By Dharmavidya, in response to requests for further instruction on practice in the Amida Shu Pureland School
Buddhism is practice and this practice cannot be separated from faith. People practise what they have faith in and their faith is only real when it manifests in practise. Practice is of two kinds, concrete and symbolic. Both are vital. Symbolic practice connects us with the meaning of our life. Concrete practice applies that meaning in daily action. Without symbolic practice, daily life becomes trivial. Without concrete practice our meditations are impotent. Meaning cannot be arrived at intellectually. It must be lived in both ways.
The core of Buddhism is refuge and the expression of refuge is Nembutsu. Symbolic nembutsu is to call out to Buddha from the fullness or emptiness of your heart. Concrete nembutsu is to have Buddha at your side in all the doings of daily life. Nembutsu expresses the relationship between the practitioner and the eternal spirit of Buddha, which we call Nyorai – the One Who Comes. The devotee calls out to Nyorai and Nyorai calls us to a life of trust and dedication. Who is Nyorai? I do not know, but I know what it feels like. Do you know who you are yourself? Have you looked to see? Nei Quan means to examine the nature of the caller. Chih Quan means to appreciate and experience the nature of the One who calls to you. This enquiry must begin from a place of unknowing in both respects. The Eye of the World looks upon you but only the one who has abandoned his or her castle of certainty is able to appreciate this gaze, let alone go forth in its light.
Nei Quan means to look into things. It is an enquiry into the truth about oneself. In nei quan one gathers and sifts the evidence of one’s own case. This is the koan that arises naturally in daily life. Koan means case study. In nei quan one studies one’s own case. What did I receive? What did I do in return? What grief did my life cause to the other? Thus one reflects by applied thought. Or one thinks: What truth did I receive and what deceit did I entertain? Or again one thinks: What affliction is there around me? What have I done to alleviate it? What have I done that contributes to it? What should I do? What have I neglected to do? In this way we examine our castle and discover what a prison it has become.
Such reflections are the gateway to awakening. It is nothing glorious. It is an enquiry into one’s nature – karmic nature. We are each a bundle of karma; not paragons. Even reflecting upon a mere 24 hours we see all the traces of our blundering.