Sunday, May 21, 2006

John Paraskevopoulos: runs a major Shin group in Australia

John Paraskevopoulos runs a major Shin group in Australia

In response to the basic question we asked each respondent John provided these links to the on-line magazine he produces.
http://www.nembutsu.info/primshin.htm
http://www.nembutsu.info/nemgtprac2.htm
http://www.nembutsu.info/jpuind2.htm

He also left open the possibility of further discussion and the supplementary questions and his responses are reproduced here:

How does other power manifest itself in your work with people you come across, especially those in distress or seeking help?

It is important to stress that many people who are in great difficulty of this kind should seek professional help from doctors, counsellors etc. People in such situations will not always be in a frame of mind that will enable them to be receptive to considerations of 'other power’. Nevertheless, the feeling that one is spiritually ‘sustained’ by other power, even during the most difficult of crises, can help one’s ability to endure and overcome certain trials. I see this approach as complementary to conventional treatments of depression or anxiety and it should never be a substitute for them.

One must remember that, for someone in dire need, any talk of ‘other power’ (especially if they are not deeply acquainted with the Pure Land tradition) may strike them as rather remote, intangible and unhelpful from the point of view of immediate relief. Understandably, such people are desperate to expedite alleviation of their distress and talk of 'other power' may not always be relevant or appropriate, especially when you consider that the focus of this concept is spiritual liberation rather than practical solutions to pressing psychological problems.

How easy or difficult do you find trusting Amida's power in a situations where difficult choices have to be made?

Quite frankly, I do not feel that Amida’s power is a pertinent consideration when I deliberate over difficult choices (unless, of course, they are spiritual ones). While Amida’s Mind can illuminate us if we seek refuge in His Light, this does not necessarily entail that it will provide clear guidance in relation to the many practical problems we face in life.‘Other power’ does not imply that we should never use our intellect, rational capabilities, will, sentiment etc. to resolve daily difficulties. It is not a passive attitude whereby we just sit back and let Amida take care of everything - such thinking is delusional and deprives people of their capacity to act as autonomous agents. To be sure, in the realm of our spiritual development, one has no choice but to rely on Amida but this does not result in a guaranteed capacity to address the difficult choices we have to make in secular
life.

What advice would you give to someone in distress who feels they have to rely on their own will and effort?

The first thing to point out to people is that they don’t have to rely on themselves exclusively and that there are many resources available to help individuals in distress. This may involve the exercise of initiative as well as the will and resolve to get help in the first place. Given the stigma that is sometimes associated with psychological problems, some people are reluctant to seek help and are inclined to sort out these problems on their own. Accordingly, a supportive, understanding and non-judgmental environment is important in helping people to agree to accept help. These are basic considerations which have nothing to do with the spiritual notion of ‘Other power’. Indeed, it may be dangerous to confuse them in such situations.‘Other power’ helps us to realize that whatever misfortune may be befall us, whatever ghastly situation we find ourselves in, or whatever suffering we may need to undergo, Amida will always accept us as we are and eventually lead us to the realm of enlightenment. In other words, Amida provides us with spiritual relief and not necessarily with practical guidance on resolving worldly challenges. We should be cautious in thinking that spiritual values will always have the capacity to inform our understanding of worldly problems. A spiritual outlook may certainly help us to cope better with the vicissitudes of existence, to see life more clearly, and to think and feel more deeply but it is not a panacea for the complex ills associated with mental anxiety and disorders

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