Vol. XLVIII, No. 6

The two aspects of awakening in Jodoshinshu are seeing oneself for what we are and, at the same time, being swept up by the true and real. The process of knowing the self is a long, uneasy, ever-deepening, humiliating experience. It is an experience that, when seen from an ego-based point of view, leads to depression and negativity, followed by a rationalization process which attributes the cause to others and outside influences and circumstances. Throughout this process the ego, unbeknownst to us, remains in charge and creates a truth and reality that affirms and bolsters itself. This of course does not lead to being swept up by the true and real.

When we are made to see the manipulations of our ego, we suddenly are made to see the true/real that brings it about. It is a truth/reality not created by our ego but a truth/reality that makes us see, however briefly, the emptiness and non-substantial nature of what we term I, me, my. The imagined self cannot be defined or understood, and in attempting to do so, we inevitably end up affirming this unreal self by declaring I am me! We ignore what the imagined self does and concentrate on and attribute reality to the doer over the deed done. To concentrate on the doer is to trivialize the deed. The Buddha tells us that our own deeds, in thought, speech and physical action, are the cause of our own happiness and misery.

Not in the sky, not in the middle of the ocean, not in a mountain cave, nor anywhere
in the world, can a man escape the effects of his ill deeds.
- Dhammapada

And the self, when imagined to be real, continues to create attachments and desires for an unreal world – the ultimate ill deed. It is only when the self is jogged into seeing its empty nature by the true/real that this two-aspect awakening or understanding takes place. Our instinctive self-deluding nature is suddenly bathed in the light of truth, and it is this light of truth and beauty and the dark self of ego that come together as a single entity. The dark self of Namo and the brilliant light of truth/beauty of Amidabutsu (Amida Buddha) are experienced as a single reality, the Namoamidabutsu.

How then does this two-aspect awakening occur? By the very nature of the illness, there can be no single method or practice. What causes our sudden appreciation of parents, friends, and not so friendly associates? After long association and trying to understand how we block out realities to our own advantage, we suddenly experience life’s truths, not objectively or subjectively, but more all-inclusively – not one but not two either, not the same but not different. We become the vibrantly living paradox of hopelessly self-centered and at the same time swept up in the truth and beauty of lifedeath. Namoamidabutsu.

Rev. Mas

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