Pure Faith transcends morality, good or evil, transcends human conduct and transcends relative human knowledge, wise or foolish. It is the faith that simply believes in Amida’s ” Vow Power “, the manifestation of his Transcendent Wisdom and Boundless Compassion. It is to depend on Tathagata Amitabha, our Father, and take refuge in His Light and Life. It is to hear, in faithful obedience, His gracious calling: Namo Amida Butsu. This Sacred Name is the embodiment of His Vow. Therefore, ” Pure Faith ” is to believe in the inconceivable virtue and power of the Sacred Name – Namo Amida Butsu – of the Buddha Amitabha, the Great Compassionate One.
The Sacred Name is also the embodiment of His transcendent Wisdom and, therefore, Pure Faith is to believe in this inconceivable Wisdom. The substance of the Sacred Name is His Wisdom. The Wisdom of the Buddha is in unity with His Compassion; they are always inseparable and they act of themselves as Saving Power, which manifests itself in His call, Namo Amida Butsu. Therefore, Pure Faith is to obey this Compassionate Call.
Can this be done easily? No, not until we become conscious of our predicament as revealed in the ” Three-Sure-Deaths ” (in Shan-tao’s parable of the Two Rivers and the White Path). The first ” sure death ” is that, if the traveller advances, he shall surely die because the ” white path ” (self power) is narrow and difficult to traverse and it is ever encroached upon by fire (anger) and water (avarice). Therefore, it is absolutely impossible for the traveller (i.e. we ordinary people) to cross this path. The second ” sure death ” is the thought that, even if he turns back, the traveller will certainly be devoured by beasts or killed by robbers; that is, as long as we have bodies and minds, discrimination and subjectivity – while living in this depraved world – we must needs commit sins and evils, the effect of which is, necessarily, endless birth-and-death. The third ” sure death ” is the traveller’s thought that even if he stays on the path, he would certainly die as he would assuredly fall into the River of Fire or the River of Water, which represent the roots of birth-and-death.
For these three reasons, the traveller (who represents common, foolish people) was certain that death was unavoidable. The fearful predicaments of the traveller in this parable are, indeed, the actual circumstances in which we all find ourselves. Those who are not aware of their own woeful condition in this life are not able to lend their ears to Amida’s Call. Only those who have sincerely awakened to this condition can hear and obey this Call. Even so-called devotees of Shin Buddhism (Zen students also) have scant regard for the ” Three-Sure-Deaths “; therefore, they cannot acquire Pure Faith. Such a Faith is born out of one’s self-consciousness of the ” Three-Sure-Deaths “, acceptance of the Buddha’s guidance, and perfect obedience to Amida’s Call (belief in His Vow Power and Sacred Name). How difficult it is to acquire Pure Faith!