Sunday, May 21, 2006

Alfred Bloom: foremost senior western academic and practitioner in Pure Land Buddhism, especially Jodo Shin

Alfred Bloom: Foremost senior western academic and practitioner in Pure Land Buddhism, especially Jodo Shin

As far as Other Power is concerned, it cannot be external as in a god. It is not deus ex machina. Rather it is an expression of the process of living that ultimately brings us to awakening or enlightenment. We must stay within the bounds of the Mahayana teaching of non-duality and interdependence, not as a dogmatic idea, but as an understanding of the reality in which we live. In Mahayana Buddhism there is the principle of helping / benefiting self and benefiting others, Jiri-rita. I believe this is an essential principle through which the reality of interdependence works. It is power, through others and with others. It is also a practical concept because it involves a social ideal in which our lives develop through our relations with others. If we understand that reality we achieve more, positively and with understanding. All life is Other Power, in the sense that we are never outside the framework of living in mutual relation with the entire realm of nature and human relations. Jiriki, the apparent counterpart is an illusion. Everything is really other power when observed closely. Naturally we do think that we initiate and carry out activities through our own volition and energy. That is part of our make-up. However, whatever action we do, is done within the context of possibilities provided by the universe and whatever dimension we are operating within. I can run, because there is gravity and the good health afforded me by my parents.Other Power is therefore the essence of life, and living, in my view.

Unfortunately, it has been defined, by ancient, and naive modern people, in a more narrow way relating to the specific ‘Pure Land’ teaching. They see it more on the relative level as the opposite of jiriki.While it points in the same direction, Amida is Infinity, and we are never outside that reality, and its symbols suggest this situation, unfortunately, they become reified into narrow doctrinal terms and many people take them as external to their selves. But our lives are more a process and a mutual interrelationship, which I think the terms apply to.


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