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True Emptiness is Unknowable

...The Way belongs to neither "forms" nor to "Emptiness" — page 186, Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith

In the following article, "devotee" refers to the Pure Land Buddhist who is familiar with the Nembutsu.

True Emptiness is unknowable in the devotee's lifetime. According to the Primal Vow, it shall be possible in the Pure Land of Bliss to realize Emptiness.

Thus, the devotee's goal is to be reborn in the Pure Land. This is accomplished through the practice of Buddha Recitation by reciting the Nembutsu with sincere hope to be reborn there.

Thus the Pure Land Way requires the recitation of the Nembutsu as the means to spiritual awakening.

There are no secrets involved in the Pure Land Way, just practice through recitation and study. By practicing Buddha Remembrance by chanting the Nembutsu out of gratitude to Amida Buddha for his Primal Vow, the devotee's mind is open to careful study of the sutras and commentaries.

Thus, the Nembutsu helps to reassure the devotee about rebirth in the Pure Land.

Amida Buddha, the Pure Land, and the bodhisattvas associated with him, Mahasthamaprapta and Avalokiteshvara, are all conditions in the heartmind.

Simultaneously, they are also spiritual conditions and places. From the psychological perspective, they represent psychological states of mind.

Just as the mind exists, so too does the essence of Amida, his 48 Vows and the Pure Land through his Primal Vow.

Though the mind exists due to physical conditions (the brain and the five senses), the positive aspect of imagination helps the devotee to believe and have faith in the reality of the Nembutsu.


"To realize Emptiness" means "to hear the Dharma through Nembutsu practice."

Thus Nembutsu practice helps the devotee to hear the Buddha preach the Dharma in his everyday life.

"To hear the Buddha preach the Dharma" implies careful study and practice of the sutras, though this is not always necessary for devotees who have practiced the Nembutsu since childhood.

"To be reborn into the Pure Land" means "to enter the psychic state of mind known as Pure Land of Bliss".

Within the context of psychology, the Pure Land of Bliss refers to a psychic state of mind called samadhi. This state of mind is calm and serene.

Through mindful practice of the Nembutsu associated with Amida Buddha, the devotee prepares herself to enter into the Pure Land.

By reciting the Nembutsu with sincere hope to be reborn there, the devotee also metaphorically enters into the Pure Land in this lifetime.

When the devotee returns to the real world, his inner mental state is as serene as a bodhisattva.

Even though the real world may be chaotic, he is able to remain calm because of his Nembutsu practice.


"First, Buddha Sakyamuni taught that we should not follow sounds, forms and marks in seeking the Way. After that, he reminded us that at the same time, we should not abandon sounds, forms and marks, nor should we destroy all dharmas. Thus, we can see that the Way belongs neither to "forms" nor to "emptiness." Clinging to either aspect is misguided." -- Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice, 47 Buddha Recitation -- Essence and Practice

"Forms" refers to rupa:
Rupa is "the Buddhist concept of material form, including both the body and external matter".

"Emptiness" refers to sunyata:
As seen through Eastern eyes, Sunyata is emptiness. Only everyday life (the realm of samsara) is viewed as emptiness in the negative sense. The Buddha and nirvana are seen as "real, eternal and filled with inconceivable, enduring virtues".

Emptiness from both the Western and Eastern perspective:
In the West, emptiness is derived from the negative condition of being empty. In the East, emptiness is refers to the "emptiness of inherent existence".

Pure Land Buddhism:
Pure Land Buddhism is a faith-oriented form of Buddhism.

A Theory of Nembutsu:

Pure Land of Bliss:

Samadhi as mental concentration:



In Chinese Buddhism, both these bodhisattvas were transformed into
the Buddhist deva of compassion and mercy, Guan Yin.

Guan Yin:

Primal Vow:

Sutras and commentaries:
Pure Land Scriptures:
Shinran's commentary:

Yuien-bo's Tannisho:


Steve said...

I feel strongly that my faith in Amida Buddha helps me to adapt to real life.

Steve said...

To solely contemplate Emptiness, one may have to abandon the Pure Land Way. Since the Nembutsu is both Amida Buddha and his Dharma, what good are flowery words about sunyatta?