The Way of Jodo Shinshu
Reflections on the Hymns of Shinran Shonin

Jodo Wasan 37

Amida's self-benefit and benefit of others have
        been perfectly fulfilled as the Pure Land,
The compassionate means skillfully adorned
        to lead us to take refuge.
It cannot be grasped by the mind or by words,
So take refuge in the Honoured-one beyond
        conceptual understanding.

Compassionate Means

The Buddha Dharma is ultimate truth. The contents of the Pure Land all signify aspects of the dharma and the unconditioned.

For example, some hear the sound of 'Buddha,' some hear the sound of 'Dharma,' some 'Sangha,' others hear 'tranqillity,' 'emptiness and non-self,' 'great compassion,' 'paramita,' 'ten powers,' 'fearlessness,' 'special qualities,' 'supernatural powers,' 'non-activity,' 'neither arising nor perishing,' 'insight into the non-arising of all dharmas,' ...1.

Jodo Wasan 37” title=“Jodo Wasan 37

The Buddha's teaching method - 'compassionate means' - is to awaken us from our stupor and confront us in a gentle way with things we may not want to hear. For the Buddha dharma does confront us with unpleasant facts. Take the four seals of the dharma, for example. These are that the basic 'facts of life' are non-self, impermanence, suffering, and that the only bliss is nirvana. (The Sanskrit terms are: anatman, anitya, dhukha, and nirvana, respectively.)

These are not usually palatable ideas. Do we like to be told when are happy that everything is impermanent?

Truth is very often unwelcome but there is nothing that is more important for our own spiritual, mental and sometimes even physical health. It is common for us to go into denial when faced with unsettling truths.

The adornments of the Pure Land are not its essential reality, but exist to describe the Pure Land in recognisable and familiar ways. They are expounded in the sutra to signify that true nirvana is permanence and bliss. Hence, it is the essential nature of the Pure Land - nirvana - that matters and it is from the call of the Primal Vow that our hope of being born there arises.

1: The Three Pure Land Sutras, A Study and Translation, Hisao Inagaki, Nagata Bunshodo [TPLS], p. 262.

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