Formula in Buddhism: The 19th Vow: Part 3

The formula below consists of essential ingredients 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.”

In traditional Buddhism, firstly a person has to generate the mind to attain enlightenment with sincere aspiration. Secondly the person has to sacrifice worldly desires, including family, friend, job, income, etc. Thirdly, the person leaves society and just concentrates on attainment of enlightenment under a Buddha or a master.

When you read this vow carefully, you find something strange - the person is sincere and serious, but enlightenment is not attained at the very moment of death. His path is not completed, yet. That’s why the Buddha and sages appear before the person at the very moment of death. They appear to guide the person who does not know where to go after death.

For example, I had an offsite Hoji (Memorial service); the house was located in a new development area, so even a new map and GPS did not show its location. Then I called the family and specified the exit number of freeway and a gas station nearby to meet. Although I had the address, I needed personal guidance by the family. When a person has generated the mind seeking enlightenment, and has learned and practiced doctrines for years, this person has the destination and address. But, still, this person does not know exactly where to go after death, so the Buddha and sages appear to him to guide at the last moment. This is the one serious short-coming in process as stated in the 19th Vow. Honen-Shonin (1133-1212), the master of Shinran-Shonin, pointed out - it’s not necessary for a person to generate the mind for enlightenment before Buddhism. For this, he was blamed and labelled by traditional sects and priests as “a destroyer of Buddhism”. Honen was exiled.

However, he emphasized as follows: First, listen to Amida’s Teaching. Then, the Teaching or Vows shows you what to do. Depend on something clear and sure as the first step for Highest Enlightenment.

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

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