Notes on 'Essentials of Faith Alone' (3)

The land of bliss is the realm of nirvana, the uncreated;
I fear it is hard to be born there by doing sundry good acts according to our diverse conditions.
Hence, the Tathagata selected the essential dharma,
Instructing beings to say Amida's Name with singleness, again singleness.

The land of bliss is the realm of nirvana, the uncreated

The land of bliss is that Pure Land of happiness, where there are always countless joys and never any suffering mingled with them. It is known as the land of peace. It was Master T'an-luan who praised it and called it "Land of Peace." Also, the Treatise on the Pure Land describes it as "the lotus repository world" and as the uncreated.

The realm of nirvana refers to the place where one overturns the delusion of ignorance and realizes the supreme enlightenment.

Realm means "place"; know it as the place of attaining enlightenment.

Nirvana has innumerable names. It is impossible to give them in detail; I will list only a few. Nirvana is called extinction of passions, the uncreated, peaceful happiness, eternal bliss, true reality, dharma-body, dharma-nature, suchness, oneness, and Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is none other than Tathagata. This Tathagata pervades the countless worlds; it fills the hearts and minds of the ocean of all beings. Thus, plants, trees, and land all attain Buddhahood.

Since it is with this heart and mind of all sentient beings that they entrust themselves to the Vow of the dharma-body as compassionate means, this shinjin is none other than Buddha-nature. This Buddha-nature is dharma-nature. Dharma-nature is dharma-body. For this reason there are two kinds of dharma-body with regard to the Buddha. The first is called dharma-body as suchness and the second, dharma-body as compassionate means. Dharma-body as suchness has neither color nor form; thus, the mind cannot grasp it nor words describe it. From this oneness was manifested form, called dharma-body as compassionate means.

Taking this form, the Buddha announced the name Bhiksu Dharmakara and established the Forty-eight great Vows that surpass conceptual understanding. Among these Vows are the Primal Vow of immeasurable light and the universal Vow of immeasurable life, and to the form manifesting these two Vows Bodhisattva Vasubandhu gave the title, "Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters." This Tathagata has fulfilled the Vows, which are the cause of that Buddhahood, and thus is called "Tathagata of the fulfilled body." This is none other than Amida Tathagata.

"Fulfilled" means that the cause for enlightenment has been fulfilled. From the fulfilled body innumerable personified and accommodated bodies are manifested, radiating the unhindered light of wisdom throughout the countless worlds. Thus appearing in the form of light called "Tathagata of unhindered light filling the ten quarters," it is without color and without form; that is, it is identical with the dharma-body as suchness, dispelling the darkness of ignorance and unobstructed by karmic evil. For this reason it is called "unhindered light." "Unhindered" means that it is not obstructed by the karmic evil and blind passions of beings. Know, therefore, that Amida Buddha is light, and that light is the form taken by wisdom.

I fear it is hard to be born there by doing sundry good acts according to our diverse conditions

According to our diverse conditions refers to directing the merit of practicing various good acts, which one performs according one's own particular circumstances and opportunities, toward birth in the land of bliss. There are 84,000 gates of dharma. Since they are all good practices done in self-power, they are rejected as not leading to birth in the true fulfilled land. Thus, I fear it is hard to be born.

Fear means to be apprehensive; that is, apprehensive about whether a person can be born in the true fulfilled land through the adulterated good practices, the good practices characterized by self-power.

Hard to be born means that it is difficult to attain birth in the Pure Land.

Hence, the Tathagata selected the essential dharma

Know that Sakyamuni Buddha selected the Name of Amida from among all the various goods and gave it to the evil beings, possessing wrong views and lacking faith, and living in this evil world of the five defilements. This is called selected, meaning "to pick out from among many."

Essential means wholly, to seek, to promise.

Dharma indicates the Name.

Instructing beings to say Amida's Name with singleness, again singleness

Instructing means to preach, the teaching. Here it refers to the instruction of Sakyamuni.

To say Amida's Name means to make a decision and not calculate in any way. Thus, these words instruct us, Be wholehearted in the single practice of saying the Name embodying the selected Primal Vow!

With singleness, again singleness: the first singleness means that we should perform the single practice.

Again means furthermore; it means to repeat. Hence with singleness furthermore means "Be of one-mind!" That is, Be wholly of single practice and of one mind! Moreover, singleness means "one." Wholly implies, Do not be of two minds! Thus, not wavering in any way is one mind. Amida grasps, never to abandon, such a person of this single practice and one mind, and therefore is called Amida. This is stated by Shan-tao, the Master of Kuang-ming temple.

This one mind is the shinjin of leaping crosswise.

Crosswise means across; leaping means "going beyond." This way surpasses all other teachings, and through it one quickly goes beyond the great ocean of birth-and-death and attains supreme enlightenment; therefore the term leaping is used. It is made possible by the power of the Vow that embodies the Tathagata's great compassion.

The shinjin becomes the diamondlike mind because Amida's grasp. This is the threefold shinjin of the Primal Vow of birth through the nembutsu and not the three minds of the Contemplation Sutra. Bodhisattva Vasubandhu declares that this true and real shinjin is none other than the aspiration to become a Buddha. This is the great thought of enlightenment of the Pure Land. This aspiration for Buddhahood is none other than the wish to save all beings. The wish to save all beings is the wish to carry all beings across the great ocean of birth-and-death. This shinjin is the aspiration to bring all beings to the attainment of supreme nirvana; it is the heart of great love and great compassion. This shinjin is Buddha-nature and Buddha-nature is Tathagata. To realize this shinjin is to rejoice and be glad. People who rejoice and are glad are called "people equal to the Buddhas."

To rejoice means to be joyous after being assured of attaining what one shall attain; it is rejoicing after realizing shinjin.

To be glad means to always have joy uninterruptedly in one's heart and constantly keep it in mind. It means to leap and jump, expressing boundless joy:

To leap is to dance to the heavens, to jump is to dance on the earth. The person who has realized shinjin is also likened to the white lotus flower.

The difficulty of realizing this shinjin is taught in the Larger Sutra: "The most difficult of all difficulties is to hear this sutra and accept it in shinjin; nothing surpasses this difficulty"; and in the Smaller Sutra we find, "It is the dharma that is most difficult to accept." But Sakyamuni Tathagata, appearing in this evil world of five defilements, put this dharma that is difficult to accept into practice and attained the supreme nirvana. He then gave this Name embodying wisdom to the sentient beings living in defilement. The witness of the Buddhas throughout the ten quarters and the protection of the Tathagatas as numberless as the sands of the Ganges are solely for the sake of people of true and real shinjin. Know that Sakyamuni, our loving father, and Amida, our compassionate mother, guide us to shinjin as our own parents.

For vast ages in the past, under Buddhas who appeared in this world three times the sands of the Ganges in number, we awakened the great thought of enlightenment of self-power. Having performed good practices numerous as the sands of the Ganges, we are now able to encounter the karmic power of the great Vow. Those who have realized the threefold shinjin of Other Power must never disparage the other good practices or malign the other Buddhas and bodhisattvas.



© 1997 copyright Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha