I am writing to send you the glad tidings that two faithful people, Yaakov and Orna Matri, from Israel, will become members of our Amida-shu in a ceremony to be held at The Buddhist House, tomorrow. Yaakov and Orna are a lovely couple who have visited us at TBH over the past two and a half years. I trust that the sangha will welcome them warmly. They are deeply touched by the Pureland faith. The growth of true faith in our world is of supreme importance, especially at this time when things have become so corrupt that people commit all kinds of terrible iniquities and call it religion.
We are currently in the midst of celebrating the memory of Gisho Saiko sensei who died on 19th March 2004 at the age of 79. I hope that you may wish to hold some ceremonial upon that day, which is this next Sunday, as we shall be doing here at The Buddhist House. Saiko sensei was greatly pleased to have met Pureland Buddhists from Europe in the personages of Prasada and myself when we visited Japan in 2004. Some say that he extended his life in order to attend to our visit as it was a very precious thought to him that the Dharma of the Pureland should be transmitted to the West and take root in new lands around the world. for this reason we feel that we have received from him a charge of immense importance.
The trust placed in us by others is a matter to think on deeply. Another good tiding is that recently Jim Pym has agreed to become a patron of the Amida Trust. Jim is a founding father of Pureland Buddhism in the UK. He is the editor of Pure Land Notes and is the leading figure in the Pure Land Buddhist Fellowship. Jim is also a Pureland Buddhist priest. We hope that his support will strengthen our efforts to support those who practise Amidist faith in many different ways and also facilitate our connections with other faith communities generally.
The special excellence of the Pureland Way is expressed in many facets, but one of the most important is its honest regard for people in their true state. We are foolish beings of wayward passion who live in Light much greater than our own. It is not our way to say that we are best or that we alone have the true way. No way followed by humans is perfect. The world is full of bonbu religions just as it is full of bonbu humans. Nonetheless, we do have the true faith as much as all those who try to practise love, compassion, sympathy and peace and bring these qualities to bear in this world all have the true faith. True faith does not reside in doctrine, important as teachings may be in supporting us. It resides in lives lived in the Light.
It is promised that when we die from this life, Amida will respond to our faith and greet us and take us to the Pure Land. Thereafter we may choose to return as bodhisattvas, as did Shakyamuni who founded our religion. While we remain in this life, we endeavour to live each encounter in Amida's Light. Though dark thoughts arise in us, though we sometimes feel enmity, though we are inclined to criticise, the thought that Amida sees the situation before us in the Light of Perfect Love, gives us pause. We know that we are not like That, but the thought of That is a profound thought. Namo Amida Bu helps us day in day out through all the vicissitudes.
When people enter our school, they become disciples of the teacher who is head of the School. This does not mean, however, that the teacher is anything other than a foolish bonbu who, nonetheless, is awake to Amida's Light. All I can do for you is, in various ways, keep saying, "Look! Look!" In our school we do not make a cult of discipleship. Those who think that the teacher can magically solve all their problems are in the grip of infatuation rather than true spirituality. In the Pureland Way we are "fellow faithful, fellow practicers". There is a spirit of comradship amongst us. We are friends practising Amida's Way together. We are all disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, and of the great sages Shan Tao, Honen Shonin and their illustrious successors. These people were all exemplifications of the Light. However, they too had their struggles just as we do. We are inspired by their selfless lives and their application to simple faith the more becuse we know they had the same basic nature as ourselves.
We are currently conscious of illness and frailty. Several people either members of the School or related or closely known are seriously ill at present. We bear one another’s sufferings and encompass one another in love. Although one is hale and vigorous one day, the next it may be quite different. We all need one another in such times of suffering and we are well to not assume that such times are remote.
In Amida-shu at present there is a gradual development of co-operation and this is very good to see. We are here to relinquish self and work together. Those who are ministers and chaplains have started to develop links. Those working on the forthcoming conference, likewise. Every task requires a little team, whether it is organising an event in Oxford, planning a course in London, or helping other members of the Trust to become more involved. This last is something that all members of the School can give thought to. As School members we can reach out to those who have shown interest and who want to be involved through membership of Amida Trust or any of its activities.
Our Amida-shu is a rather "religious" form of Buddhism. That is not to everybody's taste, but it is very much to some people's. For those who are open to it, Amidism can touch a much deeper spot in their heart than any secularised presentation of Dharma is capable of. Buddha did not leave his Pure Land and appear in our Saha world simply to teach a self-help technique. He came to reveal the Unborn, the Light of Eternal Love.
Also, it makes no sense to dispute the ways of naming that which is "deeply interfused" and gives meaning to our lives. Because we are “religious Buddhists” we can find friends in other religious traditions. This is not something to be shy or ashamed about.
We are also at present conscious of our friends gone forth to distant lands, especially Modgala and Joy in India with all the volunteers, and Amrita and Willemien in Zambia. We are currently also blessed with a visit by John Zulu who has been of inestimable help to the developing work in Zambia.
Amida's work is to be done here and now. It is even better to support the faith of another than to find faith oneself. There are innumerable people in this world who have a hunger for true spirituality. They are like people lost in a desert. The desert of our world is materialism. It is destroying our planet. With this in mind, I recently took the initiative to suggest the formation of a grouping called Green Amida that seems to have struck a chord.
Although this letter conveys news and thoughts and has encompassed many topics, its primary purpose is to express my love for each of you. We are a small religious denomination, but just as one nembutsu suffices, so one true heart redeems all people. We all have worldly troubles, but we all have one Other-worldly Light. Each of us aspires in their own way and each will be uniquely blessed.
The cold days of winter are soon to be past
All the things of this life slip away
Friends flourish and ail
Yet Amida, without fail,
Stands by our side through each day
Until, self-forgetting, we find Him at last.
Namo Amida Bu
In love and respect for each of you