Category: Buddha Dharma

Natural Working of Amida’s Primal Vow

JINEN HONI

自 然 法 爾

Jinen Honi 1 (FA)

In this stanza from the Gatha of True Faith – Venerable Master Shinran’s wonderful song on the True Pure Land way – he vividly expresses his profound understanding on The Natural working of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow…

“When one deeply remembers Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow
Naturally in that instant, one enters the Stage of Definitely Settled 
And solely Saying the Tathagata’s Name always 
Gratefully respond to Great Compassion’s Universal Pledge and grace”

 >>>

Suffering beings like ourselves do not know why we are born here – in a fleeting and impermanent 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 brought us the right conditions to free ourselves forever from samsara – the vicious cycle of birth and death.

Our lives are characterized by perpetual strivings to find happiness and to avoid suffering. Being constantly inundated by the overwhelming volume of relative scientific knowledge that greatly enhanced our blind passions, we are pitifully being led astray. Egoistically, we simply reject the true existence of any transcendental reality that we cannot perceive with our deluded senses. Therefore, we also doubt the absolute truths pointed out in the Buddha Dharma.

>>> 

The Natural working of the Buddha Dharma (自 然 法 爾 – Jinen Honi) in general, is inconceivable and absolutely beyond the ego-centred conceptual understanding of unenlightened sentient beings like us. This is why Buddhist sutras are introduced with the phrase “Thus, have I heard”. “Thus” indicates the natural manifestation of the Buddha Dharma – it’s spontaneous working cannot be created, affected or altered at all, in any way, by the contrivance of sentient beings including the greatest amongst gods and humans.

Habitually clinging tightly to their hardened, self-powered struggle to end suffering, most foolish mundane persons (凡 夫 – bombu), living in this badly defiled Dharma-ending Age, constantly look for rational explanations and proofs even for the natural truths that is definitely beyond their limited sphere of perception. Not realizing that they are in fact spiritually blind, they certainly deprive themselves of the precious opportunities repeatedly given to them to listen deeply and to accept these inconceivable aspects of the Absolute Truth, carefully pointed out in the Buddha Dharma:

.. The Natural Working of Amida Buddha’s Vow-power
.. (願 力 自 然)

.. The Natural Working of Karma
.. (業 道 自 然)

.. Naturalness of the Unconditioned Realm of Nirvana
.. (無 為 自 然)

Shakyamuni Buddha who appeared in this world over 2500 years ago, taught the sublime Dharma for 45 years, using skilful methods – said to have numbered 84,000 and more – to draw all persons to the path of Enlightenment, in accordance with the karmic propensities of individuals or groups. The Dharma, He discovered, which manifests the Truths about suffering and the end of suffering, operates naturally “of itself” (自 然 法 爾 – Jinen Honi) and is completely beyond the intellectual understanding, reasoning and scope of non-Buddhas.

However, The Buddha summarizes His immeasurable treasury of teachings – which are absolutely trustworthy and dependable, as they come from His  great compassion and wisdom – simply with one sentence:

All I teach is about suffering and the end suffering.

For all sentient beings like us, coming to the ultimate end of all suffering, is to become Buddhas, awakened to Truth of all existence. We have been transmigrating endlessly for countless billions of lives, caught in the extensive net of samsara, without an appropriate means to end this treacherous existence of perpetual pain, suffering and strife.

This precious human existence has now brought us the rare opportunity to extricate ourselves from samsara. Yet, we are too busy chasing after the fleeting worldly attractions and distractions that bind us even more tightly to samsara. Therefore, we are certain to continue experiencing this dreadful, cyclical nightmare, as we drift further and further away from the shore of emancipation.

>>>

Amida Buddha’s True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心), is His Absolute Confidence that all persons who single-heartedly accept His Primal Vow, will definitely be born, as they wish, in His Land of Peace and Bliss, at the end of their present lives. This Great Compassionate Vow had already been wonderfully fulfilled ten kalpas ago when the Tathagata attained Supreme Buddhahood, after trillions of years, perfectly performing the extremely difficult practices of a Bodhisattva:

“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 clearly the Buddha’s promise to save all beings from the dreadful cycle of samsara. Thus, Saying the Buddha’s Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu), fulfilled in the Primal Vow, is the active cause of our birth in the Pure Land. It is Amida Buddha’s Great Practice of directing His infinite virtues to us for our going forth. By the power of this Universal Vow, we are effectively pulled out from this treacherous world of delusion, at the end of this life.

>>>

The Natural Working of the Primal Vow Jinen Honi (自 然 法 爾) – is the spontaneous act of Great Compassion, manifesting the Absolute Truth (of all phenomenon) in our world. This natural manifestation of the Absolute Truth – which is completely inconceivable to deluded, egocentric beings – is vividly expounded by Master Shinran in all his wonderful writings :

In the ‘Lamp for the Latter Ages’, he wrote:

Concerning jinen [in the phrase jinen hōni]:

Ji (自) means ‘of itself’ – not through the practiser’s calculation. It signifies being made so. nen (然) means ‘to be made so’ – it is not through the practiser’s calculation; it is through the working of the Tathagata’s Vow.

Concerning ‘Hōni’: Honi (法 爾) signifies being made so through the working of the Tathagata’s Vow. It is the working of the Vow where there is no room for calculation on the part of the practicer. Know, therefore, that in Other Power, no working is true working.

Jinen (自 然) signifies being made so from the very beginning. Amida’s Vow is, from the very beginning, designed to bring each of us to entrust ourselves to it – Saying “Namu-Amida-Butsu” – and to receive us into the Pure Land; none of this is through our calculation. Thus, there is no room for the practicer to be concerned about being good or bad. This is the meaning of jinen as I have been taught.

As the essential purport of the Vow, [Amida] vowed to bring us all to become supreme Buddha. Supreme Buddha is formless, and because of being formless is called jinen. Buddha, when appearing with form, is not called supreme nirvana. In order to make it known that supreme Buddha is formless, the name Amida Buddha is expressly used; so I have been taught. Amida Buddha fulfils the purpose of making us know the significance of jinen.

After we have realized this, we should not be forever talking about jinen. If we continuously discuss jinen that no working is true working will again become a problem of working. It is a matter of inconceivable Buddha-wisdom.

In his “Notes on The Essential of Faith Alone”, he again, carefully explained:

Ji also means of itself. ‘Of itself’ is a synonym for jinen, which means to be made to become so. ‘To be made to become so’ means that without the practiser’s calculating in any way whatsoever, all that practiser’s past, present, and future evil karma is transformed into the highest good, just as all waters, upon entering the great ocean, immediately become ocean water.

We are made to acquire the Tathagata’s virtues through entrusting ourselves to the Vow-power; hence the expression, ‘made to become so.’ Since there is no contriving in any way to gain such virtues, it is called jinen.

Those persons who have attained true and real Shinjin are taken into and protected by this Vow that grasps never to abandon; therefore, they realize the diamond-like mind without any calculation on their own part, and thus dwell in the stage of the truly settled. Because of this, constant mindfulness of the Primal Vow arises in them naturally (by jinen). Even with the arising of this Shinjin, it is written that supreme Shinjin is made to awaken in us through the compassionate guidance of Sakyamuni, the kind father, and Amida, the mother of loving care. Know that this is the benefit of the working of jinen.

>>>

Listening Deeply and repeatedly exposed to the Buddha Dharma (深 聞 佛 法) in general and the True Pure Land teachings on Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow in particular, we will naturally realize that the sublime operation of the Buddha Dharma, is inconceivable to us. The Absolute automatically manifest “of itself”- with the ripening of our good karmic seeds – and needs no working, whatsoever, from spiritually defiled sentient beings like us.

We will also be made to realize that any self-power effort and contrivance on our part – deluded sentient beings filled with blind passions – is utterly useless toward achieving salvation in this precious human life. Let us not struggle in vain and accept the proffered hand of Great Compassion to take us across “the ocean of suffering”.

With the one-thought moment of true entrusting in the Primal Vow, we will naturally realize that we are saved by Amida, at long last. The Natural Working of the Buddha’s Vow-power is simply inconceivable.

>>>

Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo Amida Butsu – 南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛) embodies Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. Once we single-heartedly entrust ourselves to the Vow – realizing that it surpasses conceptual understanding – and aspiring to be born in His fulfilled Land, we simply say His Name. Unfailingly, our birth in the Land of Peace and bliss is absolutely assured.

Thus, Saying the Buddha’s Name is the act of true settlement for persons of true shinjin (entrusting faith). Joining this Group of the Truly Settled, we are embraced and not forsaken by the compassionate Light of Amida Buddha, who, through the power of the Primal Vow, instantly transfers His entire store of merits and virtues for our going forth to the Pure Land.

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, single-heartedly entrusting ourselves to the Natural Working of Amida’s Vow-power, we continue to Say the Buddha’s Name – with no calculation whatsoever on our part – deeply grateful to the Buddha for having saved us. We have, without any doubt, clearly Heard:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

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

…..

Home Page – The Call of Boundless Compassion:

Advertisements

Song on The Texture of Life

A fleeting life saved by Amida Tathagata

 歸 命 無 量 壽 如 來

untitledajp

The following poem – The Texture of Life – is an adaptation from an earlier article, which expresses the four seals of the Buddha Dharma and the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha in saving even wretched persons like ourselves. This precious human life is illusory, being naturally characterized by impermanence, painful suffering from blind passions and the non-existence of an independent soul. On the other hand, Nirvana – the Unconditioned Land of Enlightenment proferred by Amida Buddha to all suffering beings – is a true and real realm of Peace and Bliss.

Knowing that suffering beings like ourselves – who are completely overwhelmed by greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance –  are absolutely incapable to free ourselves by our own self- powered practices, Amida Buddha dedicates His infinite merits and virtues equally to us for our going forth to His Pure Land. Those who come to recognize their utter inability to free themselves from the firm clutches of samsara – the vicious cycle of birth, old age, sickness and death – would single-heartedly take refuge in Amida Buddha and His fulfilled Primal Vow.

Let us listen deeply and be fully awakened to the fact that we simply do not have the nature or spiritual capacity to save ourselves by performing any meditative or non-meditative practices. We should honestly realize that Amida’s Pure Land Way is the only viable route that affords a guaranteed passage out of samsara.

Deeply grateful to Amida Buddha for permanently extricating us from the relentless, dreadful realms of samsara, we say Namo Amida Butsu (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛), taking refuge in the Tathagata and remembering that His Vow of Boundless Compassion was specially made to save wretched, evil persons like us.

A fleeting and impermanent life, that had been in the firm clutches of samsara for trillions of transmigrations, is now and forever embraced and not forsaken by Amida Buddha.

With the lyrics from the following poem, Richard St Clair has passionately converted it into a beautiful musical composition, wonderfully presented on his You Tube channel – Song on The Texture of Life:

SONG ON THE TEXTURE OF LIFE

The texture of life
Appears rough or fine,
Fashioned by strong karmic threads
Accumulated from countless time.
Fleeting and impermanent

Closely examining the fabric
We will definitely see,
The ugly stained threads of blind passions
Weaving the net of suffering without cease.
Interdependent, Interdependent

Our own wretched existence
Despite the persistent hue and cry,
Are just like dust specks
Against the vast sky.
Insignificant

Yet, we have already been proffered
The Unconditioned Land of Enlightenment,
More than fifty billion years ago
By Amida’s grace and compassion.
Inconceivable

The Buddha’s Primal Vow
Call of Boundless Compassion,
Was made to save an evil person like me
In my wretched condition.
Namo Amida Butsu

His wonderful Gift of Salvation
Received by me in this precious human life,
Is the fabric of Infinite Compassion
Assuring my freedom from pain and strife.
Namo Amida Butsu

Recognizing that my useless self-power
Cannot free me from the pain of samsara,
I take refuge and gratefully rely
On the Vow-power of Amida Buddha.
Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu

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, Namo Amida Butsu
Namo Amida Butsu

>>>

May all ordinary foolish persons – caught in net of perpetual pain and suffering; struggling in vain to free themselves – listen deeply to the Dharma message sincerely conveyed by this song. Single-heartedly entrusting themselves and taking refuge in Amida Buddha and His Universal Vow, may they swiftly HEAR:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

This human life is fleeting and impermanent
With suffering arising from blind passions
Though illusory and abides in emptiness
Shows us the uncreated Land of 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

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

>>>

HOME PAGE – The Call of Boundless Compassion

Related Pages – The Primal Vow

Precious human birth

A fleeting life saved by Amida Buddha

寶 贵 人 生

untitledajp

The above poem in Chinese expresses the true nature of this human life, which is characterized by impermanence, suffering from blind passions and the lack of an independent soul. Yet, human birth is extremely rare and becomes really precious to us, the moment when we would use it as the perfect receptacle to listen deeply to the Buddha Dharma and to receive Amida Buddha’s Boundless Compassion…

This human life is fleeting and impermanent
With suffering arising from blind passions
Though illusory and abides in emptiness
Shows us the uncreated Land of 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

Suffering beings like ourselves do not know why we are born here – in an ever-changing environment firmly attached to greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance – 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 brought us the right condition to free ourselves from samsara – the vicious cycle of birth and death.

>>>

This precious human birth is extremely rare and most difficult to obtain amongst the six realms within samsara – our perpetual and unsatisfactory home of painful existence for billions of lives. Our human birth becomes really “precious” only if one would use it beneficially, as a receptacle for the Buddha Dharma and for receiving the appropriate instructions that could lead one permanently out of samsara. Otherwise, human birth is just the same as any other type of samsaric birth – it is simply another unsatisfactory existence perpetuating the vicious cycle of birth and death.

Samsara is unfathomably immense, beings are countless in number, the places where beings inhabit are innumerable and the chains of interdependence that connect beings with each other are simply inconceivable. Driven by our accumulated karma – the cause and effect produced by the actions of our body, speech and thought – we had transmigrated endlessly throughout the six realms. Burning hatred and anger caused us to take birth as hell beings. Insatiable greed made us appear as hungry ghosts. Stubborn ignorance created us as animals. Uncontrollable jealousy caused us to become jealous gods (asuras). Overbearing arrogance and pride made us appear in the realms of gods.

Human beings are created by our collective good and evil karmas that possess different degrees of individual greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance. Therefore, we are able to intellectually perceive, both the good and the evil, the unimaginable suffering of beings in the lower realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings, as well as the pain and pleasures, experienced by beings in the realms of gods and asuras. It is for this reason that human beings are balanced in their ability to vaguely experience and intellectually understand, the full spectrum of pain and pleasure. Therefore, a human birth could give us the best spiritual opportunity and environment, at least, to be able to ignite, that initial spark of faith in the Buddha’s words.

However, the chance of one taking birth as a human being itself, is so minute and counted as almost nothing, when compared with the countless, trillions of beings born in the unfavourable and extremely painful environments, as animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings. On the other hand, most gods, asuras and humans, are naturally destined for the three lower realms of unimaginable suffering – most likely the hell realms – when the good karma that propelled them to these seemingly favourable realms of painful existences, runs out at the end of their current lives. Thus, we should realize, that taking birth as a human being is extremely rare and most difficult to come by.

Now, due to the good karma accumulated from our distant past, we are fortunate enough to obtain this extremely rare human life. Yet, if we continue to live it, completely immersed in our constant struggle just for food, wealth, fame and the quenching of our insatiable desires, then, we would have live this life in vain. When the demon of death finally knocks on our door of impermanence at the end of this life, we are again thrown into the ocean of pain and suffering – the dreadful realms of samsara. Therefore, we must not squander away and waste this rare human life. It could again, take another countless billions of years of painful existence in the other realms, before another perfect opportunity arises for us to get out of samsara. We should know that, besides the Buddha Dharma, all the other religious teachings available today, merely afford their believers, a better but temporary, place of birth within the vicious cycle of samsara.

The one and only true teaching that assures our ultimate freedom from samsara, is the Buddha Dharma, in general and the Dharma of Amida Buddha, in particular. Therefore, let us completely abandon all the other paths, listen deeply to what the Buddhas taught and realize the real treasure uncovered by this precious human birth.

>>>

The Buddha Dharma taught by Shakyamuni Buddha over 2500 years ago, highlights our suffering, the cause of suffering and how we can effectively put a permanent end to all our suffering. For 45 years, The World-honored One, Teacher of gods and humans expounded countless Dharma discourses and brought immeasurable number of disciples to enlightenment. The Tathagata’s strong presence and Buddha-field enabled persons of different capacities to obtain emancipation in the Age of Right Dharma (正 法 時 代) lasting 500 years from His parinirvana.

The Buddha then revealed that the main purpose for which He came to this world was to preach Amida Buddha’s Vow of Boundless Compassion which promises to save all mundane foolish persons (凡 夫, bombu), good or evil, irrespective of age, gender, social status, intelligence or living conditions, especially in the 1000 years of The Semblance Dharma Age (像 法 時 代) and particularly in this latter day of The Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) that followed.

We are now deep in this Dharma Ending Age in which human beings – badly defiled by greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance – are absolutely incapable of practising strictly in accordance with Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime teachings to obtain enlightenment by their own self-power, strict discipline, difficult practices. The Buddha, out of great compassion for all suffering beings, exhorts all His disciples like ourselves who truly do not have the capacity for these practices, to sincerely entrust themselves completely to Amida Buddha’s fulfilled Primal Vow which is a sure way of breaking free from the relentless cycle of samsara at the end of this life in mortal flesh.

>>>

The Dharma of Amida Buddha, preached by Shakyamuni Buddha, is specially designed to permanently free all wretched foolish persons like us, firmly trapped in the net of samsara. In the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, He tells us about Amida Buddha, who, during His practising stage trillions of years ago, under the guidance of Buddha Lokesvararaja, had boldly made 48 inconceivable Vows – each one specially made in accordance with the various wishes and conditions of the sentient beings. All these Vows had already been wonderfully fulfilled when Amida attained Perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago and His Pure Land of Peace and Happiness exquisitely established to receive all suffering beings who wish to be born there.

The Primal Vow is Amida Buddha’s main Vow – His fulfilled, Universal Vow of Boundless Compassion. It is His absolute pledge to all suffering beings – that those who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to Him, aspiring to be born in His Land and Saying His Name – would definitely be born there at the end of their current lives. For pathetic persons like us, who are utterly incapable in performing difficult meditative and non-meditative practices to save ourselves by self-power, total reliance on the Other-power of Amida’s Primal Vow is our only option for getting out of this treacherous samsara at the end of this physical life.

Saying the Buddha’s Name – (南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛, Namo Amida Butsu) – is thus, embodied in Amida’s Primal Vow. It is the act of true settlement expressing our complete reliance and true entrusting (信 心, Shinjin) in the Primal Vow. It is also our devoted expression of taking refuge and profound gratitude to the Buddha for having saved us from ocean of suffering. Single-heartedly entrusting in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, is thus, our ‘easy’ path out of samsara.

>>>

Seeing the preciousness of human birth – our realization that human birth is extremely rare and yet, can be easily lost or wasted – we are given the impetus to use it beneficially by devoting our lives to listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma. However, the vast majority of persons in this world, concern themselves solely with the constant struggle to quench their insatiable desires for food, pleasure, wealth and fame, while the others follow religions that fervently teach attachment for longer or eternal lives of happiness in the next life. It is truly lamentable that both non-religious, as well as seriously religious people – not realizing that are actually destined again, for just another realm within the vicious cycle of samsara – cannot see or comprehend, the preciousness of their human births.

The Larger Sutra states:

“To obtain human life is difficult in the extreme
To meet a Buddha in this world is also difficult
It is difficult, too, for a man to attain faith and wisdom
Once you have heard the Dharma, strive to reach its heart.

Even if the whole world is on fire
Be sure to pass through it to hear the Dharma
Then you will surely attain the Buddha’s Enlightenment
And everywhere deliver beings from the river of birth and death.”

In this world with numerous religious believes and faiths – every one claiming that theirs is true – we know with absolute certainty, that almost all of them, cannot put a permanent end to all our suffering. They can only cause us to be temporarily born in one of the realms within samsara. Thus, only the Buddha Dharma is true and real.

>>>

Listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma for the rest of our lives, may we be brought to receive the inconceivable Gift of Entrusting Faith (信 心, Shinjin) in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. Single-heartedly Saying the Buddha’s Name and taking refuge only in Amida Buddha, we are grasped and not forsaken by the Light of Boundless Compassion. We know, without any doubt, that samsara has finally lost its grip on us and that we will definitely be born in the Land of Peace and Ultimate Happiness, at the end of our lives. This last birth in the dreadful cycle of birth and death, is truly, a precious human birth.

Thus, we have clearly heard:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

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

>>>

HOME PAGE – The Call of Boundless Compassion

Related Pages – The Primal Vow