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!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Unit 25 The self-realization of ‘coal ball’

It is pointless if the coal ball exists as a coal ball throughout his life. The “coal ball,” in its coal-ball state, is illumined by the “light of the inconceivable Vow-Power.” This “light of the inconceivable Vow-Power” illumines thoroughly each corner of this coal ball, and penetrates deeply even into its every single molecule. Unable to give out light and intensity to such a degree, the “coal ball” is worth nothing.

The “wood shavings” carry the same maxim: “Ah, spring breeze! The wood shavings for engraving the Buddha-statue” is equally excellent.* The picture of wood shavings dancing in the spring breeze of the Primal Vow-Power has a sense of unspeakable, lingering charm.

(*This refers to the place where the wooden Buddha statues are engraved. To engrave a Buddha statue unneeded parts are carved thus produces wood shaving. Because of the wood shaving there we have the Buddha statue. Hence, the wood shaving that are flown by the spring breeze have been kind to me, exist just for me.)

“The wood shavings     The wood shavings dancing in the spring breeze”

Master Shan-tao narrates the self-awareness of the “coal ball” as,

“Firstly, one truly knows oneself to be a foolish being full of blind passions, with scant roots of good, transmigrating in the three realms and unable to emerge from this burning house.” (Kyogyoshinsho II: 76)

At the same time, he stated,

“Secondly, one truly knows now, without so much as a single thought of doubt, that Amida's universal Primal Vow decisively enables all to attain birth, including those who say the Name even down to ten times, or even but hear it. ” (Kyogyoshinsho II: 76)

This Faith is called “twofold deep conviction.” The “twofold deep conviction” is in chorus; it speaks of the two facets of Faith or shinjin.

The true and real faith (shinjitsu shinjin) of Jodo Shinshu is the “twofold deep conviction.” From the “twofold deep conviction” are revealed “the explication of the two rivers” and “the explication of the six syllables.”

To absorb the lesson of our Master Shinran, it is imperative that we spend our efforts throughout our entire life, fully realise the apprehension of the “mind that is single” of Vasubandhu Bodhisattva, as well as the apprehension of the “twofold deep conviction” of Master Shan-tao. In so doing, the path for birth in Pure Land (ojo) will be open to us.

We realise the fact that the self-power hands of bombu cannot acquire “the moon of the Vow-Power of the Great Compassionate Buddha-Wisdom.” So, are we going to fall into hell? Falling into hell, of course; falling into hell, of course! We bad eggs are pulled by our own created evil karma, sprawling into hell. At that moment, “the call of the Primal Vow-Power” will be heard.

“Ah, how great the Primal Vow-power is …Carry the hell on the back to the Pure Land”

Have you heard the Primal Vow-Power? Who has heard of it? Can the ear of the bombu’s mind of self-power that is extremely murky hear “the sound of the Primal Vow-Power that is pure and true and real”?

We cannot say that “I have heard of it.” It is because outside “this coal ball of me” there is no such “me” that exists. So, has the “coal ball” heard it? How can coal balls have ears? No ears to hear and no “I” to hear; however, it can be heard. This is beyond conception.

How great the Primal Vow-Power is! It does not need you to exert greater strength in order to hear it, and so that you can hear it.

“I wobble around and am empty inside—
In any case, I am a bad egg without a straight mind and stubborn.
Really, nothing but a bad egg without a straight mind and stubborn.”

No ears to hear and no I to hear; however, this reality can be heard. To think carefully, this is just because of the Great Compassionate Power, the Great Vow-Power, the Great Wisdom-Power and the Great Primal Vow-Power.

The “coal ball” can hear the Primal Vow-Power; this is when the “coal ball” has been turned into a mirror, unknowingly, and is made into a mirror. This must be the power of the moon of the Primal Vow that reflects the moonlight of the Primal Vow on the coal ball that has become a mirror. No ears to hear, no power to hear, no power to acquire; this bombu of the coal ball who is definitely destined for hell, is being notified to be “definitely destined for hell,” at the same time, is being notified to be “definitely destined for the Pure Land.” It is the moonlight of the Primal Vow-Power that enables us to entrust reverently the “the moonlight of the Primal Vow-Power.” The great compassionate Primal Vow-Power leaves us feeling so grateful, so grateful—limitlessly grateful. The depth of the compassionate Buddha-Wisdom is bottomless.

“Hearing” means reflected on our body and mind. Hearing “Namo Amida Butsu,” means “the moonlight of the Great Compassionate of Namo Amida Butsu” is inconceivably reflected on the mirror of this “coal ball” of me. It is the moonlight that permeates our body and mind.

Though the coal ball is made into a mirror, in the mirror there is a reflection of the moonlight of Namo Amida Butsu. Have a look at the coal ball, which is fully permeated. It is still a coal ball, but at the same time, it is also Namo Amida Butsu. On top of that, though it existed as a coal ball, it is fully imbued with the mind of compassion of the Tatagatha, as well as the shine of the Buddha-Wisdom. This is called “oneness of a Buddha and a foolish (ordinary) being.” Amida Buddha’s benevolence, which is beyond conception, allows a “coal ball” to be born in the Pure Land; this is the wonder of all wonders.

When we speak of “hearing,” it is in fact the “Buddha-Mind” that hears the “Buddha-Mind,” “the Primal Vow-Power” hears “the Primal Vow-Power”; through “Namo Amida Butsu” we are able to hear “Namo Amida Butsu.” The Primal Vow-Power of Namo Amida Butsu, the Dharma of Namo Amida Butsu of the Primal Vow-Power is so precious, truly inconceivable and making people feel very much indebted.

This mind, with solemnity and high adulation, accepts with reverence that the “non-duality of the absolute Dharma (that saves)” is the “non-duality of the absolute objects (that are saved)”; therefore, it is shinjin, the “Adamantine Mind.” In the Rokuyosho or “Essence of the Kyogyoshinsho『六要鈔』it is explained that “the practice (of the Buddha—non-duality of the absolute Dharma) and the faith (of sentient beings—non-duality of the absolute object), is the oneness of the Dharma that saves and the objects that are saved.

This is the “ki-ho itai” that Jodo Shinshu speaks about. This is also the theory of salvation of Amida Nyorai. “The oneness of Buddha and ordinary beings” is the benefit of shinjin or Pure Faith. “The nonduality of Buddha and ordinary beings” is the prospect of the realm of absoluteness, penetrated with the Buddha’s perception and sight, when birth is realized.

Many people complain that “peace of mind (anjin) cannot be attained regardless of how much Buddha-Dharma I have heard.” This is a matter of course when you are looking undecidedly at both sides, hell and the Pure Land, and iffy about “Would I really be going to hell? Will I really be going to the Pure Land?”

Speaking of anjin, when your mind is not fixed at one place, anjin would not possibly come about, and that’s why we say, “Entrust single-heartedly and wholeheartedly to Amida Buddha.” Speaking of “single-heartedly and wholeheartedly,” because it is difficult to be “single-hearted and wholehearted” it changes into “double-heartedly and waveringly.” Therefore, your mind is unable to be at peace (anjin) and not determined. “One thought-moment of faith” refers to “the mind that is single and undivided.”

If you want to be settled with peace of mind (anjin) there is a way. It is that your mind must be resolute, “No matter what I do, I am always hell-destined.” With that, you will find peace of mind. If you believe deeply that “no matter how and what, it is always that we rely on the path of the Primal Vow-Power, and are born definitely in the Pure Land,” then this is the Great Anjin.

There are people asking that, “we are decidedly hell-destined versus we will definitely be born in the Pure Land, in fact are two contradictory things; how can we put them together at one point and think synchronously?” This mental state is “to use our brain to think on how the two contradictory things can compromise one another.” This kind of mentality has already fallen prey to the speculative knowledge and logic senses of human beings. This is rejected.

“No matter what we are decidedly hell-destined.” Believing this profoundly, how can one conceive that from within “it is decidedly hell-destined” the “Primal Vow-Power” is revealed?

The Primal Vow-Power is inconceivable, therefore shinjin is also inconceivable. The contradictory things, though in this paradoxical situation, nonetheless never make one feel that it is actually contradictory; on the contrary it makes one feel the Great Peace (anjin). The power and working of the Buddha’s Wisdom is incomprehensible. Shinjin is truly incomprehensible.

The “Faith of the object to be saved” is not thorough, the “Faith of the Dharma that saves” therefore will also not be thorough. Similarly, the “Faith of the Dharma that saves” is not thorough, the “Faith of the object to be saved” therefore is also not thorough. To make these contradictory viewpoints reach an even greater contradiction and at the same time mutually complimentary can bring about great peace of mind. The insignificant skill of bombu is completely impractical. It is the sole working and power of the Buddha-Wisdom that illumines pervasively, brought about by the Primal Vow-Power. This is truly inconceivable.

“Coal ball” refers to this “I” who is the object to be saved. Speaking from the perspective of wisdom, do we have the wisdom to become a Buddha? Speaking from the perspective of cultivation, such as “the eight-fold path” and “six paramitas,” are we able to practice one of them? Even if you do sitting zazen, can it remove your karma in your whole life? Can one such enlightening zazen you perform last you for a minute?

Speaking of compassion, can you part from the thought of “my most beautiful body” for just one minute? Isn’t this just “me” who cannot do anything, practically as useless as the worm on a yam? That’s why we are called “coal ball.”

This “coal ball” exists as a charcoal ball but forgets itself as a coal ball. We live a life full of passion: greed, anger and ignorance, giving rise to evil thoughts and offences committed just like strong wind and torrential rain; they keep blowing and coming down. We do not even have the power to hear the Buddha-Dharma, no ears can hear—this is the real picture of this condition of ours—“inferior sentient beings of all foolishness” and “completely down and out.” That’s why we are called “coal ball.”

In Jodo Shinshu, there are three focal points:

1.     What is the condition of me as an object to be saved?
2.     What is the kind of Tathagata that saves us?
3.     What kind of medicine is used by the Tathagata to save me?

These are the three main points; they are the crux of the matter. With these three points, if one of them is lacking, it will be impossible to save this “coal ball” of a bombu.

Hence, if we did not think from the depths of our heart that this object to be saved of myself is a coal ball, we would not accept deeply and reverently this rare and honored panacea. At the same juncture, we would not know to pay our respect to the Tathagata and to be grateful, and would be likewise oblivious to the fact that the Tathagata is the Compassionate Parent.

Master Tao-cho says, “The listeners of the Buddha-Dharma should regard themselves as the severely sick men. They should regard the Tathagata and the virtuous teachers as the great physician-king. They should regard the medicine that cures their diseases as wondrous elixir.”(I will explain the prescribed method of preaching and hearing the Dharma according to various Mahayana sutras. The Great Assembly Sutra says: The preacher of the Dharma should think of himself as the physician-king intent on eliminating pains; he should consider the Dharma preached to be nectar or manda. )

In the latter part of the “Chapter on Shinjin” from the Kyogyoshinsho is written, “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 (icchantika). These three sicknesses are the most severe in the world; they cannot be treated by sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, or bodhisattvas.”

“Here we see, from the true teaching of the Great Sage, that when the three types of beings difficult to save - those afflicted with the three kinds of sickness difficult to cure - entrust themselves to the universal Vow of great compassion and take refuge in the ocean of shinjin that is [Amida's] benefiting others, the Buddha is filled with pity for them and heals them, commiserates with and cures them. It is like the wondrous medicine called manda curing all illness. Beings of the defiled world - the multitudes possessed of corruptions and evil - should seek and think on the diamondlike, indestructible true mind. They should hold steadfast to the Primal Vow, which is the wondrous medicine called manda. Reflect on this.”

“Five grave offenses,” “slandering the Great Vehicle,” and icchantika—to whom are these directed? You must not go without thoughtfully reflecting on this. Shinran Shonin accedes to this being his reality. If even the Shonin has projected such an attitude, how much more bombu like us who live in this Last Dharma Age! We, in reality, are severely sick men—the “three kinds of people in the world who are hard to cure.” That we can hardly contemplate this reality even more signifies the fact that we really are a “coal ball.” Hence I said,

“I wobble around and am empty inside—
In any case, I am a bad egg without a straight mind and stubborn.
Really, nothing but a bad egg without a straight mind and stubborn.”

Spending twenty years of diligent cultivation on Mt. Hiei brought Shinran Shonin to a deep self-awareness that:

“The aspiration for enlightenment through self-power taught in the Path of Sages
Is beyond our minds and words;
We foolish beings ever sinking in transmigration -
How could we awaken it?”
(Hymns of the Dharma-Ages, no. 16)

“When I consider deeply the Vow of Amida, which arose from five kalpas of profound thought, I realize that it was entirely for the sake of myself alone! Then how I am filled with gratitude for the Primal Vow, in which Amida resolved to save me, though I am burdened with such heavy karma.”

“I know nothing at all of good or evil. For if I could know thoroughly, as Amida Tathagata knows, that an act was good, then I would know good. If I could know thoroughly, as the Tathagata knows, that an act was evil, then I would know evil. But with a foolish being full of blind passions, in this fleeting world- this burning house- all matters without exception are empty and false, totally without truth and sincerity. The nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu) alone is true and real.”

The above passages are the self-realization of the “coal ball” and celebration over the inconceivable working of the Vow-Power that is inconceivable.

Standing in front of the mirror of the true and pure of the Tathagata, regardless of what kind of a virtuous person you may be, you are just a “coal ball.” Though being a “coal ball,” the person who acquires shinjin shares the feelings of “deep gratefulness,” “hard to come by,” and “shame”; and they will owe everything they have got to the benevolence of sentient beings and will be tactful enough to not bring people troubles. This is called the personality of shinjin.

From the virtue of shinjin, the doer of shinjin will naturally abide by morality.

(Therefore a true religionist is definitely a moralist and Shakyamuni Buddha is the representative, that his personality and morality are naturally united.)

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