Formula in Buddhism: The 20th Vow: Part 4

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) awake the mind aspiring for enlightenment
  2. (I) performing 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, and yet not ultimately attain birth.

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.

The 20th Vow:

One example: My master, Kichibei, visited a friend and was talking with him. At that time a young son of the house appeared carrying a relatively big branch from the back yard. The boy said to them, “Yesterday, strong winds swayed this big branch right and left so badly that the branch broke at last.” Kechibei was very happy to hear that and asked him to repeat what he said. The boy repeated, “This big branch was swayed right and left so badly in the strong wind yesterday, it finally broke.” Kechibei said “Thank you. Thank you. Indeed and indeed!” What is this?

The vow requires us to hold the name and to recite it. The vow also says that we try to accumulate knowledge and understanding of Amida in order to attain birth. But our efforts end in vain! How do we sway in Dharma? “I don’t get anything, but I can not give up this teaching.” “This teaching is not clear to me, but I can not throw away this teaching.” We sway badly, right and left many times. The more we learn and seek for birth, the more we get into troubles. We become frustrated over and over. To tell the truth, Immeasurable Working (Amida) works on us this way.

Then, ultimately, we attain birth. Struggling and frustration are necessary processes to attain Immeasurable working. In other words, when I am badly frustrated, I am already in Amida’s Compassion. Frustration related to Amida’s teaching is not a negative happening for, without it, we can not become aware of “True Mind of Amida (18th Vow).”

In Gassho,
Rev. Doei Fujii

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