By Rev. Ryoko Osa
People unfamiliar with Jodo Shinshu Buddhism may think “Namu Amida Butsu” is a mysterious mantra with magical powers. But rather than imagining it’s changing the world, think how it changes our perception.
“Namu Amida Butsu” symbolizes a wish that “I may live by entrusting my life to infinite wisdom and compassion.”
Immeasurable wisdom and compassion is power making us realize our lives are sustained by innumerable elements in this world. For example in order to live, we need to be connected to sun, water, air, earth, trees and many other things. We rely on people to provide us with drinking water, vegetables and so forth. I cannot live for even a moment without these resources. It’s true for all existence.
Nothing can exist alone. All things exist thanks to all things that support life. If we grasp this truth, we can receive “the calling of immeasurable wisdom and compassion” symbolized by Nembutsu, “Namu Amida Butsu.”
Where does this call come from? It’s around us right now. This calling is not textbook knowledge, but our life experiences, such as the kindness and love we receive from family and friends. While our own wisdom and compassion are limited, accumulated wisdom from all past human beings is immeasurable. Wisdom isn’t the same as knowledge. When we feel someone’s love, then and only then can we say “love exists.” Likewise, we can say immeasurable wisdom and compassion exist if we hear its call.
No other condition is needed to liberate us from our suffering. We don’t need any special knowledge or practices. We just need awareness. When we feel that immeasurable wisdom and compassion accept us as we are, our hearts open and our suffering lessens its grip.
Immeasurable wisdom and compassion call us to realize everything exists because of various causes and conditions. To explain this truth, Buddhist teachers from the past used the name “Amida Buddha.” To help us understand immeasurable wisdom and compassion, they created this symbolic Buddha, which is why in our temples and homes today, we have Amida statues and scrolls.
When receiving this new viewpoint by encountering immeasurable wisdom and compassion called Amida Buddha, the world around us doesn’t change, rather, our outlook in life changes.
We live in a world filled with hatred and sadness. But when we look at the world from a different viewpoint, our inner world becomes a tranquil, pure, and beautiful place. “Pure Land” symbolizes this spiritual world.
Truly listening to the Buddhist teachings helps liberate our hearts and minds from darkness created by ignorance and desires. Let us deeply reflect on our true nature—and from the bottom of our hearts—accept infinite wisdom and compassion.
Rev. Osa is minister of Berkeley Higashi Honganji temple.