真實救度的世界 (2):★今現在身歷的救度

在淨土真宗的教法中,一般人常常誤解的是,誤以為「救度」是在此生結束、往生淨土那一刻才會發生的事,以為只有死後往生淨土成佛,佛才算救度了我們──這是極大的錯誤,因為彌陀的救度,是發生在我們此刻還活著的當下,是活著的時候就身歷的事

有人說,沒去過淨土,這一生也沒見過淨土,所以只有蓋棺之後,才能論定是否往生淨土,但這是錯誤的。開山親鸞聖人和第八代門主蓮如上人(1415-1499),他們都明確指出:是在還活著的當下,就已經身歷往生必定。這是因為在活著的時候,即蒙本願攝取不捨。

在聖人的很多著作中,都可以看到聖人遇到法然上人是非常關鍵的事。《高僧和讚》101首寫道:「曠劫多生過去了,都不知出離的強緣,要不是本師源空,此生一樣徒空過。」

這首和讚傳達出聖人的感嘆,因為不知出離強緣,生生世世以來,空流轉生死,一直到遇到法然上人恩師,才得入阿彌陀佛的救度。若非法然上人,他將不知道念佛的世界,不知道淨土往生,此生只得注定繼續空流轉。

這首和讚中,聖人決非在講死後才會發生的某事,其中所洋溢的喜悅,是來自此時當下即身歷的救度。

聖人在29歲(1201年)時遇到法然上人,成為入室弟子,進入他力的世界,亦即是「現生住正定聚位」,指必定往生淨土,圓滿佛道。當我們還活在這個娑婆世界裡,我們自力的煩惱執心,今生都不會滅除,但因為他力攝取,在此生活著的當下便獲此「入正定聚益」。

親鸞聖人在《教行信證》化身土卷中,表達了被彌陀本願力所攝取之慶喜:「慶哉!樹心弘誓佛地,流念難思法海。」

信心的慶喜,乃由佛所迴向,在任何因緣下都不會變、不會消失,即使是死亡來臨。


 

The Venerable Master entered Amida Buddha’s world of salvation because of this encounter with Master Honen. There are, unfortunately many misunderstandings of the Jodo-Shinshu teaching as being salvation that takes place after leaving this world, which implies that we become Enlightened only after we die. This is absolutely not correct. The salvation we experience is while we are still in this world – while still alive.

I frequently hear people say they cannot understand a Pure Land that they can neither go to nor see during life, and that the only time we will be able to determine whether the Pure Land does or does not exist is after we die. That, however, is absolutely not the case.

Both the Venerable Master and Master Rennyo (1415-1499 CE, the 8th Spiritual Leader of the Hongwanji) positively state that the certainty of birth in the Pure Land is experienced in the present. They could say that only because they were both within the protective embrace of the Primal Vow while alive.

There are many places in the Venerable Master’s voluminous writings in which we can determine how important he considered his coming in contact with Master Honen was. I believe one example is his Japanese poem (Wasan) included in “Hymns of the Eminent Monks” (Koso Wasan):

Countless kalpas and innumerable lives passed 

Without knowing the strong cause for being liberated; 

Were it not for my teacher Honen, 

My present life would also have passed in vain.

This expresses the Venerable Master’s awareness that he had been deluded for a long time because of his self-centeredness. He was unable to escape suffering in the world of delusion, and accumulated nothing but evil karma as a result of being born, dying, and then being born again. Only because of Master Honen did he finally come in contact with the world of Amida Buddha’s salvation. If he had not met Master Honen – if he had not heard about the world of the Nembutsu – he would not have been able to awaken to birth in the Pure Land. He would have been destined to continue wandering in the world of delusion. What the Venerable Master spoke of was absolutely not something that happened after he died. I believe the Venerable Master’s words above overflow with joy at knowing he was saved in his present life.

The Venerable Master listened earnestly to Master Honen’s Dharma Talks and became his disciple. He abandoned the way of “self-centered effort” that he had followed until then, and began following the way of “Buddha-centered effort” (tariki). In the Chapter on Transformed Land of his “Teaching, Practice, Shinjin, and Realization” (Kyogyoshinsho), the Venerable Master wrote:

I, Gutoku Shinran, disciple of Shakyamuni, discarded sundry practices and took refuge in the Primal Vow during the first year of the Kennin era (the metal/cock year, 1201 CE).然愚禿親鸞,建仁辛酉曆 (1201年,29歲) ,棄雜行兮,歸本願。

In other words, the Venerable Master stated that during the year 1201 CE, when he was 29 years of age, this ignorant Shinran who is unable to follow any religious practice, abandoned the way of “self-centered effort” in which religious practices are performed in order to attain Enlightenment and accepted the Nembutsu teaching which relies on Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow.

The Venerable Master entered Amida Buddha’s world of salvation because of this encounter with Master Honen. There are, unfortunately many misunderstandings of the Jodo-Shinshu teaching as being salvation that takes place after leaving this world, which implies that we become Enlightened only after we die. This is absolutely not correct. The salvation we experience is while we are still in this world – while still alive.

I frequently hear people say they cannot understand a Pure Land that they can neither go to nor see during life, and that the only time we will be able to determine whether the Pure Land does or does not exist is after we die. That, however, is absolutely not the case.

Both the Venerable Master and Master Rennyo (1415-1499 CE, the 8th Spiritual Leader of the Hongwanji) positively state that the certainty of birth in the Pure Land is experienced in the present. They could say that only because they were both within the protective embrace of the Primal Vow while alive.

There are many places in the Venerable Master’s voluminous writings in which we can determine how important he considered his coming in contact with Master Honen was. I believe one example is his Japanese poem (Wasan) included in “Hymns of the Eminent Monks” (Koso Wasan) (101):

Countless kalpas and innumerable lives passed 

Without knowing the strong cause for being liberated; 

Were it not for my teacher Honen, 

My present life would also have passed in vain.

雖經曠劫多生久,不知出離之強緣

若非本師源空教,虛度此生又一回

This expresses the Venerable Master’s awareness that he had been deluded for a long time because of his self-centeredness. He was unable to escape suffering in the world of delusion, and accumulated nothing but evil karma as a result of being born, dying, and then being born again. Only because of Master Honen did he finally come in contact with the world of Amida Buddha’s salvation. If he had not met Master Honen – if he had not heard about the world of the Nembutsu – he would not have been able to awaken to birth in the Pure Land. He would have been destined to continue wandering in the world of delusion. What the Venerable Master spoke of was absolutely not something that happened after he died. I believe the Venerable Master’s words above overflow with joy at knowing he was saved in his present life.

At any rate, that is how, when the Venerable Master was 29 years of age, he became Master Honen’s disciple and entered the world of “Buddha-centered power.” He referred to this being “(in the group of) those guaranteed to be born (in the Pure Land) in this present life” (gensho ni現生にshojoju正定聚(しょうじょうじゅ) no kurai(ぐらい) ni ju suru). Dwelling in this group refers to being included among those who birth in the Pure Land and complete Enlightenment there is absolutely guaranteed.

Unfortunately, however, the base passions that result from our self-centeredness will never disappear as long as we live in this present world. That’s why, although we do not attain complete Enlightenment in this world, we are guaranteed to become a Buddha (nyorai如來, “thus come (from thusness)”). Being in this group is the benefit we receive while still in this world.

An example of how the Venerable Master expressed his great joy at constantly being within the warm embrace of the power of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow is found in the Chapter on Transformed Land of his “Teaching, Practice, Shinjin, and Realization”:

How joyous I am, my heart and mind being rooted in the Buddha-ground of the Universal Vow, and my thoughts and feelings flowing within the Dharma-ocean which is beyond comprehension! 「慶哉!樹心弘誓佛地,流念難思法海。」

That is how the Venerable Master expressed the joy of being within the protective embrace of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. He referred to his feeling then as receiving the “mind of great joy and rejoicing.”

In contrast, a person who gained as much political and secular power as anyone in the history of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豐臣秀吉 (1536-1598 CE), left the following “death poem”:

Falling like dew 

And scattering like the mist, 

My body, my life… all… 

Are like a dream within a dream.

露と落ち 露と消へにし わが身かな 浪速 (なにわ) のことは 夢のまた夢

In other words, regardless of how much political and secular power Toyotomi Hideyoshi had accumulated in this world, a time came when he felt he had lost it all.

The joy of shinjin that we receive from the Buddha, however, never changes, nor will ever be lost, regardless of when or how, and even when death approaches.

 

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