Month: October 2019

Hindrance of Doubt

Hindrance of doubt

疑 情 為 所 止

hindrance-of-doubt-fa

In his Shoshinge – Gatha of True Faith (正 信 偈), Master Shinran clearly tells us that the Hindrance of Doubt persistently obscures our path to The Pure Land of Ultimate Happiness…

“Our continued return to this cyclic home of birth and death
Is certainly due to the hindrance of doubt
Swift entrance into the peaceful, uncreated Realm of Bliss
Is necessarily brought about by Shinjin.”

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Hindrance of Doubt is the main fetter that keeps us strongly imprisoned inside the dreadful realms of samsara – the vicious cycle of birth and death marked by impermanence, relentless pain and suffering – which has been our perpetual home for countless billions of lives. We have transmigrated endlessly within the six realms – gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry spirits and hell-beings – without an effective condition that could put an end to this treacherous cycle of painful existence.

Suffering beings like ourselves do not know why we are born here – in a perishing environment firmly attached to greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and doubt – living perhaps for only a short period of a 100 years and then blindly leaving this world in agony for another unknown existence of continued pain and suffering. How painfully foolish and blind we are, not making use of this precious human birth which has now brought us the right condition to free ourselves from samsara.

Many of us might have come into contact with the Buddha Dharma – in our previous lives or the present life – which had taught us how to escape from samsara, but due to the strong hindrance of doubt, we are unable to fathom the inconceivable Compassion and Wisdom of The Buddhas. Thus, we continue to drift in the ocean of pain and suffering. Doubt is an extremely stubborn hindrance that comes to the forefront, persistently discouraging us, whenever we try to seek for a way out of this unsatisfactory existence.

The persistence of Doubt is a natural mechanism and manifestation of our ego; our self-centered tendency to dismiss anything we cannot see or perceive with our eyes and to construe as false, transcendental existences that are absolutely true but beyond the limited sphere of knowledge of us humans. This self-centered ego, solidly hardened through trillions of existences of self-preservation, takes as real the relative knowledge of science, technology and the huge overload of materialistic information. These are the illusive fetters that further strengthen, the sense of our own intelligence and arrogance that certainly, cause us to be spiritually blind.

Strongly self-powered by the massive habitual tendencies accumulated over countless trillions of previous experiences, we are strongly attached to this realm of painful existence, our familiar home of complete illusion. Therefore, we are naturally reluctant to leave this world of pain and suffering, even though many of us have already met Buddhas and the Buddha Dharma in our previous lives that had given us the right opportunities to extricate ourselves from samsara.

Thus, we lack the aspiration to escape from samsara through the only True Path of Salvation available to us now. How sad and lamentable this is, that we would simply squander away again, this extremely rare human life which has now given us this wonderful opportunity, to free ourselves forever, from this perpetual cycle of pain and suffering. Our continued transmigration within samsara is sadly inevitable.

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Doubts regarding Shakyamuni Buddha hinder most of us from ‘Listening Deeply’ to what He has taught. Many doubt His teachings on Impermanence, laws of karma (cause and effect), dependent origination and rebirth, the truths about suffering, the cause of suffering, the ending of suffering and the appropriate means that could put a permanent end to our suffering – the attainment of the state of absolute freedom (Nirvana). They unreasonably ask for scientific proofs of these teachings of absolute truths, which are clearly beyond the limited scope of our puny mental capacities and outside the conventional realms of material measurements.

These persons of doubt have no trust in The Buddha Dharma and therefore, exclude themselves from the Buddhas’ Teachings on the true path to Salvation. Yet, being foolish beings with deep blind passions, we must accept that the darkness of doubt cannot be completely eliminated by our own self-power. It is only through ‘Listening Deeply’ to the Buddha Dharma that full entrusting in the wonderful teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha can occur, thereby causing doubt to simply dissipate in our hearts, with the spontaneous presence of the Light of Wisdom.

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Doubts regarding Amida Buddha hinders many of us from Listening Deeply to the only teaching of salvation available to mundane foolish persons – in this Dharma Ending Age during which beings are absolutely unable to perform difficult spiritual practices – to receive permanent freedom from samsara at the end of their present fleeting lives. They doubt the True and Real existence of Amida Buddha and His Pure Land as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha in the three Pure Land Sutras, particularly The Larger Sutra of Infinite Life.

The Absolute Confidence (信 心 – Shinjin) of Amida Buddha in saving all beings from samsara, had caused the appearance of Sukhavati – His fulfilled Land of Peace and Bliss – trillions of years ago, ever-ready to receive all sentient beings who aspire to escape to a conducive environment for attainment of Buddhahood. It is the Buddha’s Boundless Compassion that affords, ignorant persons with stubborn mental defilements, the easy path that would unfailingly save them from the vicious cycle of samsara at long last.

However, the hindrance of doubt strongly prevails in our minds both intellectually and emotionally. We are constantly assailed by self-doubts and doubts regarding the true and real existence of Amida Buddha and His Aspiration to save us. Doubt is deep-rooted and is a natural part of being human. Yet, if we give ourselves the chance by temporarily putting aside our preconceive ideas and are opened to the Amida Dharma by ‘Listening Deeply’, these doubts will disappear with the one-thought moment of entrusting in Amida Buddha and His Vow of Boundless Compassion.

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Doubts regarding Amida’s Primal Vow hinders us from ‘Listening Deeply’ to the Other-power teaching of complete reliance on The Primal Vow that embodies the Saying of the Buddha’s Name (Nembutsu  念 佛), as clearly explained by Master Shinran in his expositions on The True Pure Land Way. In order that our present human births are not regrettably wasted, we must aspire to be free from all suffering, by easily securing our births, directly in the fulfilled Pure Land of Amida Buddha.

We should know that the stumping blocks, created by the persistent intellectual and emotional doubts in our minds, for trillions of lives until now, had made the “easy” path to the the Pure Land by Amida’s Primal Vow, “the most difficult of all difficulties”:

“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”.

Further, he clearly tells us – again in his Gatha of True Faith – that the real reason for Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world is solely to teach The Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. Foolish persons like ourselves should single-heartedly rely on it for our deliverance from 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.” 

Earnestly, he exhorts all mundane foolish persons like us, to abandon all self-power meditative and non-meditative practices and entrust our karmic destiny entirely in Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow. Doubt in The Primal Vow – Amida Buddha’s unconditional promise to save every one of us regardless of our faults, emotional  defilements, social status or living environments – would cause us to be born in the ‘borderland’ or ‘womb-palace’ which are unfavorable environments for immediate transformation to Buddhahood.

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In his songs on the Dharma Ages, Master Shinran wrote 23 verses on the offense of doubting the Primal Vow, eight of which are quoted below:

As a mark of not apprehending Buddha-wisdom
People doubt the Tathagata’s various kinds of wisdom
Believe in recompense of good and evil, rely on their practice
Of the root of good, and hence remain in the borderland

Doubting the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
People devote themselves to saying the Nembutsu in self-power
Hence they remain in the borderland or the realm of indolence and pride
Without responding in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence.

Because of the offense of doubting the Buddha-wisdom
They remain in the realm of indolence and pride or borderland
Because the offense of doubting is grave
They pass long years and kalpas there; thus it is taught

People who say the Name in self-power
All fail to entrust themselves to the Tathagata’s Primal Vow
Because the offense of doubting is grave
They are chained in a prison of seven precious materials

People who perform various good acts in self-power
All doubt the inconceivable Buddha-wisdom
Hence, by the law of receiving the results of one’s acts
They enter a prison made of the seven precious materials

Practicers who doubt the Primal Vow
Are born within lotus buds from which they cannot emerge
Or are born in the borderland, or fall
Into the womb-palace

Those who practice the root of good
While believing deeply in the recompense of good and evil
Are good people whose minds are possessed of doubt
Hence, they remained in the provisional, transformed lands

The fault of doubting Buddha-wisdom is grave
Becoming fully aware of this
You should, with deep repentance
Entrust yourself to inconceivable Buddha-wisdom

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This Hindrance of doubt is mysteriously resolved with the one-thought-moment of True Entrusting (Shinjin -信 心) in The Primal Vow. It is like the darkness, in a room closed and dark for a thousand years, disappearing by itself when Light suddenly enters the room. As we are strongly bound by the darkness of blind passions, karmic evil and false wisdom, we have been dishonest and deceitful. Completely lacking the mind of truth and reality, we have been tainted and overwhelmed by the hindrance of doubt. The natural process by which the Light of true entrusting is spontaneously manifested in our hearts, occurs when the repeated exposure to the Buddha Dharma in the past, is now nurtured and enhanced by ‘Listening Deeply’ to the Dharma again and again in the present life.

Thus, when we constantly come into Amida Buddha’s presence through The True Pure Land teachings and dialogues with persons of True Shinjin, we humbly give ourselves the opportunities to become aware of the Tathagata’s true and real Sincere Mind of benefitting others. This Mind of True Entrusting (Shinjin) which is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt, is the Light of Wisdom freely given to us for our going forth to the Pure Land.

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True Entrusting (信 心 – Shinjin) is the faith-mind consciousness, naturally received  by us due to the ripening of good karmic seeds, in that instant, the one-thought moment (一 念) when all our doubts, regarding Amida Buddha, His Pure Land and the Primal Vow are completely resolved. This wonderful moment will only occur, when we are prepared to let go of all our self-power practices and inclinations, allowing ourselves to be carried by the natural working of The Primal Vow. Single-heartedly, we would then, Say the Buddha’s Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu), deeply grateful to The Buddha for having saved us.

Thus, embraced and not forsaken by the Light of Boundless Compassion, we KNOW without any doubt, we are assured of Buddhahood at the end of this deluded life. Amida Buddha has bestowed on us, here and now, His infinite merits and virtues for our going forth to The Land of Peace and Ultimate Happiness.

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.

May, those who are brought here due to the ripening of good karma from the past are altogether free of the hindrance of doubt, as they listen deeply and clearly ‘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

Ajatasatru – Our Real Story

AJATASATRU
The Story of who we really are

淨 邦 緣 熟

icchantikas-1

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 Master Shinran gave himself as he carefully explains to us, in his expositions, 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. When we honestly look into ourselves, we would definitely realize that, without exception, every one of us is also an icchantika, a person largely consumed by the relentless urges of lust, ambition, greed, hatred, jealousy and arrogance. As we now live in a Dharma Ending Age, we are uncontrollably plagued by the same deep-rooted human sickness of the icchantika, that can only be effectively 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, Shakyamuni 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 fire of egoistic passions of 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 recalcitrant 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, miserable and hopeless as Ajatasatru. Transmigrating through trillions 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 bumbling fools trapped in samsara.

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 Peace and Bliss – the indisputable choice selected by a painfully distraught Vaidehi from among 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 pathetic, 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, gentle 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. That wonderful Land of Peace and Ultimate Happiness had been fulfilled trillions of years ago when Amida Buddha attained Perfect Enlightenment.  Instantly, she received the gift of Shinjin, the Entrusting Faith in Amida’s Primal Vow and spontaneously obtained the three Insights – Insight of Joy, Insight of Awakening and Insight of Confidence. Ecstatically, with ineffable 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 and Amida 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 deeply to the wonderful 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 behavior, 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 gift of Shinjin, the Entrusting Faith that previously 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. We should deeply realize that, like Vaidehi, we belong to the lowest category of Dharma follower, absolutely incapable to perform any kind of meditative or non-meditative practices. Thus, listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma should be our single-hearted practice for the rest of our lives, to free us from all our doubts and letting the natural working of Amida’s Vow-power carries us safely, without obstruction, to the Pure Land, at end of this life.

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), that effectively leads to the end of all pain and suffering.

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 instantly 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, spontaneously 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 the Buddha’s Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Bu) which is endowed with the Tathagata’s infinite virtues. Moreover, the wonderful Name is also fully supported and glorified by all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions, as They also wish that all of us obtain Enlightenment quickly.

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