Archive of Jornal Articles

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The Tannisho Today
Rev Tairyu Furukawa March 1996
On Meditation
Vaughan Evans May 1995
From Blood to Rocks
Geoff Carpenter March 1996
Rev John Paraskevopoulos March 1996
The Meaning of Kikyoshiki
Hongwangi International CentreSeptember 1996
The Shin Buddhist Way
Rev Jack Austin September 1996
A Sutra of Healing and Protection
Tricycle Publications March 1996
Rules for Being Human
Unknown September 1996
September 1996 Sallea Ungar
The Importance of Self Effort
Joren MacDonald September 1997
Self Power and Other Power Play Together
David Brazier
September 1997
Faith in What?
Ajahn Sumedho (summerised by Max Flisher) Sep 1997
The Myokonin
Friedrich Fenzl September 1997
Toshio Murakami September 1997


Reverend Joren MacDonald
Florin Buddhist Temple

So often we hear that self-effort is useless. This can only mean that there is a misunderstanding of Jodo Shinshu doctrine. Self-effort and self-power are concepts that do not mean the same. This is where the misunderstanding arises.

In our religious tradition we focus a great deal on 'Other Power', which means the immeasurable indescribable infinite Wisdom and Compassion always surrounding us and embracing us. In contrast, 'self-power' is energy and discipline utilised to reach Enlightenment by one's own power in one's current life rather than relying on the embracement of Other Power to help guide us.

Self-Power is an awesome concept beyond the ability of most humans. Self-effort, on the other hand, is so very different, but it is what separates us from the animals. Our form is not what makes us 'human'. What would we be without self-effort? Unruly, untrustworthy, unkind, unfit to nurture, etc. So self-effort is a key ingredient in reaching a life of positive productivity and in accepting the reality of Other Power.
Confused? Well, keep studying and listening to the Dharma and it will make sense. What is critical here, however, is that we do see the difference between self-power and self-effort. Self-effort is what we must utilise in order to function at even a human level. And, it is only at the human level of functioning that faith and trust in Other-Power are possible. It is only at the human level that experience of true and real gratitude to the past and realisation of the present, are possible.

This means that we must use our own effort as much as possible, every minute of the day of our lives. Will all this self-effort enlighten us? Most unlikely, but the lack of self-effort is tragic and harmful. We see it all around us and we know the harm an undisciplined person can cause.
And, self-effort needs guidance. This is where the Buddha's teachings help us. The Buddha stated that if we cannot attain Enlightenment by our self-power, then we must rely upon Other Power to guide us. Being Jodo Shinshu doesn't mean to stop our own effort as we rely on the Other-Power to guide us. It means we do what we can and the infinite Other-Power is always 'as-it-is.

If you are wondering if your self effort (guided by Other-Power) is working, ask yourself if you are developing gratitude that is true and real. Ask yourself if your gratitude finds expression in words and actions because you can no longer contain your feelings.

This article was reprinted from the Wheel of Dharma, with grateful thanks to the author and the editor and the BCA.
This article first appeared, with the Author's permission, in PLN 10, September 1997. Republished here in agreement with the compiler/editor of the inaugurate hard copy Journal. The Author, any person or any organisation credited, quoted or connected with this article are cordially invited to contact me with any comments, amendments, fresh contributions or complaints. email me



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