Author Topic: Self-Power & Other-Power in Pure Land Buddhism  (Read 3164 times)

Offline Dharma Flower

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Self-Power & Other-Power in Pure Land Buddhism
« on: October 03, 2019, 09:20:34 pm »
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha teaches that our destination after death is determined by our deeds:

The doer of good rejoices here and hereafter; he rejoices in both the worlds. He rejoices and exults, recollecting his own pure deeds. The evil-doer suffers here and hereafter; he suffers in both the worlds. The thought, “Evil have I done,” torments him, and he suffers even more when gone to realms of woe.

How is the Dhammapada’s teaching of self-reliance compatible with Amitabha’s Pure Land teaching?

Pure Land Buddhists commonly rely on the combined practice of self-power and other-power:
The Pure Land method characteristically involves two factors, the power of one’s own mind and Amitabha Buddha’s power of “welcoming and escorting.” Therefore, obtaining results is extremely easy. For example, if someone with weak, hobbled feet wanted to climb a mountain unaided, it would be difficult indeed! However, if he were assisted by a great athlete who took him by the arm and climbed the mountain along with him, head held high, the result would not be that difficult to achieve.

The same is true of Pure Land. As we earnestly recite the Buddha’s name, our mind-power keeps developing. When one-pointedness of mind is achieved, the mind-power manifests itself perfectly. At that point the power of our karma is subdued and is no longer a hindrance. If we add to that Amitabha Buddha’s power to “welcome and escort,” we will achieve rebirth in the Pure Land in spite of the fact that not all of our bad karma is extinguished. Once reborn, our lifespan extends over innumerable eons. Non-retrogression until complete Enlightenment and Buddhahood are attained is therefore an easily understandable occurrence…

As far as the question of “self-power” vs. “other power” is concerned, it is wrong to understand the Pure Land method as exclusive reliance on Buddha Amitabha’s power. The Pure Land practitioner should use all his own power to rid himself of afflictions, while reciting to the point where his mind and the Mind of Amitabha Buddha are in unison. At that moment, in this very life, the Buddha will emit rays to silently gather him in and at his death, he will be welcomed and guided back to the Pure Land. The “welcoming and escorting” feature is really the principal manifestation of the “other-power.”

As an analogy, for a student to exert his own efforts to the utmost is, of course, a laudable thing. If, in addition, he has the benefit of an excellent teacher who follows his progress and assists him, his level of achievement will be higher, resulting in assured success in his final examinations.

Adding other-power to self-power is similar. Therefore, how can it be considered weak or mistaken to exert all of our own efforts to cultivate and then seek additional help to achieve rapid success?

The great and lofty Pure Land method is lauded by such great Bodhisattvas and Patriarchs as Manjusri, Samantabhadra, Asvaghosha, Nagarjuna as well as eminent Masters of various schools and traditions. To belittle Buddha Recitation is to belittle these very Bodhisattvas, Patriarchs and high-ranking Masters. To claim that Buddha Recitation is low-level, relying only on other-power, is to lack a real understanding of the Pure Land method.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2019, 09:28:07 pm by Dharma Flower »


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