Namu Amida Butsu

This work is especially dedicated to Zuiken Saizo Inagaki, who sheds light on the pristine and original teachings of Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism) for many people, including myself. I regard him as my soul teacher and I am very much influenced by his words and thoughts, which are deeply imbued with the Wisdom of Compassion of Amida Buddha. I read most of his writings available in Chinese language and I wish to share some of his golden words in this blog in English. Rev. George Gatenby and Mr. Gabriel Schlaefer have been kindly and untiringly assisting me to edit the translated essays so that they are readable and true to the intent of Sensei. May all partake of the wisdom of Shinshu teaching and be overpowered by the light of Amida Buddha.

Namu Amida Butsu!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Unit 14 Birth in the Pure Land while Remaining Ignorant

Question: Are we talking about the “absolute pitch darkness” beyond both the awakened (bright) and unawakened (dark) mind?
Answer: It is difficult to speak about the absolute pitch darkness. There was once a monk named Deshan, who was baffled by the question of an old lady. The monk said to the old lady, “You are incredibleI believe there must be a wise monk living nearby.” The old lady answered, “Yes indeed, there is a monk named Master Lung-tan (Dragon Pool).” So Deshan the monk went to visit Master Lung-tan.
That night, after Deshan the monk had finished his conversation with the master, he bade him farewell. “I must take my leave now.” The master lit the lantern and led Deshan out. “Ah, thank you so much!” On the way out, Master Lung-tan suddenly blew out the lantern. They were thrown into total darkness in that moment, without knowing what direction to take. It was a complete darkness. This kind of “absolute pitch darkness” really does exist! Right then, Deshan the monk exclaimed “Ah!” and was enlightened. Therefore, the followers of Jodo Shinshu are fortunate to chance upon one such “absolute pitch dark” situation in their lives.
Even so, if you do not encounter the “absolute pitch darkness” until the moment of death, it is still not an absolute pitch dark moment that you want to meet. As long as a person is still alive, he will bear in mind the idea of “listening to the Buddha Dharma and trusting in the Buddha-dharma for birth in the Pure Land.” At the point of death, however, one will lose the power to listen and to trust, and even what one has heard in the past will all be forgotten, so that one is plunged into truly absolute pitch-darkness. During that time, the Dharma that one most frequently listens to will become enlivened. “Aha! This is it!” In that moment, one’s eyes have become blind, and when this happens it is of no avail. You simply cannot depend on your ears to receive (hear) the Dharma. So, when a good teacher comes, the only thing he can do is to hold on to the hands of the man on his deathbed, or hold him in his arms. That alone will make him understand. In that moment, what is appropriate to talk aboutsomething you can say that is goodis “Namu-amida-butsu, Namu-amida-butsu.” The Contemplation Sutra and other sutras all give the same instruction, and this is not to explain. Namu-amida-butsu, Namu-amida-butsu . . . Just this one saying is good for everything.
Question: Will this “absolute pitch darkness” come to everyone?
Answer: Regardless of your having shinjin or not, the absolute pitch darkness will still come upon you. No matter what sort of person you are, at the time of death, the absolute pitch darkness will certainly emerge. So even now, at present, you are in absolute pitch darkness.
Talking about “the absolute pitch darkness,” fellow-practicer Kichibee say it very well that “in that moment, the mind of bombu is like casting ashes in a strong wind.” My mind is just the same, like casting white ashes in a strong wind. On a day when the wind is blowing strongly, try gathering a handful of white ashes, then throw it into the air. In the twinkling of an eye, all the ashes will be blown away, won’t they? If one does not come to understand this point, he will become attached to the idea of “I have listened to the Buddha-dharma,” turning “I have listened to the Buddha-dharma” into something unchanging to fall back on, and thinking that he or she will become “illumined” by it. Fellow-practicer Kichibee is not like that; he says that “the mind of bombu is like casting ashes in a strong wind.”
This frame of mind is very good. Even so, for the person who has never experienced this, no matter how much you talk to him or her about it, it would not make any difference. If you say, “The mind of bombu is like casting white ashes in a strong wind,” he would think, “Then, I will need to make my dark mind illumined,” or “I have to train my transient mind to become unmoving.” If people have such a mentality, it cannot be helped. When you know your mind—and shinjin is like that—you won’t try to grasp it, will you? The saying of fellow-practicer Kichibee carries a critical and weighty message.
To think this way, and keep on thinking in such a way, is to believe that “my own thoughts would never change.” This mentality is just wrong.
And there is a poem which goes against such a frame of mind. It is a poem by Honen Shonin:

The unmoving mind
is your original master
you should be awakened to this at last!

This poem is talking about “the unmoving mind.”

The unmoving mind
is your original master
you should be awakened to this at last!

“The unmoving mind” is the mind of Amida Buddha. Since Amida s mind is unmoving, it is fine if our mind here is constantly changing, isn’t it? From the standpoint of Amida Buddha, it is “unmoving”; from the standpoint of bombu, it is “constantly changing.”
To make “the constantly moving mind” unmoving, to convert the changing mind to the mind at peace (anjin) or more appositely joyful feeling, to make joyful feeling an objective is just not right. For such people who make joyful feeling their objective, the saying of fellow-practicer Kichibee is most appropriate:

The mind of bombu is like casting white ashes in a strong wind.

It is enough to just remember these words; these are very good words. Buddha-dharma cannot be explained using worldly knowledge. But it is not possible to do without worldly knowledge either, because if you do not know about worldly knowledge, you will be ridiculed as an idiot.
Question: In Buddhism, it is good to be an idiot. What you call “birth into the Pure Land while remaining ignorant,” what does it mean to be “an idiot,” being “ignorant”?
Answer: “Being an idiot is good, quite good; in this way you can be born in the Pure Land.” This is a reliable saying for all time.
Regarding the term “ignorance,” this means to not rely on the wisdom of bombu, to not rely on “realization,” to not think about “willing to understand.” Isn’t this the epitome of ignorance? “Not to understand” means to be ignorant; it is “no matter how many times you listen, you still cannot understand.” This is what you call “ignorance.” There are two types of ignorance. The first is that, even though one has listened to the Buddha-dharma, one does not comprehend the intention of the Buddha-dharma, for example, “to show filial piety to one’s parents” and “to be kind to others.” Isn’t it idiotic not to know about these things? What is it if not being idiotic? It is always right and proper to be filial towards parents; these are the rules of human conduct. It is idiotic to not know about such basic things.
The second type of ignorance is that of the idiots who are born in the Pure Land. There are two kinds of idiot. The idiot who is born in the Pure Land is the person who believes that it is impossible to become a Buddha through human wisdom. Isn’t he idiotic? Isn’t it idiotic that we don’t rely on human wisdom? The person who says, “I am an idiot” does not rely on his wisdom in the slightest, so he is precisely such idiot.
This was a practical problem that happened in the Shiga Prefecture, where there lived a retired school headmaster who had finally become a rare practicer of shinjin. But before this—about twenty years ago—he came to see me. He had been headmaster for several decades, and so was very knowledgeable. As a result, he talked fluently and endlessly about his understanding. So I replied to him,
“It is unbelievable that you have listened so much to the Buddha-dharma. You know so much about the Buddha-dharma. This is truly unbelievable!”
After listening to my praise, the schoolmaster laughed for joy.
But my next words to him were ominous. “Regrettably, you will be going to hell after this life is over,” I said.

At this, his formerly beaming face grew serious. From that day onwards, he began to clean up his acts. So it was impossible without giving him a blow and a shout to awaken him from his error. If a person has not had a good teacher to give a blow and shout to awaken him from error, he will become very arrogant and big-headed.

By Zuiken Sama

No comments:

Post a Comment