Buddhist Beliefs, Practices and Experiences

Amida: One Universal Life

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The One Life

 

Let's further explain the nature of the ultimate dimension first presented in the previous web page, by exploring the reality of the One Life. As already mentioned, the holographic dimension of panenbuddhism affirms that at the deepest foundation of reality, the lives of every being, barring none, including the non-sentient realities of the galaxies, stars and worlds are not separate and solitary entities, but rather, the undercurrent life force and awareness that we call our individual lives is really the same Life and the same awarenness that is manifested in all beings and things, animate and inanimate throughout the endless universe in the space and time continuum. In other words, your true and real self is the One Life shared by all beings and the universe. This One Life is primordial in nature, that is to say, it is ancient, unborn and deathless. In Mahayana Buddhism, this true and real self is also referred to as the dharmakaya, which is symbolized in concrete terms as Amida Buddha. In addition, it is carries othersynonymous names like Oneness, One Life, Great Compassion, Buddha-nature, rigpa or Immeasurable Life and Light. Please, read further for an explanation.

The galaxies, worlds and you are the one Life.
The galaxies, worlds and you are the one Life

Waves on the Ocean

 

To understand further the panenbuddhistic nature of Amida, the image of a boundless spiritual ocean of life and light is often used to explain its nature. Like being in a vast and endlessly living ocean of light and light, all things within this vibrant realm may be akin to the unstable waves on the surface of that boundless ocean of space and time. All of the waves are made of the same water or spiritual substance. Every wave is different and unique. Some are bigger than others and some are calmer than others, yet all are finite and limited in the amount of water they carry. More than this, every wave is destined to rise to a crescendo only then to fall back and disappear into the stillness of the deep waters. Kanmo Imamura wrote,

 

“Nothing endures in this world. Everything changes according to karma. But, like the ocean, underneath the restless existence of countless waves there is one boundless stillness that embraces and gives life to all the moving waves.”

 

In all of this flux, the stillness of the ocean remains the same, undifferentiated and in oneness. Nourished by the ocean-like Life, we are one with Amida Buddha (the spiritual ocean) and Amida Buddha is one with us (the waves), yet paradoxically, like the waves are to the ocean, we are different from one another.

 

This paradoxical and panentheistic reality of oneness/separateness is illustrated in the Shin religious experience through the Nembutsu-Namu-Amida-Butsu, in which the finite and relative self (namu) and the one Life (Amida Butsu) are experienced as one but at the same time each maintain their independence and remain just as they are. Waves are just waves and the ocean is just the ocean but the ocean totally embraces the waves from within and without.

 

How does this relate to our daily spiritual life? Simply, by just changing our attention or perspective from viewing ourselves as finite and limited waves on the ocean of Life, destined to suffer and eventually die, to experiencing ourselves as the infinite and deathless Ocean of Life and Light, then and only then, will we be able to see ourselves as we really are and be liberated from the spiritual ignorance that holds us in the bondage of separation and fear. When we learn and truly awaken to our true ocean-like nature, then and only then will we realize that we are Buddha and intuitively know that we are truly eternal and everlasting. This is the nature of enlightenment available to all regardless of class, race, gender, age, moral status, sexual orientation or even religious belief.

 

The Organic Universe

 

The entire universe is seen as a living and unfolding organism whose components create a greater transcendent whole, personified as Amida. This might seem a little strange for 21st century people who view the universe made up of lifeless material like gas, rocks, metals, ultraviolet light, dark matter, etc.  As illustrated above, Shin often uses the ocean as a metaphor to illustrate this living reality of pure awareness. Within this unfolding living reality of everything, there is mutual interdependence between Amida (the whole) and the universe (the components), in which both are joined in the on-going process of mutual creation and evolution, affecting each other in the course of time. This corresponds to Buddha’s teaching of non-self, impermanence, interdependence and the Primal Vow. This cosmic spiritual evolution is illustrated clearly in the Sacred Story of Buddhism. Here, Amida in her causal stage made the fulfillment of her Primal Vow dependent as the salvation of all beings in time and space. It says,

 

“If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the realms of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, aspire to be born in my realm, and call out my name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment.”

 
 
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Copyright 2006. G.R. Lewis, All Rights Reserved

The author grants permission to copy this document for personal uses only.