Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism


Chapter 4

Light of Non-obstruction

The all-pervasive Light is unhindered like space,
Free of all obstructions.
There is no one untouched by the Light;
Take refuge in the Inconceivable One. (Jodo Wasan 4)

We have already seen that Amida's Light represents his essential body of Dharma, transcendent wisdom and perfect freedom from all karmic bondage. While Amida, as a Sambhogakaya Buddha, everlastingly enjoys the supreme bliss attending the consummation of these three virtues, he enables all living beings to partake of the same bliss by embracing them in his Light.

This hymn praises the two qualities of the Light - pervasiveness and freedom from hindrance. They are not two different qualities; because the Light is not obstructed by anything, it reaches everywhere. Vasubandhu the second Master appropriately described Amida - the Buddha of Light having these qualities - as 'the Buddha of Unhindered Light Shining Throughout the Ten Quarters.' In the Verses of Aspiration for Birth in the Pure Land, Vasubandhu uses this title for Amida, whom he perceived in the 'Samadhi of Visualizing Amida', to profess his devotion to Amida and glorify the Buddha's supreme virtue.

Shinran was particularly drawn to this title of adoration and found in it a deep soteriological meaning, so much so that he used it as a sacred name side by side with the traditional 'Namu Amida Butsu'. In the Notes on the Inscriptions on Sacred Scrolls, he explains that this Buddha is the Light shining throughout the ten quarters, unobstructed by the blind passions and evil karma of living beings.

In our world of experience, there are all kinds of hindrances. The very fact that we have physical bodies means that we are constantly faced with impenetrable walls of obstruction when our desires prompt us to move towards higher levels. Speaking from the Buddhist viewpoint, real hindrances exist within us. Blind passions, such as greed and anger, become hindrances when we seek to attain true peace of mind in the state of Nirvana. However intelligent one may be, if the spiritual obscurity (called 'ignorance' (avidya) with a special Buddhist connotation) persistently keeps one's mind dark and turbid, this creates a main hindrance to the attainment of Enlightenment.

Amida's Light is unhindered in the sense that it reaches the core of our existence, however obstinately our passions and ignorance refuse to yield. Since the Light is the Power originating from the Vow, it shines on all beings and, with irresistible power, delivers them from delusion and suffering.

The amazing thing is that, in our actual experience, when Amida's Light reaches the core of our existence, the core itself vanishes. As it 'melts away' in the Light of Compassion and Wisdom, our entire existence is absorbed in Amida. We rejoice at the union with the Infinite and joyfully call his Name, Namu Amida Butsu.

The activity of the Light is beyond human comprehension. It awakens us to its boundless and everlasting presence. We 'see' the Light by the Light, just as we see the sun by sunlight. Why should we not take refuge in the Inconceivable One?

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