The Pure Realm of Buddha, they say,
lies in a land that is far, far away
but if you are truly going that way
you’ll arrive at the gate in less than a day.

This little ditty is based on a song by a wandering 'hijiri', or holy man, called Kuya (903-972) who travelled around Japan singing the praise of Amitabha Buddha and preaching. They were hard times and Kuya was often involved in helping to dig wells or mend roads or whatever else needed doing in the villages that he visited.

In the history of Japanese Buddhism there are quite a number of famous hijiri. Some of these people were fully ordained monks, but many were people who had taken on the life of the wandering bhikshu without any particular authorisation or initiation. Nowadays, of course, we have the opposite - people want the credentials, but never actually 'leave home'.

It is true that one can reach the gate of the Pure Land by having the right attitude, but if one does have the right attitude then it is going to have consequences for one's practical life. The hijiri trusted in providence. They accepted what came along and they practised kindness wherever they went. All this was inspired by the Buddhist vision.

Pausing in my writing, I just now opened the Lotus Sutra at random. It fell open at the chapter on the Appearance of the Treasure Stupa just at the point where the Buddha emits a light that enables the whole congregation to perceive billions of Buddha Lands in all directions. This is what Buddhas do. They have a light that enables us to see an inspiring vision, and when we see it we want to go there, and, even though it may seem far, far away, through the power of aspiration, you'll be there in less than a day.

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