Month: October 2018

Saying the Buddha’s Name

佛 – Nembutsu

namoamitofu-fa

We sincerely take refuge in Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow, the universal pledge of Boundless Compassion and aspire to be born in His Pure Land of Peace and Bliss. In profound gratitude for this inconceivable Gift of Salvation, we Say the Buddha’s Name, knowing without any doubt, that the Tathagata has permanently saved us from samsara – the vicious cycle of relentless birth, suffering and death – at the end of this precious human life…

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Amida Buddha’s salvific activities – His practice of great compassion, is essentially contained in the forty eight original Vows made by Him countless trillions of years ago, when He was performing extremely difficult practices, as Bodhisattva Dharmakara, under the close mentorship of Buddha Lokesvararaja. Having perfectly fulfilled all His Vows through those extremely hard practices of ineffable endurance and discipline, Amida Buddha finally established the Pure Land of Serene Sustenance to receive all suffering sentient beings who wish to be born there. Amongst all Buddhas, Amida Buddha is Supreme because of His universal Vows – His Infinite Light of Wisdom supersedes all other Buddhas.

The existence of Amida Buddha and The Pure Land is true and real. Yet, it is totally inconceivable and beyond the defiled, unenlightened understanding of foolish sentient beings like ourselves. Perpetually engulfed by the darkness of ignorance and assailed by the hindrance of doubt, there is absolutely no way – by intellectual or scientific means – that we can prove or perceive, the inconceivable, but real existence of Amida.

Through expedient means and innumerable manifestations in this world, Amida Buddha, without a moment respite, tirelessly saved countless beings in the past and continues right now to lead those in the present who are karmically ripe out of this dreadful cycle of birth, suffering and death.

Being always amongst the multitudes, The Tathagata, using various skillful methods, sets up the appropriate karmic connections with sentient beings to enable them to be saved in the future. The Buddha, without being asked, spontaneously helps all sentient beings. We should know that Amida Buddha had already accomplished our Pure Land births by fulfilling for each of us our aspirations and their attendant practices – all ignorant sentient beings will realise this fact sooner or later when they are karmically ready to receive Amida Buddha’s precious gift of Entrusting faith (Shinjin -信 心).

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The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, carefully taught by Shakymuni Buddha, describes in detail the history of Amida Buddha, His fulfilled original Vows, and the Pure Land. This Sutra – the king of all sutras – meticulously delivered by the Buddha, while displaying  an unprecedented radiance and joy, affords mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 – bombu) like us, the only viable route out of samsara. It is the main reason for Shakyamuni Buddha’s fortunate appearance in this world.

In his wonderful poems – Gatha of True Faith – Venerable Master Shinran wrote:

 “The reason for The Tathagata’s appearance in this world
Is solely to teach the ocean-like Primal Vow of Amida
The multitudes of beings in this evil Age of The Five Defilements
Should entrust themselves to the absolute true words of The Tathagata.”

The ultimate purpose of the Buddha Dharma is to teach each and every one of us, how we can permanently be freed from samsara – the treacherous realms of pain and suffering. Born into this precious human life, we are now given the rare opportunity of escaping from samsara. Yet, to be completely free from all suffering, we must become Buddhas at the end of this physical life. This is indeed impossible for badly defiled sentient beings like us – wretched persons overwhelmed by persistent greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance – through the performance of self-powered practices.

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Amida’s Primal Vow however, seeks to get us permanently out of samsara and become Buddhas at the end of this life. Through the inconceivable power of the Primal Vow, we are equally saved without exception – whether we are monk or lay, men or woman, good or evil persons, young or old and living in any circumstance or social status. We are definitely saved, according to our wishes, when we accept and are in accord with, the explicit instructions of Amida’s Primal Vow:

“If, When I attain Buddhahood
Sentient Beings of The Ten Quarters
With Sincere Mind, Joyfully entrusting themselves
Aspiring To Be Born in my Land
And Saying My Name perhaps even ten times
Should Not be born there
May I Not Attain The Supreme Enlightenment
Excluded Are Those Who commit the five grave offenses
And Those Who slander The Right Dharma.”

“For Amida vowed to take into Perfect Bliss those who Say the Name, and thus to entrust oneself deeply and to Say the Name is to be in perfect accord with the Primal Vow. Though a person may have Shinjin, if he does not Say the Name it is of no avail. And conversely, even though he fervently Says the Name, if his Shinjin is shallow, he cannot attain birth. Thus, it is the person who both deeply entrust himself to birth through the Nembutsu and undertakes to Say the Name who is certain to be born in the true Buddha Land.”

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Listening Deeply (深 聞 佛 法) to the Buddha Dharma in general and Amida Dharma in particular, naturally nurtures us, allowing us to finally resolve all our doubts regarding Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow. It is the only practice required on our part that had repeatedly enabled us to be exposed to the true Dharma teachings in our past lives and will continue to embrace us, right up to the end of this life.

Persons with unsettled shinjin, if they listen deeply to the Buddha Dharma and clearing all their doubts with persons of Shinjin; Saying the Buddha’s Name as they are so inclined to, may ultimately be awakened to the honest truth that they are indeed incapable to save themselves by struggling in vain with any kind of self-powered, meditative or non-meditative, practices. When the good karma from their past lives ripens, these persons of unsettled shinjin may soon come to realize that the ‘easy’ path of the True Pure Land Way is their only viable route out of samsara.

Persons with Shinjin firmly settled, would naturally continue to listen deeply, Saying the Buddha’s Name, whether once or by many repetitions, deeply grateful for the Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha, the Other Power that guarantees their salvation from the treacherous ocean of unending suffering and pain.

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True Entrusting (Shinjin -信 心) – on our part – is the faith-mind consciousness that is able to accept without any doubt, fully convinced about the existence of Amida Buddha, His Pure Land and the Power of His Vows, particularly, the Primal Vow. When sparked off by the ripening of good karmic seeds accumulated from our past lives, our repeated listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma, particularly the wonderful Amida Dharma, as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, will bring us to the point of clear realization – “the one-thought moment” – in which we are awakened to the fact that we are saved by Amida Buddha. Thus, with joy and deep gratitude, we receive and single-mindedly accept this true and real entrusting faith.

Moreover, honestly realizing that we are the lowest of the lowest grade of Dharma practicers, spiritual idiots totally incapable to save ourselves by our own efforts and struggles, we would know that the Pure Land Way is the only option available to us, if getting out of samsara is indeed our goal in this life. We are then able to completely abandon all sundry, egoistic, meditative/non-meditative practices and fully entrust our karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and single-heartedly Say the Buddha’s Name.

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Passages from the Sutras and Master Shinran’s wonderful teachings are found in his magnum opus, the KyoGyoShinSho – expositions on The True Pure Land Way – in which he clearly delineates the great compassionate, salvific activities of Amida Buddha.

“Reverently contemplating Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth to the Pure Land, I find that there is great practice, there is great Shinjin. The great practice is to Say the Name of the Tathagata of Unhindered Light. This practice, embodying all good acts and possessing all roots of virtue, is perfect and most rapid in bringing about birth. It is the treasure ocean of virtues that is suchness or true reality. For this reason, it is called great practice…”

“The Vow that all the Buddhas Say the Name is stated in the Larger Sutra:
If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters do not all praise and Say my Name, may I not attain the supreme Enlightenment.”

“The sutra passage declaring the fulfillment of this Vow 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.”

“Further it states:
The power of the Buddha’s Primal Vow is such
That those who hear the Name and aspire for birth
All reach that land –
Their attainment of non-retrogression coming about of itself.”

“These passages reveal that Saying the Name breaks through all the ignorance of sentient beings and fulfills all their aspirations. Saying the Name is the right act, supreme, true, and excellent. The right act is the Nembutsu. The Nembutsu is Namo-Amida-Butsu. Namo-Amida-Butsu is right-mindedness. Let this be known.”

“Those who feel uncertain of birth should say the Nembutsu aspiring first for their own birth. Those who feel that their own birth is completely settled (Shinjin) should, mindful of the Buddha’s benevolence, hold the Nembutsu in their hearts and say it to respond in gratitude to that benevolence…” – (Go-Shosoku Shu)

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Saying the Buddha’s Name (Nembutsu – ) is the Great Practice embodied in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow (阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願) – His pledge of Absolute Confidence (Shinjin – 信 心) in saving every one of us from samsara. This Great Practice had been selected by Amida Buddha and given to all suffering beings, as a practical and easy medium by which the Buddha transfers His infinite virtues and merits to mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 – bombu) like us, those who, wishing to be born in His Pure Land, sincerely and joyfully entrust their karmic destiny single-heartedly to Him.

In this degenerated Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代), Dharma practicers, badly defiled by evil passions and living in unconducive environments, are absolutely incapable to attain emancipation by performing self-centered practices. Only the Other power faith in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow and single-minded rememberance of the Compassion of the Buddha (Nembutsu – 佛), is fully in accord with the extremely poor spiritual capacities of beings like us.

Saying the Buddha’s Name – (Namo Amida Bu – 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛 ) – for persons of settled entrusting faith (Shinjin -信 心), is their expression of receiving this other power faith which, they know, without any doubt, comes solely from Amida Tathagata’s Primal Vow.

Before receiving Shinjin, there was a time when we were erroneously inclined toward performing self-power practices (including Saying the Buddha’s Name), thinking that, by doing so, we could gain and dedicate more merits for our birth in the Pure Land. We had not realized that these self-centered acts had exposed our lack of Shinjin in the Primal Vow. Ardently reciting the Buddha’s Name without Shinjin, we were merely calling – ‘Buddha, please save me’ – and expressing our aspiration for birth. By relying on such egoistic practice, we actually doubt Amida Buddha’s “mysteriously marvellous” Primal Vow. Any kind of doubt in the saving power of the Primal Vow, certainly obstructs our birth in the True Fulfilled Land of Peace and Bliss.

After receiving Shinjin, we would single-heartededly Say the Buddha’s Name (Namo Amida Bu -南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛), fully aware that it is not our good nor is it our self-power practice. It is simply our expression of taking refuge/entrusting in Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow; sincerely thanking Him for saving us. Without any concern about the number of repetitions, we would just Say the Buddha’s Name, in times of happiness or sadness, under any circumstance, environment or state of mind, whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down. It is truly a wonderful Path completely free of obstacles.

The six character Name – a phonetic transliteration from the original Sanskrit text – has the following wonderful features, skilfully employed by Amida Buddha, that would absolutely cause our birth in Buddha’s Pure Land of Peace and Ultimate Happiness:

Namo – 南 无 – refers to the one to be saved – that pathetic person who wants to be freed from the painful existences in samsara. It is also the call of Amida Buddha to that person commanding him/her to single-heartedly take refuge and fully entrust in the Primal Vow.

Amida Bu (_ddha or _tsu) – 阿 彌 陀 佛 – is the Buddha of Infinite Light/Life, the Saviour (the Other-power) who saves the one to be saved.

Thus, Saying the Name (Namo Amida Bu -南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛) with unshakable entrusting faith, remembering Amida Buddha, causes the person who wants to be saved and the Saviour to become one; effectively fulfilling the Primal Vow. We therefore know, without any doubt, that our deliverance to the shore of ultimate Freedom and Happiness has been firmly secured and absolutely assured, at the end of this miserable existence in mortal flesh.

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Ten benefits of Saying the Buddha’s Name, with true entrusting faith in Amida’s Primal Vow, in our present lives, are clearly stated by Master Shinran:

.. First, the benefit of being protected and sustained by unseen powers.
Second, the benefit of being possessed of supreme virtues.
Third, the benefit of our karmic evil being transformed into good.
Fourth, the benefit of being protected and cared for by all the Buddhas.
Fifth, the benefit of being praised by all the Buddhas
Sixth, the benefit of being constantly protected by the light of the Buddha’s heart.
Seventh, the benefit of having great joy in our hearts.
Eight, the benefit of being aware of Amida’s benevolence
and responding in gratitude to His virtue.
Ninth, the benefit of constantly practicing great compassion.
Tenth, the benefit of entering the stage of the truly settled.”

Thus, from the moment we receive true and real Shinjin, we are truly settled in our minds and hearts; constantly protected and cared for by all the Buddhas. Naturally, we  would live out the remaining days in our perishing material bodies, knowing that Amida Buddha has already transferred His infinite merits and virtues for our going forth to the Pure Land. We would single-heartedly Say the Buddha’s Name in deep gratitude to Him, for as long as our breaths last.

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.

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Thus, receiving the Tathagata’s inconceivable gift of Salvation, we single-heartedly Say the wonderful Name, having clearly and surely ‘HEARD’:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Bu
南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Bu
南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Bu

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Home Page: The Call of Boundless Compassion

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Amida’s Primal Vow

 阿      陀      本   

the-primal-vow-2

Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow is the Tathagata’s absolute promise to all wretched sentient beings like ourselves who are firmly caught, for trillions of lives, in the net of samsara, the vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death. Those who come to realize and truthfully admit their utter inability to free themselves by struggling in vain with their own self-power efforts and practices, are assured of Salvation, the moment when they single-heartedly entrust themselves, taking refuge in Amida Buddha and the power of The Primal Vow…

“If, When I attain Buddhahood
Sentient Beings of The Ten Quarters
With Sincere Mind, Joyfully entrusting themselves
Aspiring To Be Born in my Land
And Saying My Name perhaps even ten times
Should Not be born there
May I Not Attain The Supreme Enlightenment
Excluded Are Those Who commit the five grave offenses
And Those Who slander The Right Dharma.”

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Amida Buddha in His practising stage, countless trillions of years ago – as Bodhisattva Dharmakara, under the guidance of Buddha Lokesvararaja – boldly made forty-eight inconceivable Vows, out of great compassion for all suffering sentient beings. These Vows are made fully in accord with the varying karmic circumstances, capacities and natures of beings – the main purpose is to ultimately free everyone, without exception – from the relentless and painful cycle of samsara.

All these Vows have already been wonderfully fulfilled when the Bodhisattva – after countless trillions of years of extremely hard practices in meditation, generosity and strict moral disciplines – attained Perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago as Amida Buddha. His Pure Land of Peace and Bliss had been splendidly established specifically to receive all beings who really aspire to be born there and be permanently freed from the dreadful torture of samsara. In every one of the Vows, Amida Buddha had declared that each Vow would be accomplished accordingly as He had promised, otherwise, He is not fit to be a Buddha.

Through Amida Buddha’s innumerable manifestations in this world, The Tathagata, without a moment respite, tirelessly saved countless beings in the past and continues right now to lead those in the present who are karmically ripe, to be born in His Land of Serene Sustenance. Being always amongst the multitudes, The Tathagata, using various skillful methods, sets up the appropriate karmic connections with sentient beings to enable them to be saved in the future.

Listening Deeply ( ) to the wonderful, True Pure Land teachings of Venerable Master Shinran and his core emphasis on the saving power of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, we have given ourselves the extremely rare opportunity to escape from samsara. Let us listen deeply and reflect on what he wrote:

“The word ‘Hear’ in the passage from the Larger Sutra means that sentient beings, having heard how the Buddha’s Vow arose – its origin and fulfilment – are altogether free of doubt. This is to ‘HEAR’. ”

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The Primal Vow – that is the 18th Vow – has caused countless mundane foolish persons (bombu 凡 夫), both good or evil, stupid or intelligent , male or female from different social status and environments – to be born directly into The Pure Land of Peace and Bliss and come to the end of all suffering, the beginning of Buddhahood. We should know that Amida Buddha had already accomplished our Pure Land births through the power of The Primal Vow, by fulfilling for each of us our aspirations and their attendant practices – all ignorant sentient beings will realise this fact sooner or later when they are karmically ready to receive Amida Buddha’s precious gift of Salvation.

The Primal Vow is also Amida Buddha’s simple and clear instruction on how we can confidently get to His Pure Land at the end of this life:

.. Single-heartedly and joyfully entrust yourself to me
.. Aspire to be born in my Pure Land
.. Saying my Name 

Thus, by sincerely and joyfully entrusting ourselves, single-heartedly taking refuge only in Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow; aspiring for birth in the Pure Land, we have fully accepted  His Absolute Confidence – His inconceivable Faith-mind (Shinjin, 信 心) – that continuously seeks to save all suffering beings. Spontaneously, with the one thought-moment of entrusting faith  (Shinjin, 信 心), we would Say the Buddha’s Name (Nembutsu, 念 佛) – (Namo Amida Butsu, 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛) – deeply grateful to The Buddha for having saved us, here and now, during this present life.

Completing the cause of our Pure Land birth by fully relying on the Other-power (Buddha-centered Power), we are instantly grasped and never forsaken by the Light of Great Compassion. The darkness of our stubborn ignorance is now broken through and the hindrance of doubt in our minds and hearts, that had plagued us for trillion of births, naturally disappears, just like darkness dissipating by itself in the presence of Light.

In the Gatha of True Faith (正 信 偈), Master Shinran passionately expresses in beautiful poetry, his direct and grateful experience on the Primal Vow:

“The embracing Light of Compassion illumines and protects us always
Having already broken through the darkness of our ignorance             
Still the clouds and mists of greed, desire, anger and hatred 
Constantly obscure the sky of true and real Shinjin.

But just like the light of the sun being blocked by clouds and mists
Beneath those clouds and mists, there is brightness, not darkness    
So on receiving Shinjin we experience gratitude and great joy           
And instantly transcend cross-wise the five evil courses.”

Regarding fulfilment of The Primal Vow, Master Shinran wrote:

“The passage declaring the fulfilment of the Primal Vow in the Larger Sutra states: 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. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses and those who slander the right Dharma.”

“The Name embodying the Primal Vow, is the act of true settlement
This Vow of Joyful Entrusting with a Sincere Mind is the cause of birth
We will realize the stage equal to enlightenment and supreme Nirvana
And through the fulfillment of The Vow, we will surely attain Nirvana.

The reason for The Tathagata’s appearance in this world
Is solely to teach the ocean-like Primal Vow of Amida
The multitudes of beings in this evil Age of The Five Defilements
Should entrust themselves to the absolute true words of The Tathagata.”

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“Saved by the inconceivable working of Amida’s Vow, I shall realize birth in the Pure Land”: the moment you entrust yourself thus to the Vow, so that the mind set upon saying the Nembutsu arises within you, you are immediately brought to share in the benefit of being grasped by Amida, never to be abandoned.

Know that the Primal Vow of Amida makes no distinction between people young and old, good and evil; only Shinjin is essential. For it is the Vow to save the person whose karmic evil is deep and grave and whose blind passions abound.”

Thus, for those who entrust themselves to the Primal Vow, no good acts are required, because no good surpasses the Nembutsu. Nor need they despair of the evil they commit, for no evil can obstruct the working of Amida’s Primal Vow. – (Tannisho – Lamenting Divergences chapter 1).

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We see that The Primal Vow is clearly Amida Buddha’s pledge to every sentient being. He had already attained Supreme Enlightenment and The Pure Land wonderfully established, although not all sentient beings would single-heartedly entrust themselves to this Vow of Boundless Compassion at this time. The enlightenment of all sentient beings had already been fulfilled at the hands of Amida Buddha. Therefore, The Primal Vow is constantly in an active mode, instantly fulfilled the moment sentient beings single-heartedly entrust themselves and fully accept Amida’s Shinjin.

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Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo Amida Butsu, 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛) embodied in The Primal Vow, is the Great Practice and an active other-power cause of our birth in The Pure Land and attainment of Nirvana. It is not our good nor is it our self-power practice. It is simply our act of true settlement, knowing that we will become Buddhas at the end of this fleeting life.

The Vow that all the Buddhas Say the Name  is stated in The Larger Sutra:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters do not all praise and Say my Name, may I not attain the Supreme Enlightenment.”

In this spiritually defiled Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) when all human beings are karmically overwhelmed by the evil passions of greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance, everything we perceive is fleeting; ultimately false. Only Saying the Buddha’s Name (Nembutsu, 念 佛) – remembering the Buddha – which is fully supported by all the other countless Buddhas in the infinite worlds, is True and Real.

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If we seriously desire to be completely free from all pain and suffering at the end of this precious human life which has given us the right opportunity of encountering The Buddha Dharma, we should completely put aside all meditative and non-meditative practices. We should know that these practices on the Path of Sages are simply beyond our natures and meagre spiritual capacities. Therefore, struggling to practice them for the purpose of getting out of samsara will definitely be in vain.

If we honestly admit that we just Do Not possess the ability to free ourselves by self-power from the  relentless, fearful nightmare of samsara, we will realize that we Do Not have any other choice but to single-heartedly entrust our karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow.

Thus, fully relying on Other-power – the natural working of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow – we know that our birth in the Land of Peace and Happiness is absolutely assured while we are still living out this unsatisfactory existence. Our endless wandering in the painful realms of samsara has finally come to an end, at the end of this life in mortal flesh.

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Let us Listen deeply, knowing without any doubt, that Amida Buddha has dedicated all His merits and virtues for our going forth to The Pure Land of Ultimate Happiness. We have now clearly and surely HEARD:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

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