WEHOPE Dharmathon

2015 West and East Hongwanji Overseas Propagation Exchange (WEHOPE) DHARMATHON

– A Series of Dharma Messages
- The Dharmathon has been archived online! [Day 1, and Day 2]

"Read more" for complete schedule of talks!

Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 5

The 20th Vow

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, upon hearing my name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the roots of virtues, and direct their merits with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain birth, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”

This vow is the very bridge from impure to pure experience of Buddha’s Wisdom and Compassion. In a practical sense, we are stubborn to accept new ideas and views. That’s why we attach to old standards; especially in religion, we attach to good and evil such as “a good guy is good; a bad guy is bad.”

Immeasurable Working (Amida) equally embraces all sentient beings in the 10 directions. It sounds OK to me, but it is not easy to realize the true meaning of ‘anybody’ (all sentient beings). Since we have very strong and deep attachment to the standard of good and evil, “It embraces anybody equally” does not seem acceptable. Why does it work on good guys and bad guys equally? Does Amida ignore morals and ethics in this world? Can we do anything bad in this world? In the process of experiencing a world of purity, we have to overcome these thoughts.

The key words are “embraces anybody equally.” The words show how Namo-Amida-Butsu actually works on us. It goes like this: Anything negative I have in mind such as ignorance and blind passions does not hinder the Working; anything positive I have in mind such as kindness and good personality does not help the Working. It works as it works. The Immeasurable Working is indeed beyond something negative and positive. The Working goes beyond good and evil. That’s why it is said that the Working embraces anybody equally. And the Working is called “Other Power” or the power beyond me.

When we realize what we have in our minds and what we are, the word “anybody” clearly becomes “Oh, it’s me!” That’s why the vow says “we ultimately attain birth, or we experience the purest Wisdom and Compassion.”

The process to the purest experience is this; first, we hold the great practice of Namo-Amida-Butsu, but we don’t know what it is. So we doubt it, but we want to know it. While struggling with knowing and realizing Namo-Amida-Butsu, we come to realize what we are through the Teaching. We see what we are with the eyes in our mind. That’s why Teaching of Amida is not the teaching to believe but to see.

Most Jodo-Shinshu followers are in the 20th vow struggling to reach the true meaning and experience of Immeasurable Working. However, I can say that as long as we have doubts or questions, we are already in the Working knowingly or unknowingly. It is because Compassion never gives us up.

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

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Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 4

The 20th Vow

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, upon hearing my name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the roots of virtues, and direct their merits with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain birth, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”


Summary of three vows

The Buddha addressed the three vows (18th, 19th, and 20th) as Immeasurable Working (Amida) directly related to the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, including you and me. But how are these three vows directly related to you and me? Let’s begin by comparing differences. In short, each vow requires us to follow three differing directives:

The 19th Vow:

  1. (I) awake the mind aspiring for enlightenment
  2. (I) performing meritorious acts,
  3. (I) desire to be born in Amida’s land with (my own) sincere aspiration

The 20th Vow:

  1. (I) hear Amida’s name, and place my thoughts on Amida’s Land
  2. (I) cultivate the roots of virtues (recitation of Amida’s Name)
  3. (I) direct my merit with sincere mind desiring to be born in Amida’s Land, and yet not ultimately attain birth.

The 18th Vow:

  1. With sincere and entrusting heart (generated by Amida)
  2. (I) aspire to be born in Amida’s Land (aspiration generated by Amida)
  3. (I) say Amida’s Name at least 10 times.

The 20th Vow:

One example: My master, Kichibei, visited a friend and was talking with him. At that time a young son of the house appeared carrying a relatively big branch from the back yard. The boy said to them, “Yesterday, strong winds swayed this big branch right and left so badly that the branch broke at last.” Kechibei was very happy to hear that and asked him to repeat what he said. The boy repeated, “This big branch was swayed right and left so badly in the strong wind yesterday, it finally broke.” Kechibei said “Thank you. Thank you. Indeed and indeed!” What is this?

The vow requires us to hold the name and to recite it. The vow also says that we try to accumulate knowledge and understanding of Amida in order to attain birth. But our efforts end in vain! How do we sway in Dharma? “I don’t get anything, but I can not give up this teaching.” “This teaching is not clear to me, but I can not throw away this teaching.” We sway badly, right and left many times. The more we learn and seek for birth, the more we get into troubles. We become frustrated over and over. To tell the truth, Immeasurable Working (Amida) works on us this way.

Then, ultimately, we attain birth. Struggling and frustration are necessary processes to attain Immeasurable working. In other words, when I am badly frustrated, I am already in Amida’s Compassion. Frustration related to Amida’s teaching is not a negative happening for, without it, we can not become aware of “True Mind of Amida (18th Vow).”

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

Return to the Formula in Buddhism series.

Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 3

The formula below consists of essential elements for learning the Teaching of Buddha:
1. To Learn Buddhism is to learn myself,
2. to learn myself is to learn Buddha’s Compassion.
3. to learn Compassion is to forget myself,
4. and to forget myself is to throw me into Buddha’s World.

The 20th Vow

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, upon hearing my name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the roots of virtues, and direct their merits with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain birth, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”

Summary of three vows

The Buddha addressed the three vows (18th, 19th, and 20th) as Immeasurable Working (Amida) directly related to the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, including you and me. But how are these three vows directly related to you and me? Let’s begin by comparing differences; in short, each vow requires us to follow three differing directives:

The 19th Vow:
1. (I) awaken the mind aspiring for enlightenment
2. (I) perform meritorious acts,
3. (I) desire to be born in Amida’s land with (my own) sincere aspiration

The 20th Vow:
1. (I) hear Amida’s name, and place my thoughts on Amida’s Land
2. (I) cultivate the roots of virtues (recitation of Amida’s Name)
3. (I) direct my merit with sincere mind desiring to be born in Amida’s Land.

The 18th Vow:
1. With sincere and entrusting heart (generated by Amida)
2. (I) aspire to be born in Amida’s Land (aspiration generated by Amida)
3. (I) say Amida’s Name at least 10 times.

Please allow me to provide more explanation about each vow by beginning with the 19th Vow. I can best explain by relaying an actual incident; I met an interesting woman who was my age. She attended Dharma School but she was not satisfied with Nembutsu Teaching. When she entered a prestigious college, she decided to become a school teacher because a school schedule gave her three months of vacation every year. She was able to visit Japan every year for three months and practice Soto-Zen Buddhism at a monastery. She was serious for years. But then, after hearing my short Dharma talk, she came to me and said, “To tell the truth, I could not attain Satori although I awoke the mind aspiring for enlightenment. But nothing happened to me. So it’s about time to return to Jodo-Shinshu.”

In other words, a person can awaken the mind aspiring for enlightenment, and the person can make a lot of effort with strong desire to attain enlightenment, but nothing is opened to the person. Why? It is probably because Dharma does not appear to the person as the person wishes. Dharma, or enlightenment, is not an object to obtain with our abilities or powers such as knowledge, understanding, or memorization. These mental tools simply disturb the Dharma as it works. Next month, I will explain the 20th Vow; Part Four.

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

Return to the Formula in Buddhism series.

Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 2

The formula below consists of essential elements for learning the Teaching of Buddha:
1. To Learn Buddhism is to learn myself,
2. to learn myself is to learn Buddha’s Compassion.
3. to learn Compassion is to forget myself,
4. and to forget myself is to throw me into Buddha’s World.

The 20th Vow

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, upon hearing my name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the roots of virtues, and direct their merits with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain birth, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”

There are only three vows that contain the words “the sentient being of the 10 quarters” among 48 vows: the 18th, 19th, and 20th vows. Then, what is the meaning of these words?

The words mean:
1. All sentient beings, in general, include animals, birds, fish, human beings, even trees and grasses.
2. A sentient being which has “rational and emotional ignorance” includes animals and human beings.
3. Human beings who can hear and think.

Thus, the three vows (18th, 19th, and 20th) are related only to human beings who possess rational and emotional attachment. The three vows are the points of contact for human beings with Immeasurable Working (Amida). The 20th Vow says that a person who hears my name should place their thoughts on my land with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land. Then, the person ultimately attains birth.

Why is this 20th vow so important? I can illustrate the importance through the process of my journey. Mine went from 19th to 20th, and to 18th vows. I started learning the teaching of Buddha long time ago because I found “light” for my future. So I longed for Enlightenment while accumulating knowledge and understanding. Although it took a few years, nothing happened to me. My knowledge and understanding did not help me at all. I was really disappointed with myself. I thought I made some mistakes on my way to Enlightenment. Later, I came to recognize that my ability was limited.....the 19th Vow.

Soon after that, I encountered Nembutsu Teaching or I heard the name. Although I could not understand anything about Amida, I did not give up. I was struggling while reading books, joining Dharma gatherings, taking classes, serious discussions, and so on. And I came to realize that all I accumulated were things that I needed to throw away. It sounds like trash. I pick it up in order to throw it away. The 20th Vow is the bridge from the 19th Vow to the 18th Vow. Once I cross over the bridge, I surely get to the other side of the river. How can I get to the other side without the bridge?

In Gassho,
Fujii

Return to the Formula in Buddhism series.

Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 1

The formula below consists of essential elements for learning the Teaching of Buddha:
1. To Learn Buddhism is to learn myself,
2. to learn myself is to learn Buddha’s Compassion.
3. to learn Compassion is to forget myself,
4. and to forget myself is to throw me into Buddha’s World.

The 20th Vow

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, upon hearing my name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the roots of virtues, and direct their merits with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain birth, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”

If I joined the gathering of Buddha at that time, I surely would have had to listen to The 48 Vows in order. I would not be able to jump around from vow to vow in random order. Imagine that the people at the gathering listed up to #18 and, upon hearing that vos, wondered, “Is that the way to highest enlightenent?”

Recognizing this, the Buddha continued with the 19th and 20th Vows so as to clarify the 18th. First, the Buddha addressed the traditional way (19th vow). Next, he talked about the bridge from the traditional path (19th vow) to Amida’s World (20th vow). In the 19th vow, the Buddha advised people to NOT rely upon their owm thoughts and ideas when they generate the mind for enlightenment (19th vow) but, instead, to rely upon highest enlightenment for sure attainment (Amida’s Teaching). In order to clarify the right direction, the Buddha says as follows: “upon hearing My Name, place your thoughts on My Land (Amida).”

To Learn Buddhism is to learn myself,
We have been looking for something valuable in this life, but many of us don’t know what we have been looking for. The Buddha clarifies: It is the world of Immeasurable Working (Amida).

to learn myself is to learn Buddha’s Compassion.
Immeasurable Working is Compassionate Working. It never fails you. You experience Amida and come to know clearly that you are in Buddha’s World.

to learn Compassion is to forget myself,
When you experience Amida, don’t rely on your own thoughts and ideas. Then, you surely experience it.

Amida’s Working is now in front of you. And the 20th vow is the path to the Pure and Highest Enlightenment.

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

Return to the Formula in Buddhism series.

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