Formula in Buddhism: The 19th Vow: Part 1

The formula below consists of essential items for learning the Teaching of Buddha:
1. To Learn Buddhism is to learn myself,
2. to learn myself is to learn Buddha’s Compassion.
3. to learn Compassion is to forget myself,
4. and to forget myself is to throw me into Buddha’s World.

The 19th Vow

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, while awakening the mind aspiring for enlightenment and performing meritorious acts, should desire to be born in my land with sincere aspiration, and yet should I not appear before them at the moment of death surrounded by a host of sages, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”

This Vow shows the “traditional way in Buddhism” for people to attain enlightenment. First, people have to awaken the mind, aspiring for enlightenment. Second, they go through various acts to accumulate virtues for enlightenment. Third, they finally attain enlightenment. However, what the Buddha addressed about Amida’s World was completely different from the traditional ways.

When Amida’s World was addressed by the Buddha at this time, he saw about 12,000 people who were all great and sincere followers. All of them were very surprised with his message, especially the Vow #17 and #18: The Name is nothing but essence of Immeasurable Wisdom and Compassion. Thus, the Buddha explained the difference between “traditional practices” and “practice of the Name.”

Firstly, people do not have to awaken the mind for enlightenment. It is because Amida’s vows already contain everything they need. We don’t know what we have been looking for in this life truly. That’s why we don’t know what we should awaken. The vows in this sutra clarify what we have been looking for.

Secondly, people have limitations in many things. Thus, it is impossible for laypeople to perform meritorious acts consistently. That’s why Amida’s World does not expect people to accumulate virtues. Immeasurable Working (Amida) already possesses necessary virtues in the Name.

Thirdly, since life is uncertain, it disappears anytime and any where. We can not wait until a host of sages appear to us. Each recitation of the Name is nothing but completion of Immeasurable Working. It is not necessary for us to wait until the last moment of death. We are already in the heart and mind of Working every time we recite the Name.

The 19th Vow also clarifies what we are. Now you came to know the difference between “traditional” and “Jodo-Shin-Shu” ways.

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

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