While driving to work today I silently recited nembutsu. It was scary to see how often my mind preferred to abandon the joyful mantra and ventured into the land of useless, selfish, and fearful thoughts.
I find a relief in the Buddha-mindfulness practice. Thinking the mantra of Amida instead of reacting to thoughts and events is only possible because I have trust in the teachings of the Three Characteristics and the Four Noble Truths. Deep inside I know that there is no need to control, grasp or reject anything. Everything is unsatisfactory, impermanent and not-self. I will never be able to change it.
What spoils my Nembutsu practice is my fear that I’m re-inventing Pure Land. Imagining it. That the true Pure Land practice is indeed exclusively about faith in reborn in the Land of Amida, faith in Western Land as a real place and Amida as a separate being. I have a huge problem with that. I pursue the Buddhist path because I was able to verify some of the claims made by Buddha. Because I see His description of the world proving itself accurate every single day, every single minute.
What also turns me off are some of the Pure Land (especially Jodo Shinsu) followers who dismiss other schools and criticize other Buddhists for not following the one true teaching. I also can’t agree with the exclusiveness of the Nembutsu practice.
My Pure Land is in me. There is no distinction between myself and Amida Buddha or Shakyamuni Buddha. There is one Dharma, not many. But there are many gates leading to it. Nembutsu serves me as a reminder of the Dharma, as a concentration practice, as an extension of my formal sitting meditation, as a watchtower for observing the Three Characteristics. But I’m not looking for a savior. I want to do the work of the threefold training myself.
If what I’m doing is merely an interpretation of the Pure Land practice and have nothing to do with what sutras teach – I’m ready to discard this practice and come back to the Buddho mantra.