Ignorance of One’s Own True Image Results in Serious Misunderstanding

As you may already know there are thousands of Buddhist organizations in the world. Although they all are supposed to teach Buddhism, what they teach differ greatly. It seems that many people try to choose which Buddhism they want to believe in according to their own preference, convenience, or judgment

Buddhism is the teachings of Buddha, which means Śākyamuni Buddha. Therefore, the criterion has to be if it was really what Śākyamuni taught or not. It should not be one’s own judgment. If a teaching strays from Śākyamuni’s words, it’s not Buddhism anymore.

The central teaching of Buddhism, “Turn to Amida Buddha alone and follow him alone,” are the words of Śākyamuni. If someone goes against this teaching, he or she cannot practically be called as a Buddhist anymore because this person negates the Buddha’s teaching.

It is difficult for an average person to have an accurate comprehension of Buddha’s deep intention that underlies these words. As a result, some people dare to criticize the words of Buddha just by superficial listening, saying “It’s biased,” or “It’s queer.”

The primary cause of this misunderstanding lies in people’s ignorance of their own true image. Once you come to know the reality of yourself who has no trace of truth whatsoever, for the first time, it will be revealed to you that there is no other way than turning to Amida Buddha in order for you to be saved.

Let’s say a person is in a terminal stage of cancer. If the doctor recommends a particular medicine saying “this is the only medicine that can cure your disease,” do you think there is anyone who would criticize the doctor as biased?

Śākyamuni Buddha taught the true mind of human beings as Sendai, or Icchantika in Sanskrit, which means void of any truth. Master Shinran came to realize firsthand that this teaching is true and took refuge in Amida Buddha alone.

“Believe only in Amida.” This teaching of Buddha is not merciless as to cast aside those people who don’t believe in Amida Buddha; rather it is the expression of the great compassion which has such people as the object of salvation.

Let’s read Unlocking Tannisho together:

Surprisingly many people misread the opening of this passage as “If we suppose that Amida’s Primal Vow is true . . .” But for Shinran,there was no truth in this world apart from the Vow of Amida. Elsewhere he exclaimed in joy:

How genuine, the true words of Amida that embrace us and never forsake us, the absolute doctrine that is peerless and transcendent!

In this world as fleeting and unstable as a burning house, inhabited by human beings beset by worldly passions, all is idleness and foolishness, utterly devoid of truth. Only the nembutsu is true.

“Only the nembutsu is true” is another way of saying “Only Amida’s Vow is true.” Shinran’s faith in the truth of the Vow is crystal clear: all of his writings are full of exultation in it, and it is indeed the starting-point for all his teachings. It is unthinkable that he would refer to the truth of the Vow in the conditional mood, as a hypothetical case.

Here Shinran is definitely declaring, “Because Amida’s Primal Vow is true.” With that as a given, it follows that the sayings of Śākyamuni, Shan-tao, and Honen, all of whom preached only the Vow, must be true; therefore Shinran, too, who has faithfully transmitted their teachings, can be no liar. This is supreme confidence.

Some may pause here and scratch their heads. After all, to the men from the Kanto area, it was precisely the words of Shinran that carried the most authority, and it was precisely Amida’s Vow about which they were unsure. They believed in it because of Shinran’s assurances that the teachings of Honen, Shan-tao, and Śākyamuni were all true. Even so, to settle the doubts in their minds, Shinran took the truth of Amida’s Primal Vow as his starting point, offering no proof or explanation. It might reasonably be asked whether his approach was not backwards.

For Shinran, saved in accord with Amida’s Vow, the clearest, most undeniable truth in the world was the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. The serenity of his faith can be likened to the moon reflected in the sea: no matter how the billows rage, that moon will never be lost, never be destroyed, never vanish away. Because Shinran had a direct connection with the Primal Vow, even if the teachings of Śākyamuni, Shantao, and Honen had all proved false, his faith in the Vow could never waver.

“Given that Amida’s Primal Vow is true”: Shinran’s ability to make this flat, unhesitating assertion came solely from the clear working in him of other-power faith.

(Unlocking Tannisho, Part Two, Chapter 8 )

Missionary, Kohei Harada

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #25 | 2013, Ignorance of One’s Own True Image Results in Serious Misunderstanding

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