No Difference

Posted by:

G Sakamoto

If we are already assured of the resolution of difficulties why do we have to do anything? There is really no reason to do anything. The Vows of Amida have already be fulfilled. Regardless of what we do or not do the Vows of Amida are not affected. Our behavior does however affect how we experience the world.

“There was, in those days, a person who had fallen into wrong views. He asserted that since the Vow was made to save the person who had committed evil, one should purposely do evil as an act for attaining birth. As rumors of misdeeds gradually spread. Shinran wrote in a letter, ‘Do not take a liking to poison just because there is an antidote.’ This was in order to put an end to the wrong understanding. It by no means implies that evil can obstruct one’s attainment of birth.” CWS p 671.

This quote is from the 13 chapter of the Tannisho. It is Shinran’s student, Yuien, recalling and commenting on the words of his teacher. Whether we do anything, nothing or something in-between, our behavior does not affect the outcome of Amida’s Vow. Amida’s vow is to provide everyone, regardless of ability or skill, what we have or have not done, the means to resolve the difficulties that we cause and experience. This is the intent of the Buddhadharma.

The Buddhadharma is not intended to cause more hardship. Its intent is to resolve the difficulties that characterize our experience. We are unenlightened beings. Because we see things through our preferences, our likes and dislikes, we cause and experience difficulties. We are not separate from nirvana which is things as they are. When you and I look at something red we see it differently. Because I am red-green color blind how I see red is different from how you see red. My perception does not change the color of the thing we are looking at. That is the color of the thing as it is. It will continue to reflect the same wavelength no matter how I perceive the color.

My color blindness affects how I drive. Although, I am aware of my perception, sometimes distinguishing between a street light and a green light is difficult. Approaching an unfamiliar signaled intersection can be un-necessarily exciting. You probably would not want me to pilot your plane. My inability to perceive colors as they are could have significant consequences. If I insist on not acknowledging my colorblindness my actions could result in difficulties for myself and others.

The value I place on how I see the world shapes the way I engage the world. How I see the world does not change things as they are. When I frame a scene in my camera lens. I am more aware of form than color. I make assumptions of color relationships that may or may not be relevant. As I process an image I try not to adjust color. Just warming or cooling adding red or blue to an image will significantly change its feel. I’ve often consider processing black and white, but that takes on a whole complexity of its own.

My colorblindness has no real significant consequences and I probably will not be flying your plane. There are however perceptions of the world that have consequences. We place value on our perceptions on things like homelessness, Obamacare, Iran sanctions, vaccines, technology, drones, economy, education, abortion, politics and on and on. Our life results from the decisions, choices, preferences that we make. How we’re brought up, where we’re brought up. The communities we’re in. How old we are. All these influences shape our views; our likes and dislikes, our preferences and prejudices. You like pan pizza. I like thin crust. I’m just hungry. They are deeply ingrained and connected to the way we engage the world.

To change our way of seeing the world from prejudices to things as they are requires work. Work that cultivates the mind that sees things as they are. The practices of the Buddhadharma like The Eightfold Path, The Six Paramita, meditation are the practices that cultivate the mind free of prejudice.

The Vow of Amida is directed toward the person unable the cultivate the mind that sees things as they are.

There is nothing we need do. The work of Amida is to change such a person. If I am mindful of the work of Amida I can begin to change. Amida’s assurance allows me to see myself and all my limitations more openly. I am changed. I can begin to see myself as I am. Begin to acknowledge my prejudices. Like someone assuring me that everything will be ok, I can begin to look at the illness that may be affecting not only me but everyone around me as well.

Nothing I do will affect the work of Amida. Acknowledging Amida can begin to change me.