Unlocking Tannisho, Part 19

XVI

Some people say that if a practicer of true entrusting should unexpectedly become angry, act wantonly, or argue with others, they should by all means undergo turning-of-mind. Does this mean that we should sunder evil and practice good?

In the person of single-hearted nembutsu the turning-of-mind occurs only once. The turning- of-mind refers to this: transformation of those ignorant of the Primal Vow of Other Power who, being granted Amida’s wisdom and realizing the impossibility of everyday mind attaining birth, abandon the old mind and entrust the self to the Primal Vow.

If it is necessary to undergo the turning-of-mind, day and night, about every deed in order to attain birth, we may die before doing so, or before nurturing tenderness and forbearance, since our lives may come to an end between the inhaling and exhaling of breath. Then the Primal Vow which grasps us never to abandon us would have no meaning.

Even though some may claim to entrust themselves to the Primal Vow, they actually feel that only the good are saved, no matter how great the inconceivable power of the Vow to save evil doers. To that extent they are doubting the power of the Vow, lacking the thought of entrusting themselves to the Vow, and will be born in the borderland. How lamentable this is!

Once true entrusting is settled, we realize that our birth is due to the working of Amida and not to our calculations. Even though we may do evil, even more should we think about the power of the Vow. Then, tenderness and forbearance will appear by virtue of “made to become so by itself.”

In all matters regarding birth it is not necessary to contrive or design but always remember and become absorbed in the deep and profound compassion of Amida. Then we shall be able to say the nembutsu spontaneously, “made to become so by itself.” When I do not contrive or calculate, I am “made to become so by itself.” This is none other than the working of Other Power. And yet to my regret I hear some people talking knowingly about being “made to become so by itself” as if it were something special. How deplorable this is!

Explanation:

This section of Tannisho is about those people who claim to have been saved by the vow of Amida Buddha, and how if they become angry and commit evil deeds, go through a so-called “turning of mind” as the text above states.

First of all, we have to really take this issue apart and examine the context of the issue. Those who have been saved by the vow of Amida Buddha in this lifetime achieve what is called the 51st level of enlightenment, or otherwise known as the stage of non-retrogression. This means that once they reach this stage of enlightenment, there is no possible way they can degrade or retrogress to a lower level of enlightenment. There is nothing more for them to do for their salvation, for it is already assured that they will achieve rebirth in the pure land. Their birth is settled, as they also say.

What this passage is really talking about then, are those who “claim” to have encountered the vow, and been saved by the vow, yet at the core still have doubts about Amida Buddha, his pure land and/ or his vow. If you really examine the issue, it would mean that person has not achieved enlightenment at all! Because true faith requires that one place true singleness of mind in Amida and his vow, and having received other power faith, realize that there is no other path for them. Therefore, such kinds of people would have no doubt deep inside, as their birth is already settled in Amida’s pure land.

About this “turning of mind” – What this refers to is the change from self power to other power faith. This process of entering into the 51st level of enlightenment only happens one time, and doesn’t keep happening where you go down and up a ladder (for reasons already described above). Once you reach the 51st level, Amida’s primal vow grasps us and never abandons us again. To deny this is to deny the vow, and to deny the vow means to deny a very core, principal aspect of Buddhist doctrine.

Furthermore, we are given other power faith by Amida Buddha, not the other way around. I have mentioned countless times that it is impossible to achieve enlightenment by one’s own efforts. The most important aspect of achieving enlightenment is taking refuge in the Nembutsu, and taking refuge in the vow with singleness of mind. The Nembutsu and the vow of Amida Buddha are both one in the same, and this is called the path of the pure land. There is no ‘I’ or ‘me’. Everything that happens to us is due to our own karma working either with us or against us, and should Amida Buddha bestow this gift of enlightenment upon us, it is his choosing and by his merits, not our own. So there is no achieving enlightenment by setting a goal for it, or working hard to achieve it. You can read Buddhist doctrine all you want, or chant the Nembutsu, however, it is our karma alone which determines whether we are able to ultimately achieve it or not. Those who misunderstand the ways are left to be reborn in the borderland, which is basically on the very outset of the pure land, but not quite in it. It is sort of an in-between place much like how ‘purgatory’ is viewed in other religions.

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