Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism

Harold Stewart

A Letter

Your experience in trying to introduce Pure Land Buddhism to Australians exactly parallels that of a young American who returned to the United States and found nothing but total ignorance and hostility among those interested in Buddhism. The only forms were either Hinayana, Zen, Tibetan Vajrayana, or Nichiren-shu. Only the best is good enough for us Westerners, so we tackle the two most difficult forms - Zen and Vajrayana - which require high spiritual aptitude and qualifications, which very few Asians, let alone Occidentals, possess in this Dharma-Ending Age. So we choose a difficult Way like Zen, whose clear contentless consciousness takes years, even a lifetime to cultivate; or Vajrayana, which requires an ability to project eidetic images for contemplation, rare among modern Westerners. Most practice these for a short while, get no quick 'results', and give up. Having failed themselves, they then become soured and declare that the whole of such Oriental methods are not for Westerners at all, and so return to become mere academic scholars or critics. The only method, that of calling the Divine Name, which appeared in all the main Traditions providentially at about the same time and which is most suited to the reduced spiritual capacities of the present humanity, is the one that is studiously ignored and dismissed uninvestigated and untried.

It is not merely a question of logomachic defeat of the arguments of opponents of other sects or traditions.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and saint and had great argument
About it and about, but evermore
Came out by the same door wherein I went.

If we debate and I beat you, that does not mean that I am right and you are wrong, merely that I am better at rhetoric. But if you want ammunition to fire at your opponents, plenty is available. You may mention that when the late Kobori Roshi of Daitokuji was asked whom he considered the most important and influential Japanese Buddhist in history, he replied at once: 'Shinran Shonin, of course !' Before his death last year, Kobori Roshi gave up zazen and recited the Name of Amida instead, on his death-bed advising all his disciples to do the same. Or you might quote to your opponents Hakuin Zenji, when asked for an antidote to the Zen-sickness: 'This medicine is the Calling on the Name of Amida, and is wrapped up in the six syllables, Na Mu A Mi Da Bu. It means absolute concentration on Amida's Name... . For this medicine, no capital or special wisdom is needed. All one has to do is to recite the words with one's mouth... . Here indeed is a pivot of fundamental power. Do I hear you say: 'Too easy - such wares are intended only to deceive old men and women ?' Many doubt their efficacy and ask the wise if there is not some other way more suited for clever people. And Shakyamuni pointed straight back at the heart of the man and said that within one's own heart there is to be found the true Buddha-nature.

It is useless trying to convince by rational argument those brought up in the Western tradition to overvalue the individual ego. They must ultimately come to the realization that, in fact, only the Other Power, the One and Only Transmigrant, is the bestower of power on all beings. There is, in truth, no self-power, because of the basic Buddhist teaching of anatta, non-ego, selflessness (not unselfishness).

When you receive shinjin from Amida, gratitude for the free gift will arise naturally. Such spontaneity cannot be imitated by an individual act of will or by ingenious rational argument, which always betray their lack of authenticity. For gratitude is an emotion, not an act of will or ratiocination.

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