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This blog is devoted to the propagation of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, a 750-year-old Buddhist tradition.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Smaller Sutra on Amida Buddha

The Smaller Sutra on Amida Buddha, also known as the Amida Sutra (Amidakyo) is the last of the three Pure Land Sutras that make up the principal Dharma texts of the Jodo Shin School of Pure Land Buddhism. It is a very brief sutra, and it is typically chanted during funeral services at Shinshu temples (also Shoshinge is sometimes used instead). This sutra contanis another description of the glories of the Pure Land, and then a longer recitation of the Buddhas in the ten directions who witness the validity of the Pure Land and Amida’s Vow to bring all sentient beings there. At its conclusion, the Buddha proclaims to Sariputra that this sutra is the most difficult to accept in faith; in fact, he repeats this assertion at least twice in the text. Importantly, the Buddha emphasizes that those individuals who have taken refuge in the Vow of Amida Buddha, and aspire to be born in the Pure Land, dwell in the stage of Non-Retrogression, thereby not falling back into the cycle of birth-and-death.

“Sariputra, those who have already aspired, now aspire or in the future will aspire to be born in the land of Amida Buddha, all dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression for realizing the highest, perfect Enlightenment. They have already been born, are now being born, or will be born in that land. Hence, Sariputra, good men and women of faith should aspire to be born there.” Inagaki translation, p. 359.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus

The Jodo Shin School upholds three sutras as its principal Dharma texts. One is the Larger Sutra on Amitayus (another name for Amida), and the second is the Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus. The Larger Sutra is the most important one, as it contains the story of Dharmakara Bodhisattva and the 48 Vows (see the Juseige below) including the 18th Vow, which is the basis of Shinran Shonin's thought. The Contemplation Sutra as it is also known, contains the story of Prince Ajatasatru's usurpation of the throne of his father, King Bimbisara of Rajagriha, one of the Buddha's royal followers, and his mother Queen Vaidehi's imprisonment; these events resulted in her taking refuge in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha.

Much of the text contains instructions on the visualization of the elements of the Pure Land; while very interesting in its detailed description,Shin Buddhism does not maintain that we must actually practice these visualization techniques (although they may be practiced in other Pure Land schools); our understanding of this sutra lies in the inspirational story of Queen Vaidehi and also the other participants in this story, including the "evil" Prince Ajatasatru. Shinran Shonin maintained that these all principals acted for our benefit to understand Amida Buddha's Great Compassion for people of evil karma, which is ourselves.

"If good men or women simply hear the Name of this Buddha or the names of the two bodhisattvas, the evil karma which they have committed during innumerable kalpas of Samsara will be extinguished...You should know that all who are mindful of that Buddha are like white lotus-flowers among humankind; the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara [Kannon] and Mahasthamaprapta [Seishi] become their good friends. They will sit in the place of Enlightenment and be born into the family of the Buddhas."
- Inagaki translation, pp.349-350.
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