When I consider deeply …

When I consider deeply the Vow of Amida, which arose from five kalpas of profound thought, I realise that it was entirely for the sake of myself alone! Then how I am filled with gratitude for the Primal Vow, in which Amida resolved to save me, though I am burdened with such heavy karma. (CWS, p. 679)

Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens, Friday 5 May 2017

Shinran Shonin thought deeply about the Vow of Amida Buddha. He heard the voice of Amida Buddha calling in Namo Amida Butsu and he answered the call: ‘Namo Amida Butsu’!

Shinran was born into a world that was marked by a society riven by war and violence, and a natural environment that was replete with famine and disease. It was not a benevolent, gently compassionate world. It was that very stark, harsh and unforgiving world, that very circumstance, which prevailed when he entered monastic life to seek salvation for all suffering beings.

Shinran’s twenty years of seeking brought him ever deepening disappointment and a growing awareness at his own inability to deliver himself and others from birth-and-death; at his gradual realisation that hope of joining the ranks of the truly settled on the path to becoming Buddha were fading. It was no wonder that, in meeting Honen Shonin’s bright and radiant message of the Primal Vow, he knew at last the true deliverance by Other Power.

But Shinran’s deep consideration also brought greater light because he saw that for the endless æons that he was ‘transmigrating in the three realms unable to emerge from [the] burning house [of birth-and-death]’ there was another, who as a result of many æons of ceaseless endeavour, was waiting for him to return his call, his sacred call.

From [the] treasure ocean of oneness form was manifested, taking the name of Bodhisattva Dharmakara, who, through establishing the unhindered Vow as the cause, became Amida Buddha. (CWS, p. 486)

And …

He was full of courage and vigor, and being resolute in his acts, knew no fatigue. Seeking solely that which was pure and undefiled, he brought benefit to all beings. He revered the three treasures and served his teachers and elders. He fulfilled all the various kinds of practices, embellishing himself with great adornments, and brought all sentient beings to the attainment of virtues. (CWS, p. 95-6)

One working for the sake of the other, endlessly: the Buddha striving for the salvation of Shinran; Shinran gradually exhausting all of his effort, his options and his choices. And, then, the two finally meet in Namo Amida Butsu.

Shinran clearly reflected on this truth again and again. As he says, it was lucid, deep, joyful, and awe-inspiring thought. Its scale is incalculable; the chances of such a meeting almost so small as to be inconceivable.

That is how it is for everyone who accepts Namo Amida Butsu in a single thought of entrusting.

Is this not wonderful beyond expression?

Author: George Gatenby

Rev George Gatenby is a Shin Buddhist priest and lives in South Australia.