The Source of Unconditional Compassion
By Householder Jingnian
Domingo Hernandez De Jesus would not be an unfamiliar name to regular visitors to the English Facebook channels of the pristine Pure Land lineage of Master Shandao. An active editor of translations of teachings by Master Jingzong, he recently took refuge in our lineage with Master Huijing. His Dharma name is Jingnian (淨念, or “Pure Thought”).
Born in Puerto Rico and a resident of Bloomfield, New Jersey, USA, Domingo has felt a karmic affinity with the Buddha’s teachings since his childhood. Here is his own account of his journey to the Pure Land path of Amitabha-recitation.
-- The Editorial Team
Being born Puerto Rican and raised in a Western culture did not erase some past life connection I seem to have had to the Dharma.
As a child, the first time I saw images of the Buddha and Guanyin (Avalokitesvara) in my desire was to bow and show my respect to them. My parents, being Christians, did not allow or encourage such behavior, so I waited until I reached adulthood. Living in New York City I went to Chinatown on an impulse and walked into the first Chinese Buddhist Temple I found. I told the attendant that I wanted to study meditation. Luckily the attendant knew English and was able to translate my desire to the abbot.
The abbot of the Grace Gratitude Temple was named Fayun and he was kind enough to give me refuge. We did not speak the same language, so we always needed a translator. But I was happy just to be near him and to bow before the Buddha and read the Dharma books in the temple’s library. Master Fayun instructed me in Ch’an-style meditation but told me to use the mantra “Amituofo.”
I read some basic concepts but the dullness of my mind did not really allow me to understand who Amitabha is, or even if Amitabha and Guanyin were real beings or just qualities of mind. In any case I just remember being happy in the temple surrounded by the monks and nuns and the beautiful Buddha images. Somehow this would uplift my spirits and inspire me to be a better person.
After four years I moved out of the United States. While I was gone, Master Fayun passed away. His last words to me were, “If you remember me, I will remember you.” I moved on with his passing and stopped going to the temple. I also stopped being consistent with my meditation. However over the years I would occasionally remember to chant “Amituofo.”
About a year ago, I began to feel a very strong desire to read everything I could get my hands on regarding the Dharma. I began to explore the internet, looking for a way to connect with Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
I came across Master Jingzong’s page in Facebook and read everything on it. All of a sudden, it was as though I were hearing about Amitabha for the first time. I believe he is real and that his Pure Land is real. I am moved to tears when I read the many accounts of people and even animals dying and showing clear signs of being reborn in the Pure Land. However, what convinces me the most is the incredible depth of compassion that Amitabha embodies. He has no discrimination toward celestial beings, humans, animals, ghosts or demons. All can benefit from Amitabha’s compassion if they hold his name in their minds or even just hear his name. I have never heard of such compassion before in any other religion. This is the part of the teaching that most moves me. It speaks of a truth greater then most can imagine.
Amitabha loves us not for what we do but for who we are -- “poor sentient beings” unable to save ourselves. He opens the door to the Pure Land and secures our liberation. Even though I am 62 years old, I’m a baby as far as the Dharma is concerned. My understanding is very limited. But my limitations are not obstacles to Amitabha.
Reading Master Shandao’s words also inspires my faith. I experience a kind of thirst for his writings and for everything concerning the pristine Pure Land school. It is as though I cannot get enough.
At the same time I've become more aware of my many imperfections, limitations and bad habits. But instead of becoming discouraged, I just increase my recitation of Amituofo’s name. I think it may be Amitabha’s light that is letting me see where Amitabha is healing me.
This practice is simple and easy. I cannot ask for more . I am eternally grateful.
- Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
- Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
- Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
- Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha
If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings