An English Poet's Cry of Sincere Faith
Editor's comment by Householder Jingtu:
Born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, Ivan Latham is a trained accountant and sometime poet who lives and works in Senden, Germany. He recently took refuge with the pristine Pure Land lineage of Master Shandao and was given the Dharma name Jingyang (淨仰, or Pure Admiration) by Master Huijing. Here is his account of the spiritual journey that took him to Buddhism’s Pure Land school.
FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO THE REALM OF AMITABHA
By Householder Jingyang
I had always been a spiritual seeker. My upbringing was Christian, and for almost 40 years I trod a confused path within and outside the church. I would leave it alone, go back, try again to get my heart and head around it all, get bogged down and start the cycle again. It was my own samsaric microcosm!
I dallied with atheism, agnosticism and couldn't-care-less-ism, but nothing answered my questions, or satisfied my needs. I had no idea what my needs even were! I wasn't happy, wasn't really a nice person. Something was missing. But again, I had no idea what.
Then, around a year-and-a-half ago, my in-laws gave my wife and I a beautiful thangka. They had traveled widely in India and had brought it back years ago from one of their trips. It was a moving-in gift for our new flat. It's beautiful -- vivid colors on fabric, with a striking Buddha seated at its center. I only discovered later that it is Amitabha Buddha.
Photo from Internet
The thangka piqued my interest and I began to look into Buddhist teaching. I started slowly, with the basics -- the Four Noble Truths, Five Precepts, etc. I hadn't expected it to make so much sense! Then my wife brought me a paperback book of Teachings of the Buddha last Christmas. (Amitabha bless her!) I read it avidly. Some deep stuff, a lot of it in fact. But again, it made so much sense of the world and explained the human condition in a thorough and convincing way.
I started to practice mindfulness meditation, watching the breath, watching my thoughts. It was fascinating and I enjoyed the calmness I gained as time went by. I continued studying, reading, trying to put into practice the Dharma method, and getting to know some wonderful people on the same path, mostly online. I began reciting mantras, using a mala (beads), broadening my practice.
But if I am honest, I was probably doubting my ability to achieve anything even remotely resembling a beneath-the-bodhi-tree experience. I doubted myself, and not in the right "not-self" Buddhist way! I was finding calmness, less anxiety, but the Buddha seemed to be teaching something far more radical. Suffering and the end of suffering. Not just a means of coping with day-to-day stress.
By chance I heard of the Pure Land path. Not by chance, no. By Amitabha’s grace! I had never heard of this "easy path" and at first I dismissed it as inauthentic Buddhism. I had heard so much about self-power that to rely on Amitabha sounded heretical. But I don't know if it was my Christian upbringing, but I guess the idea of grace dies hard. I looked at Pure Land again and its teachings on faith, aspiration and practice. I looked a bit more and then on a whim modified my meditation. I wrote my own short liturgy centered on recitation rather than meditation. I recited the name of Amitabha Buddha.
Somehow it felt so right. Something moved me within, as I recited. I felt a great sense of compassion towards myself and the whole world. And a joy and peace that I thought I would never know.
Finally I feel that I understand the true purpose of Shakyamuni Buddha's work, which was to reveal the truth of this wonderful Pure Land way … to reveal Amitabha Buddha, who in his great compassion seeks our liberation and Buddhahood.
In Amitabha, I know and trust that Buddhahood is fully attainable, and that this priceless treasure awaits all who only believe. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with him! What a privilege and joy! Namo Amitabha Buddha!
Three Pure Land Poems by Householder Jingyang
Lord of the Pure Land, now I see the name I speak is not of me,
The Voice is Yours, and Yours alone,
That rends a selfish heart of stone
And makes it bleed Nianfo praise,
And homage to Your perfect grace;
The cry of sincere faith is this:
Call Namo Amitabha! Be born in Bliss!
When All Else is Gone
Though the mountains are worn to dust
And the oceans turn to desert,
Amitabha’s life and light shall remain undiminished.
He is the constant when all things change,
The last and greatest Lamp when the stars fade;
His life shall flourish in the midst of death,
And His merit shall never be exhausted.
His Vow is fixed, His compassion sure,
His Pure Land fixed and founded in the far Western quarter.
From where His light shines, guiding all beings
To His shore.
Lord of the Pure Land
Lord of the Pure Land, in You I see,
Or surely I will fall;
Blind passion, wrath and ignorance
Condemn me to Samsara’s thrall;
But in You, Amitabha, I find my light!
As bright as sunrise, the Land of Bliss
Spread out before my sight,
Where You reside, and where my true life is.
- 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