Amazing path of awakening – Tribute to a Good Teacher
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’.
This post is a special tribute to Paul Roberts who had recently passed on to Amida Buddha’s Pure Land of Peace and Bliss. Despite his personal health issues, Paul had tirelessly and compassionately spread the wonderful teachings of Master Shinran on Amida’s Inconceivable Gift of Salvation. Being a good teacher with True and Real Shinjin, he had helped numerous persons interested in Jodo Shinshu to listen deeply to Master Shinran’s expositions; resulting in many receiving the precious Gift of Shinjin, putting a permanent end to their endless suffering in samsara when this life is over.
Paul Roberts was 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, was a great source of inspiration and encouragement to many ordinary foolish lay persons, fellow travellers who were seeking for the only viable Path of True Salvation. Gratefully joining Amida Buddha’s golden chain, he also teached with his wonderful videos on You Tube, available to every one. His uncompromising attitude and fight against false teachings and divergences from the True Pure Land teachings, were well known by everyone who heard his teachings.
Paul’s wonderful story, written in his own words, gives us an excellent opportunity to listen deeply to the inconceivable working of Amida’s Great Compassion…
“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“
Written by Paul Roberts in October 2015, for: The Call Of Boundless Compassion.
We are grateful to Paul for his wonderful story. It is certainly an amazing example of how a common foolish person like us, who, by single-heartedly entrusting himself and his karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, is grasped and not forsaken by the Buddha. Having now obtained birth and Buddhahood in The Pure Land, Paul will be on his next task of returning to this world – through the Vow-power of Amida Buddha – to help others karmically linked to him (through seen or unseen ways), receive Amida’s Inconceivable Gift of Entrusting Faith.
Words cannot fully express how wonderful it is to have a Good Teacher of True Shinjin amongst us. Knowing this, our escape from this vicious cycle of pain and suffering in samsara at the end of this life, is all the more assured.
The Buddha’s infinite merits and virtues
Are bestowed equally on all beings.
May all accept Amida’s Gift of Shinjin
And obtain birth in His Land of Peace and Bliss.
Namo Amida Butsu 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
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