Listening Deeply

LISTENING DEEPLY TO THE PURE LAND WAY
深 聞 淨 土 教 行 信 證

listening-deeply-fa

Listen Deeply to The True and Real Pure Land Teaching 
Listen Deeply to The True and Real Pure Land Practice 
Listen Deeply to The True and Real Pure Land Shinjin 
Listen Deeply to The True and Real Pure Land Realization

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Listening Deeply ( ) to the True Pure Land teachings of Master Shinran, is the most effective practice that will surely lead us to accept, without any doubt, the True and Real existence of Amida Buddha and His fulfilled Pure Land of Peace and Bliss. This is the only practice required that had given us repeated exposures to the true teachings in our past lives and will continue to nurture us during this life. Listening deeply allows us to finally resolve all our doubts regarding Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow. Thus, we finally are able to ‘HEAR’, completely free from any doubt, His Compassionate Call and receive His inconceivable gift of Shinjin (信 心), the entrusting faith that guarantees our complete freedom from the vicious cycle of pain and suffering in samsara at the end of our lives.

In his magnum opus the KyoGyoShinSho (教 行 信 證), Master Shinran expounded clearly and thoroughly, on the True and Real Teaching, Great Practice, Shinjin and Realization of The Pure Land Way. In order that our intellectual understanding would be brought down from our minds to find a place deeply in our hearts, he exhorts us – mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 , bombu) – to reflect (夫 以), ponder (竊 以), take heed (謹 按) and so on – deeply listening to the Dharma messages and finally to ‘HEAR’ The Primal Vow.

Passages on the Pure Land Way, beautifully written by Master Shinran, carefully summarizes all his expositions on the ‘Easy Path’ that will definitely take us out of dreadful samsara. Let us listen deeply:

[PREFACE]

“The radiant light, unhindered and inconceivable, eradicates suffering and brings realization of joy; the excellent Name, perfectly embodying all practices, eliminates obstacles and dispels doubt. This is the teaching and practice for our latter age; devote yourself solely to it. It is eye and limb in this defiled world; do not fail to endeavor in it. Accepting and living the supreme, universal Vow, then, abandon the defiled and aspire for the pure. Reverently embracing the Tathagata’s teaching, respond in gratitude to his benevolence and be thankful for his compassion.
Here I, Gutoku, of outlying islands, relying on the treatises from India and the western regions and looking to the explanations of the teachers of China and Japan, reverently entrust myself to the teaching, practice, Shinjin and realization that are the true essence of the Pure Land way. And knowing keenly that the Buddha’s benevolence is difficult to fathom, I seek to clarify it through this collection of passages on the Pure Land way.

[TEACHING]

To begin, the teaching of the Pure Land way is found in the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. The central purport of this sutra is that Amida, by establishing the incomparable Vows, has opened wide the dharma-storehouse, and full of compassion for small, foolish beings, selects and bestows the treasure of virtues. It reveals that Shakyamuni appeared in this world and expounded the teachings of the way to enlightenment, seeking to save the multitudes of living beings by blessing them with the benefit that is true and real. Assuredly this sutra is the true teaching for which the Tathagata appeared in the world. It is the wondrous scripture, rare and most excellent. It is the conclusive and ultimate exposition of the One Vehicle. It is the right teaching, praised by all the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters. To teach Tathagata’s Primal Vow is the true intent of this sutra; the Name of the Buddha is essence.

[PRACTICE]

The practice of the Pure Land way is the great practice that embodies Amida’s perfect benefiting of others. It is revealed in the Vow that all the Buddhas praise the Name, also known as “the Vow that all the Buddhas say the Name.” It may further be called “the Vow of the right act, which is Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth.”

Amida’s directing of virtue to beings through the power of the Primal Vow has two aspects: the aspect for our going forth to the Pure Land and the aspect for our return to this world. Regarding the aspect for going forth, there is great practice, there is pure shinjin.

The great practice is to say the Name of the Tathagata of unhindered light. This practice, comprehensively encompassing all practices, is perfect and most rapid in bringing them to fullness. For this reason, it is called “great practice.” Saying the Name, then, breaks through all the ignorance of sentient beings and readily brings all their aspirations to fulfillment. Saying the Name is in itself mindfulness; mindfulness is nembutsu; nembutsu is Namu-amida-butsu.

The passage declaring the fulfillment of the Vows in the Larger Sutra states:

The Buddha-Tathagatas throughout the ten quarters, countless as the sands of the Ganges, are one in praising the majestic power and the virtues, inconceivably profound, of the Buddha of immeasurable life. All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy, which is directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.

Further the sutra states:

The Buddha said to Maitreya, “If there are people who, having heard the Name of that Buddha, leap and dance with joy, and say it even once, know that they receive the great benefit; that is, they acquire the unexcelled virtues.”

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna states in the Commentary on the Ten Bodhisattva Stages:

If a person desires quickly to attain
The stage of non-retrogression,
He or she should, with a reverent heart,
Say the Name, holding steadfast to it.

When persons doubt as they plant roots of good,
The lotus [in which they gain birth] will not open;
But for those whose shinjin is pure,
The flower opens, and immediately they see the Buddha.

Bodhisattva Vasubandhu states in the Treatise on the Pure Land:

O World-honored one, with the mind that is single
I take refuge in the Tathagata of unhindered light
Filling the ten quarters
And aspire to be born in the land of happiness.

Relying on the sutras
In which the manifestation of true and real virtues is taught,
I compose a gatha of aspiration, a condensation,
That accords with the Buddha’s teaching.

Contemplating the power of the Buddha’s Primal Vow,
I see that no one who encounters it passes by in vain.
It quickly brings to fullness and perfection
The great treasure ocean of virtues.

With these passages from the sacred words of the Buddha and from the treatises, we know in particular that the great practice is not a foolish being’s practice of directing his or her own merit toward attainment of birth. It is the fulfilled practice that Amida directs to beings out of great compassion, and therefore is called “not-directing virtue [on the part of beings].” This practice indeed embodies the Primal Vow, in which the nembutsu is selected and adopted. It is the supreme, all-surpassing universal Vow. It is the true and wondrous right dharma that is the One Vehicle. It is the unexcelled practice that perfectly embodies all good acts.

The word naishi (even) in the passages from the Larger Sutra is used to indicate an upper or lower limit while omitting what is between. [In the second passage,] ichinen (saying of the Name once) indicates single-heartedly practicing the nembutsu. Single-heartedly practicing the nembutsu is a single voicing. A single voicing is saying the Name. Saying the Name is constant mindfulness. Constant mindfulness is right-mindedness. Right-mindedness is the true act [that brings about birth in the Pure Land].

Further, naishi ichinen in no way refers to one thought in contemplation on the Buddha’s virtue or to one utterance in repeated recitation of the Name. [As the first passage shows,] naishi ichinen (even one thought-moment) refers to the ultimate brevity and expansion of the length of time in which one attains the mind and practice [i.e., shinjin and nembutsu] that result in birth in the Pure Land. Let this be known.

[SHINJIN] 

Pure shinjin is shinjin that actualizes Amida’s profound and vast benefiting of others. It arises from the Vow of birth through the nembutsu, also known as “the Vow of sincere mind and entrusting.” It may further be called “the Vow of shinjin, which is Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth.” However, for the shallowest of foolish beings – the multitudes of the basest level – it is impossible to realize pure shinjin, impossible to attain the highest end. This is because we do not depend on Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth and because we are entangled in a net of doubt. It is through the Tathagata’s supportive power, and through the vast power of great compassion and all-embracing wisdom, that a person realizes pure, true, and real shinjin. Therefore, that mind will not be inverted; that mind will not be vain or false. Truly we know that the supreme, perfect fruit of enlightenment is not difficult to attain; it is pure shinjin, true and real, that is indeed difficult to realize.

When persons realize pure shinjin that is true and real, they realize the mind of great joy. Concerning the attainment of the mind of great joy, the Larger Sutra states:

The person who aspires with a sincere mind to be born in the land of happiness shall reach the full illumination of wisdom and acquire virtues unexcelled.

Further, the sutra states: Such a person is “one of great, majestic virtue”; moreover, he or she is “a person of vast and unexcelled understanding.”

This shinjin is indeed the superlative means of sweeping away doubt and attaining virtues. It is what is truly manifested in the sutra, all virtues being fulfilled instantly in it. It is the wondrous way of attaining longevity and deathlessness. It is the pure shinjin of vast, majestic virtue.

Hence, whether with regard to practice or to shinjin there is nothing whatever that has not been fulfilled through Amida Tathagata’s directing of virtue to beings out of the pure Vow-mind. It is not that there is no cause or that there is some other cause. Let this be known.

[REALIZATION]

The realization attained in the Pure Land way is the wondrous fruition attained through Amida’s perfect benefiting of others. It arises from the Vow of necessary attainment of nirvana, also known as the “Vow of the realization of great nirvana.” It may further be called “the Vow of realization, which is Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth.” This realization is purity, reality, and no-birth (nirvana), ultimate and consummate.

Concerning the supreme nirvana, the passage teaching the fulfillment of this Vow in the Larger Sutra states:

The sentient beings born in that land all dwell among the truly settled, for in that Buddha Land there is not one who is falsely settled or not settled.

Further the sutra states:

The words “human beings” and “devas” are used simply in accordance with the usage elsewhere. Their countenances are dignified and wonderful, surpassing things of this world. Their features, subtle and delicate, are not those of human beings or devas; all receive the body of naturalness (jinen) or of emptiness, the body of boundlessness.

Further it states:

Necessarily one achieves the abandoning of his world, transcending and parting from it, and attains birth in the land of peace. One cuts off crosswise the five evil courses and the evil courses close naturally (jinen). Ascending the way is without limit; to go is easy and yet no one is born there. Never at variance with that land, one is drawn there by its spontaneous working.

With these sacred words of the Buddha we know clearly that when foolish beings possessed of all blind passions – the multitudes of beings caught in birth-and-death and defiled by evil karma – realize the mind and practice that Amida directs to them for their going forth, they come to dwell among the truly settled of the Mahayana teaching. Those who dwell among the truly settled necessarily attain nirvana. When one necessarily attains nirvana, [one attains] eternal bliss. Eternal bliss is great nirvana. Great nirvana is the fruit that manifests itself in the field of benefiting and converting others. This body is the uncreated dharma-body. The uncreated dharma-body is the body of ultimate equality. The body of ultimate equality is tranquility. Tranquility is true reality. True reality is dharma-nature. Dharma-nature is suchness. Suchness is oneness.

Hence, whether with regard to the cause or to its fruition, there is nothing whatever that has not been fulfilled through Amida Tathagata’s directing of virtue to beings out of the pure Vow-mind. Because the cause is pure, the fruit is also pure. Reflect on this.

[DIRECTING VIRTUE FOR OUR RETURN]

Second is Amida’s directing of virtue for our return to this world. This is the benefit we receive, the state of benefiting and guiding others. It arises from the Vow of necessary attainment of the rank next to Buddhahood, also known as “the Vow for the attainment of Buddhahood after one lifetime.” It may further be called “the Vow of directing virtue for our return to this world.” The passage declaring the fulfillment of this Vow in the Larger Sutra states:

The bodhisattvas of that land all fulfill the attainment of Buddhahood after one lifetime, except those who, for the sake of sentient beings, have established their own original vows and, thus adorning themselves with the virtues of universal vows, seek to bring all to emancipation.

With these sacred words we know clearly that this is the working of the universal Vow of great love and great compassion; it is the vast and inconceivable benefit. Through it one enters the thick forests of blind passion to guide beings, compassionately leading them in accord with the virtue of Samantabhadra.

Hence, whether with regard to the aspect for going forth to the Pure Land or to the aspect for return to this world, there is nothing whatever that has not been fulfilled through the Tathagata’s directing of virtue to beings out of the pure Vow-mind. Reflect on this.

[CONCLUSION]

This being so, when conditions were mature for the teaching of birth in the Pure Land, Devadatta provoked Ajatasatru to commit grave crimes, and out of pity for beings of this defiled world, Shakyamuni led Vaidehi to select the land of peace. As we turn this over in our minds and quietly reflect, we realize that Devadatta and Ajatasatru bestowed their generous care on us, and that Amida and Shakyamuni thus manifested their profound intention to save all beings.

Accordingly Vasubandhu, the author of the Treatise on the Pure Land, proclaims pure shinjin, vast and unhindered, and universally awakens the multitudes of this passion-defiled world of suffering. Master T’an-luan clarifies Amida’s directing of virtue, which is the working great compassion for our going forth to the Pure Land and our return to this world; and he thoroughly expounds for all, with care and concern, the profound significance of Other’s benefiting and benefiting others. The teaching and saving activity of the Buddha and the incarnated ones was solely to bring benefits universally to all foolish beings; the vast, great mind and practice arise solely out of the desire to guide evil people who have committed grave offenses and those who wholly lack the seed of Buddhahood.

My fervent wish is this: Whether monk or layperson, when on board the ship of the great compassionate Vow, let pure shinjin be the favorable wind, and in the dark night of ignorance, let the jewel of virtue be a great torch. Those whose minds are dark and whose understanding deficient, endeavor in this way with reverence! Those whose evils are heavy and whose karmic obstructions manifold, deeply revere this shinjin! Ah, hard to encounter, even in many lifetimes, is the decisive cause of birth, Amida’s universal Vow; and hard to realize, even in myriads of kalpas, is pure shinjin that is true and real. If you should come to realize shinjin, rejoice at the conditions from the distant past that have brought it about. But if in this lifetime still you are entangled in a net of doubt, then unavoidably you must pass once more in the stream of birth-and-death through myriads of kalpas and countless lives. Hear and reflect on the truth that one is grasped, never to be abandoned – the teaching of attaining birth in the Pure Land with transcendent quickness and ease; and let there be no wavering or apprehension.

How joyous I am, realizing as I humbly reflect that my heart and mind stand rooted in the Buddha-ground of the universal Vow, and that my thoughts and feelings flow within the dharma-ocean, which is beyond comprehension. Filled with praise for what I have heard and joy in what I have attained, I gather words expressing the truth and select passages from the commentaries of the masters. In this, I am mindful solely of the unexcelled honored ones, and in particular seek thus to respond to the immense benevolence they have shown me.”

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With profound gratitude to Master Shinran for his benevolence in meticulously transmitting to us the True Teaching, Great Practice, True Shinjin and True Realization of The Pure Land Way, so that we can receive Amida Buddha’s gift of Salvation, I am presenting below a poem on LISTENING DEEPLY to his repeated exhortations:

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The vicious cycle of birth and death
Firmly holds all suffering beings,
Yet those wishing to be freed
Struggled in vain with self-centered means.
Blinded by idiotic spiritual faculties
Their efforts are useless with little effect,
So, mundane foolish persons
Listen Deeply and reflect.

We should honestly realize that
In this Age of corrupted Dharma
We are doomed to complete failure
Salvation surely denied by self-power.
Taking the easy path of the Pure Land
We are saved by the Buddha’s Vow-power
So, mundane foolish persons
Listen Deeply and ponder.

The Larger Sutra clearly expounds
The true Land of Peace and Happiness
Revealing to us The True Teaching
That saves those in utter wretchedness.
With True and Real existence
Amida’s Salvation is absolutely perfect
So, mundane foolish persons
Listen Deeply and accept.

Fulfilling His Primal Vow
Amida saves all without exception
When we sincerely Say His Name
The Great Practice of Compassion.
By simply entrusting in His promise
Our Salvation is guaranteed
So, mundane foolish persons
Listen Deeply and take heed.

With the one-thought moment
Of complete reliance on The Vow
We are grasped and not forsaken
By His Light of Great Compassion.
This is the precious gift of True Shinjin
Bestowed solely by Amida’s grace
So, mundane foolish persons
Listen Deeply and be embraced.

On receiving settled Shinjin we know
That we will obtain True Realization
So, with profound gratitude to Amida 
we joyfully come into His presence.
Listening Deeply before receiving Shinjin
We say Namo Amida Butsu
Listening Deeply after receiving Shinjin
We still say Namo Amida Butsu

The Buddha’s infinite merits and virtues
Are bestowed equally to all beings
May all accept Amida’s Gift of Shinjin and
Obtain birth in His Land of Peace and Bliss.

Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu
Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu
Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu
Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu

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Through the single-minded practice of Listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma; particularly the True Dharma on Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow as clearly expounded by Master Shinran, may all mundane foolish persons who sincerely aspire to escape from the painful clutches of samsara at the end of this unsatisfactory life, swiftly and surely ‘Hear’:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛  Namo Amida Butsu
南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛  Namo Amida Butsu
南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛  Namo Amida Butsu

HOME PAGE:  The Call of Boundless Compassion/The Primal Vow

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