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.