Q & A 1. Are there any rational proofs of the existence of Amida Buddha?

Question

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.
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> 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.
 
 > Thank you for your time

 

Answer:

 

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.

Q & A When we go to the Pure Land are we assured that we will attain Buddhahood there?

Question:

 When we go to the Pure Land are we assured that we will attain Buddhahood there?

 

Answer:  

My answer is yes.   But again, there is no way to prove it in rational manners.   Ultimately it's all up to our own faith.   In this case, the faith in attaining Buddhahood there is based upon the various Mahayana sutras.

I think what is rational is the fact there is no rationality in this world.   What we think rational is just "agreement" among our human beings, though it sounds  true.   However, there will be no proof once we doubt it.   On the other hand, once we believe it, anything could be true.  The truth is, it's always "hard to believe" and at the same time "easy to doubt."  

 

Master Honen put it simply  , " Your own firmly set mindKetsujo-shin決定心) creates the conditions for your birth [in the western land  (Pure Land)].   If you don't grasp that fact, then your birth is uncertain.  If you doubt it, then it's not assured.  If you believe your birth to be certain, then it is assured."  (Page 17, Words of Dharma / Words of Honen Shonin Chapter 11, Volume 1)

 

So it's supposed to be very simple.  But believing is not that  easy.  What we need is both wisdom and knowledge.   We  need a practice just for believing, which I call it "wisdom."   And at the same time, we need knowledge.   We'd better know what kind of world or realm the Pure Land is.  The more we know about pure land, the more we are going to be attracted.    If we compare description of the pure land with that of the heaven,  pure land is more attractive. Sometimes knowledge alone solve the question.  Sometimes knowledge helps the wisdom.   So let me write a little knowledge about  pure land first.

Generally speaking, the world of pure land is described mainly in the Pure Land  Sutras, however,  amazing characteristics of Amida's Pure Land were excellently summarized in the collections of "Ojyoyoshu" by Eshin-sozu Genshin (942-1017) in 985.  Ojyoyoshu literally means "Essential Collections of the Birth in the Pure Land."

 

Genshin picked up descriptions of the Amida's Pure Land from different sutras and commentaries from Mahayana Buddhist masters.    According to Genshin,  30 merits of the pure land were listed in "Gungiron" and 24 joys were also listed in Ankokusho.  Then Genshin listed 10 pleasures of the pure land of Amida Buddha.   They are known as "Jodo no Jyu (10) Raku (pleasure)" or 10 pleasures of the pure land which were explained attractively and easily by Genshin.  

 

If we can rely on these knowledge of 10 pleasuers , we can be assured, even now, that we will attain Buddhahood there.   10 pleasures of the pure land are as follows;

 

1. Shoju Raiko no Raku聖衆来迎の楽  (Pleasure of Amida's Welcome)

At the time of death, Amida Buddha along with Bodhisattvas and Satins, including Kwannon and Seishi, is coming to welcome the Nenbutsu practitioner  to his pure land.

 

2. Renge-shokai no Raku蓮華初開の楽  (Pleasure of the first blossom of the lotus)

At the time of your arrival at pure land, pure and beautiful lotus flower is blooming for you.  It is in the lotus flower where you are born in the pure land.

 

3. Shinso Jinzuu no Raku身相神通の楽 (Pleasure of the amazing characteristics of the body and ability)

Those who attained Ojo have beautiful appearance which is one of the characteristics of Buddha's features.  They can have amazing physical visions and hearing so that they know everything in the past and present.   They can go anywhere they like.

4. Gomyo Kyogai no Raku 五妙境界の楽 (Pleasure of supreme  states of five senses)

According to Mahayana tradition, five senses of human being, to see, to hear, to smell, to taste and to feel, are expressed as Color (to see), Voice( to hear), fragrance( to smell) and flavor (to taste).  These five senses will be the supreme ones beyond description in the pure land.

 

5.  Keraku Mutai no Raku 快楽無退の楽  (Pleasure of no recession of pleasures)

Because there is no cause of the suffering, there is nothing but pleasure in the pure land.  Pleasures which people enjoy in the pure land is not temporary.  They last forever.

 

6. Injyo Kechien no Raku 引接結縁の楽 (Pleasure of leading people (who are related to you) to the Pure Land)

In this life, we cannot do what we wish to do.   Though children want to repay an obligation what  they received from parents, but parents cannot always wait (they usually die before children want to take care.)   We have so many people that we are indebted.  However, the people who are born in the pure land can also have their family and friends to be born there.   

7. Shoju kue no Raku聖衆倶会の楽 (Pleasure of meeting Saints who are all Bodhisattvas)

It is written in Amida Kyo.  "People who hear about Amida Buddha and his  pure land,  should wish to be born in the land.  Why Because they are able to see all the saints or Bodhisattvas in one place."

The people who are born in the pure land can meet Bodhisattvas and saints , including famous Kwannon and Seishi.   People in the pure land can directly prostrate them and also can talk  like friends to them.

 

8. Kenbutsu Monpo no Raku 見仏聞法の楽 (Pleasure of meeting and listening to the Amida Buddha)

In this life, it's very (super) hard to view Amida Buddha.  The chance of meeting Buddha's teachings is very rare.   Percentage is like there is a wood which has a hole floating in the vast ocean.   Then a blind turtle come up to the ocean (*I think once in 100 years) and happen to enter that hole.  The chance to meet the Buddha's teaching is very rare like this.   Much more difficult to view Buddha in this life.  However,  the people who are born in the pure land can directly see Amida Buddha and listen to his teachings.

9. Zuishin Kubutsu no Raku随心供仏の楽 (Pleasure of offering directly to Buddha as you wish.)

The people who are born in to the pure land can offer heavenly flower to Amida Buddha six times a day.     To not only Amida Buddha, they can also offer flower to various Buddhas anytime as they wish to do. 

 

10.  Zoshin Butsudo no Raku 増進仏道の楽 (Pleasure of advancement of the path to the highest enlightenment)

In this life, it's very difficult to get fruits of practice, because there are always obstacles there.  Those who  are suffering stick to their egos.  Those who are enjoying  the pleasures, they stick to the pleasures.   These egos make it very difficult to walk the path to the enlightenment.   But the people who are born in the pure land can walk the path to the highest enlightenment. 

 

Genshin pointed out five reasons that made it possible to achieve the highest enlightenment.

 

1.  Amida Buddha's compassion

2.  Amida Buddha's Infinite Light

3.  Various sounds in the pure land, such as sounds from birds, wind, and river always preach.

4.  No bad reasons and bad friends.   Only Bodhisattvas.

5. Eternal life...one can keep practicing toward the practice without having repetition of birth and death.   

 

 

Now back to the assurance of attaining Buddhahood in the pure land.  I think you asked this question not because you want to know my answer but because you want to have "second" to go forward the Nenbutsu path.    So I just want to encourage your continued practice.

The wise people tend to reject to have knowledge anymore, which is not wrong.  Being wise never mean lots of knowledge.   Lots of knowledge never means being wise.    However being always open-minded toward the knowledge, we may attain the higher level of wisdom.   At the same time, by being mindful of the wisdom, we can accept more knowledge.   I think what we need is well-balanced of both knowledge and wisdom.    This is exactly like the relationship of "practice" and "faith", if they work together, Ojo (the attainment of the pure land ) will be certain.

 

I imagine Master Honen would answer your question like this, " If you believe your attaining Buddhahood in the pure land to be certain, then it is assured.   If you doubt it, then it's not assured. " 

 

P.S.

If anyone is interested in Genshin's Ojyoyoshu, there is an English translation online.  (I knew it yesterday after translating a part of Ojyoyoshu.  How wonderful it's available online!   I can save some energy and time when I want to quote Ojyoyoshu in English. Namu Amida Butsu)

 

http://amida-ji-retreat-templeromania.blogspot.com/2014/03/genshins-ojoyoshu-free-english-edition.html

 

 

There is also a excellent article, The Influence of Genshin's Ojoyoshu on Honen from JSRI.

 

http://www.jsri.jp/English/Honen/LIFE/Tendai/ojoyoshu.html