Some time ago I was in correspondence with a drug addict who showed great interest in the Jodo Shinshu teaching. He had a hard time trying again and again to give up taking drugs but he always returned to his bad habit. More than this, he was afraid that he cannot be saved by Amida as he is.
I said to him:
Just entrust to Amida Buddha as you are. If you can abstain, and is useful to try, this would be good for your health, but if you cannot, don’t worry. Jodo Shinshu is especially for people who cannot abstain, who are incapable of any practice, for those that any advice or any treatment is useless, for people whose minds are too sick to recover from their problems, anxieties, and deviations. Its not that they especially want to be like this, but their habitual karma is too strong for them to overcome. After many years and even many lives of taking the drugs of ignorance and blind passions how can one think and act like a normal person? How can one practice Buddhism and become a Buddha by himself?
I met many times with alcoholics and told them the same if they asked me questions on Buddhism. If you tried and cannot give up, then be an alcoholic who entrusts to Amida. Be an alcoholic or drug addict nembutsu follower. Be a bad Buddhist who entrusts to Amida.
Jodo Shinshu is the path for sick people, for those without hope. Its the path for alcoholics, drug addicts, and all kind of people with strong attachments. All are equally accepted by the Compassion and Primal Vow of Amida Buddha. So please, come as you are. Your salvation is in Amida’s hands, not yours.
You can try to cure yourself of any addiction you have, but do NOT postpone taking refuge in Amida Buddha until you become ready, or clean or worthy… You are saved not because you “deserve”, but because Amida loves you unconditionally.
Please excuse my ignorance but this sounds a lot like Christianity with the ‘come as you are’ and ‘be saved’ attitude. I will admit that I have only been exposed to Theravada Buddhism and from my very limited knowledge I’m lead to question anyone that says they can save me. Firstly save me from what? I got the impression that we are all responsible for our own actions. Secondly I’ve spent enough time with honest do good christians that, through faith alone, believe that they are going to heaven to be with the lord for all eternity simply because no matter how ‘broken’ they and no matter how ‘good’ they try to be ultimately without there saver, Jesus, they just won’t make it the big house in the sky.
But as I said I’ve only started to walk the path and I’m not commenting here to start any beef just looking at these similarities
My neighbors in the beach condo next to me are in this group. They once tried to convince me that all I have to do is accept Christ as my personal savior and I am forever saved. That’s it. Just make that one declaration and I receive eternal salvation. I don’t imagine they intended it to sound that simplistic (they were both enjoying a cocktail at the time), but they did make it seem as if there is very little effort required to achieve eternal salvation.
I have difficulty making sense out of this.
It sounds very much like a condition to me. What about those of us who are incapable of taking refuge in Amida Buddha? Don’t we get “saved” by Amida Buddha’s “unconditional” love? Do I really need to do a trade with Amida Buddha - “taking refuge” for “salvation”? Why do I always have to do something? Do these beings such as Amida really need me as disciples before they do anything about my plight? It all sounds like the complete opposite of my understanding and practice of unconditional love. I clearly have a very different idea of the meaning of the word “unconditional” than the original author. Maybe something got lost (or added) in translation or maybe I am missing something.
Feeling worthless, one can choose to accept the concept of unconditional love (i.e., Amida).
Understanding the concept of unconditional love, one understands one to be lovable.
Understanding one to be lovable, one allows that unconditional love.
Allowing that unconditional love, one feels loved.
Feeling loved, loving becomes possible.
It does sound rather like that, having faith in Amida as a sort of personal saviour, or having faith in a “higher power” or something. If people find such beliefs helpful, that’s fine, but I struggle to see how this stuff relates to Buddhist practice or the EBTs.
A mendicant meditates spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will –DN33
OK. So Amida = (the concept of) metta? Is that right? So when they say ‘taking refuge’ in Amida, it’s not taking refuge in the same way as taking refuge in the triple gem, it’s just accepting the metta of others freely? So there is no need to take refuge, chant the Nembutsu or any other such thing? But I do need to do something which is to ‘accept’ the gift of metta? Is that right?
In my own understanding of metta, I see it as a ‘radiation’, much like the sun radiates it’s warmth, or the rain wets all regardless of it being ‘accepted’ by any being or not. But this may be my misunderstanding of metta?
What springs to mind is my late dad’s favourite quote. He was very silly.
The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and unjust fella,
But more upon the just because
The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.
So maybe I can see a practice here which is: “don’t try to protect yourself from metta” - don’t use that umbrella!?
All of that said, the link in the OP doesn’t seem to define Amida as (the concept of) metta though:
Amidaji recognizes the literal existence of Amida Buddha and His Pure Land, and encourages all beings to entrust to Him, say His Name in faith and gratitude, and wish to be born there after death.
@Kensho. Not to be quarrelsome, but this question and the narrative of the original post seems to run contrary to some of the essential teachings of the Buddha. My understanding of the practice is to cultivate within oneself this path of abstienence and recovery. Certainly, having an outside attachment, or crutch, or talisman character might bring some benefit for suffering people looking for support and help. But, I feel that, at the end of the day, these outside crutches are conditioned, not dependable, and likely to lead to other kinds of disappointment and pain.
So, when we have as a teaching: “Mendicants, be your own island, your own refuge, with no other refuge. Let the teaching be your island and your refuge, with no other refuge. When you live like this, you should examine the cause: ‘From what are sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress born and produced?’ we can appreciate that placing our destiny, or our happiness, or our need for love in the hands of another, or a deity or talisman, is likely to lead us to disappointment. In the end, this practice trains us to cultivate within ourselves this wisdom, renunciation, and strength.
When is it said that " Your salvation is in Amida’s hands, not yours." this runs contra to a core teaching, it seems to me, of the Buddha. When it is said “Amida loves you” it strikes in me a negative chord. As Christ has become a crutch for so many, how is this tranference of control and responsibility on a fictional Amida any different? How is it any less unskillful, and likely to lead to suffering?
Well, yes, it is disturbing to allow “freeloading” as “spiritual progress”.
One might almost be offended at the audacity of “those lazy wallowers in Amida”.
Consider that feeling worthless is quite horrible. Suicidally horrible.
One is fettered with restlessness and remorse. Alcohol deadens both and offers respite.
But alcohol deadens awareness. So there is no getting out.
One invests one’s energy in feeling bad and running away from feeling bad.
Allowing oneself to be lovable as is can be transformative in that it can give one the tiny little lockpick to battle out of the prison of suffocating negativity. But even with the door to the prison open, one still needs to walk out into the light and that does take effort. The expected effort of the N8P.
And that is where I think we both might feel a little uncomfortable thinking that passively abiding in Amida might be useful over the long term. There’s that right effort thing.
However, I think that the OP was trying to point out to us that for some, feeling loved is a necessary starting point.
Karl, I do think you’ve hit an important nail on the head. Certainly for people in the depths of struggle with depression, or addiction, or grief, having the sense of an outside agent loving us and caring for us is powerful. This may even be a useful and important avenue to work one’s way out of these difficult and dark states.
Feeling loved is important. Perhaps the Metta practice can help with this, with the understanding that all around the world, many are cultivating a field of metta for others, including you and me. Within the Metta practice, we have the capacity to cultivate this love for ourselves, this ability to make of ourselves our best friend, while at the same time, cultivating this friendship and love for all around us.
Having said all of that, from time to time, when the sun is rising out my window on a cloudless early morning, I’ll play and chant the Gāyatrī Mantra…and draw from it the energy and inspiration to start the day wisely and energetically. We all need a bit of divine inspiration, it seems…so long as we keep this focus on the core of the Dhamma, that we are truly to be a wise, kind, and ethical island unto ourselves on this path.
Quite right .
Though there seems to be a distinction between spreading metta and seeking it.
My thoughts exactly.
It seems to me more unskilful. I mean at least the Christians are putting their trust in someone who actually existed, which is hardly likely to be the case with the Amidists.
Let us stand here, barefaced and barefoot in the rain, hands outstretched, palms out, facing up towards the open sky, eyes closed, without an umbrella, embracing the tears of the world.
Hehe! The best things in life are free. Or so they say.
Yes. I can remember that feeling well. It’s like there is no love anywhere. The whole world now bereft of love and without any hope that love will ever return.
But actually the world isn’t like that, it’s just that we have temporarily lost our ability to sense love. Every moment is permeated with unconditional love. It’s everywhere, a complex, interconnected web of love. In some places we find rich seams of love, in other places it is gossamer fine, but it is always there, always flowing - shared and re-shared in every moment. When our ‘love senses’ come back online the world starts to look a whole lot different.
Yes. Absolutely. I guess that if taking refuge in Amida works to open our senses to the love that’s all around us then this is a great skillful means. There’s so many great ways of tuning into that love: Recollecting a time when I was loved by a friend and how that felt was the first thing to crack open my eyes when the world seemed bereft of love. Just hanging out where there are rich seams of love is a great way to latch into the flow of love in the world. My favourites are hanging out around disabled children and their carers and hanging out around dog shelters.
All should take hope, eventually you will find a way and your ‘love sense’ will come back online, it’s not lost forever. Then you have no choice but to join in the fun.
May all beings feel the love.
Thanks Karl. Lovely posts.
Love, either imagined …
I don’t think you can become an arahanth and then take refuge.