Category: Pundarikas – Amazing Journeys to receive Shinjin

True Disciples of Buddha

TEXT IN KYO-GYO-SHIN-SHO

真 佛 弟 子

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In this beautiful passage from his magnum opus – the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho – Venerable Master Shinran carefully explains to us, the meaning of ‘True disciple of Buddha’…..

“In the term “True disciple of Buddha”, ‘True’ contrasts with ‘false’ and ‘provisional’. ‘Disciple’ indicates a disciple of Shakyamuni and the other Buddhas. This expression refers to the practicer who has realized the diamond-like heart and mind. Through this Shinjin and practice, one will without fail transcend and realize great Nirvana: hence, that practicer is called ‘True disciple of Buddha’.”

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Suffering sentient beings like us have been transmigrating endlessly in samsara – the vicious cycle of countless births, suffering and deaths – unable to extricate ourselves from the unfathomable ocean of pain and suffering. We do not know why we are born here – in this ever-changing environment – so badly defiled and firmly attached to greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy, and arrogance. Constantly struggling in vain to find happiness and to avoid suffering, we may perhaps live for 100 years but finally we still have to blindly leave this human existence in agony for another unknown realm of suffering. How sorrowful it is that this extremely rare human birth, would be so unwisely squandered by us and would just end in this way, completely beyond our comprehension!

We should know that the Buddha Dharma is the only True Teaching in this world of absolute delusion, that gives us a chance and means of escaping from samsara. Painfully ignorant of this fact, the majority of us are led to become agnostics or to simply follow other widely touted, false spiritual teachings, which definitely and relentlessly keep us mercilessly strapped to the treacherous wheel of samsara.

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Amida Buddha’s True and Real Shinjin (真 實 信 心), is His Sincere Mind and 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 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; thus creating the Pure Land:

“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 (阿 彌 陀 佛 本 願) is clearly the Buddha’s Promise to save all beings from the dreadful cycle of samsara. Saying the Buddha’s Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu), fulfilled in the Primal Vow, is thus, the active cause of our births 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 Vow of Great Compassion, persons with the lowest spiritual aptitude, like ourselves, who are absolutely incapable to perform difficult meditational and non-meditational practices, are effectively pulled out from jaws of samsara, at the end of this life.

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 badly defiled persons in the present, out of samsara, this painfully unsatisfactory world of delusion.

By simply entrusting ourselves to Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow, we are assured of birth in the Pure Land. We should know that Amida Buddha has already accomplished our Pure Land births by fulfilling for each of us our aspirations and all the necessary attendant practices. All ignorant sentient beings will realise this fact sooner or later – with the ripening of their good karma from the past – when they would become ready to receive Amida Buddha’s inconceivable gift of Entrusting Faith (信 心 – Shinjin) in the marvellously wonderful Primal Vow.

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Shakyamuni Buddha who appeared in this world out of His great compassion for all suffering beings, have effectively taught us, individually or as a group, appropriate methods of ending this fearful samsaric nightmare of birth, old age, sickness and death. The Exalted One persistently exhorts us to listen deeply to His teaching about the truth of our suffering and how we can put a permanent end to this suffering.

However, the sheer weight of negative karma, defilements and stubborn evil passions accumulated by us through billions upon billions of births, are so incredibly immense and varied, that extremely few of us would listen to what the Buddha taught. Every one of us has already built up a solid and intractable ego totally overwhelmed by our blind passions, that firmly hold us in this sphere of perpetual suffering. Thus, as we live through our fleeting lives without any suitable condition for emancipation, we would painfully leave this human life and are again recycled within the treacherous realms of gods, demi-gods, humans, hungry spirits, animals and hell beings.

It is said that Shakyamuni Buddha – the World-honored One, Teacher of gods and humans – skilfully taught 84000 methods and more when He walked on this earth over 2500 years ago, effectively prescribing the appropriate Dharma medicine to each individual or group, in accordance with their natures and spiritual capacities. During the Buddha’s lifetime and 500 years thereafter, superior disciples who strictly perform the extremely difficult practices, fully in accord with the appropriate methods taught by Him on the Path of Sages, were able to attain emancipation then. Many of them could leverage on the Buddha’s physical presence and wonderful energetic-field, to attain freedom from samsara at the end of their lives. Those superior Dharma practitioners were indeed ‘True disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha’.

However, Shakyamuni Buddha revealed that, the true intent for His appearance in this world, was solely to preach Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow which seeks to save the vast majority all persons trapped in samsara, especially the lowest grade of Dharma followers who are absolutely incapable of performing any practices. The Buddha knows that, as His physical presence receded in time and space, extremely few disciples in future generations would be able to attain even the entry stages to Enlightenment, through the strict practices taught to superior disciples on the Path of Sages during His lifetime. Thus, by delivering the true teaching of Salvation – The Large Pure Land Sutra – He urges us to take the easy Path of the Pure Land, effectively out of samsara. All foolish persons, in this Dharma Ending Age, who fully entrust themselves to Amida’s Primal Vow, are therefore, called ‘True Disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha’.

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All the Buddhas, in the innumerable universes and galaxies throughout the ten directions, have the same Great Compassion for all suffering samsaric beings, who are continuously and blindly trapped in the realms of gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings. They want us to become fully Enlightened Buddhas and hence be completely free from all pain and suffering. Yet, due our intractable egos, developed over countless lifetimes – our solid intellectual and emotional arrogance – most of us simply do not have the aspiration or the humility to listen deeply to what the Buddhas taught.

These World-honored Buddhas know that, entrusting in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, is the easiest and most effective method of securing the Salvation of all pathetic, suffering beings – particularly during the Dharma Ages that lack the physical presence and the immediate energetic-field of a Buddha. Thus, all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions, praise and fully support Saying Amida’s Name which embodies the Primal Vow. Mundane foolish persons like us, should mindfully take heed of all the Buddhas’ exhortations and become their ‘True Disciples’ by simply entrusting ourselves single-heartedly to Amida’s Compassionate Vow.

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Shinran Shonin , a True disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, was born in Japan and lived from 1173-1263. Deeply understanding the right and true intent of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings and the explanations transmitted by the Venerable Masters before him, he clearly expounded to us, about the true and provisional teachings in relation to The Path of Sages and The Pure Land Way. He also carefully explained about the distinctive characteristics of The Right, Semblance and Dharma-ending Ages which define the spiritual capacities of Dharma practicers.

The teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha on the Path of Sages were intended for the period when He was in this world and through the five hundred years of The Right Dharma Age (正 法 時 代); they are altogether inappropriate for the times and nature of beings in the thousand years of the Semblance Dharma Age (像 法 時 代) and during the materialistic years of the Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) that followed. Out of millions of human beings who seek to cultivate the Way by performing meditative and non-meditative practices during the Dharma-ending Age, not one will gain perfect realization at the end of their extremely rare human lives.

We are now entrenched in The Dharma-ending Age; it is the evil world of the five defilements. This one gate – the Pure Land Way – is the only path that affords passage. Furthermore, even within the Pure Land Way, not one of us is able to come to the end of suffering by performing any self-power meditative or non-meditative practices. These practices are no longer in accord with the times and nature of beings. Yet most followers of the Buddha Dharma today, ignorant of this fact, do not even admit or honestly recognize their own inability and unfavourable circumstances they are now in, letting this life pass by in vain and struggling without any hope of ever coming close to emancipation. In short, they are painfully ignorant of Shakyamuni Buddha’s skilful teachings and true intention for His appearance in this world.

However, in this Dharma-ending Age, followers who truly and deeply listened to the Buddha’s teachings, will realize their own inability, utter foolishness and adverse circumstances they are in, knowing that they are doomed to complete failure by self-power practices. Wishing to be forever freed from the clutches of samsara, they single-heartedly entrust themselves and their karmic destiny entirely to  Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow. Saying the Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu) as they receive the inconceivable gift of Shinjin (Entrusting mind – 信 心), they know without any doubt that they have now joined the assembly of those assured of Nirvana and would be freed from the crazy cycle of pain and suffering at the end of their lives.

The practice of listening deeply to the Buddhas’ teachings and single-hearted reliance on Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow are fully in accord with our true natures, spiritual aptitudes and The Dharma-ending Age. Followers of Shinjin belong to the rightly-established group whose births in Unconditioned Land of Peace and Bliss at the end of their lives, are absolutely guaranteed. They are thus, wonderfully and rightly described by Master Shinran as ‘True Disciples of Buddha’.

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True Disciples of Buddha – are therefore, the appropriate term for Buddhist followers – especially in this Dharma Ending Age – who rely completely on Amida Buddha’s absolute Vow-power (Other-power) and are truly settled in diamond-like Shinjin. They know without any doubt that, they will be Buddhas in Amida’s Pure Land at the end of their present lives. Naturally, they would live out the rest of their lives, remaining as foolish persons filled with blind passions, yet carefully watch over and constantly protected by the Compassionate Light of Amida Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha and all the Buddhas in the ten directions.

However, as expounded by Master Shinran in the Chinese text mentioned above, ‘True’ is contrasted with ‘False’ and ‘Provisional’. These latter categories of Buddhists, really do not have the aspiration or the appropriate means that are in accord with their true natures, aptitudes and circumstances, to escape from samsara, at the end of their pitiful existence in this mortal world:

False disciples of Buddha are people who may call themselves Buddhists, yet, they often mix their views and practices with other non-Buddhist, religious teachings. These are unstable, confused, ignorant followers, who always try to compare Buddha with God and Nirvana with Heaven. It is extremely sad that they do not even understand that the Buddhas’ teachings are the only methods that could get them out of samsara, while all other non-Buddhist spiritual paths, would only perpetuate their pain and suffering, relentlessly, in samsara.

Provisional disciples, on the other hand, are actually good Buddhists who are practicers of the difficult, expedient means taught by Shakyamuni Buddha in meditational and non-meditational disciplines meant for the truly superior disciples on the Path of Sages, during His lifetime. These followers of Buddha, depend largely on their own self-power efforts, practices and strict moral conducts to gain Enlightenment, without honestly taking stock of their own aptitudes for such difficult practices. Being followers of doubt and uncertainty, they may also mix their self-power practices with partial reliance on Amida Buddha’s Pure Land way.

Provisional disciples of Buddha are therefore, the good Buddhists who actually do not understand that, as the Buddha’s energetic presence have receded in time, all their self-power struggles are simply not in accord with their extremely poor spiritual aptitude, circumstances and the Dharma Age they are in. It is again extremely sorrowful, that they still harbour doubts and simply cannot entrust themselves single-heartedly to Amida’s Primal Vow, which is now, the only option available, that could assure them of Enlightenment at the end of this samsaric life.

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Listening Deeply to the Buddha Dharma in general and to the Amida Dharma in particular, may all wretched foolish persons come to accept Amida’ precious Gift of Shinjin and become ‘True Disciples of Buddha’. May they, for as long as they live, continue to Say the Buddha’s Name – which is fully endowed with the Buddha’s infinite merits and virtues – in deep gratitude to Amida Buddha for His Boundless Compassion.

True Disciples of Buddha have definitely 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

 

Home Page: The Call of Boundless Compassion

Ajatasatru – Our Real Story

AJATASATRU
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 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

Stage of The Truly Settled

SHO-JO-JU

正 定 聚

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The stage realized by foolish persons of truly settled Shinjin – the entrusting mind that puts complete reliance only in the Other-Power of Amida Buddha and His Primal Vow – is repeatedly emphasized by Venerable Master Shinran. As this Shinjin is the core essential teaching in the True Pure Land Way, he compares it with the extremely difficult attainments achieved by practicers on the Theravada and Mahayana paths – those who will definitely not backslide in their practice – and will only advance forward to Nirvana. These are the practicers who are assured of breaking free from the firm clutches of samsara – the vicious cycle of relentless birth, old age, sickness and death. Let us listen deeply to this wonderful exposition:

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Amida Buddha’s true and real Shinjin (真 實 信 心), is His Absolute Confidence that all persons who single-heartedly accept and fully rely on His Primal Vow – the universal Vow of  “Sincere Mind, Joyful Entrusting, Aspiration for birth and Saying His Name” – will definitely be born, as they wish, in His Land of Peace and Happiness, at the end of their present lives.

The Primal Vow is clearly the Buddha’s promise to save all suffering beings from the painful cycle of samsara. Thus, Saying the Buddha’s Name (南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu), embodied in the Primal Vow, is the active cause of our birth in the Pure Land. It is Amida Buddha’s Great Practice specifically directed to us for our going forth. Therefore, persons of truly settled Shinjin (信 心) – the faith-mind that fully entrusts in the power of the Primal Vow – are effectively extricated from this treacherous samsaric net of delusion.

In his magnum opus, the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, Master Shinran made a clear comparison between foolish persons of truly settled Shinjin on the true Pure Land Way and practicers on the Paths of Sages – the Theravada and Mahayana paths.

“Thus, when one attains the true and real Practice and Shinjin, one greatly rejoices in one’s heart. This stage is called the stage of Joy. It is likened to the First Fruit – a sage of the First Fruit; though he may give himself to sleep and to sloth, will still never be subject to samsaric existence for a twenty-ninth time.”

“Even more decisively will the ocean of beings of the ten quarters be grasped and never abandoned when they have taken refuge in this Practice and Shinjin.
..Therefore, He is called ‘Amida Buddha.’
..This is Other Power.
..Accordingly, the Mahasattva Nagarjuna states [that such person] ‘immediately enters the Stage of the Definitely Settled.’
..Master T’an-luan states [that he] ‘enters the Stage of the Truly Settled.’
We should reverently entrust ourselves to this [Practice and Shinjin]; we should single-heartedly receive it.”

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Sage of the First Fruit (初 果, Pali: Sotapanna), in the Theravada Buddhist tradition on the Path of Sages, is the first stage of sainthood also called ‘Stream Enterer’. This stage is attained by practicers who, through extremely difficult self-power, keep strict moral precepts and disciplines. By practising arduous, painstaking meditations, they gain insight into the true nature of themselves and of the aggregates.

Stream Enterers have just entered the stream leading to enlightenment and will definitely advance forward; never backsliding below the human realm. After further extremely rigorous practices in deep meditations, they then progress toward the stage of Arhats – the 4th and final stage of sainthood on the Theravada path. On reaching the Arhat sainthood stage, they are thereby freed from this vicious cycle of samsara. However, a Sotapanna may still be subjected to another twenty nine existences – seven in the human realm, seven in deva realms and fifteen in the intermediate states between births – before they become Arhats.

The path just to reach the stage of Sotapanna have taken superior disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha countless billions of lives of extremely hard self-power practices to achieve, before they actually come under the direct guidance of a Buddha. We are now over 2500 years from the Buddha’s strong energetic field; ordinary foolish persons like ourselves are now living in this evil age with extreme distractions and heavy defilements which have persistently dragged us down, as we try to climb up the slippery slope, on the mountain of enlightenment.

If getting out of samsara is indeed our goal in this precious lifetime, we should be realistic enough to admit that it is really an impossible task for us, even to achieve just a steady advancement on the Buddhist path by engaging in these difficult practices; let alone talk about attaining the First Fruit.

When we honestly take stock of our own inferior spiritual capacities, we will know that we are definitely going to waste this rare opportunity for emancipation, by struggling in vain again, with this difficult self-power Theravada Path of Sages.

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The Stage of Non-retrogression (住 不 退 轉) – is a term originally used in the traditional Mahayana teachings to describe the stage of spiritual development in the Bodhisattvas’ path to enlightenment, when these Bodhisattvas will never backslide in their attainments. Their arduous practices of vast merit gathering, good deeds and flawless difficult disciplines on the Path of Sages, through countless billions of lives, have brought them up to the eighth stage (Sanskrit: bhumi) on a ten bhumi spiritual climb, before realizing Buddhahood. These Bodhisattvas on the 8th bhumi and above have attained the Stage of Non-retrogression – they belong to the Group of persons absolutely assured of advancing to Nirvana.

However, because of their individual vows, some Bodhisattvas, out of compassion, choose to remain in the dualistic realms of this vicious cycle of samsara, for the sake teaching and delivering the innumerable beings who are in pain and suffering.

The Bodhisattvas’ heroic, self-power practice of compassion, through billions of lives, just to arrive at the Stage of Non-retrogression, is extremely difficult and simply impossible to be emulated by ordinary foolish beings like ourselves, trapped in this Dharma Ending Age. Every one of us is now carrying an enormous baggage of evil karma – greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance, on top of the agnostic weight of scientific knowledge that simply brush aside the truth of transcendental existences.

If we sincerely wish to be freed from samsara at the end of this precious human life, let us be realistic enough to admit that we simply do not possess the nature, environment and spiritual capacity for the Bodhisattva’s formidable task, to scale the hazardous mountain of enlightenment, without backsliding. Take the easy path to enlightenment by entrusting our karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow. Simply rule ourselves out from the Bodhisattvas’ extremely difficult Mahayana Path of Sages.

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Stage of the Truly Settled (正 定 聚, Jap: Sho-Jo-Ju) – which Mahasattva Nagarjuna called ‘Stage of the Definitely Settled’ – is the stage realized by that group of persons whose birth in the fulfilled Pure Land of Amida is absolutely assured. Having single-heartedly entrusted themselves to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, they have taken the easy and direct route out of samsara – the end of all pain and suffering – and they know, without any doubt, that they will become Buddhas in the Pure Land, when their physical lives end.

Receiving the Inconceivable Gift of True and Real Shinjin from Amida Buddha, their aspiration to be permanently freed from this painful cycle of birth and death, is instantly fulfilled and truly settled – here and now, while they are still living out this dreadful existence.

In a letter clarifying this Truly Settled stage to a Jodo Shinshu follower, Master Shinran carefully explained:

“You should understand that the moment of settling of those who entrust themselves to Tathagata’s Vow is none other than the settling into the stage of non-retrogression, because they receive the benefit of being grasped, never to be abandoned. Whether we speak of the settling of true Shinjin or the settling of the diamond-like Shinjin, both come about through being grasped, never to be abandoned. Thus is awakened the heart and mind that will attain the supreme enlightenment. This is called the stage of non-retrogression, the stage of the truly settled, and the stage equal to the perfect enlightenment.

The Buddhas in the ten quarters rejoice in the settling of this mind and praise it as being equal to the hearts and minds of all Buddhas. Thus, the person of true Shinjin is said to be equal to Buddhas. He is also regarded as being the same as Maitreya, who is in [the rank of] succession to Buddhahood.”

Further, he states in another wonderful exposition:

“Through the karmic power of the great Vow, the person who has realized true and real Shinjin (entrusting in Amida Buddha) naturally is in accord with the cause of birth in the Pure Land and is drawn by the Buddha’s karmic power; hence the going is easy, and ascending to and attaining the supreme great Nirvana is without limit.”

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The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life 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 then attain birth and instantly dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.”

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the Definitely Assured State and unfailingly reach Nirvana, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.” (11th Vow).

It further states:

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

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Mundane foolish persons (凡 夫, bombu) – like ourselves, even though we are heavily burdened with blind passions and stubborn ignorance – will eventually (with the ripening of good karma from the past), come to realize our utter inability to get out of samsara, by depending on our pathetic spiritual capacities. Our unyielding arrogance and deeply embedded Hindrance of Doubt have also caused us to be spiritually blind, with false perceptions, often enhanced by intellectual and scholarly knowledge so easily available today.

However, through the repeated practice of Listening Deeply to the Buddha Dharma in general, and Jodo Shinshu in particular, we will, sooner or later, wake up and face the honest truth that – no matter how hard or for how long we try with meditational or non-meditational practices – our useless self-power struggle to get out of samsara, will surely be in vain.

Thus, we should, with Sincere mind, entrust ourselves and aspire to be born in the Pure Land, by relying single-heartedly and entirely, on the Vow-power of Amida Buddha. Naturally, we enter the Stage of the Truly Settled. Our birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss, is now, absolutely guaranteed.

Instantly embraced and not forsaken
By the Light of Great Compassion
We enter the Stage of the Truly Settled
With our baggage of blind passions.

With the benefit of being possessed of supreme virtues
Our karmic evil is transformed into good
We are protected and cared for by all the Buddhas
Here and now, assured of Buddhahood.

Receiving the benefits of having much joy in our hearts
And being praised by all the Buddhas,
We gratefully respond to Amida’s virtues and benevolence
By Saying the Name of Boundless Compassion.

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Saying the Buddha’s Name (Namo Amida Butsu   南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛) that embodies the Primal Vow, is the act of true settlement for those whose birth in the Pure Land is absolutely assured. It is our spontaneous expression of gratitude; taking refuge in Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow. Saying the Buddha’s Name, is the great Practice specially selected by Amida Buddha to reach out to all suffering beings. It is fully endowed with the Buddha’s infinite virtues which are equally transferred to us for our going forth to the Pure Land.

Entering the Stage of the Truly Settled, we single-heartedly and spontaneously Say the Buddha’s Name for the rest of this fleeting life. Here and now, we know that we have receive Amida’s Inconceivable Gift of Salvation and that this defiled Saha world of perpetual suffering has finally lost all its grip on us. We know that we will become Buddhas at the end of our precious human lives that have given us the extremely rare opportunity of meeting the Dharma of Amida Buddha.

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Thus, clearly and truly, we have now 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 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu   南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛
Namo Amida Butsu   南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛

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Ajatasatru – Our Story

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. 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, how difficult it is 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 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 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 considered himself an ‘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 honest enough to recognize that we are just as evil, wretched 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 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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Paul Roberts – A Good Teacher

             Amazing path of awakening – Tribute to a Good Teacher

pundarika-fa

Pundarika – A rare White Lotus Flower that rose from the mud of blind passions…

All mundane foolish persons whether good or evil
Having heard and entrust in the Universal Vow of The Tathagata
The Buddha called them persons of vast excellent understanding
Who are also named by people as ‘Pundarikas’.

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This post is a special tribute to Paul Roberts who had recently passed on to Amida Buddha’s Pure Land of Peace and Bliss. Despite his personal health issues, Paul had tirelessly and compassionately spread the wonderful teachings of Master Shinran on Amida’s Inconceivable Gift of Salvation. Being a good teacher with True and Real Shinjin, he had helped numerous persons interested in Jodo Shinshu to listen deeply to Master Shinran’s expositions; resulting in many receiving the precious Gift of Shinjin, putting a permanent end to their endless suffering in samsara when this life is over.

Paul Roberts was the moderator and true teacher of Master Shinran’s Teachings – on his On-line Sangha, True Shin Buddhism Yahoo Group which he started in 2006. His amazing journey to The Teaching, Practice, Shinjin and Realization on The True Pure Land Way of Master Shinran, was a great source of inspiration and encouragement to many ordinary foolish lay persons, fellow travellers who were seeking for the only viable Path of True Salvation. Gratefully joining Amida Buddha’s golden chain, he also teached with his wonderful videos on You Tube, available to every one. His uncompromising attitude and fight against false teachings and divergences from the True Pure Land teachings, were well known by everyone who heard his teachings.

Paul’s wonderful story, written in his own words, gives us an excellent opportunity to listen deeply to the inconceivable working of Amida’s Great Compassion…

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Up until I was about 20, I was a staunch materialist, also known as a nihilist. I was convinced that all there is in this universe is space, time, matter and energy.

And then, I began to experience these “wake up calls”.  I’d have moments where my ego-self consciousness would just fall asleep somehow.  In that moment, all that was left (as I know now) was simply my Buddha-self consciousness.

For a brief, shining moment, I was seeing the world with unstained Buddha eyes. I experienced my oneness with all that is.  There was no “me” in those moments. I was simply full of the fruit of Buddha-self consciousness: Love, compassion, the non-dual or unitive VIEW

Since then, I’ve done a lot of study of religions and spirituality generally, and found out that this experience is common to all people in all times, places and cultures.  Of course people use different words and concepts to describe it and place it into their own cultural matrix afterwards.  But those precious moments themselves are ineffable, and beyond words and rational explanation.

These moments were my first “awakening” in this life.  Of course, they faded over time, as my ego-self consciousness re-awakened and my Buddha-self consciousness receded into the background of my mindstream once again.

Now I understand, and know beyond all doubt, what was happening:  The countless transcendental Buddhas and Bodhisattvas work behind the scenes in each of our lives, laying down a trail of “spiritual breadcrumbs” to urge us, coax us and lead us – each and all. And the biggest breadcrumb of all is this  kind of shining moment where even someone as confused as me just KNOWS there is something more going on than mere materiality.  For me, as for so many others, that moment changes us forever, and gives us a new outlook on life, an outlook that makes us a pilgrim on the Path of Awakening.

That doesn’t mean we’re done, by any means. But it does mean that the great purpose and goal of our life has changed.  Life now has a meaning it could never otherwise have.  And the great purpose and goal is to now live life as an awakened being ALL the time – to have that ineffable non-dual view ALL the time – to live life and experience life and see life from the very top of that mountain of enlightenment that pilgrims on the path are travelling without EVER losing that mountaintop view, retrogression into plain, mundane, ego-self consciousness.

Of course, I know now that this is exactly what happened to Gotama on his own journey from being a prince to being the Buddha of our time and place.  After seven years of the most intense seeking as a pilgrim on the path, he sat down one last time under the Bodhi Tree, and looked more deeply into reality than he ever had before.  And so he found, at last, this ego-self consciousness as a thing – a psychic entity that seems unique to humans in our world – and he recognized it as the very SOURCE of our suffering, our alienation, our endarkened vision of ourselves and our lives.  He called this psychic entity the builder of this house of suffering – and it surely is.

And then he snuffed it out, as one might snuff out a candle, and so he arose from that Bodhi Tree not as Gotama the seeker, but as the Fully Enlightened One, the Great World Teacher, the Turner of the Wheel of Dharma.  By snuffing out that ego-self consciousness, He was now THE BUDDHA…or more accurately A BUDDHA – one of countless Buddhas in this universe, and any other universes we don’t yet know about.

And as I read this, I knew – after many years as a seeker who’d gone down one blind alley after another – that THIS was my goal.  I wanted to become a Buddha, too.  And so, after many years as a seeker floundering around with the best intentions, I finally became a disciple of Shakyamuni, and understood that the end game for a seeker was to become a FINDER, just like Gotama had.

Or as I sometimes say, “When I grow up, I want to be a Buddha”.

So now I was a disciple of Shakyamuni. And as far as I could tell, in all of the branches of authentic Buddhism, the name of the game was about lifting myself up by my bootstraps.  It was about climbing the mountain of enlightenment, one small step after another.

By this time, I already had some good skills as a meditator, and bring on that non-dual experience at will much of the time.  Like many who become skilled, I could sit down in my quiet time and place, and take off the clothes of “me” during my meditation or “practice” time.  But even if I had the best and most wonderful experience of Buddha-self consciousness during my practice time, as soon as I got up, against my own deepest desire, I was clothed with “me” once again.  And so the experience – like all the others I have had since the beginning – was marked by impermanence.

Said another way, I could GET there, but I couldn’t STAY there.  And over many years, observing all sorts of people and groups in the global Buddha-sangha, I came to realize that this was not just my problem, it was EVERYBODY’S problem.  Just like the little boy could see through “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, I could see – and couldn’t HELP but see – not a one of us seemed capable of “staying there”.  Not a one of us could actually shed the clothing of our ego-self consciousness in a PERMANENT way, like Gotama finally did beneath that Bodhi Tree some 2500 years ago.

It took me a long time to really SEE this, and a longer time to find the words to describe what I was seeing.  Nevertheless, I was content with my own trudging up the mountain of enlightenment like all the other Buddhists (or so I thought), just figuring that it was going to take a lot of lifetimes t get there.  If that was the way it was, I was OK with that.  If that’s what all the Buddhist pilgrims on the Path were doing, then I would do it too – no matter how badly I did it.

But then, right after 9/11, I was confronted with two tragic experiences that were just too much for me to bear. The first was in July 2002, when my younger brother committed suicide. I was so shaken by that experience, and all that surrounded it, that I couldn’t quiet my mind at all.  I couldn’t read or study the Dharma, or listen to any Dharma teachers, or do ANYTHING to lift myself up by my own efforts at all.

And that’s when I was drawn, for the very first time in my life, to the man named Shinran, and the Dharma he taught.

As soon as I started to read his words, and understand his basic Dharma propositions, I knew I had found the open Dharma door I had been seeking for so many years.  I still didn’t understand it clearly – because all of the English speaking Dharma teachers I could find were preaching and teaching a DIFFERENT Dharma message than Master Shinran’s message.  At that point, I simply didn’t know or understand enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

But my spiritual “sniffer”, the sense from my own inner Buddha-self consciousness, was leading me along, and convincing me thoroughly that this “Path of the Foolish” was much more suitable for such a weak, stumbling and failing Buddhist like me, compared to the “Path of the Sages”, for which I was CLEARLY not suited.

I was ready for a Dharma path which was about TRUSTING rather than TRYING, about being PULLED-UP by some “other power” rather than PULLING MYSELF UP by my own self-power efforts.  I was ready to “let go and let Amida”.

The one problem I had – and the reason I couldn’t just do that, is that all of the living Shin Buddhist teachers were talking about how Amida isn’t a REAL Buddha, but just some sort of mythical figure – like Hamlet, as one well known teacher put it. And (these same teachers said), the Pure Land was not a REAL Buddha-land, but just the state of Buddha-consciousness.

This confused me completely – because the way Shakyamuni Buddha and Master Shinran talked, they seemed to see Amida as a “real” Buddha – indeed in the Larger Sutra, in response to a request by the monk Ananda, Amida actually showed himself to the crowd assembled that day on Vulture Peak.  And at the same time, Amida showed all those folks the Pure Land itself.

So none of these teachings – which I now know are FALSE teachings – made any sense to me.

And then a second major tragic event happened in my family:  My older daughter, a beautiful and spiritually oriented young women, fell into a deep clinical depression and couldn’t make her way out, although she tried her best and we did too. We took her to the best doctors in our area, she took the anti-depression medicine they gave her – but nothing worked.  Sixteen months after my brother’s death, my daughter died as well.

Now, these unresolved questions I had became CRITICAL.  I was so overwhelmed, that I just didn’t know how to get through one day, much less a lifetime.  Every night I went to bed hoping that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

I just HAD to know:  Was Amida a REAL Buddha, a living being like Shakyamuni, in whom I could truly take full and final refuge, as Shakyamuni invited me to do?  Was the Pure Land of Amida a REAL place where I could be re-born at the end of this terrible lifetime, and become a real Buddha myself – at long last.

I searched and searched, desperately, all over the internet – but I couldn’t find a SINGLE Shin Buddhist teacher who would make those two simple assertions.  I became truly hopeless, thinking that in Shin Buddhism there was really no “there” there. The ground of faith I had been standing upon was falling away beneath my feet.

And then finally, stuck away in some obscure corner of the internet, was a website of some Japanese Shin teacher I had never heard of named Eiken Kobai.  He is called “Sensei” but I’ve learned that such religious and spiritual titles mean absolutely nothing.  It’s not about what you are CALLED…it’s about who you really ARE.

Eiken had one page in English on the whole site, with the text of his major book that was translated into English.  It’s called UNDERSTANDING JODO SHINSHU.  This little book explained the basics of Shin Buddhism better and more succinctly than anything I had ever read by other Shin teachers, and it seemed to accord entirely with the writings of our Dharma masters, Shinran and Rennyo.

So I wrote to Eiken, and he replied with the help of an American translator.  And then I wrote him again, saying that I had JUST ONE QUESTION:

“Is Amida Buddha a REAL Buddha, or not?”

Of course, Eiken answered the question directly and simply: Yes (he said), Amida is a real Buddha.

With that one short sentence, he had wielded a true Dharma sword, and had cut away all the delusions and obscurations planted in my mindstream by these false teachers, and their false teachings.

So as soon as I read Eiken’s words, I had no more obstacles left in my head, or my heart. I had no more doubt.

I simply entrusted myself and my entire karmic destiny ENTIRELY to Amida and His Primal Vow – and immediately received the inconceivable gift of His Shinjin.

This time, there were no ineffable mystical EXPERIENCES, no dropping away of my ego-self consciousness, no relief from the unending tsunami of my grief.  I still couldn’t stand to be alive, and still went to sleep every night hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

And yet, and yet…

Because of the faith-mind consciousness of Amida Buddha Himself shining into the darkness of my broken mindstream, I just KNEW – and KNOW even as I write this 11 years later – that I am truly grasped by the REAL Buddha called Amida.  I KNOW that He Himself will never abandon me, no matter what.  And I KNOW that when this life is over, I WILL awaken in Amida’s own Pure Land, and I will IMMEDIATELY experience that final transformation to Buddhahood – which is the great goal and purpose I already had!

When I grow up, I want to be a Buddha – and now I KNOW – beyond all doubt – that this would be how it would happen.

And I KNEW that in the very first moment of receiving Amida’s gift of SHINJIN, His own faith-mind consciousness.

In all of the ups and downs of my life since that moment, I have not had a single moment of doubt about that. This is not because of my faith, or my works, in any way. It is ENTIRELY because of Amida’s own faith and works, during His many lifetimes as the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, doing endless practices to perfection, on MY behalf, to create infinite karmic merit for ME.

It’s ALL AMIDA, ALL THE TIME.  All I ever need to do is listen deeply to the Dharma as best as I can, with the help of my Dharma friends. I just let go, and let Amida do EVERYTHING that needs doing in my little life, day by day, until I leave this body, and this life.

All I am here is GRATEFUL – like a drowning man who is grateful when he’s pulled out of the ocean and saved from certain death by a great ship passing by.

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU, I say in response.

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU. Thank You Amida Buddha.

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

NAMU AMIDA BUTSU

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU AMIDA BUDDHA

Written by Paul Roberts in October 2015, for: The Call Of Boundless Compassion.

>>>

We are grateful to Paul for his wonderful story. It is certainly an amazing example of how a common foolish person like us, who, by single-heartedly entrusting himself and his karmic destiny entirely to Amida Buddha and The Primal Vow, is grasped and not forsaken by the Buddha. Having now obtained birth and Buddhahood in The Pure Land, Paul will be on his next task of returning to this world – through the Vow-power of Amida Buddha – to help others karmically linked to him (through seen or unseen ways), receive Amida’s Inconceivable Gift of Entrusting Faith.

Words cannot fully express how wonderful it is to have a Good Teacher of True Shinjin amongst us. Knowing this, our escape from this vicious cycle of pain and suffering in samsara at the end of this life, is all the more assured.

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 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

Ajatasatru – Our Story

This is a repost of an article presented earlier on this blog:

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. Only the Compassionate Light of a Supreme Buddha can cure us…..

>>>

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.”

>>>

An Icchantika (一 闡 提) is the description that Master Shinran gave himself as he carefully explains to us, how difficult it is 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 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.”

>>>

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 considered himself an ‘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 honest enough to recognize that we are just as evil, wretched 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 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.”

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.

>>>

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.

>>>

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.

>>>

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.

>>>

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

>>>

Home Page: The Call of Boundless Compassion

Ajatasatru – Our story

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. Only the Compassionate Light of a Supreme Buddha can cure us…..

>>>

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.”

>>>

An Icchantika (一 闡 提) is the description that Master Shinran gave himself as he carefully explains to us, how difficult it is 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.”

>>>

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 considered himself an ‘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 honest enough to recognize that we are just as evil, wretched 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 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 true intent with a heart-felt, gentle smile.

>>>

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.

>>>

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.

>>>

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.

>>>

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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Related Posts: The Primal Vow, Dharma Ending Age, True disciple of Buddha