Amida Buddha’s reality transcends our concepts of what is ‘real.’ If we say Amida is one and the same as our inherent Buddha nature, this is true. But this is not to negate Amida’s reality. On the contrary, it rather makes him more real since it is our own sense of ‘self’ which is revealed to be illusory beside our Amida-self.
At the same time, we live within a conventional realm, operating within it by utilising conventional means, language, labels, ideas and definitions. The Pure Land sutras speak of the vast distance to Bliss, of its location far to the west beyond innumerable Buddha-lands. It is to emphasise the sheer impossibility of reaching it under our own steam. It is not that Bliss is physically so far from us for it is closer than our own skin, but any hopes of attaining its shores on anything other than Nembutsu wings must be dashed.
Distances, locations, psychological state or physical realm — all these mean nothing when trying to fathom Amida Buddha and His Land of Bliss. It is both all and none of these things at once. To reduce or to attempt to reduce the Pure Land to anything we imagine it to be means losing sight of it entirely. It is not a case of literal versus metaphorical. It can’t be pinned down like that or within such definitions, otherwise we are engaging in an exercise akin to trying to bite our own teeth, as Alan Watts described any attempt to define Zen.
Infinite Light, Amida, is refracted through us into this Universe. Our mind is the interface with the dharmakaya, and it is at this point that conventional and ultimate reality meet and dance. Within and without have no meaning. The external universe is a reflection and a projection of the mind with which the dharmakaya interacts. This can’t be boiled down to mere psychology which sees things only in terms of physical brain function and behaviour. It is beyond, farther beyond, beyond physical or metaphysical, beyond even what we call ‘spiritual.’
When we bow before Amida, we do so as beings neither separate nor not separate from Him. Therefore a conventional experience of separateness that elicits gratitude from us as devotee to Saviour-buddha is wholly valid while we understand also that ultimately no demarcation exists. Neither is contradictory, neither must be emphasised to the detriment of the other. It is sufficient to rest solely in the Nembutsu we chant, seeking rest and respite in no other words or definitions. Knowing that all is beyond our knowing, and Amida simply IS.
Namu Amida Butsu 🙏🙏🙏