On Turning One’s Life Over To Amida Buddha

On the True Shin Buddhism Yahoo! Group, we have recently been discussing the idea of Amida Buddha being our Higher Power. We’ve been examning several questions:

  • What prayer means for Shin Buddhists
  • What the “10 Protections” are all about
  • And what “turning one’s will and life over to Amida Buddha” is all about.

Here is a wonderful contribution to the Dharma dialogue from my friend Jason:


This issue of turning one’s life over to Amida Buddha as a “higher power” (vis-a-vis the Twelve Steps), and the question about how Amida helps us get through the day, are very closely related in my mind.

One of the things I struggled a lot with after first coming to Shin Buddhism was that it seemed a very solitary spirituality. One settled one’s birth by taking refuge in Amida Buddha and spent the rest of this life saying Nembutsu in gratitude, and that was that. It seemed that there wasn’t much to connect me with others, spiritually speaking.

What I’ve found is that I can turn all things in my daily life over to Amida Buddha. This includes worries, frustrations, wishes and hopes–both for myself and others. I used to sometimes feel that Amida was this distant figure who only cared about my afterlife…that he was too transcendent, too enlightened, to care about the muck and dirt of this life.

But the fact is that Amida Buddha, and all buddhas, are already fully engaged here in Samsara in the business of bringing all sentient beings to enlightenment–the “greatest good” that ever was.

So, if a friend of mine is sick, I don’t ask Amida to make him or her well, or to DO anything in particular…after all, I can’t presume to know what the route to the greatest good through any given situation might actually be. It’s more a matter of just entrusting the whole thing to Amida, knowing that he’s already got it covered. Amida is already more concerned about my sick friend and his or her greatest good than I ever could be.

What does this mean for my daily life? In practical terms it means that when something is troubling me, I utter the Nembutsu in mindfulness of that situation and give it up to Amida. This gives me a great deal of peace. It also means that, should I undertake a specific action to address that situation - whether it’s helping myself or another - I do so with a great deal more effectiveness because I’m not carrying the concern for the outcome.

I also find that, by turning over my concerns for others to the Buddha, my connection to them runs straight through the heart of Amida.

By giving all thing up (or “turning them over,” if you like), one opens the door for the inconceivable working of the Primal Vow to naturally manifest itself in the midst of our daily lives. This is what the Ten Protections are, as I understand them.

(And let me make clear that I don’t think one is REQUIRED to “give things up” to Amida, if that’s taken as a specific action that one willfully engages in. Amida has got all things covered, whether or not we feel the need to “give up” something to his care.)

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