Summary of Faith & Practice Commentary
TEXT: the method of opening oneself to Amitabha's grace
The Buddha has vowed to receive whoever turns to him in faith and calls his name. There are many ways of calling the name. Literally, we can say, “Amitabha” or “Namo Amida Bu” or some equivalent, or say a short prayer, such as the “Kimyo jinjipo mugeko Nyorai” (In the Tathagata of unimpeded light throughout the ten directions, I take refuge). These are all ways of taking refuge - entrusting oneself to a greater power.
Often, taking refuge, therefore, begins with realising one's own inadequacy. The first step, therefore, is commonly that of realising one's bombu condition. To call on the Buddha is to call upon Other Power and one does not do so if one's dependence upon self power remains intact. Only when we reach the point of a genuine “I can't” do we turn elsewhere for help.
Another way of approaching the subject is through the notion of offerings. In a number of scriptures it says that the way that people become Buddhas is via making offerings to innumerable Buddhas and in the Pure Land Sutras it says that what those who dwell in the Pure Land spend much of their time doing is making offerings to other Buddhas. This gives a wonderful basis for ecumenism within Pureland. Now we can see that entrusting oneself to the Buddha is an offering. When we say Namo Amida Bu we are saying thank you to the Buddha for the benefit he gives freely to us, and we are also giving ourselves over to him. One offers oneself. In this way, "Namo Amida Bu" means "I give you my life". It is clear enough from considering this that nothing else is necessary.
We have two primary auxiliary practices: nei quan and chih quan. In nei quan one looks inward and sees into one's dependent, fallible nature. This is insight meditation. It amounts to an investigation of “Namo...” It dwells on the question “Who/what is it that is calling out to Buddha?” Then in chih quan we offer all this to the Buddha who receives it with his universal smile and happy heart. We feel that he will know what to do with all our passion. This is offering. In return, we feel the peace of Buddha descend upon us, penetrating and permeating our body and mind. This peace is profound. Chih quan is, thus, “tranquil abiding”. However, in our practice, tranquil abiding is not a preparatory meditation, it is the grace of Buddha descending upon us. In this way we feel “...Amida Bu” enter into us, as the tathagatagarbha, the seed that will one day mature as Buddha. This seed is planted in us. Through these two auxiliary practices we have experience of our bombu state, entrusting ourselves, and receiving the peace of the Tathagata.
When people talk about “method” they tend to be thinking about a formula or protocol that can be consciously practised and applied in order to get a result. However, there it is no good just going through the motions if there is no genuine experience. The auxiliary practices do not coerce the Buddha into granting us something, they merely give us conviction by showing us experientially how Other Power works, but it does not work as a result of our action – it is working anyway. Just insofar as we have conviction we are less inclined to resist. The auxiliary practices are not actually necessary. All that is necessary is to turn one's heart toward the Buddha in faith and gratitude. All the rest is already completely assured. If one truly declares the nembutsu, nei quan and chih quan are implicit.
The principle of tathagatagarbha is based on the image of pregnancy. Once the seed is implanted, it will grow. It goes on growing whether the mother-to-be is thinking about it or not. In the same way, the seed of Buddhahood grows within whether we have conscious awareness or not. When we declare our love to the Buddha by calling out Namo Amida Bu, he comes and cherishes us and puts his seed in us. This seed will come to fruition far into the future. In the meantime it grows naturally. However, just as the father protects the mother during the time of pregnancy, so the Buddha protects us from spiritual harm as long as we carry his grace within us.
When we are married to the Buddha in this way it is natural that he welcome us home into his Pure Land when the time comes.
Yes. It was peaceful by all accounts. Glad for that. Namo Amida Bu.
Beautiful, thank you - the latter passage especially speaks of nembutsu in a way that I haven't heard before, and is very affecting.
Namo Amida Bu