攝 取 不 捨
In this stanza from the beautiful Gatha of True Faith, Venerable Master Shinran vividly tells us, that we would receive the inconceivable benefit of being embraced and not forsaken by The Light of Great Compassion, the moment we are able to single-heartedly entrust in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. This Universal Vow is Amida’s absolute promise to save hopeless persons like ourselves from the treacherous cycle of birth and death…
“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”
“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 (entrusting faith) 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 of Divergences chapter 1)
Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow is the Tathagata’s pledge to save all suffering 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.”
The Primal Vow is Amida Buddha’s Absolute Confidence (true and real Shinjin – 真 實 信 心) in getting every sentient being out of samsara. The Compassionate saving activities of the Buddha is contained in this Universal Vow – the Other-power that effectively saves all suffering beings trapped in samsara.
Thus, just by simply accepting and entrusting themselves single-heartedly to this Vow – which had already been wonderfully fulfilled ten kalpas ago – countless hopeless sentient beings were saved in the past, are being saved in the present and will be saved in the future.
Entrusting Faith (shinjin – 信 心) on our part – the persons to be saved – is the faith-mind consciousness that fully accept the Primal Vow without doubt. It comes about with the awareness that we are evil beings who have been transmigrating from the beginningless past with absolutely no possibility of escape from the vicious cycle of suffering. Thus, we accept Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow that embraces us and that its Vow power absolutely guarantees our births in the Pure Land.
Listening Deeply to Amida’s Dharma of Salvation – which had been carefully explained by Master Shinran – would certainly arouse our aspiration to free ourselves from the relentless pain and suffering of samsara. This excellent practice, nurtured by the ripening of good karmic seeds accumulated from the distant past, would surely result in our honest admission, that pathetic persons like ourselves, heavily burdened by greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance, would not be able to extricate ourselves from the tenacious net of samsara.
Thus, when we deeply realize the complete uselessness of our struggles to free ourselves through self-power practices, we would then, immediately let go of all these ego-centric, sundry practices and inclinations; naturally allowing ourselves to be instantly embraced by Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow.
Embraced and not forsaken (Sesshu Fusha – 攝 取 不 捨) by Amida’s Light, persons of entrusting faith (shinjin – 信 心) are always illumined and protected by all Buddhas. Passionately exhorting all suffering beings to entrust themselves single-heartedly in the Primal Vow, Master Shinran urges us in his magnum opus, the KyoGyoShinSho and in his other wonderful writings, that we should, immediately take this ‘easy’ path out of samsara, by accepting this great benefit of being grasped and forever not abandoned by Amida Buddha…
“This, then, is the true teaching easy to practice for small, foolish beings; it is the straight way easy to traverse for the dull and ignorant. Among all teachings the Great Sage preached in his lifetime, none surpasses this ocean of virtues. Let the one who seeks to abandon the defiled and aspire for the pure; who is confused in practice and vacillating in faith; whose mind is dark and whose understanding deficient; whose evils are heavy and whose karmic obstructions manifold – let such persons embrace above all the Tathagata’s exhortations, take refuge without fail in the most excellent direct path, devote themselves solely to this practice, and revere only this shinjin.
Ah! hard to encounter, even in many lifetimes, is the decisive cause of birth, Amida’s universal Vow! Hard to realize, even in myriads of kalpas, is pure shinjin that is true and real! If you should come to realize this practice and 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. Wholly sincere, indeed, are the words of truth that one is grasped, never to be abandoned, the right dharma all-surpassing and wondrous! Hear and reflect, and let there be no wavering or apprehension.“
In his Poems on the Pure Land, Master Shinran wrote:
“He watches over Nembutsu followers
Within worlds numerous as dust particles
That lie in the ten directions
Embracing and not forsaking them
Hence, he is called ‘Amida’.”
Thus, the moment we accept the fact that even ignorant beings like us, will be born in the Land of Peace and Bliss through Amida’s “marvellously mysterious Vow”, and there arises within us the desire to Say the Buddha’s Name (Nembutsu – 念 佛), we already share in the benefit of “being embraced never to be forsaken”.
Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo Amida Butsu, 南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛), is Amida’s Great Practice bestowed on all miserable beings and it embodies the Buddha’s Primal Vow. The moment when we come to realize that we are utterly incapable in performing self-power meditative and non-meditative practices, we would surely take the only option available to us by entrusting ourselves to this fulfilled Vow of Boundless Compassion, if gaining freedom from samsara at the end of this precious human life, is indeed our goal.
Thus, Saying the Excellent Name is not our good nor is it our self-power practice for accumulating merits. It is simply our act of true settlement; complete reliance in the Primal Vow and our expression of profound gratitude to Amida Buddha. All the Buddhas throughout the ten directions, with one voice, praise and fully support Saying Amida’s Name, as it is easy to hold and easy to remember, affording all human beings a simple way, to find true meaning in their wretched lives and to free themselves forever from the endless torture of samsara.
Naturally, we enter the Stage of the truly settled of those assured of Nirvana and thereby, live out our remaining days in this perishing material body, listening deeply; gratefully taking refuge in Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow; Saying the Buddha’s Name and so, constantly coming into the Buddha’s presence. We would then, lead our lives, graciously accepting and abiding with the unfolding of good or bad karma carried forward from our countless past lives.
Receiving the Gift of Shinjin, solely due to the merit transference of Amida Buddha, we know that, we have now entered into the Rightly Established Group of those absolutely assured of birth in the Pure Land. Saying the Buddha’s Name, we are grateful to be embraced by the Light of Boundless Compassion, as we walk on the only unimpeded Single Path out of samsara…
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.
Truly settled in our minds and hearts on this incredible spiritual journey, we now know that this is our last deluded life in samsara. Clearly and definitely, without any doubt, we have 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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