When people first begin to hear the Buddha’s Vow, they wonder, having become thoroughly aware of the karmic evil in their hearts and minds, how they will ever attain birth as they are. To such people we teach that since we are possessed of blind passions, the Buddha receives us without judging whether our hearts are good or bad.
When, upon hearing this, a person’s trust in the Buddha has grown deep, he or she comes to abhor such a self and to lament continued existence in birth-and-death; and such a person then joyfully says the Name of Amida Buddha deeply entrusting himself to the Vow.
Letters of Shinran, CWS p553
We are not so concerned about what may happen to us when we die. We are confident that somehow things will work out. After all we are not bad people. We are active members of our community. We refrain from saying anything too harsh about what the other political party is doing. We contribute to public radio.
That’s how I think it should be: we do not have to worry about what will happen when we die. We are assured of the resolution of difficulties. That is the intent of the Buddhadharma. That is the vow of Amida. Recognizing the importance of Amida’s assurance changes how I engage the world.
I drive a lot. While I drive I’m usually listening to public radio trying to keep up with changes in the world. Often I see people driving in an unsafe manner. Tailgaters. Quick lane changers. Non-signalers. Yellow-nearly-red light runners. Suddenly crossing three lanes to get to the exit drivers. I try not to think to critically. But its impossible. Why do they wait to the last minute to exit? Couldn’t they be more courteous and indicate that they will execute a turn or change lanes? Its very frustrating and the behavior seems to be increasing. And now they’re talking and texting while being inconsiderate.
Looking at the behavior of others upsets me. Because I am sure they are not concerned about how they have affected me, I am even more upset. If my rising anger is pointed out, it is even more annoying.
Sometimes when I’m driving, listening to NPR, I realize that my intended exit is approaching faster than expected. I apologize as I cross over lanes. I use my signal to let people know I’m coming through. Sorry. Sorry. Oh my, sorry I should have stopped when the light turned yellow, but I’m color blind. My behavior is not excusable but it can’t be helped. Besides I use a hands free phone and I do not text while driving.
Thinking about the behavior of others through the lens of my own behavior I can begin to see how my anger and criticism should include me as well. Its hard to line up my behavior with the behavior of others; to see the similarities that I share. The ability to see my own inconsistencies is difficult to cultivate. Since I look at things through my preferences I prefer my decisions over others. Although the behavior is identical my behavior is ok since I have reason for the behavior. The problem is, as long as I see things in this way, there is inconsistency between how I see and experience my behavior and the behavior of others that can result in difficulties for myself and others. I blame others and not see how my behavior, no matter how unintentional, affects others.
Amida’s assurance of the resolution of difficulties allows me to look more openly at my own behavior. It does not require the discipline to cultivate the mind the is free of prejudice. The assurance of Amida already acknowledges my inconsistencies. The more I see of my inconsistencies the greater my appreciation for Amida’s assurance. The more I am able to see my inconsistencies the deeper my appreciation of the circumstances that support my life.