General Articles

The Mark of Faith (in the Pure Land Teachings)

The 48 Vows of Amituofo
http://purelanders.com/2011/12/15/the-48-vows-of-amitabha-buddha-from-infinite-life-sutra/
Amita(bha) Sutra (Chinese/English)
http://purelanders.com/2011/12/14/the-sutra-in-which-the-buddha-speaks-of-amita-buddha-amitabha-sutra/
Chanting of Amitabha Sutra (Part 1 & 2)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVuKKF8dnTI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ2y-0iNBtU
Infinite Life Sutra (Chinese)
http://www.bfnn.org/bookgb/books/0089.htm
Infinite Life Sutra (English)
http://www.fodian.net/world/360.html

The Mark of Faith (in the Pure Land Teachings)

Below is an excerpt from ‘The Questions of King Milinda: An Abridgement of the Milindapanha’ (as edited by N.K.G. Mendis) on the nature of faith in Buddhism, followed by notes on it via the Pure Land perspective:

King Milinda said, ‘Revered Nagasena, what is the distinguishing mark of faith?’ ‘Faith, sire, has tranquilising as a distinguishing mark and also leaping forward as a distinguishing mark.’ ‘Revered Nagasena, how is tranquilising a distinguishing mark of faith?’ ‘When faith is arising, sire, it extirpates the hindrances; when the mind is without the hindrances it is clear, pure and serene. Thus it is, sire, that tranquilising is a distinguishing mark of faith.’
‘Make a simile.’

‘As, sire, a Wheel-turning King going along a high road with his four limbed-army of elephants, horses, chariots and infantry, might cross a small stretch of water and, as a result, that water will become foul, turbid and muddy. Yet the king would ask his men to bring him some drinking water. The king might have a water-clearing gem. So the men cast that water-clearing gem in the water. Immediately the various water-plants disappear, the mud subsides and the water becomes clear, pure and serene. Then the men offer the drinking water to the king. Sire, like the water is the mind, like those people is the earnest student of mental training, like the water-plants and the mud are the hindrances, like the water-clearing gem is faith. Just as the water-plants disappear and the mud subsides as soon as the water-clearing gem is thrown in the water and the water becomes clear, pure and serene, even so, sire, faith, as it is uprising, extirpates the hindrances and the mind that is free from the hindrances is pure, clear and serene. It is thus, sire, that tranquilising is a distinguishing mark of faith.’

‘How, revered sir, is leaping forward a distinguishing mark of faith?’
‘As, sire, one who is devoted to mental training, on seeing that the minds of others are freed, leaps forward after the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-returning or the fruit of non-returning or after arahantship and performs mental training for the attainment of the unattained, for mastery of the unmastered and for realization of the unrealized, even so, sire, is leaping forward a distinguishing mark of faith.’
‘Make a simile.’

‘Suppose, sire, as a result of heavy rain a river would swell overflowing both banks. Then a great crowd of people were to come but, not knowing either the width or depth of that river, might stand terrified and hesitant on the bank. Then a strong man comes along. He knows his own power and strength. He ties on his loin-cloth tightly and, leaping into the water, crosses over. On seeing that he had crossed over the great crowd of people too would cross over. Even so, sire, one who is devoted to mental training, on seeing that the minds of others are freed, leaps forward after the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-returning or the fruit of non-returning or after arahantship and performs mental training for the attainment of the unattained, for mastery of the unmastered and for realization of the unrealized. It is thus, sire, that leaping forward is a distinguishing mark of faith.’
‘You are dexterous, revered Nagasena.’

Notes: The simile of the water-clearing gem is reminiscent of this Pure Land saying:

清珠投于浊水,
浊水不得不清;
佛号投于乱心,
乱心不得不佛

When a purification gem is put into murky water,
the murky water has no way but to purify.
When [mindfulness of] the Buddha’s name [Amituofo] is put into the disturbed mind,
the disturbed mind has no way but to be [one with] the Buddha.

When the legendary water-clearing gem (清水珠) is thrown into water of a foot’s deep, it purifies the water of that depth. The deeper one casts it into murky water, the greater its effects are accordingly. Likewise, the deeper we are in faithful mindfulness of Amituofo’s name, the more we purify our murky defiled minds. We can purify the ‘water’ of our minds by letting its defilements settle by itself over a long period of time. This is likened to the path of self-power, that relies entirely on personal practice of meditation. The faithful use of mindfuness of Amituofo’s name, which is also meditative in nature, is that of using self-power in tandem with the other-power of Amituofo’s blessings.

The simile of making a necessary leap of faith is similar to that of new practitioners of mindfulness of Amituofo’s name, who are often sufficiently inspired by ancient and present personal testimonials (excellent examples) of those who experience benefits from the practice in everyday life, in order to initiate similar practice. These practices can also lead to the various fruits of attainment, including birth in Pure Land – via a concerted well-practised leap made with the right faith and aspiration, to where eventual liberation is guaranteed.

Related Articles:
The Need & Rewards of Faith in General & Pure Land Practice
http://purelanders.com/2011/12/16/the-need-rewards-of-faith-in-general-pure-land-practice/
Buddha Mindfulness (in the Dhammapada)
http://purelanders.com/2010/04/01/buddha-mindfulness-in-the-dhammapada/
How Do We Know Amituofo & His Pure Land is Real?
http://purelanders.com/2011/12/16/how-do-we-know-if-amituofo-pure-land-is-real/

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!