145 Clauses "Mondo"
The One Sheet Document (ichimai-kishomon) |
Reply to a Disciple (isshi-koshosoku)
Prayers to Amida Buddha, "Nembutsu", Serve as Our Anchor in Life
|The One Sheet Document (ichimai-kishomon)|
|On January 23, Honen Shonin dictated the Ichimai-Kishomon, a record of his essential teaching, to his disciple Genchi, and passed away two days later on the 25th at the age of 80. In a teaching style, he re-affirms the need to be aware of our fundamental ignorance and to single mindedly recite the Nembutsu. The Ichimai-Kishomon is used frequently in daily services given by Jodo Shu priests. Professor Fukuhara Ryuzen of Bukkyo University offers the following commentary on these essential Jodo Shu teachings. |
|Preface - Looking at Ourselves|
|Recently, natural disasters like floods, famines, and earthquakes have occurred frequently in every part of the world. In addition, human-caused calamities such as wars continue. Whenever I see these circumstances, I realize that the state of human society has made no progress since ancient times. In fact, egoism is spreading in all sorts of environments (among nations, races, and religions, and at job sites and homes). Present human society seems to be nothing but an impure world, because each person thinks the group to which s/he belongs is right and attacks others for his/her sake.|
Even though we search for our ideals in this society, we can expect nothing from it because the hearts of the people who build up society are egoistic. Human efforts ought to help us consider ways to exist together, to respect each other, and to live together peacefully. It is very difficult to build up such an ideal society, however, since our desires take priority. We inevitably come to antagonism between nations, races, and religions and take a selfish attitude regardless of others.
Politicians aim at a political reformation. I agree with the opinion that politicians generally grasp at power and pay no mind to reform. Nevertheless, we cannot criticize politicians only. Can we really boast of our ways of living to others when we look at ourselves? We should reflect on many points. The world is an illusion and impure.
|Buddhism takes the vow of non-conflict. In Buddhism, truth is understood simply as the fact that things exist as they are. This truth is referred to in a number of ways - such as the interdependent co-originated nature of all phenomena (pratitya samutpada), the dharma of nature, the matter of factness of present reality (tathata), or the middle way between all dualisms. This truth of interdependence and essential non-conflict is in full manifestation, not only in the Buddhist world, regardless of whether a buddha is present to preach it or not. It is extremely difficult, however, for ignorant and defiled people during this age of degenerate dharma or teaching (mappo) to perceive this truth. This is particularly evident with people who simply pursue their own interests and cannot think of seeking after the truth.|
In our affluent Japanese society, we are conceited enough to think we can do and obtain everything if we have money. Consequently, we have a tendency to no longer search for the true satisfaction of our hearts and liberation in these degenerate times. We cannot finish our lives with this way of thinking. The causes of our desires are inexhaustible. Eventually, we will become troubled mentally and physically. When we look at our condition, we are reminded that we cannot bear difficult ascetic practices to solve our troubles. Honen Shonin also perceived this point.
Honen Shonin discovered this after practicing diligently yet continuing to experience personal afflictions. Although Honen Shonin was regarded as a monk of wisdom, he was aware of his ten vices, five sins, and ignorance. Based on this awareness, he embarked on his own path to become liberated from sheer ignorance, instead of following the traditional Buddhist teachings based on the deepest wisdom. At age forty-three, Honen Shonin developed an established mind (anjin) through the style of nembutsu chanting preached by the great Chinese Pure Land master Shan-tao. Honen Shonin subsequently preached the teachings of Amida Buddha to people of all ages and both sexes, regardless of their social positions, until he died at age eighty. In the teachings of Amida Buddha, all people wishing for liberation from suffering are liberated equally just as they are. Because of this, many people at his time and later have followed Honen Shonin.
Two days before his death, Honen Shonin showed his One Sheet Document (Ichimai-Kishomon) to his disciples. The document, consisting of less than 300 words, relates the essential points that Honen Shonin preached throughout his life. By examining it closely, we can come to a deeper understanding of Honen Shonin's true teaching.
|In China and Japan, many Buddhist masters and scholars understand that the nembutsu is to meditate deeply on Amida Buddha and the Pure Land. However, I do not understand the nembutsu in this way. Reciting the nembutsu does not come from studying and understanding its meaning.||-block quote from Ichimai-Kishomon
|Thanks to the development of computers, information-processing technology has grown rapidly. It is no exaggeration to say that our society is driven by this information-processing technology. Job-hunting students who cannot operate word-processors or personal computers are disadvantaged. The amount of information has been increasing, and information collection and analysis are now our common sense. In order to be left behind in all fields, we feel we must keep up with this situation.|
However, this is not really the main problem. In our present societies overflowing with information, it is not easy to determine what is necessary. We cannot even determine what we think and desire. No matter how much information is around us, we cannot just pick up information without clarifying what we think and need. It is more important to have a critical mind regarding what we desire. Information processing may be required, but it becomes useless if we cannot process the overflowing information and determine things for ourselves.
In such a way, Honen Shonin collected all the information of the Buddhist world of his time. He is said to have read through the entire contents of the repository of sacred texts on Mt. Hiei. He analyzed and interpreted it and used it for developing his ability to practice Buddhist austerities. It was not easy to understand the teaching of the nembutsu which had been recommended by Genshin (200 years before Honen Shonin) to ignorant and defiled persons with degraded abilities in ascetic practices. The nembutsu was recommended as a practice for monks. It consisted of two concepts. The first was to concentrate the mind and envision the figure of the true Buddha. In the Buddhist world at that time, this approach was considered a practice of higher wisdom than Honen Shonin's approach, even though the practitioner should be regarded as "ignorant and defiled." The other concept was to chant the nembutsu based on a complete understanding of its meaning. Nembutsu was interpreted as envisioning the figure of the true Buddha because the "nen" of nembutsu originally meant "to think".
The Ojoyo-shu (Collection on the Essentials for Birth) written by Genshin motivated Honen Shonin to embrace the Pure Land path. This book describes various ways of envisioning the Buddha's figure. Honen Shonin wrote several commentaries on the Ojoyo-shu. In them, he concluded that the Genshin's real intention was not in the ideal Buddha but in the chanting of the nembutsu. This conclusion was also made by Shan-tao (613-681) in China. In working towards this conclusion, Honen Shonin completely mastered previous doctrines, but nevertheless, did not find them satisfactory.
In this way, Honen Shonin had a similar experience to Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Shakyamuni Buddha also searched out the leaders of the Indian thinking world and received their teachings. However, none of them could answer Shakyamuni Buddha's ultimate questions. Shakyamuni finally saw the errors of all of the previous teachings and established Buddhism. Unlike Shakyamuni Buddha, however, Honen Shonin did not deny the truth of all the previous Buddhist teachings themselves. In applying these previous teachings to his own ability to practice Buddhist austerities, he discovered that they did not match his ability. On this basis, he developed a new practice which denied previous ones but which led to the same ultimate truth of the end of suffering.
Honen Shonin did the same thing as Shakyamuni Buddha in that he denied the teachings which were accepted as common sense by people, except he used a different method of denial. Such a drastic denial could not be done by Honen Shonin alone. If he had denied the teachings all by himself, the denial would have been only an arbitrary decision which did not support people, including himself. Honen Shonin could only deny previous teachings drastically because Amida Buddha had earlier made this selection of the nembutsu over these previous teachings. This selection was not only promoted by Shan-tao, but, of course, also recommended by Shakyamuni Buddha.
|"In China and Japan, many Buddhist masters and scholars understand that the nembutsu is to meditate deeply on Amida Buddha and the Pure Land. However, I do not understand the nembutsu in this way. Reciting the nembutsu does not come from studying and understanding its meaning. There is no other reason or cause by which we can utterly believe in attaining birth in the Pure Land than the nembutsu itself. Reciting the nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally gives rise to the three minds (sanjin) and the four modes of practice (shishu). If I am withholding any deeper knowledge beyond simple recitation of the nembutsu, then may I lose sight of the compassion of Shakyamuni and Amida Buddha and slip through the embrace of Amida's original vow. Even if those who believe in the nembutsu study the teaching which Shakyamuni taught his whole life, they should not put on any airs and should sincerely practice the nembutsu, just as an illiterate fool, a nun or one who is ignorant of Buddhism. I hereby authorize this document with my hand print. The Jodo Shu way of the established mind (anjin) is completely imparted here. I, Genku, have no other teaching than this. In order to prevent misinterpretation after my passing away, I make this final testament." January 23, the Second Year of Kenryaku (1212)|
|The Straight Road|
|There is no other reason or cause by which we can utterly believe in attaining birth in the Pure Land than the nembutsu itself.|
|Human eyes cannot see through even a piece of paper; no matter how good our sight is, it is impossible. However, a criminal case has showed that even an automatic vending machine cannot always discriminate a false note from a real one. We believed that an automatic vending machine was more reliable than human eyes. In this case, the criminal investigated the sections where the machine checked the note and used tricks so that the note could pass through these sections of the machine. The criminal could then steal the product and receive change in real money. In this case, the machine could not check the false note due to its weak points which were due to the weak points of the humans who produced it. Moreover, the crafty criminal could find these weak points. Therefore, we cannot say that a machine is perfect because it is, after all, a human product.|
The human world is hardened by lies and falsehoods. Prince Shotoku, the founder of the Japanese nation, taught us that the world was full of lies and falsehoods and that only the Buddhist world was true. We must leave the world of lies and falsehoods and search for the Buddhist world. There are many ways to reach the Buddhist world of no lies and falsehoods. How can a person who always lies and fakes reach the Buddhist world? Can this person practice Buddhistic austerities? Excellent practitioners can put up with such hard practices, but s/he cannot do such difficult things. Is there any way open for a person who has no special ability and continues to create evil karma?
The answer can be found in the above short sentence from the One Sheet Document. It means that for gaining birth in Amida's Pure Land, we can simply follow a straight path by chanting the name of Amida Buddha - "Namu Amida Butsu." It also means that this is what Amida Buddha wishes and is the only way for birth in the Pure Land. No practice of Buddhist austerity is more simplified and no other words describe Amida Buddha's salvation more perfectly. This short sentence expresses all.
Then why is it that we only have to chant the name of Amida Buddha? The answer is that Amida Buddha assured liberation through recitation of his name as one of his forty-eight original vows (hongan). Among these vows, the eighteenth original vow in particular addresses this point. It says that if a person earnestly chants the name of Amida Buddha in order to be born in the Pure Land where Amida Buddha resides, Amida Buddha will liberate the person without fail. "Namu Amida Butsu" encompasses all aspects of compassion, and the greatest compassion that Amida Buddha perceived was the liberation of people from suffering. Just chanting "Namu Amida Butsu" can help bestow this compassion on all people.
Humans live every day developing imperfect machines by imperfect people, and deceiving themselves to the contrary. True Buddhist practice, however, includes no deceit. Amida Buddha practiced virtuous deeds for the sake of himself and others in order to liberate people through the ages. With a merciful heart for imperfect humans, Amida put this vow into the simplest method. This method is simply chanting "Namu Amida Butsu." Ignorant, defiled persons dominated by evil karma who cannot practice traditional Buddhist austerities have only to believe in this method and chant "Namu Amida Butsu".
(To be continued.)
|Endowed by Nature|
Reciting the nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally gives rise to the three minds (sanjin): the utterly sincere mind (shijoshin), the profound mind (jinshin), and the mind which dedicates one's merit to the Pure Land with the resolution to be born there (eko-hotsuganshin). Reciting the nembutsu also naturally gives rise to the four modes of practice (shishu): respecting Amida Buddha, single-minded recitation of the nembutsu, uninterrupted practice of the nembutsu, and long-term practice of the nembutsu.
Recently, it is said that the number of mothers who breast-feed their babies has decreased. Some of the mothers cannot give breast milk to their babies for various reasons. It is said, however, that many don't breast-feed for their own convenience. I feel compassion for the children who are brought up by these mothers, though we cannot completely blame the mothers.
I have been collecting for a month newspaper accounts regarding the relationship between parents and children. Most of them have reported on childcare. Some of the news items which have attracted my attention are about reports of the abuse of children. I think that the abuse of children is caused by unsuccessful childcare. Abused children, even though they may grow up safely, tend to not take care of their parents when they become old.
I believe that these parents are originally selfish. They do not have the attitude that can make their children feel obliged to take care of them. If the parents raise their children for their own benefit, then the childcare is not for the child but for their selfishness. I believe that the true attitude of parents should be different. Children surely can see through childcare which is merely for the parents' benefits. A child's sincerity to his or her parents (utterly sincere mind) and profound reliance on them (profound mind) are unconsciously satisfied by taking their mother's milk (mind which dedicates their merit to the Pure Land with a resolution to be born there). The reliance on the parents is naturally endowed by innocently sucking the breast.
We can make the same analogy about the four modes of practice. The baby unconsciously loves and respects its mother (respecting Buddha), feeds only on the mother's milk (single-minded recitation of the nembutsu), is united intently with its mother (uninterrupted practice of the nembutsu), and continues sucking the breast (long-term practice of the nembutsu). There are no tactics. The way the baby sucks the breast is exactly the point of unity beyond words and consciousness; it has no convention. The baby will innocently believe, respect, and call for its parents. I believe that this relationship between parent and child is exactly the same as that between Amida Buddha and myself.
I have heard that some people complain about their birth, saying that their parents brought them into this world without their permission. We should be grateful to our parents and convey to them our happiness to have been born though we did not ask for it.
If I am withholding any deeper knowledge beyond simple recitation of the nembutsu, then may I lose sight of the compassion of Shakyamuni and Amida Buddha and slip through the embrace of Amida's original vow.
Shakyamuni Buddha was born into the world to transmit Amida Buddha's liberative activities. He felt compassion for humans with their many delusions and managed to liberate them with his merciful mind. This transmission is referred to as the "original aspiration for birth". Amida Buddha vowed to relieve imperfect, ignorant, defiled persons. This vow is expressed as Shakyamuni's and Amida's compassion for ignorant, defiled persons. The liberative activities of the two Buddhas are for us.
Honen Shonin once said, "I am very sorry that I could not be born into the same world as Shakyamuni Buddha. However, it is an extreme delight that I could see a world in which Shakyamuni Buddha's doctrines are widespread. Now is the time we should embrace the liberative intention of Shakyamuni and Amida which leads us to the immediate way out of the illusory world with no return to it in vain. Following this way results in rewarding the wish of the two Buddhas."
Now I am here due to innumerable causes and conditions from the eternal past. What a wonderful thing to be born in this world! We should be pleased to live in the world where the Buddha's doctrines are popular. We should not return to the illusory world without making the most of this chance. That would be against the Buddha's wish and our parents' wish. Otherwise, how can we explain ourselves to Buddha and our parents? In this way, we should earnestly believe that Amida Buddha will liberate us and chant "Namu Amida Butsu." If we have our attention on other things, it proves that we are going against the meaning of Shakyamuni Buddha's coming to earth and Amida Buddha's intention to liberate us. Consequently, we will not be liberated.
|Earnestly Chanting the Nembutsu
Even if those who believe in the nembutsu study the teaching which Shakyamuni taught his whole life, they should not put on any airs and should sincerely practice the nembutsu, just as an illiterate fool or one who is ignorant of Buddhism.|
We may study the taste of Japanese noodles (udon) and understand how to cook them, but we cannot realize the actual taste until we eat them. If we study the structure of a television and understand it, we cannot enjoy TV until we watch a TV program. Even though we do not know how to cook udon, we can taste it and find it delicious just by eating it. Even though we do not know the structure of a television, we can enjoy a TV program just by watching it. We have to just eat udon or watch TV. If we eat udon thinking of how to cook it, it will not be tasty. If we watch TV thinking of the structure, we cannot enjoy the program.
Living as a true human being means living our lives absolutely as they are. For a long time, the Buddha showed imperfect humans the way to live in liberation. We should accept this obediently and practice it. Even though we investigate each of the Buddha's doctrines and try to understand them, we may not be liberated as a true human being according to the Buddha's intention. In this case, we should just chant the Amida Buddha's original vow earnestly.
I hereby authorize this document with my hand print. The Jodo Shu way of the established mind (anjin) is completely imparted here. I, Genku, have no other teaching than this. In order to prevent misinterpretation after my passing away, I make this final testament."
January 23, the Second Year of Genryaku (1212)
The One Sheet Document is dated two days before Honen Shonin died. It was written at the request of his disciples. The original document is stored in Kurodani Konkai Komyo-ji in Kyoto. This brochure has a picture of it. We can see the prints of his hands all over the text. This stamp identified him and became the basis for the development of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. Although the document was written two days prior to his death, the hand was solid and each character concisely and exhaustively represents the words that he had realized so strongly throughout his life. It has been admired by monks of various sects (like Ikkyu Zenji) and cultured people.|
Honen Shonin had many disciples. They brought Honen Shonin's compassionate activities to light and made efforts to convey the nembutsu to the coming age. However, there appeared differences in interpretation of the nembutsu between the disciples. One of the possible causes was that the Shonin's words implied many things.
The Shonin's teaching is only to chant the nembutsu and to show faith in Amida Buddha's original vow. As written in the One Sheet Document, "sincerely practice the nembutsu" was his teaching. We should not just take parts of his expressions and then emphasize alternative points. Such alternative points include: Which is more important - faith in Amida Buddha or practice of the nembutsu?; Which is more essential - single recitation or multiple recitation of the nembutsu?; Which kind of nembutsu is more essential to birth in the Pure Land - chanting at the moment of death or during normal life?; and, Who is born in the Pure Land - only the good or both the good and the bad? I think that it is more important to honestly understand the Shonin's real intention.
Humans are, after all, avaricious and always wanting something. It is good in its own way to get interested in various things, but I am afraid that we try to do too many things. Consequently, we can accomplish none of them, leaving them unfinished. Above all, we should consider seriously and select the right way to serve our teachers very faithfully and to live as true human beings. Doing one thing while doing another thing may be a property of moderns. Particularly in these bustling times, this trend is more evident. We are busy not because of society but because we lose our minds and hearts and force ourselves to lead a busy life.|
We cannot pour more water into a glass already full of water. In such a way, we should sometimes be empty-minded. Look at yourself and think over what you should do. Then, the world of the One Sheet Document will spread into your mind.