Nembutsu is Nembutsu

Post sayings or stories from Buddhist traditions which you find interesting, inspiring or useful. (Your own stories are welcome on DW, but in the Creative Writing or Personal Experience forums rather than here.)
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Redfaery
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Nembutsu is Nembutsu

Post by Redfaery » Sat Nov 08, 2014 2:50 pm

Mukashi, Mukashi...

Once upon a time, there was a woman from Chikuzen province in Kyushu, who had been a nun since she was just a girl. She had no husband; she had no children; her parents had died long ago. All she had was her devotion to the Buddhas, for she was an exceptionally holy woman. She was especially devoted to Lord Amida, and would chant the nembutsu constantly and without shame - but this is what caused her troubles, for she did not chant his name quietly, or in a timid little whisper like a meek little maiden. She did it in quite a piercing tone, so that all could hear and benefit. Her nembutsu was a full-throated shriek - NAMO AMIDA BUTSU!!!! And thus, she was never able to stay in one place for long, for even the most supposedly holy of monks grew tired of her shrieking nembutsu.

So it was that as she grew old, she had no place to go, and she began to worry that she would freeze in the coming winter. Yet she didn't despair; she set up in a grove of pine trees and carried on with her piercing nembutsu so that even the bugs burrowing in the earth would hear and benefit. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU!!!!

Sure enough, a widowed gentlewoman passing by in her carriage heard the nun's cries and was curious. She sent one of her servants to investigate, and learned of the holy woman's plight. Now, the gentlewoman herself was very pious, and perhaps more to the point very rich. She thought it a true shame that all these monks had cast out such a worthy nun, simply because of the noise she was making. After all, it was Amida's Name! So she said to the nun: "Why don't you come stay with me on my estate? My husband has died, and I would like someone to chant the Name for him. I have very large grounds - plenty of room for you to chant the Name!"

So the nun came to stay with the widow, who housed her in a nice little chapel near the garden pond, far enough away from the main house so that her shrieking nembutsu would not disturb anyone. Often, too, the widow would come pray with the nun, and the two would chant the name together for the benefit of all sentient creatures. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU!!!!

The nun lived with the widow for a number of years, chanting and praying happily and undisturbed. The widow for her part was overjoyed to have such a holy woman chanting the name for her, and catered to her every need. Thus, she was moved to tears when one morning, the holy woman sent her a message: I will be dying this evening. Do not be sad, for I will be received into the Pure Land by Amida and his host. I would like you to be there. Come see me at sunset.

Thus, that evening, the gentlewoman went to see the nun, and found her dressed in clean robes, facing west. The nun acknowledged her benefactor with a warm smile that filled the widow's heart with bittersweet joy, before returning to her prayers. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU just as loudly and piercingly as ever. The nun faced west and chanted for what seemed an eternity, as darkness fell. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU!

And then....an unearthly fragrance filled the air, and the strains of heavenly music descended from purple clouds. The once-dark chapel was filled with the radiance of Amida's light. The widow found herself chanting the nembutsu as piercingly as the nun herself, as she watched the heavenly host descend to greet the holy woman. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! Nun and widow chanted both, until the strains of music died away, and the chapel grew dark once more. Once the lanterns were lit, the nun was found to be still sitting in meditative posture, with a blissful smile on her face, yet she was no longer alive.

They say the widow was never the same after the experience. The heavenly fragrance lingered on her clothes, and forever after, she seemed to radiate holiness and peace. After the death of her nun, she took vows herself, and chanted the nembutsu tirelessly for many years, until one day, she too was received into the Pure Land by Amida's host in a burst of light and music and purple clouds, all the while shrieking an earsplitting nembutsu. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU! NAMO AMIDA BUTSU!

Nembutsu is nembutsu. It doesn't have to sound pretty. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU!!!!
NAMO SARASWATI DEVI
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. - GANDHI
I am a delicate feminine flower!!!!

Arjan Dirkse
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Re: Nembutsu is Nembutsu

Post by Arjan Dirkse » Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:27 pm

Thanks for that beautiful story.

Son of Buddha
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Re: Nembutsu is Nembutsu

Post by Son of Buddha » Sun Nov 09, 2014 5:45 am

This was absolutely beautiful. :hug: :heart:

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Redfaery
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Re: Nembutsu is Nembutsu

Post by Redfaery » Sun Nov 09, 2014 2:18 pm

Thank you both. It's a twelfth century Japanese tale from the Konjaku Monagatari. I came across it in Royall Tyler's collection Tales of Japan. I'd actually recommend Tales of Japan to anyone interested in Japanese Buddhism, because the stories he tells capture a world permeated by Buddhism, especially the embryonic Pure Land of the Heian period. I admit, I did sort of "reinterpret" this one to put more emphasis on the piety of the nun and the widow, and their compassion for one another, but I think it stays true to the spirit of the original.
NAMO SARASWATI DEVI
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. - GANDHI
I am a delicate feminine flower!!!!

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