“Letters” 8

Birth-and-Death (continued)

Pure Faith is nothing but Amidas Vow-Power (or the Power of His Enlightenment or Name). Amida’s Vow Power or the Truth (or Wisdom) of the Name is his ” calling ” and, through this, all His Wisdom is transferred into our minds. This is the ” Pure Faith “. The Pure Faith is nothing but to simply obey the Buddha’s calling without discrimination or subjectivity – and by even forgetting ourselves. This calling is without voice (and comprises His Vow-Power or Sacred Name).

Zendo Daishi (of China) wrote a parable ” Two Rivers and the White Path “. It reads as follows:

” A traveller was walking alone towards the West in a large, solitary and forbidding landscape. Suddenly, wild beasts and many robbers began to appear and were about to attack him. The traveller was terrified and ran as fast as he could but the robbers and beasts were closing in on him. He came to a halt when he suddenly saw a river. There was a narrow white path – four or five inches wide and 100 steps in length – across the river. The north side was a river of water and, the south side, a river of fire. “

(” Water ” represents beings’ avarice and ” fire ” anger; the ‘White Path’ denotes: (1) Self-power Buddhism and (2) the length of human life – 100 years (a man’s good-will is small and narrow; the ” traveller ” means an ordinary man who has no good instructions or friends).

” The traveller advanced on the White Path a few steps when he heard the cry of the robbers, ” Hello traveller! Come back! ” The traveller saw that the angry waves of water and fire were washing across and burning the road without ceasing even for a moment. At that time, the traveller thought to himself, ” If I advance, I shall fall into the river and surely die; if I go back, I shall be devoured by beasts and killed by robbers, and shall surely die; if I stay here, I shall be taken away by the water and fire, and shall surely die; surely I shall die today! ” (This is called the ” Three-Sure-Deaths “). So thinking, his fear was indescribable (such a predicament is none other than our own right now). “

” At that very same time, the traveller heard a voice calling from the Western shore: ” Come to me, come at once! ” (This is the call of Amida). Just at that time, he also heard an exhortation from the Eastern shore, ” Go! Go forward without hesitating! You shall surely be saved! ” (This is the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha in the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra). “

(Both the call and the exhortation represent Amida’s Vow-power. The traveller, listening to the advice of these voices, advanced and – forgetting himself – reaches the other shore (the Pure Land) safely where he rejoices exceedingly in meeting the Lord of the West (Amida).

Shinran Shonin expounded the Sacred Name Namo Amida Butsu as follows: ” Namo means to obey; that is, to heed the call of Amida’s Vow-Power “. To heed this call is Pure Faith. Most people cannot respond to this call, being hindered by their own self-power (knowledge, thinking, conception, discrimination and subjectivity). Here lies the difficulty of Shin Buddhism. The Faith of Shin Buddhism (Jodo-Shinshu) is very difficult to acquire. There is no religion in the world in which so difficult a Faith is taught. It is as difficult as becoming Enlightened or acquiring satori in Zen Buddhism. Why is it so difficult to attain Faith? Because the Faith of Shin Buddhism, even though it can be acquired by a bombu (an ordinary man), is the transcendent, universal and absolute ” Pure Faith ” – the essence of the transcendent Wisdom and Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha; moreover, it is the universal and one-same Faith. Of course, Faith, as it appears outwardly, is different for each individual but the essence of it is universally the same and pure. In other words, the Faith of Shin-Buddhism, in its essence, transcends relative cognition and thought, i.e. it transcends the human nature of a bombu. This transcendent, absolute Faith is called ” Pure Faith ” which is beyond ” self-power “. It is the transcendent and universal Great Wisdom and Boundless Compassion of Amida Buddha.