Posts Tagged ‘Pureland’

Faith is Experiential

September 30, 2013

Pureland Buddhism or Amida Buddhism is unique among Buddhist  Practice Schools in focusing not upon the practitioner’s own efforts but rather upon the measureless compassion of Amida Tathagata.  In Pureland Buddhism Amida Buddha’s compassion pervades the entire universe and is accessible in each thought moment. This universal accessibility is the Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Bu!”

Nembutsu is the dynamic action of Amida’s pervasive compassion acting upon us. It is calling us to look beyond our ultimately unsatisfactory self-building projects and enter the stream of awakening. In reciting Namo Amida Bu, we take refuge in Amida Buddha, take refuge in the Dharma, and take refuge in the possibility of universal salvation, from the suffering of samsara, for all beings everywhere.

Pureland Buddhism is a path of Faith. Faith, however, is not Belief! Belief arises out of and reinforces our deluded selves.

Faith is experiential. Faith is the fruit of an encounter with that which is beyond self. A person of Faith has experienced, and been changed by, the truth of Amida’s Measureless Awakening and Compassion.

Faith cannot be forced or contrived.  It cannot arise from our own efforts, practices, and disciplines.  The latter are important and should be undertaken but without faith they miss the mark.

If you are drawn to the Buddha Dharma you are fortunate indeed.  Recite the Nembutsu: Namo Amida Bu. Take refuge. Try to keep the five precepts. Be Patient. For though we cannot yet see it, the Nembutsu is the manifestation of the the Tathagata’s limitless compassion.  Over time we begin to understand that it has not been us, deluded and limited selves, saying Nembutsu.  Rather, it has been Amida, as Nembutsu, calling to us from beyond our selves.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

Nembutsu in the West

September 22, 2013

Nembutsu, which is considered the simple in the path in the East, is not at all a simple path for Westerners who were raised in a secular culture informed by Judeo-Christian religion. There is no cultural foundation of Buddhism upon which to teach the simple practice of Nembutsu.  In teaching the Nembutsu we must also teach the fundamentals of Buddhism.  It is here, in teaching Buddhism to non-Buddhist Westerners, that the ground can get treacherous.  Buddhism is not Christianity.  In fact Buddhism offers a pretty radically different understanding of the universe than the Judeo-Christian world view. The danger is that in trying to explain the Dharma we might wrap up our Judeo-Christian cultural paradigm in the robes of the Buddha and call it Buddhism.

Emptiness (Sunyata) is not a synonym for the Judeo-Christian God. Faith is only a loose translation of wide range of terms used in Buddhist texts of various languages. Meditation is an english word that is a applied to a  vast number of different Buddhist contemplative practices and yogas. As Buddhist practitioners and teachers we need to be aware that we are practicing a religion that is in translation. 

Nembutsu is a non-self (anatta) or a beyond (parasamgate) self practice. In this sense it is similar to the many other Buddhist practices we encounter in the West. However,  without some grounding in Buddhism the Nembutsu, like other Buddhist practices, can become  just another self building practice.  A practice used to better our selves but divorced from the teaching of non-self. 

Bettering ourselves is important. We should try to be more compassionate and ethical people.  However, this, at least for the Nembutsu practitioner, is secondary, a benefit arising out of the Nembutsu. Nembutsu, as a truly Buddhist practice, can awakens us to the reality of Measureless Awakening: a reality in which we live and breath but are unable to perceive because we are caught up in avidya (ignorance) and cling to self as real.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

 

Nembutsu: Glimpsing the Dynamic and Compassionate Nature of Measureless Awakening

September 12, 2013

We are all klesha beings mired in the fruit of our own karma and swayed by the three poisons of Greed Hatred and Delusion.  As Buddhist  we recognize this fundamental truth.   As Pureland Buddhist we acknowledge our deluded condition and call out to and turn our minds towards Amida Tathagata.

This “calling out” is the practice of Nembutsu. It is a way of life rooted in the continual turning towards Amida and away from samsara. It is the practice of opening to ever-present awakening. It is the slow process of purification and ongoing alignment of one’s life with the Buddha Dharma.

In living the Nembutsu we have the opportunity to become aware of the presence of “Measureless Awakening”, Amida Buddha, in this world of samsara. This awareness is difficult because our minds are so conditioned by samsara, by our karmic nature, that it is hard to see the innumerable rays of Amida’s light suffusing the world around us.

Instead of celebrating acts of kindness, generosity, and virtue, we often dismiss or disregard them completely.  Yet these are the very actions, which reflect Amida’s light. If we are able to see and appreciate the many little acts of good that are performed each day, then we can begin to glimpse the dynamic and compassionate nature of measureless awakening.

Perceiving Amida, even through little and fleeting intuitions, can fill us with gratitude and an inner stability. Then, when our lives come to an end, we can die free from doubt.  We will slip easily from this saha world into the stream of Amida’s Awakening Mind and continue the work of becoming Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas for the benefit of all the many suffering beings.

Namo Amida Bu!

Powerless

August 12, 2013

When we reflect deeply upon our lives, it becomes apparent that we are essentially powerless to alleviate suffering.  We can, of course, say or do kind or cruel things.  And we, as Buddhist, should definitely try to do as much good as we are able: responding to hatred with love, deceit with truth, greed with generosity, and immorality with ethics.

Unfortunately, the reality, especially in the short term, is that we can do very little to help people, including ourselves, avoid the sufferings of this world. Our prayers, our desires, and our actions cannot prevent friends and family from making bad choices, becoming sick, or even dying. If we cannot help those near and dear to us,  how much less can we help those we do not even know.

From the Buddhist perspective, one of the reasons we can do so little in the world is because we continually and mistakenly grasp onto the self as real, i.e., independent, self-arising, and unchanging. Not only is this contrary to the Dharma, which teaches that all things arise in dependence on causes and conditions, it distracts us from seeing the vastness of reality.  Because we are obsessed self, we cannot see anything but self.  Under the influence of our obsession with self, we perpetuate endless cycles of suffering and rebirth (Samsara).

If we are tired of suffering, if we want to be free of the the cycle of Samsara, then we need to find a way to shift our focus from self to that which is other than self. In the pureland tradition this “other than self” is Amida (measureless) Buddha (awakening). Turning away from self obsession and towards Amida begins with Nembutsu, thinking about Amida and reciting “Namo Amida Bu.”

It is a simple practice that works on us gradually.  Slowly we awaken to the reality of Amida (that which is measureless) through the Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Bu”. Awakening to the reality of Amida is to awaken to great (measureless) compassion and wisdom. Having glimpsed Amida, having experienced great compassion, having seen the limitations of self, we then desire rebirth in the Pureland: to enter the stream of awakening that is Buddhahood.

This desire to enter the Pureland, which is the fruit of insight into our own ignorance in the context of the vastness of awakeing, is expressed through the Nembutsu. We recite “Namo Amida Bu”,  take refuge in Amida Tathagata,  and live a life anchored by Amida’s Compassion.

Living such a life, over time, can indeed alleviate suffering.  Friends, family, and strangers still suffer, get ill, and die. There is still pain, war, and privation. We still make mistakes, cause harm, and we suffer and cause suffering. These cannot be avoided. But now all of that is held within Amida’s measureless compassion, which makes all the differnce to ourselves and the world.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

The Works of Mercy

February 4, 2013

I am a Buddhist, not a Christian.  Yet the teachings of Jesus are part and parcel of the way I see and understand the world.  It is my personal belief, that the Sermon on the Mount is one of the best and most succinct teachings on living a spiritual life.  The Works of Mercy offer a concrete guide to acting compassionately in the world.  Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker and an exemplar religious practitioner, is reported to have said, “the Sermon on the Mount is our Manifesto. The Works of Mercy are our rule.”

The Works of Mercy can help us Buddhist avoid an overly inward and cerebral understanding of Compassion. They can ground our compassion in relationships that help us see the reality of the suffering of poverty, lack, and powerlessness. Like the street retreats conducted by Roshi Bernie Glassman, the Corporal Works of Mercy can challenge our understanding of the world and who we are.

The Corporal Works of Mercy:

  • To feed the hungry
  • To give drink to the thirsty.
  • To clothe the naked.
  • To visit and ransom the captives.
  • To shelter the homeless.
  • To visit the sick.
  • To bury the dead.

The Works of Mercy teach that the thought of compassion is not real until it is manifest in action. The Works of Mercy reminds each one of us to take responsibility for the care of our brother and sister beings.

The Saints are inspiring because of their willingness to personally take responsibility for the wellbeing of us all.  Look at some the great beings, the religious lights, from the past 100 years: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Aung Sang Sue Kyi, Corrie Ten Boom, Bishop Tutu, Dorothy Day, and so many more.

They show us the way. Each of us, if we so choose, can try to follow their example in our lives. We begin with the little actions of our day-to-day lives. Responding to little hatreds and sufferings with compassion and love, trusting in the Dharma and Amida’s saving grace. We can strive every day to remember that Amida’s great vow encompasses all: the hungry, the dysfunctional, the criminal, the dirty, the homeless, the addict, the thief, and even those who are good and holy.

All are already saved by Amida’s Vow.  The Works of Mercy offer us an opportunity to share in Amida saving grace, to see Amida’s light in all beings, and to participate in the creation of a pureland right here and right now.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul