Month: January 2019

Amida’s Primal Vow

 阿      陀      本   

the-primal-vow-2

Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow is the Tathagata’s absolute promise to save all wretched sentient beings, like ourselves, who are firmly caught, for billions of lives, in the net of samsara – the vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death. All of us have struggled in vain, from the moment we are born, constantly seeking to find happiness and to avoid suffering. Yet, being spiritually blind and ignorant, our continuous search for lasting happiness in this fleeting life, would definitely be futile. Thus, carelessly we live and squander away, this extremely rare, human birth.

However, those who come to realize and truthfully admit their utter inability to free themselves by their own self-power efforts and practices, are assured of Ultimate Happiness, 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 billions 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.

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Listening Deeply ( ) to the wonderful Buddha Dharma taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, gives us a broad understanding of our truly pathetic lives in samsara and thus, develops our aspiration to escape from this painful existence. Because of His great compassion for all suffering beings, the Buddha have taught 84,000 skilful methods and more – each appropriate to the varying capacities and natures of beings – so that every one would have a chance to escape from samsara.

Listening deeply to the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, Venerable Master Shinran, after 20 years of arduous practice on the Path of Sages, realized that he was absolutely incapable in attaining enlightenment through the difficult, self-powered, meditative and non-meditative practices prescribed. This deep and honest understanding about himself and his poor spiritual capacity, lead him to choose the True Pure Land Way that relies solely on the saving power of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. Receiving the gift of Shinjin – the entrusting faith from Amida Buddha – he was embraced and not forsaken by the Light of Great Compassion and know, without any doubt, that he would become a Buddha at the end of his physical life.

Exhorting us to listen deeply to the True Pure Land Teachings taught by Shakyamuni Buddha for pathetic beings like ourselves in this Dharma ending age, he tells us, through his wonderful expositions, that we would definitely be saved from the cycle of pain and suffering. By relying on the Other-power, we have given ourselves the extremely rare opportunity to extricate ourselves 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 Amida Buddha
.. Aspire to be born in His Pure Land
.. Saying the Buddha’s 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 billion 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. Saying the Buddha’s Name is fully supported by all Buddhas, as it is easy to hold and easy to remember, affording all human beings a simple way, to find true meaning in their lives and to free themselves from the torture of samsara.

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.”

Thus, 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

 

 

 

 

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Ajatasatru – Our Real Story

THE STORY OF WHO WE REALLY ARE

淨 邦 緣 熟

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Icchantikas are wretched, hopeless persons lacking the seed of salvation – people like ourselves who are stricken with a common human sickness, most difficult to cure in this world. Completely ignorant about the intractable egos that keep us firmly strapped to the vicious wheel of birth and death, we cannot be cured by self-centered means. Only the Compassionate Light of a Supreme Buddha can cure us…..

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“Concerning beings who are difficult to cure, the Buddha has taught the following in The Nirvana Sutra:
Kasyapa, there are three kinds of people in the world who are hard to cure:
.. those who slander the Great Vehicle,
.. those who commit the five grave offenses, and
.. those who lack the seed of Buddhahood (icchantikas).
These three sicknesses are the most severe in the world; they cannot be treated by sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, or bodhisattvas.”

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An Icchantika (一 闡 提) is the description that Venerable Master Shinran gave himself as he carefully explains to us, in his expositions, on the extreme difficulty for this group of wretched, hopeless, foolish and ignorant persons, to cross the ocean of samsara – the painful cycle of birth and death. Without exception every one of us is an icchantika, a person consumed by the uncontrollable urges of lust, ambition, greed, hatred, jealousy and arrogance, in this Dharma Ending Age. We too are badly plagued by the same deep-rooted human sickness that can only be cured by the Other power of a Supreme Buddha.

He relates to us the wonderful, true story of Ajatasatru – The Story of who we really are:

“As I carefully reflect, I see that the inconceivable  Universal Vow is indeed a great vessel bearing us across the ocean difficult to cross and that the Unhindered Light is the Sun of wisdom dispersing the darkness of our ignorance.

Thus it is that, when karmic conditions for the teaching of birth in the Pure Land had ripened, Devadatta provoked Ajatasatru to commit grave crimes. And when the opportunity arose for explaining the pure act by which birth is settled, Sakyamuni led Vaidehi to select the Land of Serene Sustenance.”

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The story of Ajatasatru, the unborn enemy – told in the Nirvana Sutra and related in Master Shinran’s wonderful exposition, the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho (真 實 教 行 信 證) – is an excellent example of a mundane foolish person (凡 夫, bombu) who is overwhelmed and consumed by the fires of egoistic passions – greed, hatred, deep-rooted ignorance, jealousy and arrogance. Having committed the gravest despicable crimes, Prince Ajatasatru later recognized how evil he was and realized that he was a pathetic ‘icchantika’ – one who lacked the seed of salvation; a person without any hope of emancipation and was certainly condemned to the deepest hell.

The relationship of Ajatasatru’s hopeless plight and our own is direct and similar, but most of us are not truthful enough to recognize that we are just as evil, wretched and hopeless as Ajatasatru. Transmigrating through billions of lives, we have accumulated an incredibly immense amount of evil karma and are also destined for the deepest hell. Truly, Ajatasatru is our story – The Story of who we really are.

Prince Ajatasatru – the beloved son of King Bimbisara of the country of Magda in northern India over 2500 years ago – under the instigation of Devadatta, a rebellious senior disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, seized the throne and mercilessly starved his blameless father to death in prison. If not for the intervention of his compassionate uncle Jivaka, a true disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, he would have also killed his own mother Queen Vaidehi for smuggling food to sustain the imprisoned Bimbisara. The extreme pain and unimaginable suffering experienced by Vaidehi brought her to implore The Buddha to show her a place throughout the entire universe and trillion world systems that was completely free from the dreadful agonies of mortal samsaric existence.

That tragic incident in this story of Ajatasatru, presented the ripening of a karmic opportunity for Shakyamuni Buddha, to reveal and teach about Amida Buddha and His Pure Land of Happiness and Serene Sustenance – the undisputable choice selected by a painfully distraught Vaidehi from amongst myriad Pure Lands showed to her by The Buddha, through His transcendental power.

Vaidehi’s prayer to Shakyamuni Buddha at that time, opened up an extraordinary escape route for the masses of wretched, mundane foolish persons (凡 夫, bombu) who truly do not have the nature or spiritual capacity to perform difficult meditative or non-meditative disciplines and sagely practices. This is fully in accord with what the Buddha said to Vaidehi about her poor spiritual capacity at that time: “you are a common mortal with inferior mental capacity”.

Recognizing her own nature and hopelessly inferior spiritual capacity, Vaidehi made this passionate prayer:

“My only prayer is this: World-Honored One, may you preach to me in detail of all the places where there is no sorrow or trouble, and where I ought to go to be born anew. I am not satisfied with this world of depravities, with Jambudvipa, which is full of hells, full of hungry spirits, and of the brute creatures. In this world of depravities, there are many assemblies of the wicked. May I not hear, I pray, the voice of the wicked in the future and may I not see any wicked person.

World-Honored One, although all other Buddha countries are pure and radiant with light, I should, nevertheless, wish myself to be born in the realm of Buddha Amitayus, in the world of Highest Happiness, Sukhavati.”

Thereupon, the Buddha showed His satisfaction with Vaidehi’s wonderful choice of Sukhavati – Amida Buddha’s Pure Land of Ultimate Happiness and Serene Sustenance – revealing His original intent with a heart-felt, gental smile.

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Guided by the power of The Buddha, Vaidehi saw the marvelous splendor of Sukhavati. In that instant, a True Buddha and Land was revealed to her. Thus, she joyfully received the certainty of Shinjin, the Entrusting Faith and insight into the wisdom of the Buddhas. Ecstatically, with joy and gratitude, she exclaimed:

“World-Honored One, Never have I seen such a wonder! People such as I can now see that land by the power of the Exalted One! To remember these words is to remember the name of the Buddha. Namo Amida Butsu.”

Vaidehi recognized that any self-power efforts on her part would be utterly useless and that she was able to see Amida Buddha and The Pure Land only by the Other-power of Shakyamuni Buddha. She also knew without any doubt, that her endless pain and suffering in samsara, would definitely come to an end with her assured birth in Sukhavati.

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Ajatasatru’s amazing journey to receive Shinjin – the Entrusting Faith of Salvation directly transmitted to him by The Buddha – would not have been made, had he not encountered and listened deeply to his uncle Jivaka who was a good teacher – a kind and knowledgeable Dharma friend (善 知 識). It must be the ripening of Ajatasatru’s good karma, accumulated from the distant past, that made him listen to the advice of Jivaka.

Because he killed his father, a fever of remorse arose in his own heart and filthy sores began to cover his entire body – he was consumed by extreme pain and agony. Although Ajatasatru had earlier repented his vile, evil nature and despicable behaviour, he could not see any possible escape from the painful hell he had created for himself.

Six close ministers came before him one after another giving him various advice to seek the miraculous formulas of their trusted gurus. Yet, Ajatasatru cannot put any trust or comfort in their words. It was only on the wonderful Dharma teachings and urging of Jivaka that Ajatasatru built up the confidence to seek the compassionate help of Shakyamuni Buddha who already knew that he would come with Jivaka.

The Buddha taught the Dharma of Salvation to Ajatasatru, radiating the Compassionate Light that instantly healed his body and mind. As Ajatasatru listened deeply, absorbing the wonderful words from the Tathagata, his heavy burden of karmic evil was lightened, enabling him to receive the inconceivable Shinjin, the Entrusting Faith that had no root in his heart. With ecstatic joy and profound gratitude to the Buddha, he exclaimed:

“How is this possible! At the beginning I did not know to revere the Tathagata, and did not entrust myself to the Dharma and Sangha. World-honored One, if I had not encountered the Tathagata, the World-honored One, I would have undergone immeasurable suffering for countless, incalculable kalpas in the great hell.”

Thus, entrusting himself and his karmic destiny entirely to the Other-power of the Buddha, Ajatasatru’s progress to enlightenment was assured. He knew without any doubt that he will be freed from the relentless cycle of pain and suffering at the end of his life. The power of a Buddha’s Great Compassion is truly inconceivable.

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Listening Deeply (深 聞 佛 法) to the Buddha Dharma and to the essential teachings conveyed to us in Ajatasatru – the Story of who we really are – will certainly expose the stark truth, that we are actually the icchantikas who are destined for the lowest hell, without any karmic condition whatsoever for salvation.

Learning from this excellent, true story of Ajatasatru, let us honestly recognize the terrible karmic mess we are in at this time. This precious human birth has given us all, the right opportunities to be repeatedly exposed to Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings on Amida Buddha and  His Primal Vow – the one and only Dharma door that remains open to spiritual idiots like us. Deeply listen, listen, and again listen to this excellent Dharma.

Ajatasatru’s amazing journey to find the only reliable escape route out of samsara, should also be our journey. Firstly, his good karma from the distant past ripened when he found and listened deeply to a kind Dharma friend and spiritual confidant (善 知 識) – his uncle Jivaka – a true disciple of the Buddha.

Next, with Jivaka’s repeated encouragements, he found the courage to seek the Other-power help directly and only from a person who had attained Supreme Enlightenment – the Buddha – and not from sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas or anyone else. Receiving the Compassionate Light of Shinjin from Shakyamuni Buddha, healed him in body and mind. Thus, he received the inconceivable Gift of Salvation while still living out his remaining life as a mundane foolish person filled with blind passions.

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Maturing of our good karma, accumulated from the distant past – though unconscious to us, due to our deep-rooted ignorance – has brought us these extremely rare encounters, awakening to the untiring presence of Amida Buddha, the greatest of all the Buddhas. We are now freely given, this inconceivable awareness of the omnipresent, Compassionate Light of Salvation of Amida Buddha who has pledged to save us, no matter who we are or how heavy the enormous evil karmic baggage we are now carrying.

May all wretched icchantikas – common mortals like ourselves – not squander away our precious human births by playing the self-power games on the Path of sages. Let us listen deeply to the wonderful Pure Land teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha on Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow that clearly show us ‘the Easy Path’ (in accordance with our nature and circumstances), leading to the end of suffering, in this Dharma Ending Age.

The very moment we take heed of the exhortations of the Buddhas and are able to accept without any doubt, Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, we will receive His inconceivable Gift of Shinjin, The Entrusting Faith that guarantees our birth in His Land of Peace and Bliss at the end of this life. We are thus, instantly embraced and not forsaken by the Light of Great Compassion, here and now. Our pathetic human sickness – the common disease of icchantikas – is finally and fully cured by Amida Buddha.

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Gratefully taking refuge and entrusting our karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow, we single-heartedly Say His Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Bu) which is endowed with the Tathagata’s infinite merits and virtues. Moreover, the wonderful Name is also fully supported and glorified by all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions.

Thus, with the merit transference from Amida Buddha for going forth, our birth in the Land of Happiness is absolutely assured, while we are still living out this treacherous existence. We know without any doubt, that this is our last life as deluded beings in the dreadful cycle of pain and suffering, at long last.

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.

Thus, we have clearly and truly heard:

The call of Boundless Compassion

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

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Home Page: The Call of Boundless Compassion

True and Real Shinjin

The Faith-Mind of True Entrusting

 真 實 信 心 

true-entrusting-fa

In the chapter on Shinjin – 信 心 – Venerable Master Shinran passionately wrote in his wonderful magnum opus, the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho…

“As I reflect, I find that our receiving of Shinjin arises from the Vow-mind with which Amida Tathagata selected the Vow, and that the clarification of this True Mind has been skillfully taught to us through the compassion of The Great Sage, Shakyamuni.

But both monks and lay persons in this Dharma Ending Age and tradition teachers of these times are still floundering in the concepts of “self-nature” and “mind only”. Therefore, they disparage the True Realization of Enlightenment in The Pure Land Way. Being lost in the self-power attitude of meditative and non-meditative practices, they are confused and ignorant of the diamond-like True Shinjin.”

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True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心) is the Absolute Confidence of Amida Buddha that all the original Vows made by Him, trillions of years ago, to save every being from samsara – the vicious cycle of birth, suffering and death – would definitely be fulfilled. He had then, boldly made those forty-eight amazing Vows when He was performing extremely hard practices and disciplines as Bodhisattva Dharmakara, under the mentorship of Buddha Lokesvararaja. Out of deep reflections over an incredibly long period of contemplation and His great compassion for the various painful situations of suffering all beings had to endure, He had strongly pledged that each individual Vow – expressing His Compassionate Aspiration appropriate to the karmic condition of different sentient beings – would be fulfilled according to the wishes of those beings, as promised in that particular Vow.

Then, through the immensely arduous practices and disciplines, endured over trillions of years, the Bodhisattva finally fulfilled all His Vows and thus, He became Amida Buddha. His Pure Land of Peace and Serene Sustenance, was wonderfully established for the sake of receiving all suffering beings who wish to be born there and it is here that Amida Buddha resides. Though not all beings in the innumerable worlds are saved at this moment, the fulfillment of His Vows and His Absolute Confidence (Shinjin – 信 心), ensured that all sentient beings will eventually be saved with their births in The Pure Land sooner or later, as they gradually come to fully entrust themselves in His Vow of Boundless Compassion.

Amongst Amida Buddha’s forty-eight Vows, the two most important Vows specifically identified by Venerable Master Shinran are the 17th Vow (The Vow that All Buddhas Praise His Name) and the 18th Vow (Amida’s Primal Vow). These Vows have been exclusively selected by Master Shinran as the Vows specially made to save him and all sentient beings in this Dharma Ending Age when everyone of us, without exception, is heavily burdened by the five defilements of greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance – all drowning in the adverse environments in which we live, especially in this materialistic world badly consumed by our own intractable egos and constantly distracted by the adverse pollution of scientific knowledge.

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Amida’s Primal Vow (阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願) states:

“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 offences and those who slander the Right Dharma.”

Thus, for those who single-heartedly and steadfastly Take Refuge in Amida Buddha, The Primal Vow is the highest Mahayana Teaching that promises the Salvation for every person, particularly for the ordinary masses – not just for the well-endowed, monks or the  practising sages. Amida Buddha’s Pure Land way – the one and only path open to every person, under any karmic circumstances or environments – is a path totally free from obtacles.

Master Shinran says that the main reason for Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world is solely to preach The Primal Vow of Amida Buddha especially for the miserable, mundane foolish persons (凡 夫 , bombu), who are firmly caught in the net of samsara:

“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.”

Therefore, wretched, mundane foolish persons like us, should simply entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, gratefully Saying the Buddha’s Name and be freed from samsara forever, when this life ends. Total reliance on The Primal Vow is our only viable way out of this crazy cycle of relentless painful existence. We should be realistic enough to know that besides receiving Shinjin in The Primal Vow,  we DO NOT have any other choice – if Buddhahood, the end of all suffering is indeed our aspiration and goal.

Fulfilment of The Primal Vow (本 願 成 就) had already been fully accomplished when The Bodhisattva, after trillions of years of Sincere, True and Selfless difficult practices, brought this Vow to perfection and became Amida Buddha with His Pure Land wonderfully established ten kalpas ago, even though not all sentient beings have been born in The Pure Land yet. The enlightenment of all sentient beings like us had already been fulfilled at the hands of Amida Buddha who had accomplished all our aspirations and necessary attendant practices.

Therefore, The Primal Vow is always in an active mode, instantly fulfilled whenever any sentient being is karmically ready to joyfully accept the Shinjin of Amida Buddha without any doubt or apprehension.

Thus, the moment when we have  ‘Listened Deeply’ to The Buddha Dharma and are able to ‘Hear’ without any doubt, the inconceivable fulfilment of The Primal Vow, Amida Buddha’s Shinjin is awakened in us – we can then accept willingly, this precious gift of Shinjin freely given to us by Amida Buddha, Joyfully Entrusting ourselves and our karmic destiny completely to Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow.

Naturally, with this one-thought-moment of True Shinjin, we are truly settled – in our minds and hearts – and would Say the Buddha’s Name (Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛), taking refuge in Amida Buddha, deeply thanking Him for having saved us. It is really inconceivable that wretched persons like us are enabled to receive and experience this salvation while still living in this world.

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Shinjin (信 心) of Other-Power, our entrusting faith-mind, that place complete reliance on the Primal Vow, is the core essential teaching of Venerable Master Shinran who had repeatedly expounded and clearly explained it in all his poems and writings. In the chapter on Shinjin (信 心), he passionately wrote this beautiful passage:

“Reverently contemplating Amida’s directing of virtue for our going forth, I find    there is Great Shinjin.
.. Great Shinjin is the superlative means for attaining longevity and deathlessness.
.. It is the wondrous way to awaken aspiration for the pure and rejection of the defiled.
.. It is the straightforward mind directed to us through the selected Vow.
.. It is Shinjin that actualizes Amida’s profound and vast benefiting of others.
.. It is true mind that is diamondlike and indestructible.
.. It is pure Shinjin by which a person easily reaches the Pure Land where no one goes.
.. It is the mind that is single, realized by the person who is grasped and protected by the compassionate light.
.. It is Great Shinjin, rare and unsurpassed.
.. It is the quick path difficult for people to accept.
.. It is the true cause of attaining great Nirvana.
.. It is the white path by which all virtues are fulfilled instantly.
.. It is the ocean of Shinjin that is itself suchness or true reality.”

Thus, True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心), is Amida Buddha’s True and Real Mind of Boundless Compassion directed to us through the power of The Primal Vow. When this True and Real Mind of Shinjin reaches suffering beings who would single-heartedly and steadfastly rely on Amida Buddha and the working of The Primal Vow, it is received by them, accepted and manifested as their ‘Entrusting Mind’ (信 心), the Shinjin of Other-power.

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The Entrusting Mind (信 心) is The Shinjin of Amida Buddha instantly bestowed on sentient beings who, having Listened Deeply (深 聞) to The Dharma of Amida Buddha, finally ‘Heard’ (聞) how The Primal Vow arose – its origin and fulfilment – are altogether free of doubt. As this Shinjin – our entrusting faith-mind – comes wholly from Amida Buddha, it is truly the decisive cause of our birth in The Pure Land. True Shinjin is unfailingly accompanied by Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo-Amida-Butsu, 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛), which is selected and accomplished by Amida Buddha as the practical and easy medium of transfering His Infinite virtue to suffering beings.

Therefore, Shinjin is “the mind that accepts The Primal Vow without doubt”. Regarding this Entrusting Mind (Shinjin), Master Shinran states in his True Pure Land Teaching – Kyo Gyo Shin Sho:

“There are two aspects to this mind:

.. One is to believe deeply and decidedly that you are a foolish being of karmic evil caught in birth and death, ever sinking and ever wandering in transmigration from innumerable kalpas in the past, without a condition that would lead to emancipation.

.. The second is to believe deeply and decidedly that Amida Buddha’s Forty-eight Vows grasped sentient beings, and that allowing yourself to be carried by the power of the Vow without any doubt or apprehension, you will attain birth in the Pure Land.”

Thus, when we receive The Inconceivable Gift of Shinjin from Amida Buddha, our birth in His Pure Land is assured. Shinjin in the Primal Vow, the Entrusting  Mind that places complete reliance on Amida Buddha, is therefore the karmic-consciousness that completes the required causes for our birth in The Pure Land. Both, Shinjin of The Primal Vow and Nembutsu (念 佛) – that is Saying the Buddha’s Name, are the vital objects of our entrusting mind.

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Nembutsu (念 佛) – Single-heartedly Saying the Buddha’s Name – is the essence of Joyful Entrusting (Shinjin – 信 心) embodied in The Primal Vow. It is the act of true settlement and our spontaneous expression of taking refuge/entrusting in Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow, deeply remembering the Boundless Compassion of the Buddha.

The Vow that All Buddhas Praise His Name (諸 佛 稱 名 願) states:

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all praise and Say My Name, May I not attain The Supreme Enlightenment.”

Thus, with the fulfilment of this Vow, Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo-Amida-Butsu – 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛) which is endowed with the Infinite merits and virtues of Amida Buddha, is praised and fully supported by all Buddhas – whose main aim is to see that all beings are effectively saved.

Although all Buddhas have their own realms or energetic spheres of influence, They know that Amida’s path of Salvation is the easiest for all beings. Therefore, They direct us to Amida Buddha and encourage us to Say the Buddha’s Name.

The Name of Amida Buddha is endowed with His perfect merits and virtues which are directed to us through the power of the Primal Vow. Gratefully Saying the Name, single-heartedly entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow, therefore, assure our birth in The Pure Land at the end of this life.

The Larger Sutra states: “All sentient beings, as they hear The Name, realise 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 will attain birth and instantly dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.”

Thus, Saying the Buddha’s Name is the Great Practice contained in The Primal Vow – the Right Act and infinite virtue directed to us by Amida Buddha for our going forth to The Pure Land. The Nembutsu, directed to us from Amida Buddha’s Vow-mind, effectively breaks through all our ignorance and readily brings all our aspirations to fulfilment. It is not our self-power practice or good act. The Nembutsu (念 佛) is also not for the purpose of gaining merits or our prayer for material benefits.

With deep gratitude abiding in our hearts, we spontaneously  and constantly say the Nembutsu (Namo-Amida-Butsu, Thank You Amida Buddha) – whether standing, walking, sitting, lying down, in times of happiness  or in sadness, in any circumstance or environment and living in the exhilarating embrace of Namo-Amida-Butsu – 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – till the end of our lives in this unsatisfactory physical existence.

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The Precious Gift of Shinjin, the entrusting faith-mind, is freely given by Amida Buddha to all persons whether good or evil, irrespective of gender, environment or social status. However, many people cannot put their trust in Amida Buddha or the Primal Vow because they doubt the Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha and so unable to entrust themselves or their destiny entirely in Amida Buddha – they reject this gift of Shinjin. Though this is the ‘easy way’ out of samsara, it is also the most difficult of all difficulties for most people to accept, as they are heavily burdened by The Hindrance of Doubt.

Expressing beautifully in poetry, Master Shinran, through his deep reflections and passionate personal experience of Shinjin wrote…..

“Entrusting in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow and Saying The Name
For arrogant sentient beings with perverted views
To accept and be blessed with Shinjin is difficult indeed
It is the most difficult of all difficulties that one could meet

Encouraging beings of the ten quarters with the words
“With Sincere mind Entrust yourselves and Aspire for birth”
Amida established The Vow beyond conceptual understanding
And made it the cause of birth in the True and Real Fulfilled Land.”

Only those with karmic links with Buddhas from the past – nurtured and ripened by Listening Deeply in this life – and those who realized their utter inability in performing meditative and non-meditative Buddhist practices, will come to Entrust themselves and their karmic destiny fully in Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow.  Thus, putting aside all self-centered practices and disciplines, they spontaneously accept and receive this inconceivable gift of Shinjin.

On receiving Shinjin, we are ‘Embraced and Not Forsaken’ (攝取不捨) by Amida Buddha who instantly transfers His entire store of infinite karmic merit to us for our going forth to The Pure Land. Though we remain our foolish selves, filled with the same five defilements as other persons living in this Dharma Ending Age, we are Truly Settled in mind and heart. While still living in this world, we instantly belong to the Truly Settled Group, also called Rightly Established Group (正 定聚) of those whose birth in The Pure Land is Absolutely Assured.

People who receive Amida Buddha’s Gift of Shinjin ‘Know’ with the one-thought moment of True Entrusting that they have been embraced by Boundless Compassion and definitely assured of birth in The Pure Land. They ‘Know’ that this is their last deluded existence in samsara and that they will become Buddhas at the end of their lives in mortal flesh.

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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.

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Persons of truly settled Shinjin have definitely Heard:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

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

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