Woody’s “Silly” Question

Hello dharma friend Paul,

I re-read the three steps on the Easy Path to Buddhahood and needed to ask a question: When do I know if I have expressed true faith in Amida’s vow?

I mean, is it an emotional experience, a “light bulb” moment in the head, or something different?

It may sound silly, but while thinking of what I read, I wanted to have true faith in Amida.

So, I had it in my mind and concentrated on it and felt like I really “got it” and with gratitude said the Nembutsu in gratitude to Amida for his compassionate vows. Is there anything more than this?

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Hi Woody -

When a person is sincerely grappling with the most important issue in the whole world - the issue of enlightenment, nirvana (nibbana), Buddhahood - the issue of the end of suffering at last - there truly are NO silly questions.

The very fact that you are grappling, questioning, poking and prodding means that Amida Buddha and ALL the Buddhas are at work in your life.

  • It is your karma, right here and right now, to be awakened to your deep need to be free of your obscurations and delusions and blind passions.
  • It is your karma, right here and right how, to have a great sense of hunger for that which is your fundamental nature, and mine, and everyone’s.
  • Amida Buddha is ever and always calling, but right here, right now, in this life, it is your karma to respond to that call.

The answer to your question, “When do I know if I have expressed true faith in Amida’s vow?” is simplicity itself.

I will answer it in the first person, for me. As I do, I invite you to listen deeply - and hear the resonance of Amida Buddha’s Inconceivable Compassion in your heart even as you hear the logic of Amida Buddha’s Inconceivable Wisdom in your mind.

So…how do I, Paul, know, that I have received the SHINJIN - the true entrusting - that is the gift of Amida Buddha?

I know because I am leaving EVERYTHING concerning my salvation - my release from bondage - my transformation into Buddhahood - COMPLETELY, UTTERLY and ENTIRELY in Amida Buddha’s hands.

How has this happened? Because I let go of EVERYTHING, including my own human conceptualizing, thinking, practicing, fretting, fussing, worrying and TRYING - and listened deeply to the teaching first given by Shakyamuni to Ananda and the others on Vulture Peak, and finally unfolded in its full depth by Shinran.

I stopped TRYING to be a Buddhist. I was never a very good Buddhist anyway. As soon as something happened that wasn’t totally to my liking, my mindstream would just run off like crazy - because of my own endless cravings and aversions. When the “something” was small, I could do some kind of praxis to tame the monkey mind - more or less. But when the “something” became big enough, I couldn’t do a blessed thing to make the monkey shut up.

As long as we’re TRYING - via any kind of praxis - we’re not entrusting Amida Buddha COMPLETELY with the working out of our salvation. We’re TRYING - because we think there’s something for us to do.

Worse, because of who we are, we can’t help taking a secret PRIDE in the doing of it. Oh sure (we think secretly) Amida gave a trillion dollars…BUT LET’S NOT FORGET THAT I GAVE A DOLLAR, TOO!

Only when we FINALLY come to the point where we are BURNT OUT - either by life’s great burning, or simply by recognition of this truth about our inability in this age of Dharma Decline - do we finally come to the point where we GIVE UP.

One of the most difficult things in the world, I have found, is for someone who has been taught in the 84,000 Paths of the Sages to simply GIVE UP.

But until we do, true entrusting - SHINJIN - will elude us. That’s the bad news. But the good news is: the grace of Amida is greater than our own obscurations and delusions, however deep they run, and however many lifetimes it takes us to let them go:

  • When we finally HEAR the dharma deeply -
  • When we finally RECOGNIZE that the Primal Vow was made and fulfilled explicitly for me who can do NOTHING to truly secure the salvation I seek from endless rebirth into suffering life after suffering life -
  • When we finally KNOW that we are entirely UNABLE to get past our own blind passions - our cravings and aversions - our monkey mind -
  • When we are finally can admit to ourselves that our salvation MUST be 100% Amida Buddha’s business and not ours even a little bit -
  • And, when we are finally willing to leave ALL of it to Amida Buddha, once and for all -

Then - in that very moment - we will experience a spontaneous sense of RELIEF - and GRATITUDE - and JOY.

This is SHINJIN - the gift of Amida Buddha that changes our karmic destiny FOREVER. Why? Because in that one thought moment, the karmic merit of Amida Buddha himself becomes ours - and we are sealed for rebirth after this life in his Pure Land, where we WILL be able to do perfect praxis because there are no hindrances from within or without - and we WILL become Buddhas at last.

This is SHINJIN - a spontaneous welling up of simple gratitude - nothing we can create - truly the GIFT of Amida. SIMPLE gratitude, just like the gratitude you would feel if you were on a rooftop of a burning skyscraper, and a police helicopter came, and a policeman was lowered down a rope, and grabbed you and saved your life.

If you had been saved in that way, spontaneous gratitude would well up. Your life had been saved, and you had NOTING to do with it. It was entirely OTHER POWER. You simply allowed the rescuer to grab you, and bring you to safety. There would be nothing to say but “thank you for saving my life”.

As you continue to listen deeply, Woody - and as Amida Buddha uses Shinran’s teaching, and Eiken Kobai’s books, and our dialogue to remove your delusions and obscurations, you will come to see that is is EXACTLY your situation, and that you are being offered the exact same salvation, and all that is needed is to accept it simply, saying “thank you Amida Buddha”.

Gratitude will simply WELL UP inside you. You will have that one thought moment Shinran speaks of, where you finally let go of EVERYTHING - including your compulsion to practice buddhism of one sort or another. You will allow yourself to be carried - finally - ENTIRELY by the power of Amida’s Vow.

I will write more later - today or tomorrow as time permits - to answer specifically the excellent questions you raised before. Meanwhile, let’s keep listening deeply together.

NamuAmidaButsu. I take refuge - completely, utterly, entirely - in the person and work of Amida Buddha.

Paul R.

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