Probably the hardest thing to accept is the impermanence of life, which causes us to either cling to greed and desire, wanting to live as hedonistically as possible while we still can, or cling to a flowery afterlife that mightnot even exist.
To one who accepts impermanence, death is the backside to a sheet of paper. There would be no life without death, just as there is no happiness without sorrow.
Imagine if, tomorrow night, you were to fall asleep and never wake up again. How would you live, right now, as a final testament of who you really are?
The death of Jesus can be seen as either the atonement for man’s fallen nature or our at-one-ment with our divine nature. Unity chooses to see the positive side of it. As it says in Galatians, it is no longer I that lives but the Christ that lives in me.
In this era of religious pluralism, the question often arises: Is it possible to be Christian and still honor all paths to God? Doesn’t it have to be one way or the other?
If you follow the teachings of Jesus, rather than the teachings about Jesus, the answer appears to be yes.
If you study what Jesus taught and did, you see that he was, in the words of Bible scholar Marcus Borg, “radically inclusive.” He said to love one another, and he exemplified that by honoring and caring about people of all backgrounds.
Spiritual leaders through the ages have asserted that Jesus was not just the example and advocate for Christians, but for everyone.
Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, once said: “Jesus gave humanity the magnificent purpose and the single objective toward which we all ought to aspire. I believe that he belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world, to all lands and races.”
(Gandhi also said, “If Jesus came to earth again, he would disown many things that are being done in the name of Christianity.”)
In the Lotus Sutra, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni says his enlightenment is so far beyond our understanding, that he can only communicate it through similes and parables, various forms of upaya or skillful means.
It doesn’t matter whether or not Amida Buddha is a historical being, if what he symbolizes (as a upaya) is the Ultimate Truth itself. What matters is that Dharma-body, that which Amida Buddha signifies, is a true reality.
However, the source of skillful means does matter, since only an enlightened being such as the historical Buddha is qualified to know which provisional teachings will lead others to the Ultimate Truth of enlightenment.
Amida Buddha, as a symbol of the Dharmakaya, would be meaningless if there wasn’t the historical Shakyamuni in the first place, who experienced the Dharmakaya for himself, and then symbolized it as Amida Buddha.*
In the Nembutsu, the name of Amida Buddha, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are led by Dharma-body to the Pure Land, the realm of Nirvana. The heaven-like language used to describe the Pure Land is also a upaya for Nirvana itself.
*If the historical Buddha didn’t teach about Amida Buddha, then what matters is that enlightened teachers who came after Shakyamuni taught about Amida.
The concept of upaya in the Lotus Sutra is little different from the Pali concept of Buddhist teaching as a provisional raft to the other shore of Nirvana.
This is one of the Buddha’s most important quotes:
There is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, this Unoriginated, this Uncreated, this Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible. But since there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, therefore is escape possible from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed. https://www.budsas.org/ebud/word-of-buddha/wob4nt04.htm
Please compare the above to Shinran quoting the Chinese Pure Land master Shan-tao on the nature of the Pure Land:
The Pure Land is the realm of Nirvana, the “escape from the born, the originated, the created, the formed.” Shinran described the Pure Land as “the birth of non-birth,” just as the Buddha described Nirvana as “the unborn.”
The Buddha selected the name of Amida, Namu-Amida-Butsu, as a skillful device (upaya) for bringing ordinary beings like ourselves into the realm of Nirvana. Whether Amida is a literal historical being is beside the point.