We Want True Freedom and Equality

It’s been two months since I moved to LA. I’ve never imagined what it would be like to share Buddhism in an English-speaking country. Now I’m immersed in new environment and a bit surprised to see so many immigrants coming to this country hoping their dreams will come true. They leave their home country in order to seek happiness. Some may come with an aspiration to play in the Major Leagues. Some may move to Silicon Valley with an aspiration of inventing a new product and hopefully acquiring fame.

While there are some people who can have their dreams come true and obtain money and fame, there are so many people who have failed and become down and out, I hear. The United States is the country of freedom - yet at the same time, income gaps are a big issue.

If people seek out freedom, these gaps will inevitably arise. If people seek out equality, they will be deprived of freedom. Where on earth can we find such a place where we can enjoy both equality and freedom?

Seven hundred years ago, Master Shinran clearly taught that, without regard for intelligence or ability, rich or poor, the difference of race and occupation, all people can live in the world of same joy. In order to clarify this, he went as far as to have a great debate with his co-disciples. Now let us learn it from You Were Born For A Reason.

Yet Honen here proclaimed the real existence of a faith that is truly universal. He declared, “Other-power faith is the gift of Amida Buddha bestowed on all men, good and evil alike, and so my faith and Shinran’s faith are not a whit different. They are one and the same.”

“Other-power faith” is faith that all humanity can share in alike. It is freely bestowed by Amida Buddha without regard for intelligence or ability, learning or experience, morality or any other criteria. That is why to Honen there can be no differences in faith received through Amida’s all-embracing compassion; Honen’s faith and Shinran’s are both other-power faith, and as such they are “not a whit different. They are one and the same.” To use a modern analogy, if the TV station is the same, then the program received on every viewer’s TV, whether large or small, old or new, must be the same as well.

That is why, in speaking of the rise of other-power faith, we use expressions like “obtain,” “gain,” “receive,” and the like: this faith is a gift from Amida.

At the end of his statement, Honen makes it perfectly clear. In effect, he says, “My faith is other-power faith, which has nothing to do with wisdom, learning, or the like. Anyone who has self-power faith cannot go to the Pure Land where I am going. Make certain that you understand the difference between the two.”

We see, then, that it is due entirely to faith received from Amida that the root of all suffering is cut off and we achieve the purpose of life, rejoicing that we were born human. Shinran, who had the courage to argue the unpopular side of this debate with his fellow disciples, and who thereby laid bare the nature of the world of other-power faith, also wrote as follows:

Layman, saint, villain, slanderer, saved alike by Amida, Like all the drops gathered to the sea, becoming one in flavor.

The water-drops in all the rivers flow into the sea and become one in flavor; the salty taste of the sea is everywhere the same. In the same way, those who obtain other-power faith (are “saved alike by Amida”) all achieve the one purpose of life. They may be talented or untalented, able-bodied or disabled, rich or poor, of any race or occupation—it makes no difference whatever. All can share equally in the same world of joy.

Shinran could not have been clearer in showing that the purpose of life is indeed the same for all people everywhere.

(You Were Born For A Reason, page 182-183)

Naoki Hayata, Buddhist Teacher

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #52, We Want True Freedom and Equality

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