The Pure Land of Amitābha

In China and Japan many millions of Buddhists have been – and in Japan still are – devotees of the Pure Land doctrine. According to this a bodhisattva made a great vow which in time fulfilled itself as the manifestation of the Buddha Amitabha (infinite light), who created a Pure Land paradise in the West for those who would take his name with faith. From this Pure Land it was easy to attain final Nirvana. An old lady of this faith was walking along the road when she met a Zen master, who said to her, ‘On your way to the Pure Land, eh, Granny?’ She nodded. ‘Holy Amitabha’s there, waiting for you, I expect.’ She shook her head. ‘Not there ? The Buddha’s not in his Pure Land ? Where is he then ?’ She tapped twice over her heart, and went on her way. The Zen master opened his eyes wide in appreciation, and said, ‘You are a real Pure Lander.’   © Trevor Leggett – The Pure Land

He knew a tremendous lot of Vedanta

A lecturer on Vedanta made a tour of the towns of northern India, dazzling the audiences with his erudition. He had a phenomenal memory, and his replies to questions were a revelation. The disciple of a traditional teacher went to one of these lectures, and was much impressed. On his return he asked his teacher about the lecturer: Ts he really as good as he seems? How much does he really know about Vedanta ?’ ‘Oh, a tremendous lot was the answer, ‘in fact, everything. And that’s all.’   © Trevor Leggett – A Tremendous Lot

The Buddha-nature in all is always perfect

‘You’ve often told us in your sermons that the Buddha-nature in all is always perfect, and their nature loses nothing even if the mind is disturbed, and gains nothing when the mind is calm. Why then do you tell people to control their passions and acquire peace of mind? On your own showing, nothing real is lost, for the true nature can never be lost or even diminished.’ ‘They think that they lose something, and that causes distress.’ ‘Then simply tell them nothing has been lost, It is wrong to treat it as if they did lose something by letting their mind run wild, and then tell them how to control it.’ ‘Let me tell you something that happened to me once. I was passing one of those fried eel shops; you know what a delicious smell there is when they are cooking. I didn’t want any eels, but without thinking I inhaled a deep breath and said, “Ah-h-h!” as I passed by. ‘A little boy came running after me. “I saw you, I saw you”, he cried, ‘Daddy says that smell’s our business, and I saw you sniffing it up there. You’re stealing our business – give it back!” …

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Making amusing but biting comments at the expense of others

A teacher was having a meal with two pupils of some years standing, a man and a woman. The man knew that the woman, who had a witty tongue, occasionally used to make amusing but biting comments at the expense of others, and he suspected that she was not above inventing some details to give an extra edge to her little aggressions. Though generally likeable and kind-hearted, she could not resist taking an occasional opening which presented itself. During the meal, the teacher suddenly launched into a stream of vicious criticisms of someone well-known to all of them, producing wild slanders and accusations which they knew must be untrue. After a little, the two pupils cried out in protest, ‘Oh teacher, you can’t say that!’ The teacher’s flow stopped as if a tap had been turned off; after a little silence he began calmly to speak of something else. The two went home thoughtfully. After some weeks, the man noticed that the woman was very careful about her comments in regard to other people; in particular, she never gave rein to her talent for impromptu sarcasms. He realized that she had seen herself in what the teacher had done; he …

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He never again lost his temper in public

A young and able businessman was hampered in his career by sudden outbursts of fury when he was contradicted in front of others – at a board meeting, for instance. He was making some attempts at spiritual training, and he consulted one of the senior members of the group. ‘I know you’re going to tell me to count backwards from twenty- nine or something like that, but the fact is that it’s so strong that all that just gets blown away. I see a sort of red mist coming in front of my eyes. Isn’t there something a bit more positive for people like me ?’ The senior looked at him, smartly dressed and clearly very careful about his appearance. ‘There might be, for someone like you as you say,’ he replied, ‘but you have to be willing to get a bit of a shock. Keep a little mirror in your pocket, and when you see that red mist coming up, just go out of the room for a moment and look in the mirror.’ The business man did this next time he was contradicted. When he saw in the glass his face contorted with rage, lips swollen and eyes …

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And how do you think you have done?

A famous preacher of Vedanta had a pupil of sixteen years who, under his instruction, acquired a very fine knowledge of the philosophy. He did not teach him rhetoric, as he did not consider that the boy would make a good speaker. One day however the master suddenly became ill just before he had to address a gathering. On an impulse, he sent the boy to speak in his place, telling him to explain the circumstances, and then try to give a plain exposition of the fundamentals, as he had been taught. To his surprise, it was reported to him that the speech by his pupil had been a great success. A little later, kindly friends hinted that it had even been said that the pupil was a better speaker than his master. (‘Absurd, of course, but we felt you ought to know.’) The preacher pondered for a little while, and then set the pupil to re-make the garden of the house and build a shed in it, telling him that he should know about ordinary life as the layman lived it, and not only about abstractions. On another occasion when the master was again ill, he simply sent an …

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Samsara is Nirvana, the passions are enlightenment

The final word of Mahayana Buddhism, as expressed in the Garland Sutra of China, is that Samsara, this world of suffering, is Nirvana, and the passions are enlightenment, bodhi. It is only illusion that causes us to see differences between them. ‘Samsara is Nirvana, the passions are enlightenment.’ This formula has sometimes been taken as a sort of slogan, in isolation from the spirituality of the rest of the Sutra, like the remark of St Paul, ‘To the pure, all things are pure.’ A man who set himself up as a Buddhist teacher began preaching the slogan that passions are enlightenment, claiming to exemplify it by himself drinking heavily and frequenting brothels. This was reported to a real saint who remarked briefly, ‘No one who is a slave to passions can claim to see them as enlightenment.’ The teacher came storming round to the home of the saint and shouted, ‘You people claim to teach the doctrine that Samsara is Nirvana and the passions are enlightenment, but you are afraid to live it. You cower behind the little wall of your petty prohibitions and commandments. “Do this, don’t do that!” all the time. By giving all these silly rules, you …

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