Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 3

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.”

Summary of three vows

The Buddha addressed the three vows (18th, 19th, and 20th) as Immeasurable Working (Amida) directly related to the sentient beings of the 10 quarters, including you and me. But how are these three vows directly related to you and me? Let’s begin by comparing differences; in short, each vow requires us to follow three differing directives:

The 19th Vow:
1. (I) awaken the mind aspiring for enlightenment
2. (I) perform meritorious acts,
3. (I) desire to be born in Amida’s land with (my own) sincere aspiration

The 20th Vow:
1. (I) hear Amida’s name, and place my thoughts on Amida’s Land
2. (I) cultivate the roots of virtues (recitation of Amida’s Name)
3. (I) direct my merit with sincere mind desiring to be born in Amida’s Land.

The 18th Vow:
1. With sincere and entrusting heart (generated by Amida)
2. (I) aspire to be born in Amida’s Land (aspiration generated by Amida)
3. (I) say Amida’s Name at least 10 times.

Please allow me to provide more explanation about each vow by beginning with the 19th Vow. I can best explain by relaying an actual incident; I met an interesting woman who was my age. She attended Dharma School but she was not satisfied with Nembutsu Teaching. When she entered a prestigious college, she decided to become a school teacher because a school schedule gave her three months of vacation every year. She was able to visit Japan every year for three months and practice Soto-Zen Buddhism at a monastery. She was serious for years. But then, after hearing my short Dharma talk, she came to me and said, “To tell the truth, I could not attain Satori although I awoke the mind aspiring for enlightenment. But nothing happened to me. So it’s about time to return to Jodo-Shinshu.”

In other words, a person can awaken the mind aspiring for enlightenment, and the person can make a lot of effort with strong desire to attain enlightenment, but nothing is opened to the person. Why? It is probably because Dharma does not appear to the person as the person wishes. Dharma, or enlightenment, is not an object to obtain with our abilities or powers such as knowledge, understanding, or memorization. These mental tools simply disturb the Dharma as it works. Next month, I will explain the 20th Vow; Part Four.

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

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