In this world where tragedies and disasters never cease to happen, we have innumerable religions in which followers believe in paradise in the afterlife. But, after all, believing is doubting. Buddhism is a religion in which our eternal future after this life will be revealed crystal- clear to us. Today, however, I know various kinds of self-professed Buddhist associations. Many of them claim the purpose of Buddhism is to control your mind by yourself, which is widely approved and accepted. On the other hand, there are few who deliver or listen to the teaching that the purpose of Buddhism is to receive Namu Amida Butsu, the treasure of the universe, and to attain everlasting happiness. But it’s not easy to accept that. But this is indeed the true teaching of Buddhism that the seven patriarchs consistently taught throughout history in India, China, and Japan. Our lives are not roses all the way. Once we find ourselves in the middle of a cruel tragedy, it’s almost impossible to control our minds. When confronted with our own death, our minds become out of control, all our happiness will be wiped out. This is the true image of us because we are made of worldly passions. As this is our nature, once we receive Namu Amida Butsu, we will be saved into an unchanging peace of mind and satisfaction that would never waver in times of any tragedy, transcending old age, sickness and death. It will be revealed to us that we will never suffer in the afterlife, either. Thus we attain the ultimate happiness. To those who doubt if it really happens, Master Shinran asserts that he is the living witness. Let’s read a passage from You Were Born For A Reason.
Ah, how hard it is, even in many lifetimes, to encounter the strong power of Amida’s Vow! How hard it is, even in myriad aeons, to obtain faith that is true and real! Anyone blessed with this faith cannot help but rejoice at the benevolent workings [of Amida] since the distant past that have brought it into being.
Had I remained covered by the net of doubt in this life as well, I should have had to keep wandering, lost, through vast aeons. How genuine, the true words of Amida that embrace us and never forsake us, the absolute doctrine that is peerless and transcendent! Listen and believe without hesitation or delay.
To paraphrase: “Ah … how wonderful! The life of joy that I, Shinran, sought for so long, through many lives and aeons, is now mine! This is absolutely due to Amida’s great saving power that embraces all. I am overwhelmed with deepest gratitude. If this life too had ended without my dark mind clearing, for endless ages to come I should have gone on suffering. I must hurry to tell everyone this truth, let them know that this vast, shoreless world of the mind exists!”
The exclamation “Ah!” conveys inexpressible surprise and delight, the likes of which Shinran has never known before. The “strong power of Amida’s Vow” refers to the Vow made by Amida out of his intense desire to eliminate the root of suffering of all people, that they may achieve the purpose of life. “Faith that is true and real” refers to the life of joy that is obtained once the root of suffering is eliminated and life’s purpose achieved, in accordance with Amida’s Vow. Shinran understands this is no easy happiness, to be had after a mere century or two of searching; he understands that he has found what cannot be found “even in many lifetimes,” gained what is hard to gain “even in myriad aeons.” Having found and gained something so impossibly rare and precious, it is only natural that he cannot repress a shout of sheer joy: “Ah!”
Then, thinking with emotion of how far back in the past Amida’s grace extends, he can barely keep back tears of happiness: “Anyone blessed with this faith cannot help but rejoice at the benevolent workings [of Amida] since the distant past that have brought it into being.”
There is a saying that the higher the mountain, the deeper the valley. From the great height of the mountaintop of his salvation, Shinran feels a thrill of amazement at the depth of the valley of darkness of mind. This is why he sighs, “Had I remained covered by the net of doubt in this life as well, I should have had to keep wandering, lost, through vast aeons.” Here “net of doubt” is another way of saying “darkness of mind,” the source of all suffering. Shinran marvels that if he had died without having his darkness of mind eliminated in this life by the power of Amida, he would surely have had to continue suffering for ages on end. It has truly been a narrow escape.
Reading these words, it is easy to picture Shinran with eyes shut and hands pressed together in fervent thanksgiving to Amida. He then declares, “How genuine, the true words of Amida that embrace us and never forsake us, the absolute doctrine that is surpassingly wonderful! Listen and believe without hesitation or delay.” This means, “It is real! It is true! Amida’s Vow is not a lie. Everyone must hear—I, Shinran, am a living witness. I want everyone to quickly know the truth of Amida’s Vow.”
Shinran has gone beyond fulfilling the purpose of his life. This beautiful confession overflows with his deep excitement at fulfilling, through the power of Amida, not just the purpose of this life but that of “many lives and myriad aeons.”
(You Were Born For A Reason, Part Two, Chapter 8, page 85-87)
Missionary Kohei Harada
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #23 | 2013, The True Purpose Missionary of Buddhism
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