Filed in Pure Land (Shin)

Foundations of Pure Land

Week One: Other PowerDharmavidya David Brazier

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Welcome to our six-week online video course with Dharmavidya David Brazier, a psychotherapist and head of the Amida Order, an international Pure Land Buddhist community. With a background in both Soto Zen and Pure Land Buddhism, each week Brazier will be leading us through six foundational teachings of the Pure Land path. This week he begins with an explanation of "other-power," as well as reasons why, even if you are not a Pure Land practitioner yourself, it is well worth your time to learn about the world's most-followed Buddhist tradition.

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Softheart's picture

I am coming years late to this series, but I greatly appreciate it. I am a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, an African American convert, that lives far away from my temple and it is wonderful to hear the tradition so clearly enunciated. Namo Amida Butsu

Raja Hornstein's picture

It seems to me that everyone who chooses the path of renunciation must also be open to "other power" or they will never be able to cope with the illusory nature of separate self and will be forever trapped in narcissism. On the other hand, everyone who chooses the "other power" path must take responsibility for their actions and develop their compassion as a "self-power" attribute or they too will be caught in narcissim of a different, more quietist sort. Even the most ordinary one of us, unable to become a renunciate, has extraordinary capacities and powers; even the most extraordinary renunciate must concur with the Dalai Lama that they are just an ordinary monk.

Dharmavidya David Brazier's picture

Yes, I agree completely with this.

revpauld444's picture

Thank you for posting this study. I'm looking forward to watching it each week. As a Shin practitioner (as well as an interspiritual minister to a Unitarian Universalist congregation) I'm pleased to see that Tricycle is featuring a Buddhist tradition that doesn't usually get much attention but that has so much to offer.
Peace and Light,
Rev. Paul Dodenhoff
Namu Amida Butsu

Dharmavidya David Brazier's picture

Thank you. Namo Amida Bu :-)

ewalsh's picture

Maybe the "higher power" could be anything you could imagine that is bigger then yourself, your individual self, ie, the universe, the mystery of our life, the totality of nature.......THE MYSTERY, the total mystery of our existence, the magic of it all.

Dharmavidya David Brazier's picture

Yes, I think each person approaches this in their own way. When it comes to investigating our deepest intuition, each person is going to have a different way of trying to put it into words. That is fine. It is a mystery and we need to respect the mystery.

dharmavidya's picture

1. Thank you Dominic: Yes, it is difficult to find suitable translations. Tariki in Japanese literally translates as Other-power, but the original Sanskrit is parabala (as opposed to svabala = self-power) and "para" is usually translated as "beyond", as in paramita. But "beyond power" is not a term that has much immediate meaning in English.
2. Thank you Marin: Regarding deity, one could not really say that deity is a concept that the Buddha opposed. Deities show up all over the Buddhist texts and Buddha never speaks against the idea, he just does not give it the kind of central importance that it has in theistic religions. The point of other power is that Buddhism is about getting beyond one's ego and in the different schools of Buddhism there are different ways of conceptualising what does operate when one is not ego-centred.

marincarle's picture

But... what is this other power? Are you saying that the Buddha is to be revered as a deity? I am just a beginning follower of buddhism, and my main attraction to buddhism is that the concept of deity is what the Buddha was against or not about. Did he not say to question everything even what he himself was saying in order to find truth? I'm a bit confused.'s picture

I would venture to say that "other" can be used in an ordinary way. Looking around, you are extremely reliant on others for your life and sustenance. You could look to Thich Nhat Hanh's interbeing or interdependence as a perfect explanation of this idea.

I came to Buddhism out of aversion to western religious traditions. When I came upon Pure Land, I was initially repulsed because of the deific nature of Amitabha and this idea of a Buddhist heaven (Pure Land). It seemed like Christianity disguised as Buddhism. But you should be careful about this mapping between Amida and Yahweh that I think westerners are prone to fall for.

The Buddha was slippery on the notion of God. Separate your ideas of a deity from Amida for the moment and take in the teachings with an open (but skeptical) mind. Many of the terms used in Pure Land (faith, heaven) are loaded with western baggage. I think you'll be delighted with Pure Land if you spend a little time unpacking it.

Dominic Gomez's picture

"Other" is misleading. It implies something separate from your self. "Larger" would be more accurate. Such power is an extension of your (smaller) self, i.e. the power of the universe.