Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism


Chapter 11

The Law of Salvation

The Light of Amida Buddha is boundless;
Hence, we call him the 'Buddha of Inconceivable Light'.
Marvelling at our attainment of Pure Land birth,
All Buddhas praise and glorify Amida's virtue. (Jodo Wasan 11)

We Buddhists believe in the law of karma, which we are taught lies behind our psycho-physical existence and the external world, regulating the relationships between our acts, both mental and physical, and their resultant states, which they produce. According to this law, one reaps what one has sown; one is the result of what one has done, and what one will be is the result of what one does now.

The law of karma, however, is not as simple as we think. Since each individual's course of action intricately crosses and re-crosses that of others, influencing them, it is difficult to tell how much of one's present state of existence is attributable to one's voluntary acts in the past and how much of it to the 'collective acts' of a group to which one belongs. Here we find a point of contact between the law of karma and the law of dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada). They work together, constituting the framework of the Dharma to which we turn for refuge and guidance.

In the endless cycle of wrongdoing and its results, we are helplessly at the mercy of the law of karma, undergoing untold misery in Samsara. Most of us misunderstand the law of karma as a theory of predestination because it seems that there is practically nothing we can do to change its course. Ignorant of this law, we foolishly repeat a vicious circle of delusion, karma and suffering.

Shakyamuni is the first person in history to discover the law of karma in the true sense of the term, with all its subtleties, depths and boundless scope of operation. As with the discovery of laws in the physical world, knowledge of the law of karma leads to its utilization for useful purposes. The law of karma, which is ruthlessly binding on ordinary, unenlightened persons, can be used profitably for one's spiritual progress and final attainment of Enlightenment.

When Amida was a Bodhisattva, he realized the law of karma to its fullest extent, and further contemplated it until he discovered the only possible way of salvation for ignorant and passion-ridden beings like us - salvation through his Name. It was perfectly in accord with the law of karma that he made his Vows, followed the Bodhisattva Way, became a Buddha, established his Pure Land, and began endless acts of salvation for suffering beings. It is also in complete harmony with this law that he transfers his merit through the Name and thereby enables us to attain birth in the Pure Land - the sphere of nirvana which is truth, beauty and bliss. For this reason, other Buddhas praise Amida's wonderful accomplishments and glorify his virtue.

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