Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 2

The formula below consists of essential elements 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 20th Vow

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, upon hearing my name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the roots of virtues, and direct their merits with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain birth, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.”

There are only three vows that contain the words “the sentient being of the 10 quarters” among 48 vows: the 18th, 19th, and 20th vows. Then, what is the meaning of these words?

The words mean:
1. All sentient beings, in general, include animals, birds, fish, human beings, even trees and grasses.
2. A sentient being which has “rational and emotional ignorance” includes animals and human beings.
3. Human beings who can hear and think.

Thus, the three vows (18th, 19th, and 20th) are related only to human beings who possess rational and emotional attachment. The three vows are the points of contact for human beings with Immeasurable Working (Amida). The 20th Vow says that a person who hears my name should place their thoughts on my land with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land. Then, the person ultimately attains birth.

Why is this 20th vow so important? I can illustrate the importance through the process of my journey. Mine went from 19th to 20th, and to 18th vows. I started learning the teaching of Buddha long time ago because I found “light” for my future. So I longed for Enlightenment while accumulating knowledge and understanding. Although it took a few years, nothing happened to me. My knowledge and understanding did not help me at all. I was really disappointed with myself. I thought I made some mistakes on my way to Enlightenment. Later, I came to recognize that my ability was limited.....the 19th Vow.

Soon after that, I encountered Nembutsu Teaching or I heard the name. Although I could not understand anything about Amida, I did not give up. I was struggling while reading books, joining Dharma gatherings, taking classes, serious discussions, and so on. And I came to realize that all I accumulated were things that I needed to throw away. It sounds like trash. I pick it up in order to throw it away. The 20th Vow is the bridge from the 19th Vow to the 18th Vow. Once I cross over the bridge, I surely get to the other side of the river. How can I get to the other side without the bridge?

In Gassho,
Fujii

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