Amida’s Assurance

Posted by:

G Sakamoto

We know that the promise of Amida is the resolution of difficulties of all. As we are. Without conditions. There is nothing we need do.

In ShinranÕs time this offered hope to people who had no possibility of changing the conditions of their life. Conditions that were harsh and unforgiving. War that threw conscripts into battle. Famine, so intense, a war was halted. Those who were not a part of the aristocracy had little prospects other than to serve. The aristocracy, however, also suffered in these times from the lack of provisions normally provided by the network of artisans and laborers that supported the privileged. In these grim times ShinranÕs understanding of the Dharma offered hope. Not in this life but in the Pureland.

In our time there have been more opportunities. There are similarities to ShinranÕs time but there is the possibility to change conditions. Knowing that we may have some control over our conditions offers hope and possibilities. We need no longer look to some future time for the resolution of difficulties. If we apply ourselves we can resolve what difficulties we encounter.

The difficulties we see around us however do not seem to go away. We may not be in the midst of war but headlines constantly carry the news of its progress in other parts of the world. We may have food on our table but there is a deepening urgency to address hunger around the world and at the table of people here. Food uncertainty, income disparity, hunger, poverty, homelessness. Climate change, ocean acidification, glacier melt, rising seas. The crispy, tender french fries I love contribute to global warming through he palm oil used in many french fry vats that contribute to deforestation. There is certainly no lack of problems. But our eyes are not turned to some future life. Rather we look for solutions. We have a willingness to face our challenges with what resources we can muster.

So where does the buddhadharma enter into our appreciation of what we experience? It is no different from ShakymuniÕs time or ShinranÕs time: difficulties result from our inability to see things as they are.

How we understand and approach the difficulties we encounter will affect the outcome. If we are not mindful of this we can further complicate conditions. Our prejudices and preferences shape the way we engage the world. The buddhadharma cultivates the mind that sees things as they are, without prejudice, without preference. Seeing things as they are resolves the difficulties we experience.

Modern civilization was, and still is, fueled by the energy released from fossil fuels. Energy that fueled the industrial revolution. Energy that move trains and turbines. Energy that power cars and homes. However, the production of much of what we enjoy, even warmth and light from a fireplace, has resulted in an imbalance of our planet. An imbalance that will cause great hardship for many.

The assurance of Amida will not stop sea rise. It can, however, allow us to look more openly at our likes and dislikes, our preferences and prejudices. The cellphone I use has in its manufacturing wake toxins, pollutants and poverty. Yet I continue to enjoy new technology. Although I choose to keep my phone, I am mindful of the difficulties that result from my choice. That mindfulness does not excuse behavior nor resolve the difficulties that result from it. It does however change the way I see myself.

I see myself in a much greater context. My actions are not isolated but have repercussions that have real consequences in the world. I may not have the ability or capacity to resolve the difficulties I cause, however I can occasionally respond with kindness. My actions will affect others. Perhaps affect another who might make a greater difference in the direction of the world. The buddhadharma is about resolving the difficulties we experience. Although I am limited in ability I can do what I can to help.