48 Vows of Bodhisattva Dharmakara (Amida Buddha)

From the Three Pure Land Sutras, Volume II: The Larger Sutra, pg. 20-29

1

“‘If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be hell, the realm of hungry spirits, or the realm of animals in my land, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

2

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land, should, after their death, return once more to the three evil realms, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

3

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be the color of genuine gold, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

4

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be of the same appearance and should be either beautiful or ugly, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

5

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not remember all their former lives,[1] and thus be unable to know at least the events of the previous hundred thousand kotis of *nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

6

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine eyes,[2] and thus be unable to see at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

7

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine ears,[3] and thus be unable to hear the teachings being expounded by at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddhas or remember them all, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

8

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess the wisdom to see into the minds of others,[4] and thus be unable to know the thoughts of the sentient beings of at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

9

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine feet, and thus be unable to go beyond at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands in a thought‐moment, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

10

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should give rise to any thought of attachment to their body, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

11

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the *stage of the truly settled and necessarily attain nirvana, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

12

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my light should be finite, not illuminating even a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

13

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my life should be finite, limited even to a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

14

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the number of sravakas in my land could be counted and known, even if all the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas in the *triple‐thousand great thousand worlds should spend at least a hundred thousand kalpas counting them, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

15

When I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land will not have a limited life span, except when they wish to shorten it freely according to their original vows. Should this not be so, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

16

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should even hear that there are names of evil acts, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

17

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all glorify and praise my name, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.[5]

18

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters who, with sincere and *entrusting heart, aspire to be born in my land and say my name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the *five grave offenses and *those who slander the right Dharma.[6]

Continue reading “48 Vows of Bodhisattva Dharmakara (Amida Buddha)”

Dharma Discussion: Śīla (July 19, 2020)

Please review the Bodhisattva Precepts

Discussion Questions

  1.  How do you practice these precepts in your daily life?
  2. Is there meaning in doing one’s best, even though one is not able to practice these perfectly in daily life?
  3. Which of these do you think our world needs most at the present moment?

Honen’s Perspective on upholding precepts (from The Passages on the the Selection of the Nembutsu in the Original Vow)

If the original vow required us to make images of the Buddha and to build stupas, the poor and destitute would surely have no hope of birth, but the fact is that the rich and highborn are few, while the poor and lowborn are exceedingly many.  

Continue reading “Dharma Discussion: Śīla (July 19, 2020)”

Becoming Flexible

Rev. Adams shares some reflections on the Thirty-third Vow of Dharmakara Bodhisattva in light of his experiences as a Chaplain Intern at UCSF Medical Center.

Continue reading “Becoming Flexible”

Listening and learning

My wife Shoko recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Tokuma Monju Adams-Ichinomiya, at the Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center. Throughout the delivery and post-partum period, Shoko and Tokuma have received excellent care from the doctors, nurses, and other staff at Kaiser. The conscientious and compassionate treatment that our family has received inspires a deep feeling of gratitude in us for the quality of health care that we have access to.

When people first learn Tokuma’s name, they are often curious about its meaning. In Japanese, the name Tokuma 徳眞 is written with two Chinese characters: “Toku 徳” (virtue) and “ma 眞” (truth). During our Bodhi Day Service in early December, we chanted the “Verses in Praise of the Buddha (Sanbutsuge)” from The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. At that time, we were still thinking about possible names for the baby, and during the chanting the character “Toku 徳” in the following verses caught Shoko’s eye:

 

Your observance of precepts, learning, diligence,

Meditation, and wisdom—

The magnificence of these virtues (toku 徳) is peerless,

Excellent and unsurpassed.

 

Deeply and clearly mindful

Of the ocean of the Dharma of all Buddhas,

You know its depth and breadth,

And reach its farthest end.

 

In these verses, Dharmakara Bodhisattva recognizes and praises the virtues of Lokesvararaja Buddha. This passage from the Sutra reminds us that our path to awakening is fulfilled when we live with the humility to recognize great virtue in others and learn from their example. The character “ma 眞” means “truth,” and refers to the truth of the Buddha’s teachings as a guide for living with wisdom and compassion. Shoko and I chose the characters Tokuma 徳眞 for the name of our third son as an expression of our wish that as he finds his own path on the journey of life, he will be guided by the virtuous truth of awakening.

In our family, we have a custom of choosing the middle name of our children taking inspiration from the wisdom of the lives of those who have come before us. Our two older sons have middle names from ancestors on my side of the family. When we found out that we were pregnant with our third child, Shoko shared with me a Japanese proverb that has been passed down in her family over the generations and that she often heard from her mother growing up: “When three minds come together, they have the wisdom of Manjusri (Monju 文殊) Bodhisattva. (Sannin yoreba Monju no chie.)” In Mahayana Buddhism, Monju is revered as a bodhisattva of profound and penetrating wisdom. In the Amida Sutra, Monju appears as a representative of the beings of awakening who gather to hear the Buddha’s teaching. The truly wise recognize the importance of listening to others. The proverb above expresses the truth that three ordinary people who come together and listen to one another are able to realize great wisdom and insight. With the birth of Tokuma Monju, our wish is for our three sons to listen to one another and come together to realize profound wisdom, drawing on their unique perspectives to realize a greater depth of insight than they would each be capable of on their own. We are truly grateful to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha for all your support and friendship as our family grows together in the Nembutsu.

 

Namo Amida Butsu

Seeing and Dancing

Our annual San Mateo Buddhist Temple Obon observances will be held this month with cemetery services and Obon Odori dancing on Saturday, August 9, and our Obon Service at the temple on Sunday, August 10. The Buddhist observance of Obon is inspired by the story of the Buddha’s compassionate teaching to his disciple Mahamaudgalyayana.

Mahamaudgalyayana felt deep gratitude toward his loving mother, and after she passed away, he would reflect on how all the things she had done for him continued to bring benefit to his life. As an enlightened disciple of the Buddha, Mahamaudgalyana had a special ability to see the workings of cause and effect beyond the boundaries of birth and death. On one occasion he used this power to search for his mother throughout the six realms of existence*. At that time, he saw that his mother had fallen into the realm of the hungry ghosts, a state of suffering from unsatisfied desire.

Mahamaudgalyayana immediately went to the Buddha to ask what he could do to ease his mother’s suffering. Because there is nothing that we can do directly for a loved one once they have passed away and ceased to dwell in this world, the Buddha advised Mahamaudgalyayana that the best way for him to express the feelings of gratitude he felt for his departed mother would be to practice generosity toward the people he lived with everyday. Mahamaudgalyayana followed the Buddha’s instructions and made a gift of food, clothing and other necessary items to his fellow monks at the conclusion of their rainy season retreat on the fifteenth day of the seventh month.

After making this gift, his thoughts turned once again to his mother. Again, he used his special power of vision to seek her out in the various realms of birth and death. He was delighted to see that his mother had been released from suffering in the realm of the hungry ghosts. At that time, we are told that the usually reserved and dignified monk Mahamaudgalyayana was so overjoyed by the power of the Buddha’s teaching to bring about freedom from suffering that he began to leap and dance about without any regard for what others might think of him. This unselfconscious dance of joy serves as the basis for the Obon Odori dancing that we will enjoy at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple on the evening of August 9.

The forty-eight vows established by Bodhisattva Dharmakara express his aspiration to liberate all beings from suffering. The Larger Pure Land Sutra tells how these vows were fulfilled when he realized perfect enlightenment becoming the Buddha Amitabha (Amida Buddha). Of the forty-eight vows, the eighteenth vow is called the Primal Vow because it is the vow that establishes the path for all beings to realize awakening through the Nembutsu. In the Jodo Shinshu Nembutsu tradition, the other forty-seven vows are considered to be further elaborations on the meaning of the eighteenth vow. I find that the sixth vow quoted below has special meaning for us during this Obon season:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine eyes, and thus be unable to see at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

(Three Pure Land Sutras, Volume II: The Larger Sutra, p. 20)

The expression “divine eyes” in this passage refers to that special power of vision possessed by Mahamaudgalyayana and all awakened beings.

The loved ones we remember during Obon now dwell in Amida Buddha’s land of peace and bliss. The Larger Sutra tells us that they have realized the same awakening as Mahamaudgalyayana along with that special power to observe the workings of cause and effect throughout the six realms of existence. In that sense, those departed loved ones view us living in this world of difficulty and confusion in the same way that Mahamaudgalyayana viewed his mother in the realm of the hungry ghosts. Just as Mahamaudgalyayana worked for the liberation of his own mother after he realized enlightenment, the loved ones we remember at Obon are constantly working to guide us to awakening. They are not ghosts who come into our lives for a few days every summer during Obon. They return to us as bodhisattvas, compassionate guides who support us in each moment of our lives.

Mahamaudgalyayana dances with joy because he sees the suffering of his mother as his own suffering, and experiences her liberation as his own liberation. To see with the eyes of awakening is not just to see what is happening, but to respond to the suffering of others with action motivated by deep compassion. That perspective of deep compassion is realized by all who receive birth in Amida Buddha’s realm of immeasurable peace and bliss. Reflecting on our loved ones who have crossed over to the Other Shore, we find that they are guiding us with compassion in this very moment. As we gather to dance with joy in gratitude for the ways that they continue to support and guide us in our lives, I find that the loved ones I remember are there with me, dancing with joy because I have encountered the path to liberation from suffering in the Nembutsu.

 

In gassho

 

*hells, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, fighting titans, and heavenly beings

Family and Friendship

     On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, my wife Shoko gave birth to a healthy baby boy Shoma (pronounced “SHOW-ma”) Jesse Adams-Ichinomiya at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame.  Throughout the delivery and post-partum period, Shoko and Shoma received excellent care from the doctors, nurses, and other staff at Mills-Peninsula.  In a time when we hear so much in our public discourse about the problems facing the medical system in this country, the conscientious and compassionate treatment that our family has received inspires a deep feeling of gratitude in us for the quality of care that we have access to.
     When people first learn Shoma’s name, they are often curious about its meaning.  In Japanese, the name Shoma 證眞 is written with two Chinese characters: “Sho 證” and “ma 眞.”  In the “Verses in Praise of the Buddha (Sanbutsuge)” from The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life Delivered by Sakyamuni Buddha, the character “Sho 證” appears in Dharmakara Bodhisattva’s request to have Lokesvararaja Buddha verify his aspiration to become a Buddha and guide all beings to liberation from suffering.  Sho 證 may be translated as “verify” or “realize.”   The character “ma 眞” means “truth,” and refers to the truth of the Buddha’s teachings as a guide for living with wisdom and compassion.  Shoko and I chose these two characters for the name of our second son as an expression of our wish that throughout Shoma’s journey through life, he will realize what is real and true in each situation he encounters.
     Shoma’s middle name Jesse comes from his great-great-great grandfather Jesse Melver Adams, Sr. (1844-1909), who lived in Bradley County, Arkansas.  In writings preserved by historians in Bradley County, one of Jesse’s good friends says he “knew Mr. Adams from his boyhood and can say that he never knew a better man or had a better friend.”  With the arrival of Shoma in our family, our first son Ryoma now has a brother.  As one of our good Dharma friends commented after Shoma’s birth, “Later on the two boys will have fun . . . as well as “fights.”  It brings us great joy to know that Ryoma and Shoma will enjoy a lifelong friendship as brothers, so we chose Shoma’s middle name inspired by a man who was known and loved as an exceptional friend.
     As there is no established custom of monastic practice in the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition, our practice of the Dharma is deeply rooted in family life.  For those of us who practice Buddhism in the midst of home life, our family is our Sangha.  When I reflect the following words from a letter written by our true teacher Shinran (1173-1262), I am reminded of how living in the nembutsu deepens our feelings of appreciation and affection for those close companions in our lives: “Signs of long years of saying the nembutsu and aspiring for birth can be seen in the change in the heart that had been bad and in the deep warmth for friends and fellow-practicers. . . .” (Collected Works of Shinran, p. 551).  Just as our family is our Sangha, we have found that the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha is our family.  We thank you for all the kindness and generous care you shared with us in 2013.  We look forward to deepening our friendship in the Dharma in the coming year!
In gassho,

Family and Friendship

On Wednesday, December 11, 2013, my wife Shoko gave birth to a healthy baby boy Shoma (pronounced “SHOW-ma”) Jesse Adams-Ichinomiya at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame.  Throughout the delivery and post-partum period, Shoko and Shoma received excellent care from the doctors, nurses, and other staff at Mills-Peninsula.  In a time when we hear so much in our public discourse about the problems facing the medical system in this country, the conscientious and compassionate treatment that our family has received inspires a deep feeling of gratitude in us for the quality of care that we have access to.

When people first learn Shoma’s name, they are often curious about its meaning.  In Japanese, the name Shoma 證眞 is written with two Chinese characters: “Sho 證” and “ma 眞”  In the “Verses in Praise of the Buddha (Sanbutsuge)” from The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life Delivered by Sakyamuni Buddha, the character “Sho 證” appears in Dharmakara Bodhisattva’s request to have Lokesvararaja Buddha verify his aspiration to become a Buddha and guide all beings to liberation from suffering.  Sho 證 may be translated as “verify” or “realize.”  The character “ma 眞” means “truth,” and refers to the truth of the Buddha’s teachings as a guide for living with wisdom and compassion.  Shoko and I chose these two characters for the name of our second son as an expression of our wish that throughout Shoma’s journey through life, he will realize what is real and true in each situation he encounters.

Shoma’s middle name Jesse comes from his great-great-great grandfather Jesse Melver Adams, Sr. (1844-1909), who lived in Bradley County, Arkansas.  In writings preserved by historians in Bradley County, one of Jesse’s good friends says he “knew Mr. Adams from his boyhood and can say that he never knew a better man or had a better friend.”  With the arrival of Shoma in our family, our first son Ryoma now has a brother. As one of our good Dharma friends commented after Shoma’s birth, “Later on the two boys will have fun . . . as well as “fights.”  It brings us great joy to know that Ryoma and Shoma will enjoy a lifelong friendship as brothers, so we chose Shoma’s middle name inspired by a man who was known and loved as an exceptional friend.

As there is no established custom of monastic practice in the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition, our practice of the Dharma is deeply rooted in family life.  For those of us who practice Buddhism in the midst of home life, our family is our Sangha.  When I reflect the following words from a letter written by our true teacher Shinran (1173-1262), I am reminded of how living in the nembutsu deepens our feelings of appreciation and affection for those close companions in our lives: “Signs of long years of saying the nembutsu and aspiring for birth can be seen in the change in the heart that had been bad and in the deep warmth for friends and fellow-practicers. . . .”  (Collected Works of Shinran, p. 551).  Just as our family is our Sangha, we have found that the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha is our family.  We thank you for all the kindness and generous care you shared with us in 2013.  We look forward to deepening our friendship in the Dharma in the coming year!

 

In gassho,