Honen once said, "When dealing with people of a different faith and practice from your own, donft insist that they do yours. Respect other persuasions, and donft allow yourself to think poorly or speak unkindly of them. We really canft do anything for people who have no karmic relation to Amida at all, have little affinity for the Pure Land, and have no faith or even desire for these things. All we can do is to leave it entirely to their own wills. But in the case of those who really have a desire for that future where they will be free from those three unfortunate realms, encourage them all you can, just as far as they are willing to go. Even if you find people with just the slightest inclination towards these spiritual topics, try to persuade them to look to Amida Buddha and to vow that they may reach the Land of Bliss. No matter what people say, the fact is that apart from the nembutsu there is no hope of getting free from samsara and being Born in the Pure Land. Use gentle means in dealing with those who bad mouth or donft believe."
"When you meet people who donft believe in the nembutsu, avoid discussions with them, much less getting into a religious argument with them. When you see people who are different from you in their opinions and ideas, never be guilty of such a thing as despising or reproaching them. Remember that you are about to create even more bad karma – this is not your place. If you find a person longing for the Land of Perfect Bliss and calling on the sacred name, even if he or she is from of a far off country, think of them with the compassion of a father or mother. Give your aid to those who are poor in the necessities of life."
Once when Honen was teaching nembutsu followers some things to observe, he said, hYou shouldnft say, as some do, that because you put your trust in Amida and believe in the nembutsu, it is all right to have nothing to do with the compassionate vows of the many buddhas and bodhisattvas. You shouldnft think casually about not appreciating the excellent Lotus and Heart Sutras. Even though you may believe in Amida Buddha, your faith is really one-sided if you despise the many buddhas or doubt Shakyamuni's holy teachings. If your faith is not right, it is not in harmony with the mind of Amida Buddha, and it is certain his compassionate Vow has nothing to do with you.h
gNow there are some scholars who oppose the nembutsu on the ground that its general practice would result in the decline of the other Buddhist schools. Itfs on these grounds, that it seems as if a large number of people have been giving the nembutsu up. This is really a regrettable state of affairs. Buddhism is a system destined to continue for ten thousand years. No matter if some want to do away with it, this is beyond human power, because Buddhism is under the protection of the many deities. We have an example in the history of our own country of an attempt to destroy Buddhism and drive it from the country. But its life is not gone yet, as you can plainly see, and it still goes on spreading down to our own times. So how can it be possible for the ignorant, whether monastics or laypeople, men or women, to ruin the Hosso, Sanron, Tendai or Kegon schools by practicing the nembutsu? If people were to give it up, do you think that would promote the prosperity of any of the other schools? Would it enable them to understand the mysteries of the many schools any better if they lightly abandoned the practice of the nembutsu? Wouldnft it rather be a great loss all round? Do you think that the distinguished scholars of the head temples in the southern and northern capitals, who inherit the traditions of all the exoteric and esoteric schools with their two-fold teaching of reason and practical wisdom, would have nothing more to do with their own schools just because the nembutsu has spread over the country a hundred, a thousand, or even ten-thousand times?h
gShan-tao said, eWhen the World-Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, was about to finish his sermon, he very earnestly entrusted Ananda with Amida's sacred name. But in these days when the five corruptions into which people fall have increased so much, we find people guilty of doubting and even hating that sacred name itself. Monastics and lay persons alike no longer want to listen to such illuminating topics. Then when they see others earnestly engaged in their practice, they get so filled with hatred that theyfll do anything to stop them. Fools like this who have been born blind to the truth and are bent on destroying the quickest and shortest road to emancipation will destroy themselves. Even though they keep trying to escape from those three unfortunate realms for endless kalpas, they still will never be able to escape.' Itfs clear then that nembutsu followers should never speak badly of other practices as this is entirely contrary to Amida's own Vow. In the same way, those who are committed to other practices shouldnft speak badly of the nembutsu, since this is also quite contrary to the original vows of all the buddhas.h [Read more on Honen's classification of Buddhist teachings]
"And now, if with all seriousness you believe in the nembutsu and truly become a nembutsu follower, as you look at other people, be very careful that you do not say to yourself, 'These people are so below me and a lot worse than I am. I am really the epitome of a nembutsu practitioner and far ahead of everyone else.' This is a wide world with many people in it. Even in the mountains or the depths of the forest there may be many great practitioners of the nembutsu whom you know nothing whatever about. And so it's very wrong to say, 'There is no one like me.' This is nothing but pride and shows the absence of the Three Minds (sanjin). It is in situations like this that bad spirits come and hinder one from being Born in the Pure Land.h
gIf it were really true that I am so superior, that all my karma has been destroyed, and that by my own efforts I am all set to go to the Pure Land, it would be all right. But the fact is that it is only through the power and merit of Amida's Vow that I escape from affliction and throw off my karma. Itfs only because Amida himself comes for us to bring us to that Pure Land that we are able to get there at all. If it really was by my own power that I attained it, there might be some excuse for my pride. But wherever pride arises within the heart, it shows positively that we are in the wrong, both in our faith and practice. We are totally out of harmony with the Vow of Amida Buddha, and neither he nor any of the buddhas will extend us their protection. So then we become exposed to the influence and power of bad spirits. I repeat, watch out to allowing pride to arise. Yes, indeed watch out!"
1996-2006 Jodo Shu Research Institute
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