Self Power vs. Other Power Faith

In Pure Land Buddhism, and other forms of Buddhism as well, self power faith and other power faith is an extremely important topic that you should understand. This, among other core concepts, is what make up the whole of the Buddhist teachings and so understanding this concept is very critical to progressing on the white path.

I have mentioned before in another article that there have been whole books written on this topic, and so it is not so easy to explain in just a few words or even a few paragraphs. However, I will do my best to try to break it down for you in simple language.

First of all, you need to understand what Self-Power Faith is.

Self power faith is faith that we give to ourselves. Something that we personally believe in by our own man-made power. For example, lots of people like to carry around lucky charms (ie. rabbit’s foot), heck in my elementary school days even I carried one, and so did lots of people I knew. Who wouldn’t subscribe to the prospect that you are granted luck by simply carrying around a foot of a dear hare?

Unfortunately, this is what is called Self-Power faith. We ourselves believe that the rabbit foot has the power to grant luck. Mabe you saw your friends experience a few lucky breaks and can assume it will work for you? Fair enough. But what you believe in there is by your own psychology, your own mind, it is you alone internally that believes this object has a power beyond the physical world. In reality, the rabbit foot has no power, at least mabe the power of smelling good!

So that is self-power in a nutshell, and the vast majority of people believe in this, that is, until they are granted other-power faith. Everything you have ever known, all the bad, all the good, was caused by your own karma alone. It has nothing to do with curses put on you by the dead, ghosts, hateful relatives or friends, or any charms. Whatever happens to you in this lifetime is a result of the seeds you have planted in the past life. Sakyamuni Buddha once said “If you want to know the future, all you have to take a look at is the present”. Likewise, everything in the universe is bound by the universal law of cause and effect, and nothing can change that – not even a  rabbits foot of the highest grade!

So now that you understand (hopefully) what self power is, it is time to get into what Other Power Faith is.

Other power faith is the more difficult subject to explain, however, I will try my best to do it for you. I mentioned in another article that it is impossible to achieve true enlightenment by self power means. Therefore, being granted enlightenment equivalent to the 51st level, or what is called the state of non-retrogression, is synonymous to attaining other power faith. They say that this is the level that Miroku Bodhisattva is in currently, and he is expected to achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha in the future (about 2.67 billion years from now and counting).

So what is all this talk about being granted other power faith? Well, to put it simply, once you are saved by the vow of Amida Buddha, then you are granted other power faith by Amida Buddha. In Buddhism, on the outset, there is what is called a Twofold Revelation that occurs. This twofold revelation is the boundary between reality and the self. On the one hand, you realize the true nature of sentient beings and your own impure self, and therefore conclude that there is no other place you can possibly go but hell. However, something happens at that very instant, and that is being saved by the vow of Amida Buddha. In a split instant, you also realize on the other hand that the vow of Amida Buddha will save you despite your true nature, and therefore conclude that you will be reborn in Amida’s pure land.

There has been lots of debate and discussion on this, when it happens, how it happens, if it has any scientific basis or not, and whether it really exists. Well, I am not a scientist or a philosopher, so my job really isn’t to prove or disprove those claims. However, what I can say is that based on what I have learned, it is a true concept that exists in the fundamentals of Buddhism and based on that merit, and having a hand in the sutras, I would say it is a wise bet to acknowledge its existence.

So other power faith is really synonymous to achieving the 51st level of enlightenment and being saved by the Vow of Amida Buddha. Well, what is this ‘vow’ of Amida Buddha, and how does it save people? We will get into that in our Shoshinge discussion, part 3. But for now, know that this vow is Amida Buddha’s primal vow (or the 18th vow as it is called). Also, know that ‘faith’ in the Buddhist sense, or at least in terms of other power faith, is not to believe in any Deity, God, Buddha, or spiritual figure. The true nature of faith is to believe wholeheartedly, with true mind, in the Vow of Amida Buddha and its power to save sentient beings. If you are granted that, then you are granted other power faith, put quite simply. For Amida Buddha has unlimited compassion towards us, and will save us sentient beings from the sea of suffering.

The only way that I know of to obtain this other power faith, is a method recommended by Sakyamuni Buddha in one of his sutras, and that is, to keep listening and studying Buddhism. In time, you will bloom like a lotus and arrive at the gateway to achieving other power faith.

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