Questions and answers for leading a correct life through Nembutsu
Buddhism came to Japan about 1500 years ago. In the beginning, Buddhism was only for noble people and monks, but in the Kamakura era Buddhism became popular among the general public and entered into the hearts of people. The pioneer was Honen Shonin (1132-1212), founder of Jodo Shu.
At that time, most of people could not read and also could not comprehend the difficult creed of Buddhism. Many were seized by superstitions and conventionalisms, and meaningless female discrimination and taboos were rampant. Under such circumstances, people were searching for real salvation. Honen Shonin himself answered these worries and questions, and wrote "145 Clauses of Questions and Answers" to lead people to the correct path of Nembutsu. Are these superstitions and conventionalisms things of past? I believe that "145 Clauses of Questions and Answers", which points to religion very clearly, is more important now in this world where questionable health keeping and fortune-telling are the trend.
In the fifth year of Joan (1175), about 20 years after Jodo Shu was founded, numerous people came to Honen Shonin to receive his teachings. The questions contained in these Questions and Answers are the ones asked most frequently.
Can we be reborn in the Pure Land if we just pray to Amida Buddha whole-heartedly, even if our hearts are not completely reformed or even through we are not trained?
The fluctuation of the mind is a natural thing for ordinary people; So it is impossible not to fluctuate. However, if you chant Nembutsu from the bottom of your heart, your sins will disappear and you will certainly be able to be reborn in the Pure Land. If you continue to chant Nembutsu, even the heavy sins which can generate delusions, will disappear. (Clause 7)
Is it better to recite Nembutsu abstaining from doing evil and doing only good, or to recite Nembutsu believing only in the true wish of Amida Buddha?
Abstaining from the evil while doing good things is the total admonition of Buddha. But for us, living in the real world, we disobey the admonition, so by believing from the bottom of our hearts in the real wish of Amida Buddha to save all kinds of people, we are able to say "Namu Amida Butsu". Amida Buddha will lead all people into the Pure Land without any discrimination between people with or without wisdom, or between those who can or cannot keep the precepts. Please keep this in mind. (Clause 145)
Is it true that when a corrupt person dies, Amida Buddha will go back without taking him to the Pure Land?
Why does Buddha not return without taking the person, just because that person is corrupt? For Buddha, there is no difference between a righteous person and a corrupt person. The corrupt may be seen as righteous and the righteous be seen as corrupt, depending on one's perspective. Nembutsu is the only important thing. Even if you are clean, you will not have divine favor if you do not recite Nembutsu. Just chant Nembutsu casting aside all the conventional ideas. There is much evidence to prove this. (Clause 140)
[Q] Even if we are not priests, can we still be reborn in the Pure Land?
[A] There are many lay people who are reborn in the Pure Land. (Clause 102)
(interpretation by editor)
You do not have to be a priest to go to the Pure Land. The blessing of the Amida Buddha is beyond differences between priests and lay people. Therefore, it does not mean you must only study Buddhism. What is important is to recite Nembutsu with all your belief. But how can you believe from the bottom of your heart? The most important thing is to have an honest heart.
This does not only apply to Buddhism, but also to many things in life. For instance, if you don't have the heart to appreciate the enjoyment of knowing things, studying will be just a competition to get better grades, and you will be unlikely to nurture your human feelings.