Crossroads on the way to the Pureland

Pureland Buddhism (Jodo-shinshu) believes in the pureland and that Amitabha Buddha will guide one upon death into the light of the pureland.

The only condition to be saved is to chant the Nembutsu `Namu Amida Butsu`. Which is a very similar concept that is shared by Tantric Buddhism where one will attempt to fall into `suspended animation` on their deathbed and hold eternity in a moment of unperceived time. This faith in the `other world` or `other power` is quite a different concept than the normal concept of Buddhist faith which is not blind but stronger than destiny, a faith in action is a willingness to try and witnessing this faith, is faith in oneself. Shin Buddhism actually seems to be a lot more similar to Christianity than Buddhism.

Unlike other Buddhist practices which focused on personal salvation, Shinran the founder of Jodo-shinshu, recognized the limitations of man and instead of cultivating self-power (jiriki), he advocates trusting to rely on other-power (tariki). This is the path of `Shinjin` which manifests the other power of Amida. This is a `faith` which differs from self effort required in other forms of Buddhism and is therefore often referred to as the easy way. There is a similar concept in Zen which is very similar to tariki that goes along the lines of: When one is strong they turn the dharma wheel and when allows themselves to be weak, the dharma turns them. Being carried by the Dharma is very Tao in the sense of letting go of conscious effort and allowing the world to carry one but very Christian in the sense of having faith in this other power of Amida.

Christianity believes that God created everything. God gave birth to Christ and made man in his image. Christ is one of the most powerful symbols of man, of god. Yet I find it so strange that Christians (and Jodo-shinshu) will pray to a god external of themselves wherein a Buddhist of the Mahayana (greater vehicle) believes to find any truth, one must look inside rather than into the delusion of samsara. The Buddhist believes one cannot confirm god externally but must confirm truth within.

Within ones heart there is a throne and one must take their self off this throne and put God on the chair to acknowledge a power greater than one’s self. One must recognize the other power, Tariki. I leave my throne empty. This emptiness is not to say there is a void of god but that the void provides something to empty in to. Emptying is a verb, the empty space is what makes the throne useful, and God is the container.

Buddhists have the term `bonpu` which is what humans are made out of. No matter how close to the divine a human can get, no matter how selfless he can be, he will always be made of bonpu. This is like making a shiny statue of the Buddha out of mud. Although this is not to say that mud or bonpu isn`t Buddha, Amida, god or divine but that this medium is of this world as is everything else, composed of the same elements and the more Zen one practices they realize through the fantastical disillusionment that they are made of the same stuff just as everything else is. Buddhists do not believe in Atman, of an eternal self, but they do believe we must all inherently possess enlightenment, and that everything holds the potentiality for Buddha nature. A Buddhist may hold the potentiality for Buddhahood but is not supposed to strive to be the Buddha and they believe that one becomes a Buddha on their death. This is more similar to the purelands and even Christianities ideal of attaining salvation in the next life. Those who control death control life.

A Buddhist would remind you that you are not the Buddha, but a child of Buddha. In this life a traditional Buddhist is to strive to be a bodhisattva, one who has put off final Nirvana and vowed to save all innumerable beings from suffering. Although a Buddhist does recognize the suffering they carry into meditation is the world`s suffering, one should not mistake that they need to take the world`s suffering upon one’s self as by letting go of this suffering, they help lighten the load of the worlds suffering. This is engaged Buddhism, the Buddhist Christ.

One should again take note that many forms of Buddhism do not put faith in God, which can be blinding and even at times to powerful of a force, but rather concepts of all pervading forces in the sense that these `symbols` are and are not what they signify. Though they signify emptiness they are in fact empty. Emptiness from the sense of a nihilistic view where nothing can be described except within the context it is in, within the context that is in , until one proves that they do not exist (as a separate entity) by disproving the ground they stand on. The signified and signifier are both dual and non-dual. The emphasis is form, not minor or universal but all forms inner-reflecting the interdependent nature of reality which is not to be seeing as an illusion but real as is. The body of the Buddha is all things and the body of all beings is Buddha.

Feel free to take your seat back on the throne but know that God supports you. Trust in the other power and let go, let god. Know that you are only bonpu, a container of substance, a child of the earth, a child of the pureland.