forget we are being guided and helped the whole way through whether we are aware of it or not 🙂

Namu Amida Butsu – THANK YOU AMIDA BUDDHA

Gassho,

Camille

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By Camille on The Call Of Boundless Compassion

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HOME PAGE – The Call Of Boundless Compassion

Page 2 – The Primal Vow

Page 3 – Gatha of True Faith

Pundarika – Paul Roberts

             Amazing path of awakening – Amida is A Real Buddha

pundarika-fa

Pundarika – A rare White Lotus Flower that rose from the mud of blind passions…

All mundane foolish persons whether good or evil
Having heard and entrust in the Universal Vow of The Tathagata
The Buddha called them persons of vast excellent understanding
Who are also named by people as ‘Pundarikas’.

>>>

Paul Roberts is the moderator and true teacher of Master Shinran’s Teachings – on his On-line Sangha, True Shin Buddhism Yahoo Group which he started in 2006. His amazing journey to The Teaching, Practice, Shinjin and Realization on The True Pure Land Way of Master Shinran, is a great source of inspiration and encouragement to many ordinary foolish lay persons, fellow travellers who are seeking for the only viable Path of True Salvation. Gratefully joining Amida Buddha’s golden chain, he also teach with his wonderful videos on You Tube.

Let us Listen deeply to his wonderful story in his own words…

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Up until I was about 20, I was a staunch materialist, also known as a nihilist. I was convinced that all there is in this universe is space, time, matter and energy.

And then, I began to experience these “wake up calls”.  I’d have moments where my ego-self consciousness would just fall asleep somehow.  In that moment, all that was left (as I know now) was simply my Buddha-self consciousness.

For a brief, shining moment, I was seeing the world with unstained Buddha eyes. I experienced my oneness with all that is.  There was no “me” in those moments. I was simply full of the fruit of Buddha-self consciousness: Love, compassion, the non-dual or unitive VIEW

Since then, I’ve done a lot of study of religions and spirituality generally, and found out that this experience is common to all people in all times, places and cultures.  Of course people use different words and concepts to describe it and place it into their own cultural matrix afterwards.  But those precious moments themselves are ineffable, and beyond words and rational explanation.

These moments were my first “awakening” in this life.  Of course, they faded over time, as my ego-self consciousness re-awakened and my Buddha-self consciousness receded into the background of my mindstream once again.

Now I understand, and know beyond all doubt, what was happening:  The countless transcendental Buddhas and Bodhisattvas work behind the scenes in each of our lives, laying down a trail of “spiritual breadcrumbs” to urge us, coax us and lead us – each and all. And the biggest breadcrumb of all is this  kind of shining moment where even someone as confused as me just KNOWS there is something more going on than mere materiality.  For me, as for so many others, that moment changes us forever, and gives us a new outlook on life, an outlook that makes us a pilgrim on the Path of Awakening.

That doesn’t mean we’re done, by any means. But it does mean that the great purpose and goal of our life has changed.  Life now has a meaning it could never otherwise have.  And the great purpose and goal is to now live life as an awakened being ALL the time – to have that ineffable non-dual view ALL the time – to live life and experience life and see life from the very top of that mountain of enlightenment that pilgrims on the path are travelling without EVER losing that mountaintop view, retrogression into plain, mundane, ego-self consciousness.

Of course, I know now that this is exactly what happened to Gotama on his own journey from being a prince to being the Buddha of our time and place.  After seven years of the most intense seeking as a pilgrim on the path, he sat down one last time under the Bodhi Tree, and looked more deeply into reality than he ever had before.  And so he found, at last, this ego-self consciousness as a thing – a psychic entity that seems unique to humans in our world – and he recognized it as the very SOURCE of our suffering, our alienation, our endarkened vision of ourselves and our lives.  He called this psychic entity the builder of this house of suffering – and it surely is.

And then he snuffed it out, as one might snuff out a candle, and so he arose from that Bodhi Tree not as Gotama the seeker, but as the Fully Enlightened One, the Great World Teacher, the Turner of the Wheel of Dharma.  By snuffing out that ego-self consciousness, He was now THE BUDDHA…or more accurately A BUDDHA – one of countless Buddhas in this universe, and any other universes we don’t yet know about.

And as I read this, I knew – after many years as a seeker who’d gone down one blind alley after another – that THIS was my goal.  I wanted to become a Buddha, too.  And so, after many years as a seeker floundering around with the best intentions, I finally became a disciple of Shakyamuni, and understood that the end game for a seeker was to become a FINDER, just like Gotama had.

Or as I sometimes say, “When I grow up, I want to be a Buddha”.

So now I was a disciple of Shakyamuni. And as far as I could tell, in all of the branches of authentic Buddhism, the name of the game was about lifting myself up by my bootstraps.  It was about climbing the mountain of enlightenment, one small step after another.

By this time, I already had some good skills as a meditator, and bring on that non-dual experience at will much of the time.  Like many who become skilled, I could sit down in my quiet time and place, and take off the clothes of “me” during my meditation or “practice” time.  But even if I had the best and most wonderful experience of Buddha-self consciousness during my practice time, as soon as I got up, against my own deepest desire, I was clothed with “me” once again.  And so the experience – like all the others I have had since the beginning – was marked by impermanence.

Said another way, I could GET there, but I couldn’t STAY there.  And over many years, observing all sorts of people and groups in the global Buddha-sangha, I came to realize that this was not just my problem, it was EVERYBODY’S problem.  Just like the little boy could see through “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, I could see – and couldn’t HELP but see – not a one of us seemed capable of “staying there”.  Not a one of us could actually shed the clothing of our ego-self consciousness in a PERMANENT way, like Gotama finally did beneath that Bodhi Tree some 2500 years ago.

It took me a long time to really SEE this, and a longer time to find the words to describe what I was seeing.  Nevertheless, I was content with my own trudging up the mountain of enlightenment like all the other Buddhists (or so I thought), just figuring that it was going to take a lot of lifetimes t get there.  If that was the way it was, I was OK with that.  If that’s what all the Buddhist pilgrims on the Path were doing, then I would do it too – no matter how badly I did it.

But then, right after 9/11, I was confronted with two tragic experiences that were just too much for me to bear. The first was in July 2002, when my younger brother committed suicide. I was so shaken by that experience, and all that surrounded it, that I couldn’t quiet my mind at all.  I couldn’t read or study the Dharma, or listen to any Dharma teachers, or do ANYTHING to lift myself up by my own efforts at all.

And that’s when I was drawn, for the very first time in my life, to the man named Shinran, and the Dharma he taught.

As soon as I started to read his words, and understand his basic Dharma propositions, I knew I had found the open Dharma door I had been seeking for so many years.  I still didn’t understand it clearly – because all of the English speaking Dharma teachers I could find were preaching and teaching a DIFFERENT Dharma message than Master Shinran’s message.  At that point, I simply didn’t know or understand enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

But my spiritual “sniffer”, the sense from my own inner Buddha-self consciousness, was leading me along, and convincing me thoroughly that this “Path of the Foolish” was much more suitable for such a weak, stumbling and failing Buddhist like me, compared to the “Path of the Sages”, for which I was CLEARLY not suited.

I was ready for a Dharma path which was about TRUSTING rather than TRYING, about being PULLED-UP by some “other power” rather than PULLING MYSELF UP by my own self-power efforts.  I was ready to “let go and let Amida”.

The one problem I had – and the reason I couldn’t just do that, is that all of the living Shin Buddhist teachers were talking about how Amida isn’t a REAL Buddha, but just some sort of mythical figure – like Hamlet, as one well known teacher put it. And (these same teachers said), the Pure Land was not a REAL Buddha-land, but just the state of Buddha-consciousness.

This confused me completely – because the way Shakyamuni Buddha and Master Shinran talked, they seemed to see Amida as a “real” Buddha – indeed in the Larger Sutra, in response to a request by the monk Ananda, Amida actually showed himself to the crowd assembled that day on Vulture Peak.  And at the same time, Amida showed all those folks the Pure Land itself.

So none of these teachings – which I now know are FALSE teachings – made any sense to me.

And then a second major tragic event happened in my family:  My older daughter, a beautiful and spiritually oriented young women, fell into a deep clinical depression and couldn’t make her way out, although she tried her best and we did too. We took her to the best doctors in our area, she took the anti-depression medicine they gave her – but nothing worked.  Sixteen months after my brother’s death, my daughter died as well.

Now, these unresolved questions I had became CRITICAL.  I was so overwhelmed, that I just didn’t know how to get through one day, much less a lifetime.  Every night I went to bed hoping that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

I just HAD to know:  Was Amida a REAL Buddha, a living being like Shakyamuni, in whom I could truly take full and final refuge, as Shakyamuni invited me to do?  Was the Pure Land of Amida a REAL place where I could be re-born at the end of this terrible lifetime, and become a real Buddha myself – at long last.

I searched and searched, desperately, all over the internet – but I couldn’t find a SINGLE Shin Buddhist teacher who would make those two simple assertions.  I became truly hopeless, thinking that in Shin Buddhism there was really no “there” there. The ground of faith I had been standing upon was falling away beneath my feet.

And then finally, stuck away in some obscure corner of the internet, was a website of some Japanese Shin teacher I had never heard of named Eiken Kobai.  He is called “Sensei” but I’ve learned that such religious and spiritual titles mean absolutely nothing.  It’s not about what you are CALLED…it’s about who you really ARE.

Eiken had one page in English on the whole site, with the text of his major book that was translated into English.  It’s called UNDERSTANDING JODO SHINSHU.  This little book explained the basics of Shin Buddhism better and more succinctly than anything I had ever read by other Shin teachers, and it seemed to accord entirely with the writings of our Dharma masters, Shinran and Rennyo.

So I wrote to Eiken, and he replied with the help of an American translator.  And then I wrote him again, saying that I had JUST ONE QUESTION:

“Is Amida Buddha a REAL Buddha, or not?”

Of course, Eiken answered the question directly and simply: Yes (he said), Amida is a real Buddha.

With that one short sentence, he had wielded a true Dharma sword, and had cut away all the delusions and obscurations planted in my mindstream by these false teachers, and their false teachings.

So as soon as I read Eiken’s words, I had no more obstacles left in my head, or my heart. I had no more doubt.

I simply entrusted myself and my entire karmic destiny ENTIRELY to Amida and His Primal Vow – and immediately received the inconceivable gift of His Shinjin.

This time, there were no ineffable mystical EXPERIENCES, no dropping away of my ego-self consciousness, no relief from the unending tsunami of my grief.  I still couldn’t stand to be alive, and still went to sleep every night hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

And yet, and yet…

Because of the faith-mind consciousness of Amida Buddha Himself shining into the darkness of my broken mindstream, I just KNEW – and KNOW even as I write this 11 years later – that I am truly grasped by the REAL Buddha called Amida.  I KNOW that He Himself will never abandon me, no matter what.  And I KNOW that when this life is over, I WILL awaken in Amida’s own Pure Land, and I will IMMEDIATELY experience that final transformation to Buddhahood – which is the great goal and purpose I already had!

When I grow up, I want to be a Buddha – and now I KNOW – beyond all doubt – that this would be how it would happen.

And I KNEW that in the very first moment of receiving Amida’s gift of SHINJIN, His own faith-mind consciousness.

In all of the ups and downs of my life since that moment, I have not had a single moment of doubt about that. This is not because of my faith, or my works, in any way. It is ENTIRELY because of Amida’s own faith and works, during His many lifetimes as the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, doing endless practices to perfection, on MY behalf, to create infinite karmic merit for ME.

It’s ALL AMIDA, ALL THE TIME.  All I ever need to do is listen deeply to the Dharma as best as I can, with the help of my Dharma friends. I just let go, and let Amida do EVERYTHING that needs doing in my little life, day by day, until I leave this body, and this life.

All I am here is GRATEFUL – like a drowning man who is grateful when he’s pulled out of the ocean and saved from certain death by a great ship passing by.

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU, I say in response.

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU. Thank You Amida Buddha.

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU AMIDA BUDDHA

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By Paul Roberts on The Call Of Boundless Compassion.

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HOME PAGE – The Call Of Boundless Compassion

Page 2 – The Primal Vow

Page 3 – Gatha of True Faith

Pundarika – Valerie’s story

                   Amazing Journey to JodoShinshu – I now ‘ GET IT ‘

pundarika-fa

Pundarikas – rare White Lotus Flowers that rose from the mud of blind passions…

All mundane foolish persons whether good or evil
Having heard and entrust in the Universal Vow of The Tathagata
The Buddha called them persons of vast excellent understanding
Who are also named by people as ‘Pundarikas’.

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With the encouragement of Paul who is the moderator for the On-line Sangha – True Shin Buddhism Yahoo Group, Valerie shares her amazing story of her search for a Way that will free her permanently from all pain and suffering. Her good karma from the past ripened when she joined the On-line Sangha in May 2010 and in a short period of about three months, she had cleared all her doubts, gratefully saying – Thank You – I now ‘get it’.

Relating her wonderful journey she wrote…..

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Several years ago when I first visited the True Shin Buddhism (TSB) website, I identified as a Nichiren Buddhist (SGI), although that path of Buddhism was no longer working for me.  I was raised a Christian, but I had been a seeker all my life, exploring various paths within (and outside) of Christianity. A year or so previous to this, I had heard about Shin Buddhism, and decided to investigate it. However, due to the confusion caused by the modernist teachings of the Shin authors I read (Unno, Bloom, Tanaka,etc.), I lost interest and turned back to Nichiren Buddhism (SGI). However, I continued to be disillusioned by various things happening in the SGI at that time. So, I decided to give Shin Buddhism another try.

Now, looking back, I can see Amida working behind the scene, directing my path and directing me to the TSB website. The wonderful news I discovered there was that Shin was EXACTLY what I initially hoped it was (before I encountered the modernists’ false teachings) – a teaching of real salvation by a real, living Buddha. Over the next few months I eagerly read all the posts in the TSB archives, as well as articles from the Shin Ugly Blog, Josho Adrian Cirlea’s website. I particularly found Paul Roberts’ teaching of the Three Pillars of True Shin Buddhism to be a real eye-opener for me – the basics of Shin Buddhism were presented in a clear and understandable manner which made complete sense to me.

During the time I was reading this literature, which kept repeating the true teachings of our Dharma Masters, I came to realize that my deepest aspiration was to become a Buddha. I also came to the conclusion that I was utterly unable to save myself. I had actually known this, deep inside, for some time. All along my spiritual journey (through Christianity, Hare Krishna, and Nichiren Buddhism) I was never able to truly believe that these teachings would really enable me to achieve any kind of permanent spiritual result.  All the same, I did believe that there was something real out there that I had been searching for my whole life – I had just given up hope of finding it! I was tired of seeking and never seeming to find, trying one path after another.

Thanks to the true Dharma teachings I encountered, I came to believe in a real Amida (saviour), a real Pure Land, and a real future (to become a Buddha). Now for the first time the concepts of Buddhahood and enlightenment made sense, as did the Vow to save all beings.  I decided to entrusted myself to Amida, just as I was, with all my baggage. My karma was obviously ripe at that point – I completely gave up on other paths/practices and asked Amida to rescue me and to bring me to the Pure Land.  I asked Him to show me any doubts that I may be harbouring. That was all I could do. I felt confident that Amida would give me the gift of Shinjin in His time and I wasn’t going to worry about it.

Now I know that He has grasped me and that I am among those who have reached the stage of non-regression. I have peace and am not interested in “being a seeker” anymore. When I think about Amida and his salvation, I experience joy and gratitude. I realize now that Amida had been leading me my whole life, when I didn’t even know about Him, so he is fully capable of leading me to the Pure Land.  I can now just live my natural life as a bombu, with its normal ups and downs.

Val Whelan

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Thank you Valerie for sharing your amazing journey and your profound understanding of Master Shinran’s pristine Amida Dharma. Other seekers, thirsty for the water of True Liberation, would certainly benefit from your experience and one whose karma has ripened will be fully quenched by The Call of Boundless Compassion.

NAMO AMIDA BUTSU   南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛

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Home Page – The Call Of Boundless Compassion

Page 2 – The Primal Vow

Page 3 – Gatha Of True Faith