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!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Unit 4: When Vision Is Going Off, My Destiny Is Faint

Jodo Shinshu is something that you just can’t learn or listen to with your brain alone. Though you may have ‘Ah, I get it!’, once you let it slip your mind, you will be finished! You need to make it unforgettable, and the best way to do this is to imbue your whole body with the smell of Buddha-Dharma. You must reach such a degree. Without doing so, it will be too late at the point of death. By just remembering only, you will forget everything when you die.

At deathbed, what you have is the ‘real pitch dark’ destiny; what is left is ‘solitude’ and ‘unwillingness to die’ only. The Buddha-Dharma that you have listened to for several tens of years will be lost to sight. Your possessions, reputation, wife, children, learning, nasty mother in-law and hateful daughters in-law, etc.—all such thoughts will disappear. What remains are only ‘the destiny that is real pitch dark’, ‘so lonely!’ and ‘how lonesome!’ Between the mentality of loneliness and the real pitch darkness arises an indescribable feeling of ‘fear’. ‘The gloomy future’ refers to ‘lonesome’ and ‘real pitch darkness’, as well as the mind ‘desiring to live’ that emerges at the point of death.

You do not all have the ‘desire to live’, do you? Maybe some have such a desire, but just a little. After all, you still can eat three meals a day, which means you are still living and thus do not harbor the ‘desire to live’. Nevertheless, when ‘no matter what, you have to die now’, when your vision is blackened and ‘your eyes can no longer see things’, you will have such a ‘desire to live’. What people commonly say about ‘the eyes can no longer see things’ really does happen at the point of death. Even though your ears can still listen, it is like listening to the sounds of your daughter talking from afar. ‘Ah, finally I have come to the time of death!’ At that time, your mind will harbor a very strong desire ‘to live, to live, and to live’. When ‘no matter what, one has to die’, the strong thought of ‘desiring to live’ will continue to spring up.

For this reason, you will realize that you ‘are unable to live’. ‘Desiring to live but unable to’, ‘unable to live but desiring to’. In that moment, if you have not acceded reverently to shinjin, ‘the destiny of real pitch-darkness’ will come upon you. When ‘I have to die alone’, the sentiment of loneliness will rise in the mind. That kind of feeling is beyond expression, especially when aggravated by the suffering of illness. It goes without saying that succumbing to illness is suffering; the ineffable condition of ‘human life is intensely painful’ will be fully understood in that moment.

Now, you may complain about suffering. Actually there isn’t anything that is really suffering. I guess none of you here comes without having had breakfast, do you, because you are penniless and therefore you have had nothing to eat for three days? Such an occurrence rarely happens to you, does it? If you end up the same, you may taste a little of what is called life’s bitterness. However, speaking of the suffering at deathbed, that’s not all!

Hence, you mustn't do without infusing yourself with the Buddha-Dharma in everyday life. People who are infused with the Buddha-Dharma will be able to realize that ‘it is genuinely Other Power’, even in the state of ‘absolute pitch-darkness’. Due to the fact that ‘no matter what, you can’t get through it’, ‘the Tathagata saves such a sentient being by His Primal Vow-Power, which I have been listening to from the very beginning and now see’, you will be more grateful and contented with the compassion of the Tathagata and naturally feel ‘no worry in that pitch-dark condition’. ‘Though no matter what, we will have to die, and this life is at the most 50, 80 or 100 years, henceforth I gain “the deathless life”’. A joyful mind arises when the ‘desire to live’ is finally satisfied with ‘Now I really can continue to live!’

That ‘absolute pitch-dark condition’ is totally different from ‘the state of pitch-darkness’ turned into brightness and birth into the Land of bliss. As long as you have delusion, it means ‘darkness’. Therefore, humans (bombu) are animals of delusion, even unto death. ‘Delusion is the nature of ordinary beings. Apart from delusion, there is no mind in us.’ As long as there is delusion, it is never bright. Because Amida Buddha saves us in the states of ‘pitch-darkness’, ‘delusion’, and ‘heavily burdened with karmic evils’, we realize how honorable the Primal Vow is and how immense the Primal Vow-Power—the power of Namo Amida Butsu!

If the power and working as well as the compassion of Namo Amida Butsu are just for saving the sentient beings that can be saved, then this is not extraordinary. The problem is that ‘no matter what, I cannot be saved; now I have to die’. Your eyes begin to lose their sight, as described by Master Yuan-Zhao when he was bedridden: ‘When vision is going off, my destiny is faint’. Amida Buddha can however enable sentient beings in such conditions to be born in the Pure Land and become Buddha. So how on earth can bombu know the immensity of the power and working of Buddha?

What is this power and working?  It is the ‘radiance of Amida Buddha’. Radiance has two kinds, ‘the radiance of compassion’ and ‘the radiance of wisdom’. Furthermore, the radiance emanating from the mind is called the mind-radiance and that from the body is called the body-radiance. Some people make such a classification too. However, the person who has reverently accepted faith (person of shinjin) has ‘the benefit of being constantly protected by the mind-radiance of Amida’, living in the embracing and non-forsaking light of Amida. You cannot see this light with your eyes. How could you? The eyeballs of bombu can’t do this.

‘My eyes being hindered by blind passions,
I cannot perceive the light that grasps me;
Yet the great compassion, without tiring,
Illumines me always.’
(Hymns of the Pure Land Masters)

‘My evil passions hinder me from perceiving it,
But his Light of Great Compassion never ceases to shine on me untiringly.’

These words are originally from Master Genshin. Master Genshin was a great master who resided on Mount Hiei all his life, from beginning to end. He was an influential gakusho (Tendai scholar) and the founder of the Enshin school which brought Tendai Buddhism in Japan to a great height of development. He expounded on the Lotus Sutra his whole life long and taught his students about this sutra. Though he was such a great master, he was reverently called ‘Eshin Sozu’ because he lived in Eshin-in. Though a Tendai monk, he practiced personally and taught others to practice the Primal Vow. He inherited the teaching of Master Shan-tao, was the spiritual ancestor of Honen Shonin, and also the seventh patriarch of the seven Pure Land Masters of Jodo Shinshu.

Zuiken Sama

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