Sunday, April 29, 2007


If you haven't been here much or just hadn't caught on, I am one of those people who sees the commonality in the practices and teachings of Chan/Zen, Pure Land, and other popular forms of Mahayana Buddhism, even when many advocates of different traditions have stressed differences. I think that in learning about each one can look at the others and say "Oh, well, I can see a way to understand an interpretation or meaning of this or that concept that makes better sense when trying to understand it from this other perspective."

That doesn't mean that people in a tradition don't believe or accept a particular interpretation or implementation that isn't as amenable to such an ecumenical view, but I have talked before about how if we get passed some of deep technical arguments that often amount to arguing how many Bodhisattva's can dance on the head of a pin, the spirit is the same. Some think of Zen as achieving a mental state, whereas another path isn't about such self-discipline and concentration, but I see Zen as a state of the heart (or at least the root of what we may mean by "mind" and "heart"), and the awareness is not limited to any particular frame of mind if one is referring to an individual person with the word mind. Nor is my approach new or revolutionary. But I bring it up because I don't just find the following beautiful interpretation of the Juseige, produced by Rev. Shoji Matsumoto and Ruth Tabrah and hosted on a site by Alfred Bloom, to be just a "Shin" or even just a "Pure Land" prayer/litany. I can even see spiritualists of other traditions finding this affirmation very inspirational, particularly if your read it out loud with conviction as thought they are your vows, being made each time for the first time, because in a way if you take them seriously, they are...

These forty-eight great vows which I,
Dharmakara Bodhisattva,
Established for myself and all beings --
None to be excluded --
In the ongoing timelessness of this present moment
Affirm the reality of the infinite
Within this world of birth-and-death.

Through these vows I vow
The Vow that is primal vow of life itself.
Until this shall be fulfilled for each one,
I will not accept the great supreme enlightenment.
I will not rest as Amitabha,
The Buddha of universal reality,
The Buddha of truth of things-as-they-are.

Throughout all time
In every generation of beings,
If my vow does not become
The source of wisdom and compassion,
The cause of this great awakening
In each and every one everywhere,
I will not accept the great supreme enlightenment.
I will not rest as Amitabha,
The Buddha of universal reality,
The Buddha of the truth of things-as-they are.

Upon my becoming a Buddha,
My name shall resound
Throughout the farthest reaches of the universe.
If there is even one place
Where my name is not being heard,
I will not accept the great supreme enlightenment.
I will not rest as Amitabha,
The Buddha of universal reality.
The Buddha of the truth of things-as-they-are.

To attain the great supreme enlightenment
To become the dharma teacher of gods and men,
I shall, without ceasing,
Practice the great practice: Brahma-carya,
The all inclusive
Most difficult
And final practice
Without the hindrance of desire,
In the dhyana-samadhi of contemplation
From which the purest wisdom,
The immeasurably pure compassion
Of the workings of my vow shall flow.

This Great Vow shall be all-penetrating,
A shining light of wisdom and compassion,
An inconceivable light
Illuminating our inner darkness,
Enabling us to see our ignorance,
Our hatred,
Our unquenchable desires,
Our own deep, awesome true reality.

But the Vow's incomparable enlightenment rescues us,
Just as we are!
From the heavens of self-pride,
The hellish torments of the worlds of illusion
Which we constantly create.

The Vow's unfailing light replaces our blindness
With the eye of wisdom.
It dispels the illusions of these empty worlds
To which we cling.
It transforms the realms in which we suffer
And opens to us the real world of things-as-they-are,
The Pure Land,
The realm of this extraordinary light.
Amitabha, Amitayus, Infinite Light and Life
Awakens us to a joy that never diminishes --
The true happiness of working for the welfare
Of all beings everywhere,
The true happiness of Buddha-hood,
The universe endowment of the Vow.

For the sake of all beings,
To all, at all times, everywhere,
With the light of wisdom itself
I preach the Dharma.
My vow assures this treasure of all treasures,
The virtue among virtues,
The inexhaustible storehouse of Dharma
Which my Name shall convey.

I offer the flowers of enlightenment
To all Buddhas-to-be.
I show my reverence to each of them.
I praise each one's virtuous roots.

As my vows become fulfilled
I will be the champion of naturalness,
Freed from the proud thought of
"I am such."

A Tathagata's eye of wisdom
Penetrates even man's self-centeredness,
Penetrates conditioned and unconditioned equally,
Piercing the depths of inner darkness.

I vow that the power of my wisdom will be such
That I will become a true Buddha.
This having become so,
The cosmos will resound with the dharma.
Flowers of enlightenment
Like a rain of light
Will adorn all beings.

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