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Visions of the Pure Land: Meditations on Millenarian Buddhism #1 

Vision of the Pure Land: 

The stars are in our eyes, and the sun too, followed closely by the moon, in deep blue, or brown, or green gilded cages that contain everything really because these cages are eyes, and these of ours, are the eyes of hidden Buddhas. Though we may think otherwise, it is so because we cannot see our pure reflection under layers of thick silt and grimey dust, not because it isn’t there! This silt and dust, the silts and dusts of our worldly desires  that come to haunt us and plague us, wearing us down daily with all sorts of birthes and deathes, sicknesses and the dreariness of old age, filling us with all sorts of ignorant and defiled logic, saying to ourselves:

“oh in this day and age to practice the Dharma is much too difficult.. best to leave it to the “professionals”…best to leave it to the Dalai Lama”

But all it is, and all everything really is is dust, dust creating ignorance that puts up all sorts of barriers like greed and lust so we cannot see the true potential of our own Buddha-Nature. Siddhartha might have been a great and virtuous person, but that is all he was, a person, and we, we who are reading this are all persons too, individual persons with individual virtues and merits, and each and every one of us can be just as great as Siddhartha, all we must do is witness our pure Buddha-Body underneath all this ignorant dust. Like the old Zen riddle goes, what is your face before you were born, just remember “Buddha” and “Tathagata” are just titles, titles that we too can carry, even the most defiled of us, so long as we blow off all this gathered dust and give into the will of compassion and knowledge contained within the Dharma and practice it earnestly, to the best of our individual potentials.

“Buddha” is just a title

A title that anyone can have

Turning away from the dust

So long as they practice the Dharma

Dilligently, they too become Buddhas themselves

Be weary that in this life

The “professionals” aren’t just thieves

Done up in the helpless robes of beggars

Just to hide the handle of their knife

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Reflections of the Precious Mirror


Reflections in the precious mirror:

How much can we cherish the things that gather dust in this realm? Yesterday bowing at the temple gates, tomorrow basking in the ruins, taking photos as a tourist. So it is, even great megalithic statues of Glass and jewel covered Buddhas crack, even more so, do the mortal beings who erect them, and venerate them. No worldly glass lasts forever, karma is a smelter melting everything down eventually, the only pure glass which it cannot break down is the Nembutsu.

Likewise those beings who take up the practice of the Nembutsu, take up this position of unbreakable glass so long as they hold it up and use it to reflect themselves and their inherent Buddha-nature. Their karmic evils will be erased with one pure thought, one pure reflection of Amitabha’s compassion. They see the dust that covers them and shake it off to reveal their glorious Dharmakaya bodies glittering gold just like the sutras state. This is faith in the Pure Land, and it is extremely difficult, given the numerous afflictions of ordinary beings, and yet it is for us loathsome and defiled beings that the Pure Land exists, therefore hold faith high and above all things, treat the Nembutsu like you would your own mother, with utter devotion until the very end when you see those oh so glorious gates of the Pure Land.

The mirror having become a lake

Lets shine in, the moon and all its beauty

With two fingers outstretched to the sky

Saying “why they’re both just reflections”

Knowing that a stone 

Can only ripple this reflection

No boulder am I afraid of

Nor tigers fangs behind me

Just to ruin this here reflection

Of a hairless ape practicing Dharma

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A Fox Spirit with A Stolen Sword of Virtue

We are all defiled beings, each and every one of us who are caught up in this world of birth and death, spare the odd reincarnated Bodhisattva, during the age of the Dharma’s Decline. If this were not the case, we would not be born into such a world of defilement nor would we have a strong attachment to these defilements. Thus we endure, in countless forms, following countless karmas, that lead to countless births and deaths that lead to countless sufferings. Rare is it for beings to encounter the Dharma, but rarer still, are beings who practice the Dharma, and successfully escape this world of suffering. For many beings, our heavy karmic weight makes encountering the True Dharma very difficult, this is even more the case when it comes to practicing the True Dharma. For us, defiled and ignorant beings so lucky to have encountered the True Dharma because of our karmic merit, no greater practice exists then the Nembutsu, which offers salvation to us deluded beings through the compassion of Amitabha which extends to all beings, pure or defiled, who earnestly chant the name of Amitabha and vow to be reborn into his Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Despite all this, generating faith in the Pure Land, here in the west especially, is increasingly difficult, for not only are we beings filled to the brim with the three poisons, anger, greed, and ignorance, Buddhism, and spirituality as a whole are alien to us, they are concepts which are foreign, which we do not necessarily understand or even wish to include in our daily idle lives of constant suffering. To make an ignorant being mindful of its own ignorance is a difficult task, harder still then, is to convince this ignorant being of their own inherent Buddha-Nature under the muck of defilement, and of a Pure Land which they can be born into, no matter their karma, which does not discriminate and is free of all defilement. Ignorant as I am, I have only this one wish, that all defiled beings living in this world of suffering, take up aspirations to be reborn into the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. Defiled as I am, I offer the way to beings just as defiled, which is the Nembutsu and faith in the compassion of Amitabha. Like a fox spirit with a stolen sword of virtue, my wisdom exceeds me and comes from other sources, but it also makes me stronger. My faith alone, in the compassion of Amitabha, allows me to continue on my Dharma Path. I have no Sangha to fall back on, nor a teacher to follow and press my doubts upon, however knowing that Amitabha’s compassion extends to all beings without discrimination, is enough for me to take up the Pure Land Path, and urge beings everywhere to practice the Nembutsu and take up vows to be reborn into the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. A warning however, for I am neither monk nor layperson nor do I aspire for any typical titles that follow around dusty robes, I am a Kitsune with a stolen sword of virtue, who hides out by forest shrines and whose favorite food is fried tofu. Knowing this, take what I say with a grain of salt, it could be mere trickery or it could be some divine message.

Fill my belly up

With fried tofu and faith

That the compassion of Amitabha

Extends out to all defiled beings

Who earnestly chant his name

And take refuge in his Pure Land

Even me, some lowly fox spirit

With this here stolen Sword of Virtue

Taken from the graves of ancient Pure Land Sages

Now covered in fox slobber

Free Resources For Pure Land Buddhist Practice

http://www.budaedu.org

this site offers up many free hard copy texts, including valuable sutras such as the Pure Land Sutras and the Lotus Sutra in multiple languages

http://www.purelandsutras.wordpress.com

a valuable resource for amazing english translations of the Sutras (pdf versions) and beautiful poetry about Pure Land Buddhism
http://www.shinranworks.com

an online collection of the works by Shinran Shonin, my personal inspiration for taking up and living the path of Pure Land Buddhism.

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Living Simply in the Dharma-Ending Age pt. 2

Living simply in the Dharma-Ending age means making our only attachment , the Nembutsu. All other things, all other practices become secondary to our chanting of Amitabha’s name. This is developing a True Entrusting in the Primal Vows of Amitabha.

 If we can become assured of our rebirth in the Pure Land, we can also be assured that in that Pure Land, the most splendid of things we can think of, delicious food, beautiful clothing and sensuous perfumes, will appear instantaneously before us. This being the case, why worry about our external appearance, chasing luxuries and vanities around in this world of dust? Instead of suffering because we chase carelessly our inherent and ignorant desires, we should learn the bliss that can be awarded simply by developing a True Faith in vowing to be reborn into the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. 

Living simply in  the Dharma-Ending age, means we are beings who are bound to the 6 realms of suffering. This being the case, our interactions in this world of dust must follow this simplicity. If we must buy clothes, buy used clothing, for their karmic weight is much less then that of new clothing, which often is made in poor conditions, under much suffering. This is what is meant by living simply in the Dharma-Ending age, not coveting appearance, but faith. When we make offerings to the Buddha, such as flowers and incense, do not be fooled that the quality or the quantity of these offerings creates merit, rather it is our genuine effort in making an offering that generates merit. Knowing this, one need not the most expensive bouquets of exotic rare flowers or the most luxurious of incense or even an extravagant statue of the Buddha to make offerings to, in fact, a pile of rocks is perfectly fine and a bouquet of fresh picked seasonal wildflowers and dried up herbs to use as incense is enough when one has developed a True Entrusting in Amitabha. 

With a mind focused

On the western land of Amitabha

Cherish not this body with its wants

Nor your karma, your riches nor your wealth

Give up your idea of possession and self

Your sword now unsheathed, Let ego know

What  effort looks like with a slash,

A simple Cut;

Give up on this world of dust.

 Go pick fresh wildflowers and fragrant herbs

 And drink from dewdrops on the moon

The most simple path, is the most accessible path, yet it is our effort on that path, and not the quality of it nor the quantity of time spent on it. Effort surpasses both quality and quanity. Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma what kind of merit he could expect for building many grand Buddhist temples and pagodas, Bodhidharma simply replied “No merit”. Though the Buddhist halls and shrines that Emperor Wu built might have been extravagant in their quality and quantity, Bodhidharma only saw effort. Therefore only when we generate a True Effort in our Buddha name chanting, can we start to live simply in the Dharma-Ending Age. We can do this because we have no more doubts about our rebirth in the Pure Land, we are assured because of our effort  and True Entrusting in Amitabha.

Emperor Wu

With all his palaces and pagodas

Had less merit then he thought

If only he had known

The name of Amitabha,

He’d have given up his kingdom 

To the thinnest horse-hair

Floating in the realm

Of oblivion

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Living Simply in the Dharma-Ending Age Pt. 1

In this age of the Dharma’s decline, there are numerous afflictions that can get in the way of our Dharma Cultivation. We can grow attached to material things, worldly views and bad practices, not because we are fond of slandering the Dharma, but because we are ignorant of our own views. We worry tirelessly over trivial affairs, while failing to notice that the supermundane, is also the most simple.

No practice, in all of the Buddha’s teachings, is as simple as saying the name of Amitabha, and its simplicity alone, is what makes it so supermundane, for all beings with the capacity to chant “Amitabha Buddha” will be reborn into his pure land. One doesn’t have to be a monk, or even a layperson in a particular Sangha, one only needs to have developed a True Entrusting in their faith in Amitabha. When one fully develops their faith, they can practice the name chanting method at all moments, under any circumstance. This is what the great Pure Land Masters meant when they said such things like one should “chant the name, morning and night, while sitting, standing or lying down, while drinking/eating or going to the bathroom etc.”  or they give absurd numbers like 10,000 repetitions of Amitabha for daily practice. The masters are urging us ignorant beings to generate our True Entrusting in Amitabha, which when developed, is so simple that one is at any time, benefiting from its method and achieving its results.

In our own practice, we should make Buddha Remembrance and Buddha Recitation (Nembutsu), our primary method. It is so simple and profound, that all beings can benefit from its cultivation, from us defiled human beings to ignorant animals and hungry ghosts. When we develop True Entrusting in our Faith in Amitabha, we vow to be reborn into his land of Ultimate Bliss. This being the case, our attachment to this world of dust shatters; we can see all things for what they are, delusions. What we gain from our practice of chanting the name of Amitabha, this understanding of delusion, we must transfer into our day to day lives. We must learn to live simply in the Dharma-Ending Age.

The most simple

Is also the most profound;

Every single snowflake different

Yet all melt in an open palm,

When one has True entrusting

No matter the ocean or the puddle

The true students dives

Where there’s water to jump into