Question & Answer


Today, let me first excuse why I am so busy.  I am busy because I seldom say "no" when people ask me to do.  Also I am busy because I try to answer the various questions about Jodo Shu from various people in the world.  I often receive questions via email.  Honestly speaking, I have some letters, emails, and comments that I haven't replied yet.  But I will want to do when I feel "it's free time."


So from now on, I will pick up the question and answer here at my blog.     Sometims it might take time to answer your questions but I will try to do my best to reply when I have free time. 





I am interested in Jodo Shu Buddhism. I have sort of been wandering around trying to find my path, but since I am now xxx.  I need to choose before I die. I am considering following Jodo Shu, but I have some doubts that I hope can be answered if you have the time.
> My doubt is regarding Amida Tataghata. I am attracted to Amida's Dharma and the sutras of Amida, but I am having a hard time accepting that Amida Buddha existed before the Big Bang that formed our universe. So my question is are there any rational proofs of the existence of Amida Buddha? I only ask so I can settle my mind and be able to take faith in Amida Buddha.
> My other question is when we go to the Pure Land are we assured that we will attain Buddhahood there?
> Thank you for your time


Answer (I hope I answered the question):


Thank you so much for your email.  I am also grateful to know your interest in Jodo Shu.


As you know, everything, anybody, anything exist according to the law of universe, which we call "cause and effect" in Buddhism (originally Brahmanism).  "Cause and effect" or just  causality is a very basic idea not only for the key teachings of Buddhism but also science.  "Cause and effect" is actually not so simple.  Even a tiny result of the tiny event has so many various multiple causes. 

In a sense, all the studies of human being try to find out what are causes.   The results to search for the reasons or causes have become incredibly huge amount of knowledge today.


I think all the religions, too, try to find what are causes of life or the reasons of life.  And all the religions have worked very hard for our human being to show their answers.

What is very important is, I think, their doctrines or teachings are their final answers.  In  their long histories of searching the answers, they got to the ultimate point where you can have no more answers.  This means....if you keep searching the reasons of existence of God, you will eventually get to the point.  The final answer is whether you simply believe it or not.   Same is true to Amida Buddha.    Existence of Amida Buddha is ultimately based on my belief or your belief.  


If we study its history or the process to find answers, we can know their final answers came from one thing.   That is, I think, contradiction.

For example, the famous paradox of "hen or egg"   A Hen is born from an egg. At the same time, a hen produces an egg.   Which came first?"   Similar paradox is "seed" or "flower."   Flower is a result of the cause of the seed.  At the same time, the seed is a result of the cause of the flower.


If we keep asking the causes of life, we come to this paradox which seems to be impossible to answer. So this paradox is a final answer of the life.    How do we understand it?   This is what religions want to teach.

I don't know how other religions answer in detail.  But as a minister of Jodo Shu, I have understood it in this way.   


As the word "Amida" originally means "cannot measure/cannot meter",  we cannot measure the life.    Life is mystery which consists of a contradiction of two opposites things. That is,  Birth and Death.  Birth and death are two things if we think of each action of birth and death.  However, if we think "life and death" as one, instantly we can have a perspective. 

What we need is to stop the question of paradox.   We need to accept "the paradox of life and death" as mystery or unanswered.  In other words, to accept paradox means to sop the question of why?


Needless to say, we all want to know the reason, always.  As a result, we ask "why?" or "how come?"  However, as soon as you start asking why, you will never ever get to the true answer.  The answer which you have toward the question why, is always a temporary one or just your satisfaction.   Depending on the level of satisfaction, they can make another question why?  No matter what good answer you may produce, you can be asked why?


Here is a quote from my favorite Jungian psychologist, the late Dr. Hayao Kawai


"If someone's beloved-one were run over by the car, and unfortunately he died. 

Then his wife make a question "Why my husband died?"  


Then, the person who saw this accident would answer "he died because of being run over."   

On the other hand, a medical doctor would answer objectively,  "He died because of  excessive loss of blood."   


Then later, police might say, "because the diver was drunk, that's why your husband was run over."   

There could be many reasons.

However, Dr. Hayao Kawai pointed out all the possible answers were not direct answers to the question "why."    They didn't answer why.  They all answered to the question "what was his death?" or "what made him die?"    No one answered the question why.   Because no one cannot answer the question why, they naturally change the question "why" to "what" or sometimes "why" to "how."   So instead of answering "why he died?"  They changed the question to "What made him die?" "how he died" and "what was his death?"


Dr. Kawai concluded, our technology or modern science has been improved and developed by changing the question of why to "what" and "how."   However, the true reason of why we are born and why we die remain unanswered.  That's why religions exist.

So back to your question....any rational proofs of the existence of Amida Buddha before Big Bang.


My answer is how about changing the question from the different viewpoint?  Once again, "Amida" means "cannot measure."  Then what does it mean?  What is the meaning of "cannot measure". 

By thinking the meaning of "cannot measure", we will know what "Amida" really mean.

I always preach, "Amida" or "cannot measure" means "it's beyond our imagination" , "beyond our understanding"  or simply we cannot understand it.   This means our human being can not ever prove the existence of Amida Buddha before Big Bang.  Also we cannot prove the right answer of "hen or egg."  They are simply beyond our imagination.


No matter how many days or months or years we will spend, we cannot ever persuade everyone to believe the existence of Amida Buddha or Big Bang.   This simply means no amount of reasoning has any effect on everybody.

In this sense, Shakyamuni Buddha was very true.   He rejected the question such as "whether there exist soul or not" or "there exist the world after death."   He knew the discussion to prove the existence of soul would be waste of time.   No matter how many years they discuss, they cannot prove the world after death. 


For Shakyamuni Buddha, how people can live happily was much more important than discussions which were impossible to prove.


Well, this is all about the reason how our tradition Jodo Buddhism or Mahayana Buddhism was born after several hundred years of the great Nirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha.  I deeply believe our tradition is one of the important answers to the unfinished business of Shakyamuni Buddha.  As people get to live longer life, we all need to believe where we are going after this life. 

Although we cannot prove, we can believe.(It's very interesting when Mahayana Buddhism was born, the Jesus was born.   I have on-going study about this topic.)

But we cannot prove existence of God, Buddha, Heaven, or Pure Land. 


Where are we going after death  is all up to the belief of the person.   We can sure go to that land, if we really sincerely wish to go there.


The second question, my answer is "yes."  I want to quote "Ojoyoshu" by Genshin in the very very near future.





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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Gary Link (Monday, 12 May 2014 05:52)

    Thank you Ishikawa Sensei for such a clear and thought-provoking answer. It is very common to hear questions like this asked, not only from those new to Jodo Shu but also those who have been Jodo Buddhists for some time. I hope you can continue to post these emails to your blog. They will benefit many of us with the same concerns.