Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism


Chapter 8

The Joy of the Dharma

Far-reaching is the Light of Compassion;
Wherever the Light reaches,
It gives one joy in the Dharma, so says the Buddha.
Take refuge in the Great Consoler. (Jodo Wasan 8)

We all try to avoid pain and seek pleasure. The civilization of mankind and the development of the sciences could not have been achieved without the 'pleasure principle'. The meaning of pleasure, however, differs with each person; for many people, gratification of the sensuous desires comes first, but some derive greater pleasure from aesthetic or intellectual pursuits and accomplishments.

In other religions particular moral or ascetic practices are usually required of followers as the condition for salvation, which means everlasting pleasure and happiness in the future. But the Buddhist ideal of Nirvana is different. Since, from the Buddhist perspective, existence in Samsara is itself suffering, the pleasure we enjoy in this life is, after all, suffering in disguise. What then is true pleasure?

T'an-luan distinguishes three levels of pleasure. The first is 'external pleasure', which is the sensuous pleasure experienced through one of the five sense-organs. The second is 'inner pleasure', which is the pleasure that accompanies meditation. The third is 'the pleasure of the Dharma', which is produced from wisdom which arises from deep appreciation of the Buddha's merit and virtue. T'an-luan places the pleasure of meditation above sensuous pleasure, and the Dharma--pleasure above the pleasure of meditation. He explains that the Dharma-pleasure is free from self-attachment, self-centeredness and self-glorification and that this pleasure accomplishes 'the wonderful, blissful, supreme and truthful mind,' a free gift from Amida, which causes the aspirant to be born in the Pure Land.

We generally think and act according to the pleasure principle, but since we are born with basic ignorance (avidya) that hinders realization of ultimate reality, we are vainly chasing after visions of false pleasures and happiness. True happiness must arise from true wisdom, which in turn, arises from spiritual contact with the Buddha.

Although we are reluctant to approach the Buddha, he, out of Great Compassion, approaches us and enters into our minds. Amida's Light has this power, awakening us to reality - the reality of our existence - and giving us true joy and happiness. Amida as such is the Great Consoler of those who are lost in the forest of miseries and suffering. He removes our doubt and anxiety, and establishes in our minds Faith that is pure, joyful and resolute.

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