In my previous article, I shared my difficulty as a Buddhist convert with the concept of Amida Buddha. The EVERYDAY BUDDHIST Course Pathway 13-A class clarified that Amida Buddha isn’t a god that we might assume coming from a Western perspective. Yet, I wanted more information to help me wrap my mind around what it is and isn’t, so I continued my deep dive into the subject.
In Rev. Nobuo Haneda’s book, “Dharma Breeze,” there is a chapter entitled “What Is Amida Buddha?” Rev. Haneda wrote that Amida is a human ideal — a symbol. He pointed out that there was Buddhahood before Shakyamuni Buddha, which to me seemed to negate the possibility that Amida is a god. There is no supreme being.
I also appreciated Rev. Haneda’s explanation that the Shin Buddhist founder, Shinran Shonin, actually challenged what he felt had become “stagnant, lifeless, and fossilized” about Buddhism during his life. Modern Buddhist scholars also strive to reinterpret the concept of Amida to fit a “modern consciousness.”
One of these modern scholars was Rev. Haya Akegarasu. Akegarasu said in a lecture that “Hozo Bosatsu’s deep vow and aspiration was not to be saved by simply bowing before the Buddha. He vowed to follow his own true path. This is the conviction of Amida Buddha.” I really liked this. It not only reassured me that Amida Buddha wasn’t a god, but it aligned with my personal desire to experience my own unique life journey that isn’t constrained by rigid doctrine.
I began to connect the dots in my research. Rev. Akegarasu was the teacher of Shuichi Maida, who was a prominent influence on Rev. Haneda. Akegarasu was also the teacher of Rev. Gyomay Kubose, who I referenced in my previous blog. Rev. Kubose was Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada’s teacher, and it was listening to Bishop Rev. Harada — back when he was the minister of Orange County Buddhist Church (OCBC) — who inspired me to pursue Buddhism through his teachings and example.
How amazing that each of these scholars and Buddhist leaders passed down teachings that eventually found me — a white, Catholic drop-out bumbling her way through life in American suburbia? This proved to me that modern Shin Buddhism in the United States is not fossilized at all. It is dynamic and interconnected and incredibly relevant to anyone who is open to listening.
I don’t know why, but it makes me think of the “Golden Chain” that we often recite during service: “I am a link in Amida’s golden chain of love that stretches around the world. I will keep my link bright and strong.”
The teachers are links. Everyone in the Sangha are the links. They keep the Dharma alive, passing it on to others for the betterment of humanity. This aligns with my core values. It is something I want to be a part of. In my next article, I will wrap up my thoughts about Amida Buddha and what it means in my life.
Next: Sitting With Amida