An Amida Buddhist is dedicated to the practice of Nembutsu. Nembutsu is a passport to the Pureland of Amitabha Buddha. So, to practice the Nembutsu is to have the Pureland ever in mind - the Pureland, where there is no greed, hate and delusion, no oppression and none of the human troubles that we experience in this conditioned world - and if you have that holy domain ever in mind as a Nembutsu practitioner, you can hardly help doing everything that you possibly can, while you are still in this world of conditions, to approximate this place to that one.
This means that Amida Buddhism is intrinsically socially engaged. We can’t help but do what we can to realize the Buddha’s intention here in this world. We don’t have to wait until we get enlightened, we don’t have to wait until we are completely sorted out and have overcome all our own personal neuroses. We are just ordinary bombu beings. But we live reflecting the light of Amida. We reflect that light in this world. We call that Socially Engaged Buddhism.
What does Socially Engaged Buddhism consist of? I think there are three points we can bear in mind:
- Resist oppression. There is a lot of trouble and oppression in this world and one should not co-operate with it. One should not be sucked into it, seduced by it. One should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. So: resist oppression!
- Assist the afflicted. Where there is trouble, oppression, there are always people who are suffering: there are people who are held down, people who in poverty, people who are sick, people who are dying. There are people to be helped. And not just people – there are animals, there are whole eco-systems, that need help. So: assist the afflicted! This is the second principle.
Notice that the first principle can often be rather immediate. To resist oppression is something you do straight away. Assisting the afflicted tends to be a bit longer term. Maybe you have to set up some sort of service or adopt a right livelihood or something of that kind.
- Demonstrate an alternative. In our own lives, in our own immediate environment, in our homes, in our communities, in the way that we are with our Sangha. In these important relationships we demonstrate the Buddhist virtues of generosity, of good conduct, of harmony and co-operation, hospitality. We make the environment immediately around us as much of a Pureland as we can.
What does that mean? It means to create the right conditions. We know from our Buddhist principles: everything depends on conditions. You set up conducive conditions - you get good results. So, this includes beauty, artistry, all the things that make for a quality environment for beings to live in.
At the most basic level these three things all come together. You go out and feed the hungry, you are resisting oppression, assisting the afflicted and demonstrating an alternative – all at the same time.
So, if you want to follow the kind of teachings that I am trying to pronounce through these podcasts, get involved in it! If there is a demonstration against oppression somewhere near you: go and join it and take along your friends! And wear something red. And don’t be just a rabble. Operate like a team. Work together. Make an impact. And be a demonstration. Never do anything violent. Demonstrate Buddhist virtue, Buddhist conduct in a co-operative way, together.
If there are afflicted people in your town, in your area, see what you can do! Think about what you are doing with your life, how you can dedicate it to the realization of the Pureland. Let’s all try and demonstrate an alternative together.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much.
The picture shows me at a Campaign Against the Arms Trade rally 10 years or so ago.
Here is a poem...
IN THE NEWS
It’s a criss cross world
where the crises overlap
and the knee that's on your neck is getting harder
but crying out for breath
as you face a lonely death
will make of you an icon and a martyr
for it’s a hundred years of pain
and a hundred more again
that are crying out for air and holy water
while a virus on the sly
has made so many die
that we don’t know what to do, nor what we ought’er.
They’re taking up the lock down
and they tell us that it’s safe
to send the kids to school and visit nanny
but there’s no tellin’ who to trust
when Cumming’s law goes bust
and the leader of the Free World’s in a paddy.
I know it’s not quite nice
to remind us of the ice
that is melting at the poles and double quick,
yet when the criss is crossing
and we can’t believe the boffins
we’ll need a leader sharp as Metternich.
You can say there’s always trouble
and there’s nothing new, just double,
but time is running out for poor old Gaia,
and while we shout out loud
across the tear gas cloud
the ocean tide is lapping ever higher.
So I’ll sit and drink my tea
with the cat upon my knee
and think about oppression, law and freedom
but my heart goes out in pain
to those I’ll never meet again
and remember what a joy it was to see them.