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Buddhism – FAQ

(Buddhism is a path of awakening to the true nature of reality, thereby escaping the cycle of birth and death to attain nirvana and become a Buddha, an awakened one like Sakyamuni Buddha.) The many Buddhist schools represent different ways of passing this cycle of human life towards Buddhahood. Buddhism provides a worldview that helps us reflect on ourselves and our world, with the aspiration to become awakened and attain enlightenment.

Shin Buddhism encourages deep self-contemplation and helps individuals live meaningful lives as their authentic selves. It is a Buddhist path that fits you and your life – you do not have to change yourself or your life to fit Shin Buddhism.

There are many Buddhas; none are an all-powerful, divine, creator being as might be thought of as God in monotheistic faith traditions.

Jodo Shinshu, or Shin Buddhism as it’s widely called in English, is a path to awakening through the realization of the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha.

Shin Buddhism is a path on which we nurture our heart-minds to entrust the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha that is the cause for our rebirth to the Pure Land.

Like all other Buddhist traditions, it comes from the historical Buddha through the recordings of his teachings, or sutra. Shin Buddhism was founded in 13th century Japan by a teacher named Shinran Shōnin. He shared Buddhism with lay people who were previously excluded from formal Buddhist practice and its teachings. By separating the necessity of monasticism from Buddhist practice and teachings, it grew in popularity as an egalitarian path to Buddhahood. It is still one of the largest schools of Buddhism in Japan today.

Amida Buddha is the expression of Oneness; the compassionate energy of the universe that sustains life. Amida Buddha did not create the universe, nor did Amida Buddha create each of us, but is the form that represents the immeasurable wisdom and compassion of the universe of which we are a part.

Amida is the combination of two Sanskrit words: Amitabha (immeasurable light or infinite wisdom and understanding) and Amitayus (immeasurable life or infinite compassion and caring). Amida Buddha is the Buddha of Immeasurable light and life, infinite wisdom and compassion.

Namo Amida Butsu is a Japanese transliteration of Sanskrit and Chinese, that is translated as “I take refuge in the Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life, Wisdom and Compassion”

Namo Amida Butsu (called the Nembutsu in Japanese) is heard frequently at temples especially during services. It is not a mantra, or a prayer, but an expression of gratitude and joy in encountering the BuddhaDharma.

There are numerous Buddhas in Buddhism, one of whom was a real man of this world who attained enlightenment and became Sayamuni Buddha.

Shin Buddhism centres Amida Buddha, a Buddha that represents the cosmic, limitless wisdom and compassion that sustains our lives.

The form in the centre of the TBC altar is a statue of Amida Buddha.

Shin Buddhism teaches that at the time of death, one is reborn in the Pure Land if one sincerely aspires to be reborn there. It is considered one’s karma to have encountered the teachings that guide us to the Pure Land, and offers Shin Buddhists a sense of comfort that after this life, one will be reborn in a land of enlightenment as an enlightened being.

The Pure Land is a Buddhist concept, a metaphor for a realm of truth and enlightenment, in contrast to this human realm of delusion.

Pure Land Buddhism, and therefore Shin Buddhism, teaches that one will be reborn to the Pure Land at the time of death if one sincerely aspires to be reborn there. Once enlightened in the Pure Land, one immediatel returns to this unenlightened realm to guide others on enlightenment.

A quick comparison might suggest that the Pure Land is a “Buddhist Heaven” or Paradise, but they are quite different. Heaven is the realm where believers go to live eternally at the side of God. Paradise is a land of bliss and leisure. The major difference between these realms is that the Pure Land is one where you go forth to and return from as the compassionate activity of an enlightened being.

Chanting is an activity performed by monks to help memorise and transmit the words of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Shin Buddhism, chanting is done by not just the ordained, but by all who gather, and is a valuable experience where one is able to simultaneously listen to the Dharma at the same time as we share it with those around us.

The chants in a Shin Buddhist temple are in classical Buddhist Japanese style, written in Chinese form, which was the language of scholarship when it was originally recorded in Japan. It is almost impossible to translate directly, but it can be said that chanting is not an activity meant solely for understanding, but it is a participatory ritual to collectively appreciate the incomprehensible wisdom.

There are many highly regarded authors who have written about Shin Buddhism. The following For those new to Shin Buddhism, “Ocean: An introduction to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in America” by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Tanaka and “Buddhism of the Heart: Reflections on Shin Buddhism and Inner Togetherness” by Dr. Jeff Wilson Sensei are easy to read and very popular. We are particularly happy to endorse the work of Dr. Jeff Wilson as he is one of our Assistant Ministers – you might attend a service where he gives the Dharma Talk!