The Reality of Myth
All religions offer a sacred or mythical story so that ordinary people can understand that which is incomprehensible.
For example, there are stories of virgin births, crucifixions, visits by angels, ascensions through heavens and resurrections.
Some may dismiss myth as false or just nice little stories but in reality, myth serves as the medium by which our inner deep
subconscious mind interacts with our outer conscious mind and world. Myths manifest
themselves in a dreamlike manner, coming from our wisdom bodies, the human body, whose source is the ground of our biological
being, the source of life.
One major difference between Western and Middle Eastern religions and Shin Buddhism is that we (Buddhists) freely
acknowledge that our sacred story is a metaphor and not historical fact. To see it as true history would be to miss the
point and be a grave error. As the Buddha said, “it is the finger that points to the moon,” The finger is
not the moon but indicates the direction of the moon. So many people get confused thinking that the finger is the moon (truth).
The Sacred Story of Buddhism
The Sacred Story of Shin Buddhism is a saga of great love, compassion,
sacrifice and triumph. It is derived from the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, which uses mythical language and metaphor (symbols) to convey the unexplainable
nature of nirvana, the universal enlightened reality and its primordial activity, which is beyond conceptual thought. That
is to say, the Sacred Story is not to
be read as literal truth but as a metaphor that points to the ceaseless activity of universal compassion and the foundation
of reality itself, which is ultimately our true nature. In many religions, symbols tend to be concretized into facts;
God becomes a fact or religious scriptures are seen as the literal truth. However, according to Buddhism, these are just symbols
to direct the mind and heart to shunyata (emptiness) which is beyond form,
beyond thought and beyond comprehensibility.
In The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life,
the main Shin Buddhist scripture, the historical Buddha tells Ananda, one of his chief disciples, the legendary story that
took place in timeless time. In this sacred story, there was a prince called
Dharmakara, which means Storehouse of the Dharma, who like the true historical
Prince Siddhartha Gautama or Shakyamuni, renounced his royal position, and became a bhikshu,
a renunciant spiritual seeker. His reason for pursuing the religious life was motivated by his great compassion and deep love
for all suffering beings throughout the universe and time. Due to his pure love and compassion, Dharmakara declared 48 religious vows, called collectively as the Primal Vow, in order to create a Pure
Land that would liberate each and every suffering being throughout time
A Pure Land,
or Sukhavati in Sanskrit, is the transcendent realm totally free of greed, anger
and delusion, which is open to all without exception. In Shin Buddhism, the Pure Land is identical with Nirvana, the abode
of peace and infinite life, which is not a specific place but is the ultimate dimension of eternal oneness (non-duality),
being everywhere, within everyone, yet nowhere.
Over a period of billions of years, he underwent numerous practices and alas he spiritually evolved to realize the
awakening and liberation of both himself and all sentient beings within boundless space and time. By accomplishing his Primal
Vow, the Pure Land
became a reality and thus he became Amida, the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Light.
Hence, Amida manifest herself in all quarters of the universe as the nembutsu- Namu-Amida-Butsu and through her Name, she nurtures all living beings and ceaselessly works to awakened
them to reclaim their spiritual inheritance of enlightenment and be spiritually reborn in the Pure Land in the here and now.
At first, the Sacred Story may seem a little bizarre but once you begin
to read the dharma, reflect on it, live the nembutsu and manifest shinjin, as the experience of awakening, more and more of
the metaphors will be understood and appreciated and truly lived. Only then, will you will come to realize that this Sacred Story is actually the story of your own spiritual journey. How can this be? Please refer to our complete
web page on Shin Buddhism, called Belief, Practices and Experiences.