In the world of the future, when the paths of the Sutras [to enlightenment] are destroyed and ended, I, with loving-kindness, compassion and empathy, will specially retain this sutra, to dwell for one hundred years [longer]. If there are such beings, who encounter this sutra, they can, as they wish, according to their aspirations, all attain deliverance.
– Shakyamuni Buddha (Infinite Life Sutra 无量寿经 )
Honen said to Shinjakubo, a priest from the province of Harima, “Suppose two imperial orders were sent out, one for the western and one for the eastern provinces. What would you think, if the one intended for the western were by mistake taken to the eastern provinces, or vice versa? Would the people observe them?” After some thought Shinjakubo replied, “Even though they were imperial orders, how would it be possible for the people to observe them?” “Right you are,” said Honen.
“Now by the two imperial orders, I mean the teachings we inherit from Shaka [Shakyamuni Buddha] belonging to the so-called three periods, that of the perfect Law [of the Buddhadharma], the imitation of the Law and the ending of the Law. The practice of the so-called Holy [Noble] Path (Shodo), belongs to the periods of the perfect Law and its imitation, and is only attainable by men of superior capacity and wisdom. Let us call this the imperial order to the western provinces. The practice of the so-called Pure Land (Jodo) belongs to the degenerate age when the Law has fallen into decay, in which even the worthless may find the way of salvation. Let us liken this to the imperial order to the eastern provinces. So it would never do to confuse these two paths, only one of which is suited to all three periods.
I once discussed the doctrines of the Holy Path and of the Pure Land with several scholars at Ohara, and admitted that they both are equally Buddhistic, just as both horns of an ox are equally his own. I went from the standpoint of human capacity, the doctrine of the Pure Land is much superior and has had by far the greater success. Though the Holy Path is indeed profound, it belongs to an age already past, and is not suited [generally] to [wo]men of the present day; while the Pure Land seems shallow, it really is just the thing for our generation. When I thus won the argument, the audience applauded, deeply convinced of the truth of the saying, ‘In the period of the latter days of the Law, which lasts ten thousand years, all other Sutras shall perish, but the one teaching of Amida [Amitabha Buddha; Amituofo] alone shall remain to bless [wo]men and endure.”‘
Honen The Buddhist Saint: Essential Writings & Official Biography
Edited By Joseph A. Fitzgerald
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