Unvarnished Wood

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Monlam Tharchin
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Unvarnished Wood

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:55 pm

Zenne-bo Shoku wrote:People who depend on themselves for their emancipation discolor the nembutsu itself. One person gives a different color to it, because of the convictions he has reached regarding the Mahayana teachings. Another does the same by the understanding he has of other Buddhist principles. Another does it by her way of keeping the precepts, while a fourth by his method of meditative absorption (samadhi). In the end, those who color their nembutsu practice with many meditative and non-meditative practices boast that they will definitely attain ojo. Meanwhile those cannot develop these practices and whose nembutsu is utterly colorless grow discouraged about their ability to attain ojo. Well, both the boastful and the discouraged are illusions coming from self-dependence. The fact is that the nembutsu taught in the Sutra of Immeasurable Life for people who live a hundred years after the Dharma has perished and the nembutsu taught in the Meditation Sutra for those who belong to the lowest three of the nine ranks (kuhon) of sentient beings is the very nembutsu I mean when I use the term ‘unvarnished wood’. In his explanation of the passage in the Meditation Sutra which deals with the Original Vow, Shan-tao uses the words ‘with a sincere and believing mind’ and ‘calling upon my name’ in an identical manner – and these correspond to the ‘unvarnished’ nembutsu.”
     
Now according to the Meditation Sutra, people destined to be Born into the lowest class of the lowest rank in the Pure Land have no power to discolor anything whatever, because they are just common fools without any goodness either spiritual or secular. In their death-agony, they are so devoid of consciousness that they can’t act, speak, or think. They’ve been bad their whole lives through, so in the anguish of the last crisis, there is nothing they can fall back upon. They are powerless to do good or refrain from bad, much less to grasp the meaning of Mahayana or Theravada teachings. Nor can they see the ultimate goal of all Buddhist aspiration or the ordinary means by which it can be gained. At such a time, there is no use in trying to make merit by building a pagoda or shrine. The coming separation with home and friends and the abandoning of worldly desires tears at their hearts. They are in fact deluded beings of the worst kind, quite beyond all hope of salvation. So a spiritual guide comes and asks, ‘Can you understand a little about Amida Buddha's power and realize something of the great power of the nembutsu?’ But the person is so overwhelmed in the death struggle that such thoughts are totally beyond him. Then the person is advised to repeat the words of the Meditation Sutra, ‘If you cannot think upon Amida Buddha's power, then call upon the name of Amida.’ In spite of all the mental confusion and distress, the person goes on repeating the sacred name ten times. With each repetition the karma, which was bad enough to condemn the person to eight million kalpas of transmigration, is completely wiped away. Instead of such an awful fate, the person takes a place of honor upon the ‘golden lotus which shines in glory like the sun.’ A person in such an extreme case as this has nothing like what we call the aspiration for enlightenment (bodhicitta), nor can their nembutsu take any coloring from either meditative or non-meditative practices. By simply following the directions of the guide and without any pretentions to wisdom, the person attains ojo by the mere repetition of the ‘unvarnished’ nembutsu. It’s just like if you take hold of a child's hand and make it write something. Would such writing be a reason for praising the child? This is the kind of nembutsu repeated by those who belong to the lowest classes of the lowest rank. They attain ojo by merely taking Amida's name on their lips as advised by their spiritual guides.”     

Now if a person just says the nembutsu, he or she will attain ojo - no matter whether the person leads a pure or impure life, whether their karma is bad or good, whether the person is of high class or low, a scholar or a fool. And yet people committed to the self-power (jiriki) method of emancipation keep on making meditative and non-meditative practices their objective. They insist that it is useless to try to attain ojo without the coloring these practices give to their nembutsu. But they are all totally out of line. That is why we teach the method of emancipation by dependence upon other power (tariki) and the complete rejection of the principles of the self-power method. Now this doesn’t mean that there’s no value in the nembutsu of people either deeply or just ordinarily knowledgeable of the Mahayana teachings, or of those who keep the precepts. It’s very important to avoid all confusion of thought here.
source: http://www.jsri.jp/English/Pureland/LIN ... shoku.html

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