Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amida Who?

Before I proceed, I must state that in no way am I an expert on Buddhism, or anything for that matter. I am neither priest, monk, teacher, or role model for any aspiring Buddhist or seeker of truth. I am not affiliated with the Jodo Shu or Jodo Shinshu sects, though I owe a great debt to the founders and practioners of these great schools of Buddhism. I follow the path of Jodo Zen. My practice consists of the meditative chanting of the Nembutsu and the sutras, mindfulness of the Buddha, meditation, and the nourishment of my Buddha Nature. I believe that all beings can and DO attain Enlightenment, and that the attainment of Enlightenment or Awakening, and the manifestation of the Pure Land, can and does occur in this present life, in this Saha World. We CAN and DO change our Karma by our practice of Buddhism. Negative Karma can be changed, or "cut" by the manifestation of our own inherent Buddhahood. The ideas and opinions expressed in this BLOG are exactly that-my ideas and opinions. That being said, I pose this question: Who, or WHAT is Amida Buddha?

The sheer volume of Buddhist literature, both on the Internet and in print, is staggering. Every sect’s teaching, every Buddhist school of thought or opinion can be found quite easily. It would indeed take a lifetime to read every Buddhist sutra, essay, treatise, commentary, opinion, etc. It boggles my limited mind. It is commonly said in Buddhism that the Buddha left 84,000 teachings. 84,000 ways to Enlightenment. See what I mean?

If you research contemporary Pure Land Buddhism, you also meet a great diversity in thought and practice. As in Christianity, there are believers whose approach to faith swings from the most literal and "fundamentalist" interpretion of the Sutras to the most broad and esoteric. I am currently somewhere in the middle.

Amida...Amitabha...the Buddha of Infinite Boundless Light and Eternal Life....the Buddha whose Light reaches and illuminates all beings in the ten directions of the universe. Was, or IS Amida a real, historic person? Who can say with any certainty. My answer would be yes and no. Mahayana Buddhism teaches that the Buddha consists of three distinct yet unified bodies. The first body is the Darmakaya , or the Absolute. It is the source of everything including buddha activity, and is not different from the Void (Skt. shunyata, Emptiness.) It is not usually experienced except by fully realized beings. It is not normally "prayed to," though it is saluted or praised. Its nature is the subject of much discussion. The Second Body, the Sambhogakaya, or Bliss Body, can only be seen by beings of pure mind such as great realized beings. The Buddha Amida, as He exists in imagery in His Pure Land, is the Sambhogakaya. The third body, the Nirmanakaya, is the physical, human expression of Buddha. Shakyamuni is considered to be the Nirmanakaya. I believe Anmida was/is "real", in that I accept the belief that Amida is a personification of the Dharmakaya, the incomprehinsible reality of the universe. Because the Dharmakays is intangible, "empty," unformed and unborn, it cannot be grasped by our human minds. Descriptions of what the dharmakaya actually IS and IS NOT could fill volumes and still never touch the true nature of what "IT" actually is. I believe that the Dharmakaya is the Ultimate Reality of the universe, the True Nature encompasing all beings (whether sentient or insentient) and phenomonon. IT is incomprehensible love and compassion. The Dharmakaya, I believe, is both impersonal in that it is a force inhabiting EVERYTHING, and also personal, in that it can manifest it's self in any form out of boundless love and compassion (such as Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Saints and Messiahs), to bring all beings to spiritual enlightenment according to their culture and spiritual capacity.

Since the Dharmakaya is all beings, phenomenon, etc., It is something of a "collective, " the one in many and the many in one." The various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Saints, Messiahs, etc., are manifested by this great force of love and compassion. For our purposes, as Buddhists in this Saha World, Shakyamuni Buddha is the incarnation or emanitation of Amida, as previously mentioned, the Nirmanakaya, the third of the Three Bodies of the Buddha. The three bodies of Amida, unified, are for me, the Ultimate, the Personication of this great Universal Entity, this Universal Consciousness. Amida Buddha also represents our own innate Buddha Nature. Buddha Nature, let it be said, is not limited to humans, but exists within animals, plants, insects, bacteria and viruses, stars, planets, black holes, and so on and so on. The Buddha and the Pure Land are one....they are Enlightenment.

When we chant the Nembutsu, Namu Amida Butsu, we become one with Amida, our Buddha Nature. Our mind becomes Amida's Mind. We manifest our Buddha Nature in it's highest expression. Amida IS Enlightenment. WE, ourselves, become Amida Buddha-Enlightenment. As we unite ourselves more and more with Amida (Buddha Nature, Universal/Cosmic Buddha) there is a shift in our Ichinen, or our basic life Condition as taught in the Tendai Lotus School's Doctrine of Ichinen Sanzen. Our fundamental reality becomes Buddha, therefore transforming our environment into the Pure Land. Do you go to the heavenly Pure Land and become a Buddha when you die? I don't know. I believe that rebirth into the Pure Land is a "here and now" transormation of our consciousness and of our perception of the environment, based upon our own Satori (Awakening) and shift of our Ichinen to that of Buddha. There are those who would agree with me on this, and those who take a different point of view. Diversity in thought is what makes life so precious.
I try not to sit around and ruminate on all of the theoretical and esoteric aspects of this great philosophy, as I find it sets up "speed bumps" of confusion in my mind, and distracts me from the process of "realizing" Awakening.

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