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The Buddha’s True Intent

“The fundamental intent for which the Buddha appeared in the world 

was to reveal the truth and reality of the Primal Vow. He taught that to encounter or behold a Buddha is as rare as the blossoming of the udumbara.” 

— “Hymns of the Pure Land”



In this hymn, Shinran Shonin explains that Śākyamuni Buddha appeared in this world to reveal Amida Buddha’s Great Wisdom and Compassion. 


However, encountering the Buddha’s great working is as rare as the blossoming of the “udumbara” flower, which is said to blossom only once every 3,000 years. Why is it so difficult to encounter Amida Buddha’s boundless working?  


I can think of a story that might help to explain this difficulty. In Japan, there lived a minister who also worked as a schoolteacher. One day, he was teaching his junior high school class when suddenly, one of his students stood up and left the classroom. The teacher was dumbfounded. Soon after, the classroom door opened, and the boy reentered. However, this time, he was carrying a bucket full of water. The teacher did not know what the student had in mind. He froze and watched what was unfolding. 


The boy went back to his seat and proceeded to pour the contents of the bucket onto his classmate who was sitting in front of him. What a shock! 


Everyone in the classroom stopped dead in their tracks. The teacher yelled at the student and demanded to know why he did that. But the student remained quiet and didn’t say a word. The boy was immediately sent to the principal’s office, where he remained silent and did not explain his actions. He was thoroughly scolded and punished by the school. Despite this, the boy never said anything. He just took his punishment quietly.  


Eventually, news broke out about what a weird, quiet boy had done at school. The other students ridiculed and made outlandish stories and rumors about the boy, saying he was the quiet type that no one could trust. He kept to himself throughout his time at school. Still, the boy never said a word about his intentions that day.  


Finally, it came time for the end of the school year. As it turned out, the boy would be transferred to another school, and the rest of the class would graduate. So, the teacher confronted the student one last time. 


He sat him down and gently asked, “You guys are going off on your separate ways, and you will never see each other again. I beg of you. Tell me, why did you decide to pour water onto that girl that one day?” 


The boy relented and gave his side of the story. 


“Well, I was going about my usual day,” he said. “Suddenly, I heard a dripping noise coming from the seat before me. No one else had noticed just yet, but I saw a puddle forming at the bottom of the girl’s seat in front of me. The only thing I could think of was to get a bucket of water and douse the girl so that no one would ever find out about her accident. That’s why I did what I did.”


Wanting to protect her from being ridiculed by the other students, the boy doused her in water to conceal what happened. By getting her drenched wet, no one would ever know that she, in fact, soiled herself. 


When the teacher finally heard this, he was so moved by the student that he started to cry. The boy’s spontaneous act of compassion touched his heart. The teacher felt ashamed that his student had to endure such punishment from the teachers and other students. The teacher saw this boy as a true hero who lived by the bodhisattva spirit of compassion. 


From this story, we can understand how the teacher experienced what compassion can look like. Compassion often draws ridicule, harassment, misunderstanding, and consequently, ostracization from others. This is because many people do not understand the world of true compassion; they are not nurtured to see it. However, if we listen carefully, we can eventually learn to see that the world of Great Compassion is, in fact, all around us. 


Likewise, we may not understand what Amida Buddha is at first. We may ridicule or ignore Buddha because we don’t understand what the Buddha’s working is. But if we continue to seek the Buddha Dharma and be like the teacher who just absolutely needed to know the boy’s motivations that day, we will hear and see the true intent of the Primal Vow and receive the Buddha’s heart. Embraced in the world of Great Compassion, we then cannot help but feel a deep sense of gratitude. Namo Amida Butsu.


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