A Standard of Shinshu Faith
Ryosetsu Fujiwara

Amida Buddha

1. In Shinshu what is the object of reverence?

Shin followers have absolute Faith in Amida Buddha alone. However, they also revere and respect other Buddhas because all Buddhas are essentially one with Amida Buddha.

2. What kind of Buddha is Amida?

Linguistically, 'Amida' is a transliteration of the Sanskrit word 'Amita,' which means 'infinite.' 'Amita' in Sanskrit is compounded with 'abha' which means light, or 'ayus', which means life. Thus we have the names 'Amitabha' and 'Amitayus'; i.e. 'Infinite Light' and 'Infinite Life' respectively. The names reveal that Amida is the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life.

3. What is he meaning of 'Buddha'?

'Buddha' means 'The Awakened One,' or 'He who has attained Perfect Enlightenment.'

4. Is Amida Buddha a creator of the world? Or a ruler, or a judge?

Buddhism denies all such views. It teaches the theories of 'Karma,' 'Impermanency,' 'Egolessness,' 'Interdependence,' etc., and explains the origination and changes of all existences. Amida Buddha appears to be a creator and a ruler of the world, but actually not. He is the one who has comprehended the reality of the Universe, and in Shinshu He is understood to be the manifestation of the 'Dharma-nature' itself; He has perfect Wisdom and Compassion, and so does not give any punishment even to those who do not follow His teaching immediately; having absolute Compassion, He untiringly tries to prompt such people to become gradually aware of His universal Vow and the real nature of Dharma.

5. How many Buddhas exist?

The sutras state that the number of Buddhas in the three time periods of past, present and future is infinite, surpassing the number of grains of sand in the Ganges River. Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings possess the potentiality of becoming a Buddha; thus, it is natural that countless Buddhas come into existence.

6. What is the nature of Amida Buddha?

To answer this question, we must first understand the Three Bodies or 'Trikaya' (Four Bodies are also taught; in this case the Transformed Body is derived from the Accommodated Body). The three bodies are Dharmakaya (the Law Body), Sambhogakaya (Recompensed Body) and Nirmanakaya (Accommodated Body). 'Nirmanakaya' is represented by Shakyamuni as the historical Buddha who appeared in this world in physical form. 'Sambhogakaya' is the Buddha who attained the fruition of Enlightenment by perfectly fulfilling vow and practice. Amida Buddha is a Sambhogakaya; he established forty-eight vows and by his practice, brought them to consummation, and attained Buddhahood.

7. What is the nature of the Dharmakaya?

'Dharmakaya' is the ultimate Truth itself; it is revealed in and through the Sambhogakaya and again manifests itself historically and the Nirmanakaya.

8. Are there any other names for this stage of Buddhahood?

The Dharmakaya is identical with what is called 'Thusness,' 'Oneness,' 'Dharma-nature,' 'Nirvana,' etc; this status was also expressed by T'an-luan as 'Law Body of Dharma-nature' when he expounded the 'Twofold Law Body' (Nishu Hosshin).

9. Why is the Dharmakaya not worshipped actually in Shinshu?

Dharmakaya absolutely transcends space and time. It cannot be grasped through man's senses; it exists beyond human conception, words, and intellection. Religion, however, requires something closer to humanity; something more concrete. And that concrete manifestation is the Sambhogakaya known as Amida Buddha in Shinshu.

10. What is the 'Twofold Law Body'?

This is another analysis of Buddhahood which was expounded by Tan-luan. The Twofold Law Body refers to the 'Hossho Hosshin' (the Law Body of Dharma-nature) and 'Hoben Hosshin' (the Law Body of Expediency). He explained that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas possess these two aspects and that these two aspects are necessary in the salvation of the sentient beings.

11. How are they related to the Three Bodies?

The 'Law Body of Dharma-nature' is identical with the Dharmakaya or 'Law Body,' and the 'Law Body of Expediency' corresponds to the Sambhogakaya or 'Recompensed Body.'

12. What is the difference between the 'Recompensed Body' and the 'Law Body of Expediency'?

In essence there is no difference. The two names, however, refer to two different aspects of Amida Buddha. For example, the 'Recompensed Body' refers to the process that Dharmakara (Hozo) became Amida Buddha in recompense for His Vow and Practice which brought that Vow to perfect fulfilment. The 'Law Body of Expediency' expresses the truth that Amida Buddha is the manifestation of the formless, invisible, transcendent Dharma-nature in the form and name. This manifestation of Oneness is also called 'Tathagata' or 'Thus-come.' The Buddha who resides in this stage manifests excellent characteristics; he reveals himself through the Name, 'Namu-Amida-Butsu.' He has realised all his vows through practice. Both the vow and the attainment take place within the framework of cause-and-effect, and conform to the 'Recompensed Body'. Therefore, in spite of superficial differences, the 'Recompensed Body' and the 'Law Body of Expediency' must be considered as essentially the same.

Where does the Buddha of this stage abide?

The Larger Sutra teaches that Amida Buddha established the Western Pure Land for the sake of all suffering beings and it is here that Amida himself abides.

How can we ordinary people recognise Amida?

That is a vital religious question. Many sages affirm that Amida Buddha can be apprehended through meditative practices, by the highly gifted and diligent saint. However, Shinran realised that for common mortals, their views being clouded by their human passions, this was an impossibility. Therefore, the great masters of the Pure Land School emphasised the Sacred Name of Amida Buddha, 'Namu-Amida-Butsu,' in which the infinite virtues of Amida are embodied. Only through the Name can the common mortal with his defilement and ignorance, come to realise His Compassion and become one with Him. And through His Compassion, common mortals become endowed with His Infinite Life and Light.

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