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The Name that Goes Beyond Time, Distance

The cloud of light is unhindered like the open sky. There is nothing that impedes it. Every being is nurtured by this light, so take refuge in Amida, the one beyond conception.

The Japanese language uses “counters” (indicators) when counting different kinds of objects. For instance, different counters can tell you what kind of animal is being counted. When counting cattle, the term "one head of cattle" is used. When counting birds, the term "one feather," and when counting fish, "one tail" is used.


Why are the terms (“counters”) different? The answer to this question is: "It depends on what remains after each animal dies." When counting humans, we can use the term "one name of a human." This is because the "name" remains after the death of a human being. There seem to be various theories about the origin of this counter, and there seems to be an opinion that this is an idea that someone created, but it is a convincing idea to me.


Animals don't seem to care if their names remain after they die, but humans probably do. When I think about my family, my grandfather was born into the Pure Land at a young age, and I have never met him. Still, I have seen pictures of my grandfather, so I know his face and name. But what about my grandfather's parents and their parents?


Even though I am alive now because of them, I don't know much about them. With that in mind, if I have grandchildren, my face and name may remain in my grandchildren's memory, but in the future, the grandchildren of my grandchildren may not know me.


When I think the day will come when nobody knows about me, I feel a little sad. The cause of my sadness is my attachment to my unique being. This attachment makes me feel I don't want to let go of "I." I don't know what I want from the world after I die, but I am reminded of how strong human attachment to the self is.


The Buddha tells us that we feel sad because we separate ”self” from "others." The relationship between the ocean and the waves is a good example. The ocean is a huge mass of water. A small splash of water rises from the ocean, named a "wave," and eventually returns and becomes one with the ocean. It is only humans who call the ocean and the waves separate things even when the waves are essentially just a part of the ocean. Similarly, human beings with unique names are one of the works of this world, and like a wave in the ocean, “self” disappears as a matter of course at the end of life.


After a human has passed away, a human’s name may remain for a short time, but that time is limited. Meanwhile, there is the unlimited name "Amida," which is said to reach any place in any era.


The name “Amida Buddha” comes from the Sanskrit words "Amitābha" (“unlimited light,” which means “endless distance”), "Amitāyus" (“unlimited life,” which means “endless time”).


When Shinran Shonin writes about the works of Amida Buddha, he often uses the word light. In the “Hymns of the Pure Land,” he wrote the passage: “Every being is nurtured by this light."


People who don't even know each other's faces or names are reciting the same word, “Namu Amida Butsu,” somewhere in the same era. We seem to be in the same warm light of Amida Buddha, even though we are living in different places and times. There are many people who were born into the Pure Land earlier than me, showing us how to recite the name of the Buddha. Because of them, now I can encounter Nembutsu teaching.


When I find out that “Namu Amida Butsu” will reach those who will be born in the future, I feel that I will not be lonely even after I leave this world. Even if my personal name does not reach far into the future, the name of Amida will reach in any place of any era. I deeply feel that this is the greatest joy of Nembutsu followers.


Gassho,

Namu Amida Butsu


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