Archive for July, 2013

Self Power and Other Power

July 2, 2013

One of the fundamental truths of Buddhism is Anatta: that there is no self-existing independent permanent self. Stated in a slightly different way, all things, including our precious selves, are built up of innumerable changing causes and conditions.

In the Buddhist Pureland tradition the truth of Anatta is expressed through the concept of “Other” or “Non-self Power” (Tariki). Amida Buddha is Other. Amida Buddha is that which is not-self. Therefore, we, as Pureland Buddhist practitioners, contemplate Amida, call upon Amida, and center our religious lives around Amida.

Unfortunately, misguided pureland practitioners turned Tariki (other power)  into a sectarian term contrasted against , “the inferior”, Jiriki (Self Power).  The Jiriki schools include Zen, Shingon, Theravada, and others

This sectarian divide is very unfortunate because both the Jiriki and Tariki traditions have strengths and weaknesses.  The former can become a competitive and puritanical self building practice, while the latter can nurture complacency and moral slackness.

As deluded beings caught up in self clinging, it is important to recognize that a religious life is made up of both Jiriki and Tariki.  Self-power is our motivation while we are under the full sway of the Self as real.  Jariki is our modus operandi in a world that appears dualistic, made up of us and them. In this world we understand that the religious life depends on self discipline and self effort. Every day we must choose to observe the precepts. Every morning we need have the discipline to get up and do our daily practice.

While Jariki is important, we must also be mindful that the Self is ultimately empty. Even our desire to practice the Dharma arises form many causes and conditions that are not self. This mindfulness is the “Namo” aspect of the Buddhist Pureland practice of reciting “Namo Amida Bu”. I (self) a deluded and ignorant being, take refuge in that which is other than self (Tariki). Having taken refuge I will strive (Jariki) to undertake the religious life.

In the course of our practice we may have moments of insight, momentary glimpses of Amida’s light. These could range from fleeting momentary intuitions to non-dualistic raptures lasting for extended periods of time, as well as everything in between these two extremes. This is the “Amida” aspect of “Namo Amida Bu”. Each insight, intuition, or rapture connects “us” a little deeper to that which is not-self (Amida), undermining in little ways our self obsession.

After enough time in Amida’s presence, we are no-longer able to fall completely back under the illusion of self. We have, to use the traditional Buddhist term, become “stream enterers”.  This is the “Bu” aspect of “Namo Amida Bu”. It is the life of awakening, the life of faith. We still struggle to practice but a shift has take place and we recognize that we (self) are being carried along by the stream of awakening (Tariki), which is ,after all, nothing other than the wisdom and compassion of the Buddhas.

Namo Amida Bu!