What Namu Amida Butsu Means to Me

by Richard St. Clair

I felt an inner prompting of Amida Buddha leading me to write this, so here goes.

Namu Amida Butsu, the Nembutsu, means something very personal to me.

It means that Amida Buddha fulfilled His 48 vows FOR ME PERSONALLY.

Not just for me as a member of the zillions of members in the bombu-at-large group, but ME PERSONALLY.

I feel that I was in Amida Buddha's sights, myriads of kalpas ago when He was Dharmakara Bodhisattva and working to fulfill the 48 Vows.

I feel that Dharmakara knew me personally and part of His mission was to save me personally. I feel that He knew EVERY living being personally the same way as He did me. But He KNEW ME PERSONALLY.

That's the immensity of Dharmakara's visionary scope. As a condition of becoming Amida Buddha, He needed to fulfill the salvation, the karmic destiny of ALL suffering beings EVERYWHERE. That includes me, specifically.

Why do I think Dharmakara/Amida was/is thinking of me specifically? Because He had to work out the karma of every living being stuck in samsara in order to vouchsafe their passage to Buddhahood. He had to understand and develop a pathway to salvation that understood the unique karmic profile of each living, suffering being, each of whom has had a vastly different karmic history from the next.

For some beings, they are in the human realm. For some, they are in the animal realm. For some, they are in the heavenly abodes. For some, they are in the realm of the fighting spirits. For some they are in the realm of hungry ghosts, and for some they are in the hell realms. And Amida knows and guides beings from the lower realms to the human realm where their karma can ripen and become aware of Amida Buddha's Other Power, however many births and fits and starts that may take.

As Dharmakara Bodhisattva, Amida Buddha knew me and understood me, even when I was in the hell realms, or the animal realm, or the fighting spirit realm, etc etc. And while I needed to work out my karma in order to be born in this human realm, the most precious birth imaginable, Amida has left me bread crumbs along the way, hints, transcendental "messages" if you will, sometimes difficult karmic situations with painful circumstances, leading me to where I could become aware of Him and His path to salvation through the Nembutsu.

So when I say the Nembutsu, I do not merely say "I take refuge in Amida Buddha." I say THANK YOU, AMIDA BUDDHA for saving ME, PERSONALLY, a karmically burdened being ensconced in deep suffering from the inconceivable past.

The entire karmic merit of Amida Buddha is bequeathed to every being who accepts Amida's gift of SHINJIN. This is the Other Power that saves us, that brings us to the brink of Buddhahood as we approach this life's end and are about to pass over to the Pure Land of Serene Sustenance where we then WILL become fully enlightened Buddhas ourselves.

This is the Other Power that Master Shinran calls the Medicine of Amida Buddha, the power that subtly transforms us in this bombu existence, melting the ice of our blind passions into greater and greater awareness of what lies ahead, enlightenment and Buddhahood in the Pure Land, and which transforms our faith-mind consciousness into deepening understanding of the Dharma that saves, opening our hearts and minds ever and ever more to the incredible miracle of Amida Buddha's Primal Vow and softening the hard and sharp edges of our ego-driven delusion-obsessed hearts and minds.

I feel so small when I say "Thank You, Amida Buddha." And this is not fake humility. It is a recognition of the vastness of Amida Buddha's Other Power and inconceivable wisdom and great compassion that saves us all.



Rick St. Clair
(Shaku Egen)