Speak one sentence less of chatter;
Recite once more the Buddha’s name.
Recite until your false thoughts die;
Your Dharma Body will come to life.
-Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism
The Ekoji Buddhist Sangha of Richmond began in 1985 under the guidance of Rev. Kenryu Tsuji of the Buddhist Churches of America. He arranged for the purchase of 3411 Grove Avenue by the Numata Society, based in Japan, and had the house turned into a temple under the supervision of Timothy Whitehead. Since then it has served as a center for those pursuing the Buddhist way.
Pure Land Practice
All followers of the buddha-dharma strive for a blend of compassion and wisdom, popularly called "enlightenment." This is both an experience and a way of living. Its content combines the intellectual and the emotional. It involves a strong component of the rational, but intuition is just as important. Mind and heart unite. It is compassionate, which is non-dualism translated into behavior. It is predicated on the essential unity and interdependence of all things rather than their differences. It cuts the bonds of suffering and frustration that confine every living person. To the enlightened person the whole universe is enlightened--even mountains, rivers, trees, and grass.
For millions of Buddhists the surest means of reaching enlightenment is rebirth in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha--a transhistorical buddha who presides over a domain studded with towers of agate and palaces of jade, huge trees covered with fruits and flowers, pools of the purest water that adjust depth and temperature to the desires of the bather. Its atmosphere is perfumed with beautiful scents and permeated by celestial music. The land is filled with the lessons of the dharma expounded not only by Amida and his attendants, but also by the very birds and trees, by every object.
Fundamental to this tradition is the promise of enlightenment implicit in Amida’s pledge that the Pure Land is easily accessible to all by means of recitation of his name. In addition to opening the door to rebirth and subsequent enlightenment there, this creates the basis for a life of faith here. Faith in Amida and in the dharma--faith, the equivalent of enlightenment--is a life marked by sincerity; by trust in the truth of karma; and by a profound aspiration to be reborn in Amida's Pure Land.
But then what of the Western Pure Land--is it a real place or is it a metaphor for a purified state of mind? Is Amida a real being or a symbol? The answer, it seems, is "both" and is summed up in an anecdote in which a teacher is speaking to two students--one a skeptical seeker, the other a faithful believer. To the first who had just done a particularly good deed, the teacher said, "When you die, you will surely go straight to the Pure Land." To the second who asked if the Pure Land were a real place, the teacher replied, "Oh no, it is entirely symbolic."
The teacher tailored his comments to the different needs of either student while driving home a lesson about the limitations of common sense and human understanding. Amida and the Pure Land are there for people who cannot achieve freedom by the force of their own efforts no matter how hard they try. For them Amida is a colossal helping power and the embodiment of the truth of the buddha-dharma highlighted by the sure-to-be-fulfilled promise of enlightenment.
The Buddha said to Ananda, 'All Buddhas, Tathagatas, in the ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the River Ganges, together praise the inconceivable, supernal virtue of Amitayus. All sentient beings who hear his Name, rejoice in faith, remember him even once, sincerely transfer the merit of virtuous practices to that land, and aspire to be born there will attain that end and dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression."
—The Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life