Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Amitabha Buddha, I Put My Trust

This is basically taking refuge in Amitabha Buddha. Here the Buddha is represented by Amitabha Budha, the Dharma by his 48 Great Vows and the Sangha by the Land of Ultimate Bliss, i.e. Sukhavati (Sanskrit) or Dewachen (Tibetan). Even though I have at one time contemplated practicing Pure Land Buddhism and gone on to practice Tibetan Buddhism instead, still I have never gave up my faith in Amitabha Buddha and His Land no matter what I am practicing. I gave up last time because it seemed to me that Pure Land Buddhism seems like the Christian and other such God-based religions.

But I was obviously wrong. Very wrong. Now I realised the God in other religions never made any vows to save sentient beings to bring to his land. Their God was also never an ordinary sentient being like you and me. He was, is and will be God for eternity. But this is different for Amitabha Buddha. He was the simple and ordinary Dharmakara monk before he became Amitabha Buddha. He made great vows in front of another Buddha and for millions of kalpas, he simply cultivated virtues and merits and purification for all sentient beings. Hence, Shin Buddhists and all other Pure Land Buddhists need not feel as if they are practising another Creator God-based religion like Christianity or Judaism.

So, this time I realise that I can even do my yidam tantric practices with shinjin. Yes, with Great Faith in Amitabha's vows. What does this actually mean? It means doing my yidam practices with less attachment to meditative and non-meditative experiences and more faith that the Buddha's Vows will simply work its way to pick me up to His Pure Land of Sukhavati, not necessarily at the time of my physical death. Rather, being in Sukhavati here and now. And this is not just about being mindful during meditation or outside of meditation. It means allowing the Pure Vows to work through you to help other sentient beings go to Sukhavati so that they can ultimately achieve Buddhahood.

I am writing this because I like to emphasise that it is important for Tibetan Buddhist practitioners to have faith in Amitabha Buddha's Vows, rather than simply believing in mantras and think that they can chant their way to Dewachen without faith in Amitabha. It's like trying to gate-crash into a party or stay in a friend's house without being friends with the host. It may work, but for me, it seems ridiculous for me to go to Amitabha's Land without having any faith in what he is doing and what he stands for. In that sense, I will not eject my consciousness to Amitabha's Land via phowa but may do it if that will result in Supreme Buddhahood. It means not doing phowa merely to gain entry into His Land. You noticed the difference?

It is far far safer to come back as a human being by aspiring first to go to Amitabha's Pure Land. A short training stinct in Amitabha's Academy of Bodhisattvas is essential to equip aspiring Bodhisattvas with the necessary skills to help others. I think I mentioned about this training academy in a previous blog-post. Often fools like us think we are ready to help others by aspiring straight to be reborn as a human after the present life. This is like the blind leading the blind. Soon both will plunge into the depths of samsara. So, it is important to be guided first in Amitabha's Sukhavati. Hence, put your faith in Amitabha Buddha's land and aspire to be reborn there. The element of faith is important whether we are reciting the mantra or His Name. And I took the trouble to post poems by the Japanese Pure Land Master, Shinran so that we can better understand and develop faith in the Great Vows of Amitabha Buddha. So try to read more on Pure Land Buddhism, especially Shinran's Jodoshinshu. It does not conflict with Vajrayana Buddhism, if you really understand.

While the workings of mantras are very mysterious, but it does not always work every time you recite it. You must not treat mantras like "abracadabra" which does not have any deity associated with it. You must have some measure of faith in the deity associated with the mantra to make it work. I am also not aware of any vows behind any mantras. It is not so with reciting the Nembutsu. There are 48 Great Vows behind the recitation of Amitabha's Name. As Shinran said, when you are reciting the Nembutsu, it is not you who are petitioning to Amitabha Buddha. Rather, everytime you recite His Name, it is Amitabha who is reaching out to you. It does not depend on your own merits and virtues. Instead you are living on the merits and virtues of Amitabha Buddha. Therefore, it works everytime you recite it. Isn't that wonderful?

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