Two Year Anniversary

Today is the two year anniversary of my daughter Jessie’s death on November 8, 2003.

Beginning exactly one year ago, on November 8, 2004, a series of manifestations began.

You can read about the early ones in the post Jessie Checks In.

Shortly after all this manifestation began, I recognized that I needed to begin sharing with the Sangha. My budding dharma friendship with two authentic Shin Buddhist teachers - men who have been faithful 100% to Shinran’s teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha’s truth - made me even more convinced. And my experience with the modernist teachings that have both confused the sangha and stopped the True Teaching from being propagated convinced me as well.

There have been over a half dozen “incidents” at this point. I have been a direct witness of two of them. All have been literally jaw-dropping for their multiple witnesses.

At this point, only two Shin Buddhists - I and one other person - have been on the receiving end of these manifestations. The other people, including my other daughter Jamie, are not Buddhists - yet.

But even Jamie - struggling understandably enough today as we remember and to a real extent re-live the grief of that terrible day - KNOWS that Jessie is a Buddha.

Jamie has not yet awakenened her own aspiration for Buddhahood in this lifetime. But in her time she will.

Meanwhile, along with me, she knows beyond any doubt that death did not hold her sister Jessie - but rather that Jessie’s own painful journey from suffering life to suffering life is OVER.

From all of this truly inconceivable experience, I have had one message to share with anyone who cares to listen, regardless of whether they are Shin Buddhist, some other kind of Buddhist, or non-Buddhist. The message is this:

The Dharma Is True And Real

The words of Shakyamuni Buddha in The Larger Pure Land Sutra, and the words of Shinran Shonen are TRUE and REAL.

Not mythical, not metaphorical - but REAL.

Not provisional, not partial - but TRUE.

This True Teaching has been so crafted - beyond the veil of space and time as we know it - so that ANYONE can listen - and understand - and take refuge in Amida Buddha just as Shinran himself did.

In this age of Dharma Decline - when not one person can press through to Buddhahood on his or hre own strength - Amida Buddha has made away for anyone and everyone to attain to True Buddhahood at last.

The way is laid out in the Larger Sutra of Amida Buddha - and the writings of Shinran Shonen.

When Gotama walked the earth as a prince 2500 years ago, and awakened aspiration for Buddhahood, he was discouraged in his aspiration by Mara, the demon king. And as he sat beneath the Bodhi tree - the Tree of Awakening - Mara came to him again - in an attempt to derail him from Buddhahood.

Mara - a real spirit being living in a realm outside of our own awareness (as so much does) - knew that Gotama’s attaining Buddhahood would be the cosmic trigger for ending suffering in this world. He wanted to prevent that at all costs.

But he could not do it. Gotama attained the Buddhahood he had sought - and began to dispense the dharma. That dispensation culminated with his discourse with Ananda and thousands of others on Vulture Peak - when Amida Buddha literally lit up the sky with his own supernatural light from a vast distance away, in the Pure Land where he resides even right now.

As Shinran’s own teacher Honen came to recognize the truth of this teaching, Honen insisted that his followers needed to listen with great simplicity. In this simplicity, the dharma gate to Buddhahood was being opened widely to the whole world. As Shinran first learned and then transmited the teaching, he insisted on the same simplicity - as did his true students, such as Yuien and Rennyo. (Read their own words on that subject HERE)

If you are uneducated, or dull of mind - and thus unable to follow the sophistry of those who talk about Amida Buddha from the vantage point of post-modern thinking - there is no need to despair. You are not cursed with stupidity, but blessed with simplicity. The roadblock of intellect is not a barrier to you. Do not let those for whom it is convince you otherwise. Rather, you can take comfort, and be confident, because of Shinran’s own views as he expresses them clearly HERE.

The roadblock of intellect is simply the delusional device of Mara, designed to do what Mara does - which is keep people from Buddhahood, just as Mara tried to keep Prince Gotama from Buddhahood. Those who are susceptable (as almost all of us are) - who have a place where pride of ownership leaves them open to choosing self-powered calculation over simple hearing, will insist that somehow they bring something to the table when it comes to the dharma.

They are wrong. They bring nothing worth bringing. Rather, such baggage keeps them from the same adamantine SHINJIN as Shinran - our dharma master.

On the other hand, when my daughter Jessie and I heard the True Teaching - we were both ready to hear it as unlearned peasants would - even though we both were highly educated people. Jessie was valedictorian of her college who knew more at age 20 about religion, spirituality, and the dharma than most of her professors. Both of us were members of Phi Beta Kappa - the college honor society.

But we heard the True Teaching at a point where life had brought us so much sorrow that we were simply OPEN…and willing to listen deeply. The death grip of our intellect was broken. When we listened, we left our fairly hefty intellectual baggage outside the door, and listened like countless simple people have listened before us.

And so we both had that one thought moment that Shakyamuni Buddha and Shinran Shonen mention - the moment of entrusting ourselves ENTIRELY to Amida Buddha, taking refuge in him, and relying upon his Primal Vow.

We both knew, back then in the summer of 2002, that we did not have what it would take to cast off our own blind passions and make progress towards true awakening - True Buddhahood - at last.

And we were both painfully aware of our limited ability to do good in this world - despite our best intentions.

In short, to use Shinran’s words, we were both painfully aware that we were “small, foolish beings”.

After Jessie’s death, I had many moments when I wondered whether or not she had REALLY been grasped entirely by Amida Buddha, and would be delivered at the end of her life to the Pure Land where she too would become a Buddha at last.

I was plagued with doubt - not simply INTELLECTUAL doubt, but doubt of the most emotionally angst-ridden kind - doubt about my beloved Jessie’s karmic destiny.

These moments were torture for me. The best I could do in those dark days was take comfort in Shinran’s words repeated by Yuien in the Tannisho - Lamenting Divergences. Shinran talked about small compassion and great compassion: small compassion being our attempts to help others in the world, and compared it to great compassion which could only be manifest by him after he had gone to the Pure Land and become a Buddha - and was now able to use transcendent power to effect the liberation of beings, along with all other Buddhas and end-stage Bodhisattvas.

I knew that at the end of my life, this would be my fate as well - and that as a Buddha, I would go find Jessie, in whatever form she might be in - and enable to to complete her journey by entrusting herself to Amida Buddha - if she had not truly done so already.

Of course, once the manifestations began, those moments of anguished concern vanished completely.

The Big Picture

Here is the big picture, for those who care deeply about the great work and purpose of all the Buddhas:

Within the confines of the Shin Sangha lies the ONLY dharma that can take people to the end-game: the end of suffering at last after countless lives of birth and death that we have all experienced, and mostly have no recollection of.

There is, at this point in time, simply no other way off of the terrible wheel to which we are all strapped, because of our karmic burden.

Yet the door to liberation is right here, hiding in plain sight - ready to lead us out of the matrix of delusion and obscuration.

  • It lies in Shinran Shonen’s master opus, the “Kyo-Gyo-Shin-Shu” - literally the “True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way”.
  • It lies, hiding in plain sight, in Shinran’s letters, and his poems.
  • It lies, hiding in plain sight, in the specific works that Shinran recommends, such as “Essentials Of Faith Alone”.
  • It lies, hiding in plain sight, in the writings of Shinran’s direct student, Yuien - in the document we know as The Tannisho - “Lamenting Divergences”.
  • And it lies, hiding in plain sight, in the writings of Rennyo - who restored the core message of Shinran and conveyed it clearly to countless thousands. In those days Shinran’s teaching spread like wildfire in Japan, gladdening the hearts of so many simple people, assuring them that this was their last lifetime of suffering, too.

Because the True Teaching is the vehicle for dissemination of Amida Buddha’s salvation for poor, foolish beings - and listening deeply to it’s clear and plain meaning is the only thing we can do in order to find the singular door to Buddhahood - the demon King Mara will do anything and everything possible to prevent that from happening.

Right now, with the Shin Sangha in deep decline and deeper disarray, Mara is doing well at his task of keeping people strapped to the wheel of birth and death, and away from the singular door that can lead any and every one out of samsaric life, to True Buddhahood at last. The great vehicle of his work of confusion and obscuration are those teachers and scholars who claim to be speaking in Shinran’s name - while denying the dharma Shinran taught.

The job of one who has heard the True Teaching clearly - whether cleric, scholar or layperson - is to transmit it clearly - as clearly as possible to anyone and everyone else. It is up to the person who listens as to whether he (or she) takes the teaching deeply and humbly, or shallowly and egoically - with a mind full of self-powered calculated thinking.

The compassion of Amida Buddha - his infinite light and life - is present. The True Teaching has been preserved. There are authentic True Teachers still alive and sharing - and several now sharing over the internet in English.

I have often pointed people to the True Teachers that I know about: two men, both Professor Eiken Kobai and Rev George Gatenby . They are real teachers of great learning - much more learned and scholarly than I am. But - and here is the critical point - they are men who use their scholarly gifts and training ENTIRELY in service to Shakyamuni and Shinran’s dharma, and never in service to their own “improvements”, “evolutions”, “modifications” or personal views.

That is a defining mark of a True Teacher of Shinran’s True Teaching.

You can access both of their writings from the resources section of the Shin Ugly Blog. I am honored to call them dharma friends and dharma mentors.

But when it comes to the True Teaching, buyer beware! Many of the other voices in the Shin Sangha that write, or speak or have works published on the internet are different.

They may be sincere. The may be learned. They may be engaging. But when it comes to the dharma, they do not speak as Shakyamuni Buddha and Shinran Shonen spoke. They do not speak WHAT Shakyamuni and Shinran spoke.

They speak differently. Thus they remain lost in self-power calculated thinking. Thus they remain lost in delusion.

And most importantly, because they speak a different dharma, their words are impotent. Their words do not provide a true and real portal out of samsara. They are not pointing to Shinran’s dharma door. They cannot lead people to the same true entrusting - the same SHINJIN - as Shinran knew - and transmitted to others. For that reason, they cannot help you to end your suffering at last- to become the Buddha you yearn to become, underneath it all.

Eiken Kobai and George Gatenby can - if you will listen deeply to what they have to say, and lay aside self-powered calculation as you do.

Awakening to Aspiration

The True Teaching is - in a word - inconceivable from our shallow human perspective. That’s why even though it is the singular diamond before you, it is so easy to mistake it for a yet another lump of metaphysical coal.

But it is the diamond you have been seeking nonetheless. It is the will of Amida Buddha and Shakyamuni Buddha that at some point you will find it - even as it seeks you out in this very moment you read these words.

At some point, in some life - whether it be this life or another - something awakens in every sentient being.

What awakens is the aspiration - the yearning - the desire for Buddhahood. We yearn to live free - free from our endless blind passions - free from our endless delusions - free from the matrix of samsaric life in which we are all imprisoned.

At that point, we have two roads before us: either try to do it our way, or not. Most of us, myself included, are prone to the first road. We have a need to bring SOMETHING to the journey, apart from our yearning to complete it.

Our egotism - our secret pride - drives this need.

But once again, at some point, in some life, we become painfully aware that everything we bring - including our own intellectual proclivities - simply keeps us locked down into the samsaric life we yearn to escape.

And so we come, at last, to the point Shinran himself came to as a young man: we realize that we are simply UNABLE to awaken from this long dark night of troubled sleep.

And then, at last, the death grip of egotism is broken. We are ready to listen deeply to that which has been given - long before our birth into this present life. We become ready to listen deeply - listen simply - listen fully - to the True Teaching of the Pure Land Way.

At that point, we can - and we WILL - take refuge completely, utterly, entirely in the Person and Work of Amida Buddha.

We can - and we will. Each and every one of us.

Taking refuge means listening to Amida Buddha on Amida Buddha’s terms - as explained by Shakyamuni Buddha and Shinran Shonen - not on OUR terms.

We’re left with nothing to do but say “Thank you, Amida Buddha”. This is true praise. This is true worship. This is true Nembutsu.

Nothing more. Nothing Less. Nothing Else.

If you’re reading this - and you are feeling your heart swell with deep yearning - this can be your time to end your journey at last. Simply let go of it ALL - and take refuge in Amida’s Primal Vow - made for you because you could not do anything to end your endless journey.

Accept that his words - communicated to us through Shakyamuni Buddha - are both REAL and TRUE.

Why? Only because they are.

The repeated manifestation of my daughter Jessie - the mystery of her completion of her own journey - will not convince you - or anyone - if you are bent on keeping your own thoughts as your own little tin god. That’s what all our foolish thougths are, after all.

But if you know how weak and foolish you really are, how limited your own thinking really is, how much you need the aid of the Great Buddha to bring you across the ocean of life and death to the far shore of full awakening, then I invite you to share in my own joy and wonder - that transcends my own grief and tears - this night.

See you there - see you then - in the Land of Bliss.

See you there - see you then - where we all shall rejoice together with all the other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas - even as we all provide assistance to a universe still stuck in the matrix of delusion, just as we have been stuck, for countless ages.


Paul R.

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