Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism

Ryuchi Fujii


Buddhism has a history of twenty-five hundred years since it was founded by Gautama Buddha. It has been divided into many sects and denominations. Many different ideas and thoughts have been developed and it has become an all-inclusive system of human thought. It has also become so complicated that its true meaning has not been properly understood. Generally speaking, each sect has taken a favorable part of it for the sake of its own particular denominational purposes. Many texts were written in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Japanese following the same dogmatic aim. Recently, many European scholars have studied Buddhism in India and China, but they have neglected the development of Buddhism in Japan which is a stronghold of present-day Buddhism. Many books concerning Japanese Buddhism have been written only for the sake of particular sects. As far as I know, English books explain Buddhism only from a certain angle and lack a complete view of it as a whole. It is the purpose of this work to show that Buddhism is a system of all-comprehensive human thought and that human thinking has been logically and consistently developed in Buddhism.

August Comte once claimed that human knowledge has developed from religion to science through philosophy. As far as my experience is concerned, the reverse is true. Buddhist thought may be considered to have followed this order of human thinking; from the scientific form to the religious through the philosophic. The ultimate end of Buddhism is perfect self-realization, enlightenment. For the attainment of this purpose two basic principles are to be recognized. Firstly, the individual self must be negated. Secondly, the universal self and the oneness of all life must be affirmed. According to the scientific form of Buddhism, the individual self has no independent existence. Self exists in mutual relationship to all things, to the totality of all things and to the oneness of all life. Self-realization is achieved through the mutual understanding of the nothingness of all selves. According to philosophic Buddhism, all antagonistic selves are caused by the illusion of ignorance, and the Buddha is immanent in all things, thereby establishing the oneness of all things. Self-realization is attained through the wisdom of self-effort. According to religious Buddhism, the individual self is limited and ignorant by nature as long as it remains as an individual existence. The oneness of all life is realized only through the union of the individual self with Amida Buddha through faith. Self is ever perfectible, but it cannot be perfectly realized in this world. Self is perfectly realized only in the Pure Land through the aid of Amida Buddha.


We put our faith in the Buddha. May we all together realize the Holy Way and awaken in ourselves Thy Supreme Will.

We put our faith in the Dharma. May we dig into the depth of Thy Teaching and acquire the wisdom as deep and wide as the ocean.

We put our faith in the Sangha. May we all together be one in accord and harmony and live the life of universal Brotherhood.


Buddhism gradually developed into its present form during a historical course of two thousand five hundred years. Various schools of thought sprang up in the course of its development, and all of these claim to embody the original thought of the Buddha. Buddhism is a document of the spiritual struggle of the Buddha and his followers. The vivid consciousness of the imperfection of actual life is the starting point of its doctrine. It is because of this fact that Buddhism has often been looked upon as the teaching of pessimism. But the pessimistic attitude of Buddhism is only its negative aspect. The affirmative aspect of Buddhism consists in the incessant struggle for the realization of personality. The cessation of suffering, and the achievement of happiness is taught as lying in the perfection of personality.

Buddha was born on 8 April 567 B.C. at Kapi-lavatthu on the border of Nepal, one hundred and thirty miles north of Benares, as a son of King Suddhodana Gautama of the Sakya clansmen who dwelt along the river Robini that flowed among the southern foothills of the Himalayas. The joy of his father was so great that he called the boy Siddhartha, which means 'Every wish fulfilled'. His mother, Queen Mahamaya, died only seven days after his birth. To become a worthy successor of the King, he began to learn literature and the military arts.

Prince Gautama excelled all other boys in mental and physical strength. He was loved by all people, because he was always kind. He had a cousin, Prince Devadatta. Devadatta also was a smart boy but he was not as good as Prince Gautama. One day, Devadatta shot down a swan with an arrow. It was hurt but was still living. Prince Gautama picked it up to protect its life. Just then, Devadatta appeared and wanted the bird because he had shot it down. 'No', said the Prince, 'If this bird were killed by you it might belong to you. Life should belong to the one who saves it. As this swan is still living it is mine.' Thus Prince Gautama never conceded to any wrong, and always followed the way of righteousness and of humanity.

One spring day, while watching a farmer plowing, he saw a bird fly from the ground bearing in its beak a worm which had been exposed by the farmer's plough. He was deeply affected by this tragedy of life. He sat down in the shade of a tree and thought about the tragedy of all living beings killing each other. This meditation on the suffering of life engrossed him more deeply as the years went on. The king arranged the marriage of the Prince to Princess Yasodhara, a daughter of the Lord of Koliya. For ten years he enjoyed a luxurious life with his wife, and an only son, Rahula, was born. But luxury did not dispel the meditative mood of Gautama and he continued to ponder the problem of the suffering of life. According to the Buddhist Mahayana Sutra, the Prince was profoundly shocked by the horrible spectacles of old age, disease and death which he happened to behold. Deeply stirred by the vanity and unceasing suffering of life, Gautama decided to devote his whole life to the seeking of truth. To quote:

But I am fearful and exceedingly bewildered.

As I ponder the terrors of old age, death, and
Disease, I can find no peace, no self-command;
much less, can I find pleasure, while I see the
world, as it were, ablaze with fire.

He fled his palace and visited various teachers who practiced asceticism and taught diverse methods of Enlightenment. Dissatisfied with what they taught, Gautama went to the Magadha country and practiced asceticism for six years, so devotedly, that he could hardly stand up on account of physical exhaustion. But he could not find the solution to the problem of life. Finally, he bathed in the river Anoma, and after accepting a bowl of food from a maid, called Sujata, he attempted a final meditation under the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment on 8 December 525 B.C. It was at thirty-five years of age that the Prince became the Buddha.

From this time on the Prince was known as the 'Buddha', the 'Perfectly Enlightened One'; as 'Sakyamuni, the Sage of the Sakya clan'; as the 'World-Honored One' or the 'Blessed One'. For forty-five years, from then on to his death, the Buddha adopted the same plan every year: collecting his followers around him during the rainy season and after it was over, journeying about as an itinerant preacher living on alms. On a journey towards Kushinagara, a town about 120 miles north-east of Benares, when he was eighty years of age, the Buddha became ill after a midday meal offered by Chunda, a blacksmith. Soon he was obliged to rest and said, 'Ananda, (a cousin and a faithful disciple), I am thirsty' and Ananda gave him water to drink. The Buddha resumed his journey and after halting again and again, he at last reached the river Hiranyavati, close by Kusinara, and lay down under some Sal trees. He continued his teachings to his favorite disciples until the last moment. When the end seemed near, Ananda broke down and went aside to weep. The Buddha missed Ananda and sent for him. He comforted his cousin, saying, 'O Ananda! Do not weep; do not let yourself be troubled. You know what I have said; sooner or later, we must part from all that we hold dear. Sickness and death are unavoidable to the physical being. But the true Buddha is not a human body; it is Enlightenment; a human body must vanish, but the wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truths of the Dharma - my dear disciples, this is the end. In a moment, I shall be passing into Nirvana.'

Not long after the death of the Buddha, a hundred selected disciples held a conference at Rajagaha in order to preserve the original teaching of the Buddha. Ananda rehearsed the Dharmas while Upali explained the origin of each of the Vinaya rules. A fine collection of the Dharma ('law') and the Vinaya ('precept') was made, and the history of the disciplinary rules was compiled. The whole record of the sacred literature, however, was written on paper or palm leaves during a period of about four hundred years. This is not an exceptional case because Brah-manism has never written down its Vedic literature even to this day, especially those revealed texts known as Sruti ('hearing'). In India, it was believed that to write down the sacred word in letters or to depict the holy image of the Buddha in painting or sculpture was a sacrilege. For this very reason, the whole literature was memorized and was not committed to writing for about four centuries. It was only about eighty years before Christ that King Vattagamani of Ceylon gave an edict to write down the whole literature in Singhalese characters lest the original teaching of the Buddha be lost. As time passed, the sacred literature was translated into various languages such as Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese etc., of which the Japanese work is considered as the most complete and authentic. The complete Japanese work on Buddhism is called Kokuyaku Daizokyo. The original Chinese work is supposed to consist of about seven or eight thousand volumes. An accurate historical study of the works on Buddhism has not yet been completed.


Buddhism is the teaching of tenmei kaigo which means turning away from ignorance to attain Enlightenment. Ignorance leads man to sorrow and suffering. Man suffers because he does not know the true nature of things. He must turn from illusion and ignorance and receive true knowledge. If man attains Enlightenment he will gain perfect happiness. Buddhism also is the teaching of the bakku yoraku which means the removal of suffering and the giving of happiness. Suffering is bad, and happiness good. Therefore, the teaching of Buddhism may be regarded as abstaining from all bad and doing all good, haiaku shuzen. In a word, the teaching of the Buddha is to show how to attain Enlightenment which is the perfect wisdom, supreme good, and highest happiness in the perfect realization of personality.

Generally speaking, animals are satisfied with the actual conditions of their life. They struggle for existence, but they do not struggle for the improvement of their life. Their activities are mostly limited to sustenance and reproduction. Their life may be called instinctive. On the other hand, man is an ideal and rational being. He cannot be satisfied with given conditions, and seeks always something better and higher. Yet, in one sense, this ever increasing desire for the ideal is the source of all human culture. But no matter how civilized man may become, he cannot attain his ideal state in this world. What, then, is the truth of the world? Buddhism approaches the problem from the three different angles of scientific, philosophic and religious studies.

Before beginning the discussion of each of the three systems of Buddhist thought, it may be well to explain why Buddhism takes these three different points of view. As Socrates compared himself to a midwife in helping others to find the universal truth, so did Gotama Buddha compare himself to a doctor who gives different medicines to different patients. As physical pain is caused by various diseases, and must be treated accordingly, so are the causes of mental suffering diverse. What is medicine to one may be poison to another. The teaching of the Buddha has thus become an all-inclusive system of human thought, and tolerance toward all different teachings and doctrines has become an outstanding characteristic of Buddhism. The above three different systems of Buddhist thought may be considered as embracing and understanding all human thoughts thus far developed in the history of man's thinking.

Psychologically speaking, all our mental or spiritual activities may be explained in terms of S-O-R. 'S' represents stimuli, 'O' represents Organism, and 'R' represents responses. It may be fairly claimed that the individual organism is not fundamentally different among the different human races, and that the stimuli which it receives externally and internally are limited to a certain extent as long as we live in the same world. Consequently, it may be claimed that any kind of thinking which is consistently and exhaustively done must be regarded as universally valid. From this point of view it may be claimed that the three different thoughts of Buddhism are not only all inclusive human thoughts but are also universally valid truths. The ultimate truths of Buddhist thought may be briefly stated as follows:

Scientific BuddhismIndividual self is negatedAtheism
Philosophic BuddhismUniversal self is affirmedPantheism
Religious BuddhismUnion of individual self and the BuddhaPantheistic monotheism
('All things are empty')
The Four Noble Truths

In his characteristic way, the Buddha approached the problem of life and the world in a practical and analytical manner basing his doctrines upon the law of cause and effect. What the Buddha was primarily concerned with was the question of suffering in life. Observing this suffering, the Buddha declared the four Noble Truths:

What are these Four Noble Truths?
They are the Noble Truth of buffering, the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering, and the Noble Truth of the Path that leads to the Extinction of Suffering. (Majihima-Nikaya)

Birth, old age, disease and death are suffering. Union with the unpleasant, separation from the pleasant, unfulfillment of any desire, and the existence of individuality are sources of sufferings. All these cause us to suffer because we do not understand the true nature of things.

What is the truth of all things?

All Things Are Impermanent
Everything is the result of a series of causes and conditions. Nothing happens without causes and conditions. A tree grows from its seed. A seed is a cause of the tree but it cannot grow without being sown by man. Someone who helps a cause to become the effect is termed an efficient cause by Aristotle while, in Buddhism, it is called condition. In order that the seed may sprout, water, fertilizer, sunshine etc., are necessary as causes or conditions. The tree, in its turn, by bearing fruit becomes a cause of its seed which again becomes a cause of another tree. The tree is connected to other trees backward and forward infinitely in a series of causes and effects. It is also related to all other things as conditions of its existence. Thus the tree is the result of a vast concurrence of causes and conditions. It changes as these causes and conditions change. So does everything. Therefore, everything is in a state of changing and becoming.

All Things Are Selflessness
Since the tree is nothing but the result of causes and conditions and is always changing, it has no permanent reality of its own. Everything in the world may be likened to the mesh of a net. One mesh of a net does not exist independently of the other meshes. It has its meaning only in relation to all other meshes. Analytically speaking, everything consists of a temporary combination of certain elements according to the law of cause and effect. A house is a combination of nails, lumber, cement, etc. - so is a living being a combination of physical and mental elements. All that exists consists of being formed, being felt, being represented, being acted upon, and being conceived in a state of instant changing. No being has its own entity independent of these five attributes. In a word, all consist in the five attributes of a living being. According to this explanation 'being formed' means that the body and the other four constituents are the faculties by the combination of which mind is made. This is not theoretically different from what atomists claim, namely that all things consist in a combination of various atoms. If the combination dissolves, the entity will disappear.

Thus, all things arise, exist, decay, and disappear in an endless cycle in accordance with the universal law of cause and affect. Nothing permanent exists. Every thing is changing and all is void:

All formations are transient; all formations are subject to suffering; all things are without an ego-entity. Form is transient, feeling is transient, perception is transient, mental formations are transient, consciousness is transient.
And that which is transient is subject to suffering; and of that which is transient and subject to suffering and change, one cannot rightly say: This belongs to me; this is I, this is Ego. Suppose a man who can see, were to behold the many eddying bubbles on the Ganges after deliberate examination, he must come to the conclusion that they are as empty, unreal, and unsubstantial. In exactly the same way does the monk behold all the bodily forms, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and states of consciousness-whether they be of the past, or the present, or the future, far or near. He observes and examines them carefully, and, after careful examination, they appear to him as being empty, void and without Ego. (Sumyutta-Nikya 21 (6)).

Here, I must remind you that the same trend of thought concerning personality is manifesting among modern psychologists. To quote David Hume (1711 -1776):

For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat, or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can observe anything but the perception.
When my perceptions are removed for any time as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions removed by death, and could I neither think nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate, after the dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is further a requisite to make me a perfect personality. If any one, upon serious and unprejudiced reflection, thinks he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer with him. All I can allow him is that he may be in the right as well as I, and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may, perhaps, perceive something simple and continued which he calls himself, though I am certain there is no such principle in me. But setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle of collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement. Our eyes cannot turn in their sockets without varying our perceptions. Our thought is still more variable than our sight, and all our other senses and faculties contribute to this change; nor is there any single power of the soul which remains unalterably the same, perhaps for one moment-what we call mind is nothing but a heap or bundle of different perceptions united together by certain relations, and supposed, though falsely, to be endowed with a certain simplicity and identity. (Hume's Works, Vol. 1. pp. 3 ff).

Experimental psychology such as Behaviorism represented by J.B.Watson, claimed that anything that exists must be objectively verified. Consequently, this type of materialistic psychology cannot recognize the existence of consciousness and mind.

Cause of Changing and Suffering, Ignorance

What is the cause of becoming and suffering?
The Buddha meditated upon the changing process following the chain of causes and effect. Thus he found out that death is caused by old age; old age by birth; birth by formation of being; formation of being by cleaving; cleaving by desire, desire by perception: perception by contact; contact by the six senses; six senses by mind-body; mind-body by subconscious mind; subconscious mind by instinct to live, and instinct to live by ignorance-These are the twelve cycles of causation in twelve divisions. The Buddha said that:

On delusion depend the activities. On the activities depends consciousness. On consciousness depends the psycho-physical combination. On the psycho-physical combination depends the six-fold sense-activity. On the six-fold sense-activity depends the sensorial impression. On the sensorial impression depends feeling. On feeling depends craving. On craving depends clinging to existence. On clinging to existence depends the process of becoming. On the process of becoming depends rebirth. On rebirth depends decay and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Thus, arises this whole mass of suffering. This is called the Noble Truth of the Origin of suffering." (Anguttara Sutra 111.61)

It is clear that the final cause of all changing and suffering is ignorance. The way of avoiding suffering is to destroy ignorance. To quote the Buddha's words:

Thus, through the entire fading away and extinction of this delusion, the activities are extinguished. Through the extinction of the activities, consciousness is extinguished. Through the extinction of consciousness, the psycho-physical combination is extinguished. Through the extinction of the psycho-physical combination, the six-fold sense-activity is extinguished. Through the extinction of the six-fold sense-activity, the sensorial impression is extinguished. Through the extinction of rebirth, the decay and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are extinguished. Thus, takes place the extinction of this whole mass of suffering. This is called the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering. (Anguttara Sutra 11.61)

Now, ignorance is inherent in the individual self. Individual existence implies limitation and is exclusive by its own nature. It can exist only by limiting others. The very existence of the individual self is possible only by excluding the existence of others in its place.

The truth of the individual self lies in that all things are changing and have no permanent reality. The truth is, therefore, that all individual existence is impermanent and empty. To be consistent with this truth, the absolute negation of all individual existence must be the ultimate goal. So long as we continue to exist as individual beings, we cannot get rid of human suffering in some form or other. The complete destruction of all suffering is possible only when self is destroyed. Thus, Nirvana, the ideal state of Buddhism, is to be considered not only as the extinction of passion, of desire, of sense of mind, of individual consciousness, but complete destruction of self. Thus, nihilism and atheism is the logical conclusion of the scientific approach to Buddhism.

The Maha-Prajna-Paramita-Hridaya Sutra
Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One together with many of the highest Bod-hisattvas and a great company of Bhikshus was staying at Rajagaha on Mt. Gridharakuta. The Blessed One was sitting apart absorbed in Samadhi Prajna-paramita. The Venerable Sariputra, influenced by the Blessed One absorbed in Samadhi, spoke thus to the Noble Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara: If a son or daughter wishes to study the profound Prajna-paramita, how is he to do so ? The noble Avalokitesvara replied to the Venerable Sariputra, saying: If a son or daughter wishes to study the profound Prajna-Paramita, (perfect wisdom) he must first get rid of all ideas of ego-selfness. Let him think thus: Personality? What is personality? Is it an enduring entity? Or is it made up of elements that pass away? Personality is made up of the five grasping aggregates: form, sensation perception, discrimination, consciousness, all of which are by nature empty of any self-substance. Form is emptiness, emptiness is not different from form, neither is form different from emptiness, indeed, emptiness is form. Also, sensation is emptiness, emptiness is not different from sensation, neither is sensation different from emptiness, indeed, emptiness is sensation. Also, perception is emptiness, emptiness not different from perception, neither is perception, different from emptiness, indeed, emptiness is sensation. Also, discrimination is emptiness, emptiness is not different from discrimination, neither is discrimination different from emptiness, indeed, emptiness is discrimination. Also consciousness is emptiness, emptiness is not different from consciousness, neither is consciousness different from emptiness, indeed, emptiness is consciousness. Thus, O Sariputra, all things having the nature of emptiness have no beginning and no ending. They are neither faultless nor not faultless; they are neither perfect nor imperfect. In emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no discrimination, no consciousness. There is no eye, no nose, no tongue; no sensitiveness to contact, no mind. There is no sight, no sound, no smell, no touch, no mental process, no object, no knowledge, no ignorance. There is no destruction of objects, there is no cessation of knowledge, no cessation of ignorance. There is no Noble Four-fold Truths: no pain, no cause of pain, no cessation of pain, no Noble Path leading to the cessation of pain. There is no decay and no death, and no destruction of the notion of decay and death. There is no knowledge of Nirvana, there is no obtaining of Nirvana. Why is there no obtaining of Nirvana? Because Nirvana is the realm of nothingness. If the ego-soul of personality was an enduring entity it could not obtain Nirvana. It is only because personality is made up of elements that pass away, that personality may attain Nirvana. So long as man is seeking highest perfect Wisdom, he is still abiding in the realm of consciousness, If he is to realize Nirvana, he must pass beyond consciousness. In highest samadhi (meditation), having transcended consciousness, he has passed beyond discrimination and knowledge, beyond the reach of change or fear; he is already enjoying Nirvana. The perfect understanding of this and the patient acceptance of it is the highest perfect Wisdom that is Prajna-paramita. All the Buddhas of the past, present and future having attained highest samadhi, awake to find themselves realizing Prajna-paramita. Therefore, O Sariputra, everyone should seek self-realization of Prajna-paramita, the Transcendent Truth, the unsurpassable Truth, the Truth that ends all pain, the Truth that is forever True. O Prajna-paramita! O Transcendent Truth that spans the troubled ocean of life and death: safely carry all seekers to the other shore of Enlightenment. Listen to the Mantra, the Great, Mysterious Mantra: Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svah! Gone, gone to that other shore; safely passed to that other shore, O Prajna-paramita ! So may it be.

The highest perfect knowledge of looking at all things and mental activities as empty and transcending even consciousness itself presupposes a highly trained intellectual power which is identical with the universal intellect. The recognition of void or emptiness of self means, therefore, the negation of individual self and the affirmation of universal self at the same time. If self is only a mechanical succession of various mental activities, how is it possible to recognize such a changing succession of mental phenomena? The absolute negation of self contra-diets its own claim. The negation of self presupposes the existence of the negating self. Therefore, self-negation means the affirmation of self in some form or other. To make knowledge possible, there must be a unifying consciousness which constructs our experience. Such a conscious self must remain identical throughout our various changing experiences. The conscious self must transcend experience, otherwise it cannot make experience possible. It is also universal and necessary, otherwise it cannot become a principle of universal knowledge. The transcendental self has been recognized as the basic principle of our experience once and for all by Kant. The consciousness has been developed to the metaphysical reality of the absolute idealism through his followers such as Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. It is very interesting to know that the same development of thought occurred in Buddhist idealism.

All things are the Buddha
The Conception of Personality in the Doctrine of Karma

Life is a series of Karma; thought, words, and deeds caused by ignorance or to use a modern expression, a blind will or life impulse. Life is but an infinite continuum of karma: the present is a necessary-consequence of the karma created in the past life. Biologically speaking, it is true that a new life is created by the blind force of life impulse and the fate of an individual being is determined by the force of karma inherited from the preceding one. But in biology, the end of one life is not the beginning of another and there is no self-identity between one life and another. The birth of one life is not the consequence of one's own karma. In Buddhism, however, a new life is the consequence of the total karmas of a precedent life and the ending of the former is the beginning of the latter. If this is true, there must be self-identity between one life and another, otherwise the doctrine of karma would not be maintained.

If every individual being is a temporary existence making a link of the endless series of life and is strictly conditioned by the effects of total karmas of another being, the doctrine of karma would become fatalistic determinism. If self consists of karmas and is entirely determined by the iron law of cause and effect, there would be no room for any free action and the form of life would be determined once and for all. The causation of karma is a derivative of the universal natural law which determines any and everything. The retribution of karma is sure to be realized either in this life or in the life to come. However, the self which is strictly determined by its own karmas must also be considered as a free agent of any action, otherwise self-salvation would be impossible. Such a free creative self cannot be explained in terms of mechanical causal relationship. Impulses, sensations and desires become the determining causes of self only when they are organically and purposely related to an active center, a personality. This is especially true of suppression or sublimation of natural desires and blind impulses. Only through the ideal aspiration of intelligent personality is the attainment of Enlightenment possible. To become a sound theory of life, the causation of karma must be based on a creative personality. If there is no self-identifying personality, the doctrine of karma cannot be maintained theoretically or practically. It is only in conformity with the truth that all is selflessness that personality is reduced to a karmic series. But if such a series is a mere mechanical succession of karma there would be neither creation of life nor striving after ideal life. What is this center of karma which makes possible life and the world?

What is Personality?

The center of karma is consciousness. This consciousness is divided into eight faculties. The first five senses are the visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory. The sixth is the conscious center of the five sense faculties. The seventh is the 'self-thought-center', and the eighth, 'the ideation store-consciousness'. The sixth consciousness is based on the seventh consciousness and creates a self-centered view of life and the world. The seventh consciousness is based on the eighth store-consciousness and is the source of all selfish thought and action. The eighth consciousness is called the 'store-consciousness'. It may be considered as the universal mind originally pure and egoless. All karmas of thought, word, and deed are potentially stored in the store-consciousness and make up a personality. The store-consciousness is always mistaken as a self-entity by the seventh consciousness which is attached to it.

Now it is clear that all things in the world and the world itself exist in terms of karma in some form or other perceived and considered by consciousness. Since all karmas are nothing but the activities of consciousness, nothing exists outside of consciousness. The fundamental consciousness, the store-consciousness, has been often claimed as being nothing but a succession of karmas only in conformity with the principle of impermanence and egolessness. This is far from the truth.

If we look at things externally and analytically, they are only mechanical successions of karmas in accordance with the law of cause and effect. They have no permanent self and have no meaning. All that we can say of them is that they are void. But if we look at the inward meaning of the karmas, things become different. According to the Buddhist idealism, each of the eighth consciousness is regarded to have four functional parts:

  1. The objective, the perceived part which is a shadow image of an external object reflected on the mind;
  2. The subjective, the perceiving part which perceives the object reflected;
  3. The self-witnessing, self-assuring part which recognizes that the mind perceives the object;
  4. The re-witnessing of self-witness which completes the mental function.

Of the four functional parts of the mind, the fourth is to be considered as only a minute division of the third. It is further claimed that the subjective and the objective are the proper functions of the mind and that the latter is originated from the former. And finally of all mental functions, the self-witness is the essential function of the mind. The subjective and objective result from false imagination while the self-witness is the proper function of the mind which is a real entity. Self-witness is self-consciousness. It is a very significant fact that Buddhist idealism recognized the self-conscious principle even in the sensation of an object.

Each individual being has eight consciousnesses, the last of which is the source of all mental and physical phenomena. Life and the world are nothing but the shadow caused by the mind. All things arise, exist, decay, and disappear, but are retained as potentialities in the store-consciousness.

If all karmas are imperishable and accumulated in a store-consciousness, such a store-consciousness must also be eternal and imperishable. What is the source of such a store-consciousness? From where does it come?

The Basis of Individual Consciousness

A store-consciousness makes the world for each individual being. Since each person has a store-consciousness there are as many store-consciousness as there are persons. These many consciousnesses must have a common source, otherwise the external world must be different according to each individual being. The common basis of such an all-inclusive mind is the fundamental principle in Buddhism. The ultimate source of all things is called Bhutatatata which is translated as 'Thusness'. It is the universal cosmic mind from which all things proceed and after which all beings ought to strive. As the final cause, Thusness is called by different names such as Nirvana, calmness of mind; Bodhi, perfect wisdom; Dharmakaya, 'Law-body'; Kusalamulam, perfect happiness; Bodhicittam, the middle path; Bhutakoti, the essence of being; the Tathagata etc.

Thusness means pure and real. How is it possible for such pure Thusness to become the active principle of the phenomenal world? The active principle of Thusness is ignorance. Due to ignorance, all things arise and disappear. Ignorance is the principle of individuality. It is the cause of the phenomenal world and of suffering. How and when did ignorance arise in Thusness? It was supposed that it happened abruptly. Ignorance must coexist with Thusness as far as our phenomenal world is concerned. Strictly speaking, ignorance must be inherent in Thusness. To be strictly consistent with the law of causality, all things and the world as a whole must come from Thusness. If all things are manifestations of Thusness, all of them must share the same nature as Thusness. They are one in their true nature. They are not in conflict with one another but should harmonize with one another. Thus all things are founded in the absolute mind (Dhamadhatu) and are interdependent and interacting. The universe is a harmonious activity of all things. Nothing can be without all others. All is in one and one in all.

I deeply believe that, in a grain of dust, exist countless Buddhas and assemblies of Bodhisattvas. Like-wise that the dust in boundless circles of Dharma is filled with Buddhas. (The vows of Samantabhadra, the 39th Chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra)

All things are different in their causal relations, but are the same in their true essence. Rain, hail, ice, and snow are different manifestations under different conditions but are reduced to the same water under the same condition.

If all things come from Thusness, the Buddha and all things are the same in their true essence, all must be real and true. From this point of view, the whole world is not only the manifestation of the Buddha, but the Buddha himself. The universe, as a whole, is a living Buddha. The universe, including all things, is to be considered the body of Buddha (Buddhakaya) and is called Dainichi Nyorai or Mahavairocana. The Buddha, it is claimed, consists of the perfect harmony of the six-fold greatness of earth, water, fire, air, space and consciousness. In other words, the Buddha consists of mental and physical elements. All the mental and physical activities of a man are the same as those of the Buddha. The truth is, Buddha-in-me, I-in-Buddha, I am Buddha. According to the Sadharmapundarika Sutra, all things are manifestations of Thusness, and they have the same natures and characters as Thusness. Phenomenon is to be identified with noumenon. Phenomenon is noumenon. This is the total affirmation of all things and the ultimate end of the philosophical approach of Buddhism. From the scientific point of view, all things are void; and from the philosophical point of view, all things are real. How is it possible to reconcile these two contradictory themes - all things are void and all things are real? The truth is that all things rise, exist, decay, and die in accordance with the universal law of cause and condition. Things are real in the sense that they exist at least temporarily in a causal relation, but they are void in the sense that they have no permanent reality. Therefore, all things may be considered as existence or as void, and as neither existence nor void. All things exist in relation to all other things. All things are relatively real.

The Middle Path, Relativity, Oneness
All things are neither existence nor emptiness. Everything that exists in a causal relation with all other things having no independent reality, is called 'void'.
What is produced by causes,
That, I say, is identical with void,
It is also identical with mere name,
It is again the purport of the middle path.
(Madhyamika Sastra)

To claim that things exist or to claim that things are empty is only a one-sided view. The truth lies in the middle of both existence and emptiness. The ultimate source of all things, Thusness, must be considered empty in the sense that it transcends all our thought and expression. Thus, the middle path between the real and the non-real is identical with Thusness. Practically speaking, the middle path is the non-acquisitive attitude of looking at things indifferently and always avoiding a one-sided view. Therefore, the middle path does not lie in nihilism, realism, or absolute idealism, but in relativism. If all things are mutually interrelated and interdependent, thus making up a living whole, the absolute Buddha is everything and nothing exists outside of the Buddha. Everything, no matter how small it may be, is as real as everything else. The ultimate goal of each individual being is to realize the meaning of the oneness of all things, thus identifying self with all others.

From this point of view, it is claimed that Samsara, the actual physical world, is Nirvana, the ideal state; that ignorance is Enlightenment, and that evil is good. Consequently, Nirvana is not to be sought outside this world, which transient though it be, is, in reality, nothing other than Nirvana itself. It is wrong to imagine that there is Nirvana and here is Samsara, or that we can attain Nirvana only after we have annihilated and escaped the world of birth and death. Everyone is potentially the same; even a devil is endowed with the potentiality of Buddhahood and even a Buddha has the same nature as a devil. The difference between them is not one of inherent nature but one which is brought about by self-cultivation. If we are not hampered by our confused subjectivity, our worldly life is an activity of Nirvana itself. All things are manifestations of the absolute reality. They are inter-acting and inter-dependent making up the ultimate unity of the whole universe. All is in one and one in all. Thus, the whole universe is the harmonious activity of the universal mind, the absolute Buddha.

The Way to Enlightenment

In order to realize the harmonious activity of the whole, Gautama Buddha proposed the eightfold path, which is also called the Noble Middle Path:

  1. right view;
  2. right aspiration;
  3. right speech;
  4. right conduct;
  5. right mode of livelihood;
  6. right effort;
  7. right mindfulness;
  8. right meditation.

Right view is knowledge of suffering, of the origin of suffering, of the cessation of suffering. Right aspiration is to foster desire for emancipation from sensuality to arrive at a state of impersonal love which sublimates worldliness and evil desires. Right speech means abstention from lying, slander, unkind words and frivolous talk. Right conduct means to abstain from destroying life, stealing and indulging in wrongful gratification of the senses and to cultivate the heart of love towards the whole world. Right livelihood means to earn one's living in such a way as to cause no bad consequences. Right effort is a constant intellectual effort for realization of a tranquil state of mind: (a) to stop the rise of evil and sinful states which have not yet arisen; (b) to renounce the evil and sinful states which have already arisen; (c) to continue the good state of mind that has already arisen. Right mindfulness means to subdue covetousness and despondency in this world, considering the body as body, the sensations as sensations, the mind as mind, mental state as mental state, and above all, to be constantly conscious of their temporary nature which has no eternal reality. Right meditation is the attainment of the four stages of intent meditations, one after another. In the final stage of the latter, the purification of the mind which transcends sorrow and joy is attained through meditation.

Throughout the history of Buddhism, the highest virtue of all virtues is considered as that of wisdom with love, and the worst evil is ignorance or stupidity with hate. Buddha is considered as the embodiment of Enlightenment which means wisdom and love. Meditation, moral precepts, and wisdom are three learnings necessary to true Buddhists. Meditation means the unifying power of consciousness through which self transcends itself, both in a changing world within and without, thus keeping itself pure and serene. But such a transcending self must not remain as an isolated or secluded self. It must be identified with the universal mind in which wisdom and love prevail. In Buddhism, therefore, knowledge is not evaluated as being higher than, or even equal to, morality. Knowledge and morality must go together. Thus, the perfection of personality must manifest itself in six perfections:

  1. Charity;
  2. the observation of the moral precepts as formulated by Buddha;
  3. humility;
  4. strenuousness;
  5. contemplation;
  6. spiritual enlightenment.

There are ten evils we should not commit:

  1. Do not kill any living being:
  2. Do not take anything that does not belong to oneself:
  3. Do not look at the other sex with an unclean heart:
  4. Do not speak falsehood:
  5. Do not calumniate:
  6. Do not use evil language:
  7. Do not make sensational utterances:
  8. Do not be greedy:
  9. Do not get angry:
  10. Do not become confused by false doctrine.

These precepts are not much different from those of other religions. There is a famous story about Buddhism. Hakurakuten, a famous Chinese poet, once visited Reverend Choka, a famous priest, and asked 'What is Buddhism?' The saint replied by reciting the following Gatha:

Commit not wrong,
but good deeds do,
And let thy heart be pure.
All Buddhas teach this truth,
Which will forever endure.

Hakurakuten could not be satisfied with this answer because he had expected to hear some profounder teaching from the priest. Thereupon, he replied that this was a teaching that even a three year old child could understand. Upon which, the priest retorted that this teaching, simple though it was, still fell short of being realized even by a seventy year old man.

Union of Individual Self and the Buddha

According to philosophical Buddhism, all things are manifestations of Thusness, or the absolute mind, and Buddhahood or divinity is immanent in all things. Consequently, phenomenon is noumenon, ignorance is Enlightenment, and evil is good. All is one and one is all. All are the harmonious activity of the absolute. And everything, how small or insignificant it may be, plays an equally important role in the infinite structure of the universe. Everything is equally real and nothing is unreal. Scientific Buddhism asserts that all things are impermanent and have no entity whatsoever. Everything undergoes change and suffering. There is nothing really valuable. However, these apparently contradictory thoughts are actually mutually complementary in the realization of personality. Vasubandhu said in the Discourse on Buddhahood:

All sins are transformed into the constituents of Enlightenment!
The vicissitudes of Samsara are transformed into the beatitude of Nirvana!
All these came from the exercise of the great religious discipline!
Beyond our understanding, indeed, is the mystery of all Buddhas.

The profound meaning of the contradictory nature of life is understood only by Enlightened Ones through long moral and intellectual discipline. However, although Enlightenment may be realized to quite a complete degree, as long as we remain in this world, we must be subject to the changing law of this actual world. This world exists in terms of time and space and consequently changes and disappears. It is doomed to decay and destruction. Our ideal cannot be realized in this changing world but in the other world. Our hope and aspiration are in the eternal and immutable life. It is no wonder that when the Buddha referred to eternal consciousness, all his audience cheered and were overjoyed. To quote: The Lord Buddha continued: your Majesty! Though your face has become wrinkled, in the perception of your inner vision, there exist no signs of age, no wrinkles. Wrinkles, then, are the symbol of change, and the unwrinkled is the symbol of the unchanging. That which is changing must suffer destruction, of course, but the un-changing is naturally free from deaths and rebirths. How is it, Your Majesty, that the un-changing perception of Mind still believes in the illusion of deaths and rebirths and you still cling to the heretic teaching which claims that after the death of the body, everything is completely destroyed?

After listening to this wonderful instruction that implied that after one's death something survived to reappear in a new body, the King and the whole assembly were much cheered and filled with joy. It was a most interesting occasion. (Questions of King Prasenajit, Surangama).

The true ideal world that is eternal, immutable, universal after which our souls aspire, as Plato claimed, must be beyond this changing world. Such an eternal world has been established and is called Pure Land by Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha is a manifestation of the Dharmakaya or Thusness. The Dharmakaya is the Ultimate Law-Body which prevails in the whole world. It is the very essence of the whole world. It has been known as void in the sense that it transcends our thoughts and words. It is the ultimate source from which all things come and to which all things must return. Human beings must undergo constant change and suffering. Since we are thus chained helplessly to the wheel of change, there is no way by which we can attain the absolute world. On account of our hopeless sufferings, Amida Buddha came from the absolute world to save us from this world of birth and death. Amida Buddha is our Saviour and real Father in whom we ought to take refuge. Amida Buddha is absolute and eternal. He is always with us. Although we are surrounded by his infinite compassion, we cannot recognize him with our mortal eyes, because of our ignorance. It is through faith alone that we can commune with him.

To those who have faith in him, He offers the opportunity to become one with him. All that we need to do in order to be saved by him is to rely upon him and call his name, Namu Amida Butsu, which means absolute reliance upon Amida Buddha. All our thoughts and actions, as well as our natural feelings and emotions, however true and good they may seem, are rooted in our selfish sinful nature and eventually lead us to suffering. All our life is vanity and sin. All mortal beings are hopelessly doomed to the suffering of life and death. Only through absolute reliance upon the mercy of the Absolute can living beings become one with the same absolute Amida Buddha in the Pure Land after death. As far as man's belief in Amida Buddha is concerned, the Buddha is absolutely everything, while man is absolutely nothing. Amida Buddha is everything that we need to seek. Our eternal life through his salvation has been assured the very moment we put our faith in him. Through this mystical communion with Amida Buddha, we are assured of equality with Amida Buddha himself here in this present world.

To sum up, all things are void and empty in the sense that they consist of a series of causes and conditions, but on the other hand, they have cosmic significance in the sense that they participate in the universal law of cause and effect. The existence of external world is possible only through our conscious activity. Without conscious activity, there would be no recognition of the causal relation of all things. Nothing exists without consciousness. In this sense, the whole world of all things is something that the mind constructs. The common source of all things and all individual consciousness must be universal mind. The universal mind is the absolute Buddha and is called Dharmakaya. As long as it is supposed to be the absolute reality of the universe, it must be identical with the ultimate realities of all philosophies such as the absolute good of Plato, the absolute reason of Hegel, Brahman of the Upanishads, etc. All things are manifestations of the same Buddha and must be in harmonious accordance to make a living whole. It is our ultimate purpose to realize the oneness and identity of all things. All things, death as well as birth, must be accepted with serene equanimity. It is the teaching of the Zen sect that the ideal state of oneness of all things is realized through a moral and intellectual discipline. This method of the enlightenment has been followed by many high priests but ended in failure, because of the frailty of human nature. Our life is circumscribed by the actual physical changing world, while our inmost nature is always aspiring after the Absolute. Insurmountable contradictions exists in our very nature. The contradictions and weaknesses in our nature were poignantly experienced, throughout his long religious struggle, by Shinran. He showed us that there is only one way by which we are able to attain the ideal state and become Buddha; and he designated his teaching as the Jodo Shinshu.

We rely upon Amida Buddha with our whole heart.
We believe that the assurance of our eternal life through his salvation comes at the very moment we put our faith in him; and we call the name, Namu Amida Butsu, in happiness and thankfulness for his mercy.
We also acknowledge gratefully the benign benevolence of our founder and the succeeding masters who have led us to believe in this profound teaching; and we do now endeavour to follow throughout our lives the way laid down for us.

Shinran was born to the noble Fujiwara family, on 21 May 1173, in Kyoto at a period when the two military clans, Genji and Heike, were strug- gling to establish predominant power. The people were in a restless state of political and economic ferment due to the civil wars. When Shinran was a child, he was called Matsuwaka Maru. Due to some unknown cause of the social situation, he lost his father when he was four years old. When he was nine years old, his mother died. Deeply shocked by the untimely death of his parents, he was determined to become a Buddhist priest. One day, he was taken by his uncle to the venerable Jichin of a Buddhist monastery, Shoren-in, at the foot of Higashiyama, to be ordained. As it was late at night, the high priest told them that he would do it tomorrow. Thereupon, Matsuwaka Maru was very unhappy and wrote a verse on a piece of paper and handed it to the priest. It read:

Ah, vain to wait until the morrow!
Life, like the glorious cherry blossom,
In the morning might cease to be
Dispersed by the breath of the vagrant breeze.

The priest praised Matsuwaka Maru and ordaining him, renamed him, Hannen. He went to Mt. Hiei, a center of Buddhism at that time, and devoted his time and energy in absorbing the doctrines of Buddhism. As time went on, his study and his priestly rank advanced so rapidly that when he was only twenty-five years old, he was appointed the Chief Abbot of Shoko-in Monastery, and was regarded as being next in line for the abbotship of all the monasteries on Mt. Hiei. The Tendai monastery on Mt. Hiei was founded by Saicho (767-822). The Tendai teaching of Saicho was an absolute idealism which claimed that, since all things are manifestations of the absolute Buddha, all things therefore have Buddhahood as their true essence.

The ultimate purpose of man is to realize Buddhahood through incessant moral discipline and intellectual meditation. This ideal was not actually pursued in the monastery. On the contrary, monks were engaged in competition for advancement in priesthood by hierarchy of rank. It was a center of profane secular life rather than a spiritual center. After a severe spiritual and physical struggle of twenty years, Shinran was obliged to confess:

Though I try to calm my passions in meditation, lusts arise incessantly. Though I endeavor to see the clear moon of pure mind, the cloud of passions beclouds my vision. As soon as one breath is not followed by another, my life would be lost forever. How can I continue this fruitless moral discipline and intellectual studies which cannot extinguish love of this transient life?

Thus his spiritual struggle to attain Enlightenment by his own power ended in vain. He eventually discovered that all human beings are powerless to reach enlightenment, and that one has to take refuge in the supernatural power of Amida Buddha. Thereupon, he visited the venerable Honen at the Yoshimizu Monastery in Kyoto. Honen (1132-1212), the founder of the Jodo Shu, was very intelligent and pious in following the teaching of the Buddha. After studying and practicing Buddhism, he was converted to the teaching of the Pure Land by the guidance of the venerable Shan-tao. One day, Honen came across the famous sentence in the book, Sanzengi, written by Shan-tao:

Whenever and wherever one calls Namuami-dabutsu with his heart, this is the true decisive cause of Rebirth in His Pure Land, for it is in accordance with His Divine Vow.

He exclaimed, 'Truly then, this must be the only way by which ignorant persons like myself can be saved'. He wrote treatises on the Great Vows of Amida Butsu , and exhorted people to repeat the Nembutsu that enabled them to be born in the Pure Land, and thus became the founder of the Jodo Shu. Shinran was converted to the Jodo Shu by Honen when he was twenty-nine years old. Two years later, he married Princess Tamahi, a daughter of Prince Kanezane Kujo, the former premier, according to the advice of his teacher, Honen. This constituted an epoch making reformation of Buddhist life. Hithertofore, true Buddhist monks had to give up secular life, subsisting on a diet of vegetables and rice that precluded flesh foods, in order to realize pure spiritual life. Honen was a vegetarian and a celibate. For this reason, spiritual living was limited to a few people who could renounce secular life. Honen and Shinran found out that it was impossible to live pure spiritual lives as long as they remained in this world with physical bodies which are the very root of all carnal desires. Both of them confessed that their pure meditative life was often betrayed by carnal desires and secular passions no matter how strongly they endeavored to live according to the Noble Path. The point of their teaching was that one must face the natural facts of life and repent them in the light of Amida Buddha. With true understanding of the weakness of our life we must rely upon Amida Buddha for our salvation. Thus, the way of salvation of Amida Buddha was opened wide to all common people, both priests and laymen. Many people, both noble and common came to hear the teaching of Amida Buddha by Honen. The popularity of the Jodo Shu was looked upon with jealousy by the priests of the different sects. Finally, both Honen and Shinran were condemned and sentenced to be exiled to Tosa and Echigo when they were seventy-five and thirty-five years old respectively on the ground that the teaching of Amida Buddha insulted both Sakyamuni and the national Shinto Gods. Shinran took this condemnation as an opportunity to propagate the teaching of Amida Buddha among people in the remote country, saying, 'If I did not thus become exiled, how could I have had the opportunity to convert people of the remote provinces?' This also is a blessing of the venerable Master and Amida Buddha. They were pardoned after five years, but Shinran continued to preach the gospel of the Amida Buddha to those who lived in the northern and the eastern part of Japan until he was sixty years old. It was when he was fifty-two years old that he finished his famous work, Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, ('The Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Attainment'), at his rural residence in Hitachi Province and thereby established the canonical foundation of the Jodo Shin Shu.

From the age of sixty-two to ninety, when he died, Shinran incessantly preached and wrote many important books while living at Kyoto. During this time, he wandered about from one place to another in order to spread the teaching of Amida Buddha among the common people. On 16 January 1263, he died gratefully repeating Namu Amida Butsu up to the last minute.


The primary source of the teaching of the Jodo Shin Shu is the Jodo Sanbu-Kyo: the Larger Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, the Amitayur-dhyana Sutra, and the Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra. The teaching of the Buddha was transmitted through the seven high priests: Nagarjuna (100-200); and Vasubandhu (420-500) in India; T'an-luan (476-542), Tao-sh'ao (562-645) and Shan-tao (613-681) in China; and Genshin (942-1017) and Honen (1133-1212) in Japan. Therefore Shinran once said, 'I do not profess to teach any new and strange doctrine. I merely believe in the teaching of the Buddha and let other people believe in it too'. For this, however, we must not underestimate the originality and ingenuity with which Shinran systematized the vast teaching of the Jodo Shinshu and made it accessible to the common people. He showed us that all the teachings of Gautama Buddha were given as a means to lead all people to know the true meaning of the Jodo Sanbu-Kyo, the essentials of which are condensed into the Larger Sutra, the core of which consists in the forty-eight vows of Amida Buddha. The basis of theses vows is the Eighteenth Vow, the true meaning of which is nothing but Namu Amida Butsu which is the whole meaning of the Jodo Shinshu and of the whole teaching of the Buddha as well.

The Meaning of Namu Amida Butsu

Literally speaking, Amida Buddha means 'Infinite Light' (Amitabha) and 'Infinite Life' (Amitayus), or perfect wisdom and infinite compassion. Amida Buddha came from the absolute Buddha in response to the ideal demands of all sentient beings. The forty-eight vows of Amida Buddha are nothing but the ideal state that all sentient beings wish to attain. The absolute Buddha from which Amida manifests is called the Dharmakaya. It is the source of all beings. It is the universal law by which all things exist. Nothing exists without it. It is called Nirvana, Extinction, Quietude, Peace, Eternal, Bliss, Realness, Ultimate Law, Truth, Oneness, Tathagata, or Bud-dhahood. Buddhahood is immanent in all things. All things contain Buddhahood as their true nature. All things, even plants and animals, contain the inherent possibility to attain Buddhahood. From this absolute Buddha, which transcends all human thought and expression, appeared the omniscient and omnipotent Buddha, Amida, to save all suffering beings. Namu means to rely upon or believe in Amida. We came from the absolute Buddha, exist in him and return to him. Actually, we are suffering because of ignorance. Because of imperfection and suffering, Amida Buddha came to save us. Amida and all individual beings are the two polar aspects of the absolute Buddha. The one is the activity of the life principle while the other is the activity of the death principle. The more we fully and truly recognize the inevitable doom of our life, the more keenly we need to rely upon the salvation of Amida Buddha. In our inmost being, the more we feel the death principle, the more we feel the life principle. The salvation of Amida is to be considered universal and necessary, because it is the inherent activity of the absolute Buddha. Theoretically speaking, all of us, no matter how sinful we may be, are surrounded by the infinite love and compassion of Amida Buddha. Amid is immanent in us and is always with us. He manifests himself in manifold forms among living beings to save them from suffering. From this point of view, the Shinto and Christian Gods, for example, may be considered as manifestations of the same absolute Buddha. According to Shinshu Buddhology, the absolute Buddha, the law-body, manifests as the Amida, the Accommodated Law-body, and Amida, in turn, manifests as Sakyamuni, Gautama Buddha, in this world to save all beings with infinite compassion. The three bodies of the Buddha are one in their true nature of Wisdom, Truth and Love.

Faith in Amida Buddha (Namu Amida Butsu)

In the heart of all suffering beings, Amida Buddha manifests himself in the form of faith, or the absolute reliance on the infinite compassion or love. The infinite love of the absolute Buddha reveals itself in the form of the forty-eight vows of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, the potential Amida Buddha responding to the sufferings of all living beings. The Eighteenth Vow of the forty-eight vows assures all those who believe in Amida Buddha as follows:

Upon my attainment of Buddhahood, if sentient beings in the ten quarters, who have sincerity of heart, full Faith, and desire to be born in my land, who repeat my Name perhaps up to ten times, be not born therein, then may I not obtain the Great Enlightenment (Larger Sutra).

In accordance with these forty-eight vows, Amida Buddha established the Pure Land where all wishes and desires of all living beings are perfectly realized. All living beings who believe in Amida are allowed to enter into the Pure Land unconditionally. People are ignorant by their nature and are suffering from greed, anger, and folly. Amida, the embodiment of infinite love and compassion, manifests himself in the form of Faith in the absolute Buddha. Psychologically speaking, Faith takes two forms of consciousness - the absolute ignorance and suffering of one's own self, and the the consciousness of Amida Buddha who can save us with His infinite compassion. By the awakening of faith in the absolute power of Amida, sentient beings are assured of becoming the same Buddha in the Pure Land after death. In other words, they become potential Buddhas at the very moment they put their faith in Amida. As a sign of happiness and thankfulness for being assured of our salvation by faith in Amida Buddha, we should call the name of the Buddha, Namu Amida Butsu which means, literally, 'Faith in the Enlightened One of Infinite Light and Life'. In Shinran's time, repeating Namu Amida Butsu loudly was often construed as being a meritorious practice by which we could be born into the Pure Land. However, mere repetition of Namu Amida Butsu without faith is absolutely meaningless. But the enunciation of Namu Amida Butsu must be accompanied with sincere faith in Amida and must be attended in the spirit of happiness and thankfulness for his mercy.

Union of all Individual Selves and Buddha

Philosophically speaking, all individual beings come from the absolute Buddha and exist in the Buddha. All things cannot exist without the Universal Law, the Buddha. The Buddha is immanent in us all. The truth is that all are one with the Buddha. But in fact, since we are ignorant of the truth, we are antagonistic towards all others. Sympathising with the sufferings of all beings, the Buddha reveals himself in their hearts. Thus faith in Amida Buddha, the only condition of salvation for all beings, is worked out by Amida. Through faith in Amida, people are conscious of the oneness with the Buddha and gratefully call his name, Namu Amida Butsu. As it has been explained in the first part of this work, all things are changing and suffering. All living beings, without exception, are subject to the universal law of change and decay. All people are doomed to fall victims to disease, old age, and death. When these calamities befall any person, nobody else can help. When a boy dies, his mother cannot take his place. When a mother becomes old and dies, her son cannot take her place. Indeed, everybody comes into this world alone and dies alone. According to the teaching of the Buddha, the destiny of all beings is determined by their individual karmas, which means thoughts, words, and deeds. As energy is imperishable, the influence of all action is imperishable. Owing to the energy of karmas, a process of our changing world, samsara, continues in an endless cycle. Since each individual being is only a link in this endless cycle, we are doomed to tread the endless wheel of change and suffering. It is only Amida Buddha who transcends the iron law of karma to save us from this world. Through faith in Amida, all living beings are assured of eternal life in the Pure Land.

All People are Equally Saved

As has already been explained, all things are equally endowed with the potential for Buddha-hood. All beings are equal in their essential nature, but suffer because of ignorance and delusion. Differences in the degree of intellect of all living beings exist, but these differences in the ignorance and delusion of all living beings are infinitesimal compared to the standpoint of the perfect wisdom and infinite compassion of the absolute Buddha. All ignorant and sinful persons are saved by Amida. Thus sinner and saint are equally assured of salvation. Sinners, more conscious as they are of their ignorance and suffering, are all the more conscious of the loving power of Amida Buddha and are thus more favoured by His grace than the virtuous. Amida reveals himself to all beings in the form of faith. In this faith, suffering beings enter into direct communion with Amida. This faith in Amida-Buddha, therefore, is the living principle of Jodo Shin Shu.

Faith in Amida Buddha is Equally Given

One day when Shinran was studying with other disciples under the spiritual guidance of Honen, a severe dispute broke out among them concerning faith in Amida Buddha. Shinran claimed that his faith in Amida was the same with that of his teacher, Honen, while the other disciples accused him for his self-exaggerating assertion. But Shinran strongly insisted:

Why am I wrong? If I declared that my learning is as great as that of our teacher, I would be guilty of conceit and irreverence toward him. As for faith in Amida Buddha, our teacher used to teach us that faith in Amida is not the outcome of our self effort, but is given to us by the infinite compassion of the Buddha. Not only my faith and the faith of Honen, but the faiths of all persons are equal gifts given by the Buddha.

Thereupon Honen appeared and joined Shinran and spoke solemnly:

If faith is a matter of individual effort, it will necessarily vary according to the amount of effort put forth by the individual. But since faith is actually a gift bestowed through the grace of the Buddha, all persons, therefore, whether rich or poor, wise or ignorant, young or old, male or female, receive the one and the same faith from Amida Buddha. Therefore the faith of Shinran and I in Amida is absolutely the same.
The Teaching of Amidabutsu is Democratic

According to philosophical Buddhism, all beings are endowed with the same Buddhahood. The absolute Buddha, according to the religious doctrine of Buddhism, is revealed in the hearts of sentient beings in the form of faith in Amida. Consequently, all Buddhist followers are in equal relation to the Buddha. This is why Shinran once said that he did not have a single disciple, for those who believe in Amida Buddha are all equal followers of the Buddha and sons and daughters of the same real father, Amida. The teaching of the Buddha is based upon the principle of the oneness of all life and the idea of universal brotherhood. All things are changing and exist only temporarily, ephemeral is the nature of such worldly pursuits as wealth, fame, power, pleasure, excitement, etc. They are empty in their true nature. They have but imaginary existence which results from our ignorance. But as long as we live in this discriminative and relative world, we cannot neglect the physical world of vanity and illusion. We must try to establish this life and the world on the basis of universal principles and ideas. The social values of human life must not be determined by birth or by caste which was originally established for the benefit of a few privileged people. If all beings are born according to the universal law of nature and are endowed with the equal nature of Buddhahood, they are equally entitled to equal opportunity of all human values. The social value of human life, therefore, depends upon the consequences of the self-effort exerted by each person. This should be the true meaning of democracy.

The Worldly Things in the Light of Eternal Life

As Gautama Buddha gave up all worldly goods, such as his luxurious palace existence, and became a mendicant to live a wandering life, so did Shinran give up a life of nobility to spend his whole life as a poor itinerant priest. His long life of ninety years was a continuous spiritual struggle aimed at spreading of the teaching of the Buddha. By his preaching, he converted many people whom he met. He wrote many other works besides the Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Sho, the basic text of the Jodo Shin Shu, of which the most valuable are the Wasan, Japanese hymns on the Pure Land, the Pure Land patriarchs, and the Three Periods, in which he explained the whole of Buddhism written in Chinese in a series of plain Japanese poems. He confessed that even though he tried to live a pure spiritual life, in accordance with the moral precepts of the Gautama Buddha, his natural desires always betrayed him. He was so humble and honest that he called himself Gutoku which means an ignorant shaved priest. Before he died, he told his followers to throw his dead body into the Kamo River without ceremony so that fish might eat it. When he fell sick, he just repeated Namu Amida Butsu to the exclusion of everything else and, thus uttering the nembutsu, he passed away. Shinran believed in the teaching of the Buddha with his whole heart and tried to show his deep gratitude for this mercy by not only repeating Namu Amida Butsu but by endeavouring to teach it to other people through constant preaching and writing. Inspired by the infinite compassion of Amida Buddha he believed in tariki, salvation by 'Other Power', and he never spared time and energy in serving the Buddha and the people.

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