There was a beautiful discussion on our Facebook feed with great tenderness and concern. It is an example of spiritual friendships and on how to deal with what happened in Orlando and I wanted to reiterate what was shared and make a formal statement on behalf of our community as our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy. The Buddha taught that the world is suffering, and wherever their is greed, delusion and hatred there will be suffering. Our practice is not separate from samsara but in the midst of it. I love this story of Kwan Yin, seeing and hearing the endless suffering in the world, “she became so disheartened that…Her body shattered in great agitation and despair. Despite this, She did not just give up — Her consciousness called to the Buddhas for help. Of the Buddhas who came to aid her, one was Amitabha Buddha, who became her teacher and Buddha. With the Buddha’s Great compassion, she attained a new form — one with a thousand helping hands of Compassion coupled with the eyes of Wisdom in each palm. With this, she renewed her vow to saving not just limited sentient beings, but all sentient beings.” It doesn’t matter if this is a myth or not what matters is it tells us to seek support from spiritual friends, and from the Great Compassion, that is available and never stop our practice. While we can deplore the actions and the behavior, it is important to remember and sit with the suffering of all involved including the person who committed the atrocity. This in no way excuses the behavior and isn’t meant to minimize the suffering of the people who lost their lives and the impact to those that loved them. Rather it can bring you to a place of healing and compassion. This is really hard to swallow at first and we can only do it when we’re ready.. Never give up, keep going.
The Grace of Oneness
“ This realization of oneness. It involves the highest type of communication and respect. IF your life is realized in the this sense…you would see that the whole world supports you. You exist because others; everything supports your life. This totality, this oneness evokes a gratitude and a great joy beyond explanation.” Gyomay Kubose
We live a life immersed in grace; the grace of being supported by all things at all times. We are supported by the solar system, by the sun that continually lights our world and drives the processes that help the earth to give us air to breath, water to drink and food to eat, that helps us to see, We are supported by the smallest things, to the largest. We are supported by microbes and bees that help create the food we eat, and by all the trees that help us breathe. The bees give us grace every day, the trees give us grace, and there is also the grace given by our ancestors down through long passages of time; so much grace given that is still within in us now. We are all interdependent and existent in this very moment. In the midst of our diversity and interdependence we can come to direct realization of Oneness and by doing so we can communicate our respect and gratitude for them, for all of life, for all the gifts which in oneness we have received and which are unmerited.
For me, namu amida butsu is an expression of this oneness and grace, an expression of Buddha-nature. The Oneness that Gyomay Sensei is writing about in the above quote, is for me personified as Amida Buddha. Because of Oneness I exist and therefore I exist because of namu amida butsu. This is how I understand the idea among some teachers, that the nembutsu is simply an expression of gratitude for all that Amida Buddha has done for us. My practice of chanting the nembutsu is a form of the highest form of communication and respect. Through this practice I cultivate a recognition / realization of Oneness, and all that Oneness does for me every day, and this brings forth the fruit and joy of gratitude.
This has tied into something that I have been thinking about and that is gratitude, gratitude as a form of awakening. A few years ago I had an experience in the midst of great suffering, where something shifted and I was overwhelmed with an intense gratitude for everything I had experienced and everyone I have ever known, even for just a moment. I spent hours going through my email list sending out heart felt thank yous to everyone on. I think even companies whose email list I was part of even got a thank you and I am sure a few who received the emails, shook their heads. I called friends, I reached out to as many as I could to share my gratitude for their very existence. In this space of gratitude, I wept and I laughed. It was confusing at first because of the amount of tears that fell. I remember thinking why am crying so hard? I am not sad so why am I crying? I realized that for me this is how deep and profound gratitude expresses itself. Later on, this experience also helped to me realize that for many years I had seen “love” as the highest emotion, the goal of religious practice. I have had experiences of profound love for all things, where I loved even the street sign that I was standing under, and yet that night I experienced something even more expansive and sublime than “love”; I experienced an unbounded gratitude. Writing this now and remembering what it was like, the lines from last week’s report are even more profound “ We should always be ready to die, able to say, “thank you for everything”. In some ways, that is what I experienced that night, the “thank you for everything” and remembering it helps me to understand what Gyomay Sensei was teaching.
I like what Jeff Wilson, a Jodo Shin minister has written, “in Shin Buddhism our main focus is the practice of gratitude. We practice simply to give thanks for what we have received. It’s a small shift in one’s perspective, but when pursued, it can be transformative.” This came home to me the other night when I was holding my little boy in my arms, he was cuddled against my chest and I was just feeling him breathe and thinking how much I loved him and I just repeated thank you, thank you, thank you and the love I was feeling already, expanded exponentially and was enfolded into an ever expanding gratitude. I think the cultivation of gratitude is an important practice because it acts as a catalyst that can expand positive states of consciousness. Cultivating gratitude, by recognizing and by expressing it, manifests more gratitude and deepens our awareness of Oneness.
Namu amida butsu
Namu amida butsu
Namu amida butsu
May it be so.
Our Chant and What it Means.
Turn it around.
All the suffering in the world comes from seeking pleasure for oneself. All the happiness in the world comes from seeking pleasure for others.
Spiritual Community and Spiritual Ego
As a fellowship we share and focus on similar values and ideals that we see and feel as important, worth while. We also look for commonalities within and without the group. We find strength and refuge in our common values and ideas. At the same time in expressing and practicing these commonalities we also identify those that are different than our own, we separate ourselves and may even set ourselves up to be somehow better than the other group or at least not as “self-righteous”. I think this is what Shinran is speaking about when he talks about us being “foolish beings” When we look at the comparison of being not as “self-righteous” as the other, we realize that it is the same type of spiritual egotism thing that we are trying to distance ourselves from. Rev. Roland K. Tatsuguchi, in referring to Shinran’s teaching has written that. “Our efforts to do good, upon deep reflection, are constantly tainted by our pretentious spiritual egoism, regardless of whether we be monks or ordinary householders.” The “ego” separates us from others and is an obstacle to compassion, the same is true of our spiritual egotism.
Let me give an example. When our Sangha was just starting a friend was participating with us and he and his girl friend really like the community. Then he stopped coming. I asked him why and he said, because you are like all the others, you think your way is the better way, and people were disrespectful of others’ Christian beliefs, even laughing at some of the things others believe. I remember being confounded by this comment, then after talking with Linnea I came to realize my own blind spots. It wasn’t that anyone was being outright mocking or even demeaning, but there was this general attitude that our way is better, and then there was laughter. It is good to remember that laughter can heal and laughter can hurt. Remember being laughed at as a child?
I don’t think that anyone meant to come across that way or meant to hurt anyone. Many of us come from different traditions, and for some it may feel more of an “escape” from a tradition. Some of us were deeply wounded by the experience and in expressing our own issues, wounds, experiences, our self justifications, our blind passions, we may unknowingly come across as intolerant or even be intolerant.
Honen and Shinran taught us about our foolish natures, that we are full of blind passions. I think sometimes these can be manifested in our collective group thinking. We want to be special or at least not like those who have hurt us. Don’t get me wrong, I think that is helpful to feel a tradition, a path or belief is the best way to lead one’s life, at the same time it is important to understand that this “path” is not the only way to express the oneness of compassion.
There was a Jodo Shin minister who had the kanji for “fool” engraved on one of his beads to always remember his true state. I think this is a great example of a humble attitude, to be aware of our “spiritual ego”. It is hard to see that even our attachment to our “foolishness” and trusting in Other-power instead of Self-power can also become a “spiritualized ego”. The idea that Shinran is better and more humble, because Shinran called himself a fool, and depended only on Other-power instead of hours and hours of meditation can be just as much of an attachment to a “spiritual ego” I know that this is something I need to work on.
I want to remember that I too am a foolish being, that I will get it wrong a bunch of times, and As Jeff Wilson has written
“ There is one advantage to realizing that you’re never going to get it right: you do begin to stop expecting everyone else to get it right too, which makes for less frustration when other people turn out to be just as human as you are.”
This can be applied to those outside of our sangha and to each of us within our sangha.
Here is something I found written by Sebo Ebbens. It expresses what I think is an ideal for a spiritual community and something for us to practice.
“To me what’s important is that I want the sangha to be a spiritual community where we support each other in following our own path, in our practice as well as in our daily lives, while maintaining respect for each other’s personal paths. Our path is a difficult one. It is a solitary path. But if we are members of the sangha, this is the path we have chosen. In that sense the sangha is a spiritual community and not just a social club. The sangha does not function as a spiritual community if we can no longer say what we think because that isn’t done. Or where we can hide behind what is done or not done or behind what someone else says. We develop for ourselves what is done and what is not, within our own tradition. That makes us a living spiritual sangha… The principal characteristic of the community is that it helps you to realize your human potential and to express yourself in the real world, whether within or without the community.
May we honor each and every journey with respect, honor and compassion and may we be compassionate and humble traveling companions.
Namu Amida Butsu.
Christopher “Myoshin” Ross-Leibow – Practice Leader
Mind of Embracing All Things – Haya Alegarasu
At our last gathering we read a few pieces from a great Shin writer and priest, Haya Akesarasu. Most of his writings are currently out of print or not translated but there are a few in existence. This essay gives a feeling of his style of writing, He
Reading an early passage of the Kegon Sutra, I came across a poem by the Ho-E Bodhisattva which made me want to cry out, “How wonderful!” Here it is:
Be free from subject and object,
Get away from dirtiness and cleanness,
Sometimes entangled and sometimes not,
I forget all relative knowledge:
My real wish is to enjoy all things with people.
This poem expresses so clearly what I am thinking about these days that I use it to explain my feelings to everyone I meet.
Subject or object, myself or someone else, individualism or socialism, egotism or altruism-forget about such relative knowledge be free from it! Right or wrong, good or bad, beauty or ugliness-don’t cling to that either. Forget about ignorance or enlightenment! Simply enjoy your life with people-this is the spirit of Gautama Buddha, isn’t it? I’m glad that Shinran Shonin said “When we enter into the inconceivable Other Power, realize that the Reason without Reason does not exist,” and again, “I cannot judge what right or wrong is, and I don’t know at all what is good and bad.” I hate to hear about the fights of isms or clashes between two different faiths. I don’t care about these things.
Somehow I just long for people. I hate to be separated from people by the quarrels of isms or dogma or faith, and what is more, I hate to be separated from people by profit or loss.
I don’t care whether I win or lose, lose or win. I just long for the life burning inside me. I just adore people, in whom there is life. I don’t care about isms, thoughts, or faiths. I just long for people. I throw everything else away. I simply want people.
It makes me miserable when close brothers are separated by anything. Why can’t they be their own naked selves? Why can’t longing people embrace each other?
I love myself more than my isms, thoughts, or faiths. And because I love myself so, I long for people. I am not asserting that my way is Love-ism or Compassionate-Thinking-ism! Somehow I just can’t keep myself in a little box of ism, thought or faith.
I must admit I am timid. Because I timid, I can’t endure my loneliness. I want to enjoy everything with people.
I go to the ocean of the great mind.
I go to the mind of the great power.
Once I hated people because they lived a lie; once I saw them as devils. Once I lamented because there was no one who cared about me. But now I long for them, even when they are devils and liars, even when they are evil. I don’t care, I can’t help it-I adore them! They breathe the same life that I do, even though they hate me, cheat me, make me suffer.
I am so filled with a thirst to adore people that there is no room in me for judging whether a person is good or bad, beautiful or ugly, right or wrong. This is not the result of something that I reasoned out, such as that I live by being loved or by loving. Regardless of any ism, thought, or faith, I cannot be separated from people because of that.
My spirit shines with the mind-of-embracing-people. Without reason or discussion, I just want to hug everyone! My missionary work is nothing but a confession of this mind.
The Nembutsu Society Book Club – Starts Feb 3rd
Our book club starts up again after a little vacation on February 3rd – 7:00 PM Salt Lake Roasting Company. (upstairs)
Join us for a lively and engaged reading group, reading books from the Buddhist tradition and specifically from the Shin tradition. The reading group meets the first and third Tuesdays of the month.
The book we will be reading is Buddha: His Life and His Teaching by Walter Henry Nelson – a biography of the Buddha. Here is a link for the book. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001DUGOVK/ref=pe_385040_118058080_TE_M1T1DP
Review of the book:
More than twenty-five hundred years ago, an Indian prince achieved enlightenment and became “the Awakened One.” However extraordinary Prince Siddhartha Gautama was, he was no divinity, but a self-perfected human being who brought a sweeping message to mankind.Walter Henry Nelson, a respected historical scholar and author, offers readers a distinctly accessible and authoritative biography of the Buddha and his teachings. In this essential, gripping, and inspiring introduction for the general reader, Buddha explores ancient legends surrounding Buddhism’s founder. It shows how the simple story and profound struggle of Price Siddhartha, who died five hundred years before the birth of Christ, were transformed into one of the world’s great religions.From tales of Gautama’s struggle to parables of the intervention of gods in his journey, Nelson takes readers through the historical existence and ideals at the heart of a religion and philosophy that searches beyond materialism for the true aim of life.
If you have any questions call me at. 801-502-8130
Faith and Belief in Shin Buddhism
Here is a great blog post by James Standard regarding Faith and Belief from a Shin perspective. For those who are under the assumption that Buddhism is void of faith, should realize that a lot of what we know of Buddhism is filtered through a Western Modernist point of view and the history of Buddhism is rich a varied. Faith and ethical practice and devotional acts are more in line with the Buddhist experience than even mediation. Lay meditation is a new evolution in Buddhism.
[originally Posted on November 14, 2010 by James E. S. Standard}
I am often asked what I see as the difference between ‘faith’ and ‘belief’.”
Though in common parlance we often find these terms used interchangeably, technically these terms point to very different things.
Belief in a thing may be unfounded. Faith, on the other hand, is founded upon the experience that when certain conditions are met, inevitably (of itself) there will manifest a result.
The deep religious faith of Shinran, however, is founded upon his realization that compassion, by its very definition, requires no pre-condition whatsoever for its functioning. True compassion, Shinran perceived (with a clarity rare even amongst those of the highest order of religious experience), must necessarily be unconditioned and absolute.
One may start on the Pure Land path from belief — having heard of the causal seed of the compassionate primal vow of DharmaKara Bodhisattva and the fruit of its fulfilment in the welcoming of all people, without judgement, into Amida‘s Pure Land and their consequent attainment of Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings. This is the most common way to enter into Jodo Shinshu, from belief (as yet unfounded in experience) in the underlying reality of this teaching-story as revealed in the three Pure Land Sutras.
Certain other persons, however, may have never even heard of Dharmakara Bodhisattva, Amida Buddha or the Pure Land and yet may enter into this tradition directly by means of faith (true entrusting) arising from the experience of the fundamental futility of self-willed endeavors, the illusory nature of our sense of having a self that is unique, discrete, independent and competent to know and do good, simultaneous with the perception and acceptance of the universal availability, perfect wisdom, complete efficacy and absolute compassion of Buddha-Nature which realization arises from deep-hearing of the name-that-calls.
Entrance into the Pure Land Path through belief, while common, is nevertheless provisional. In fact, it is in many ways related to those Buddhist practices of a self-willed and auxiliary nature, for it does not spring immediately from Faith (but arises, mediately, by fits and starts from belief and hope) and thus still requires effort on the part of the believer. Be that as it may, belief may very well precipitate true self-knowledge (ones utter inability to ‘know’ and ‘do’ good), followed by a sense of gratitude and joy for the qualities of Buddha-Nature as revealed by the Pure Land masters, leading ultimately to that moment when deep-hearing of the name-that-calls awakens faith in the absolute compassion of Amida Buddha and we, without calculation receive shinjin.
Entrance into the Pure Land Path through Faith, on the other hand, is uncommon, true and real. It is the foundation of the True Pure Land Path (JodoShinShu) for it springs immediately from direct experience of the universal availability, complete efficacy and absolute, unconditioned nature of the compassion of Amida Buddha (DharmaKaya, Buddha-Nature).
The primary difference between the person of faith (true entrusting, shinjin) and the person of belief, is that the person of faith, having directly experienced the reality of the absolute and unconditioned nature of compassion, perceives quite clearly that there is no difference in the ultimate fate of persons of faith and those of belief … or even those of unbelief. Ultimately, all are embraced by the primal vow, never to be abandoned.
Bowing Bodhisattva Dharmakara
We are liberated, not by an external being or force, but by the bowing that is realized in us.
– Nobuo Haneda
In the midst of timeless time,
Bodhisattva Dharmakara, being filled
With great compassion, began bowing.
He bowed to each blade of grass,
And to each flower that ever bloomed,
He bowed to the ocean and to each wave,
to each cloud and drop of rain that returns
time and time again to the sea.
In the midst of timeless time,
Bodhisattva Dharmakara being filled
with great compassion, began bowing.
He bowed before the winds of the four
directions, bowed to the earth & before
each rock of every mountain, bowed
before each star in innumerable
star fields and before each and every
sentient being suffering the foolish dreams
of a separate self and the endless karmas
of delusion- and the more he bowed the more
he found and there in the midst of timeless time,
Bodhisattva Dharmakara found you there in your
very heart mind, and bowed deeply before you just as you are,
and in the deepest of compassion, born of wisdom;
there vowed to never abandoned you,
Dharmakara made an open hearted promise to you and only
you and to the innumerable buddhas singing the dharma
in every atom, to carry you and only you and all of creation
to the Other shore, across the river of suffering
to the land of bliss. Now with Amida, like each drop of rain
that returns to the great sea of compassion, time and time
again, we will return, as compassion itself, and more
innumerable than the sands of the Mississippi, each
and every one a Bodhisattva bowing to all those suffering,
and to all the buddhas in the midst of timeless time.
Who Am I
by Haya Akegarasu
My thought is thought,
It is never myself.
I had thought that my thought is myself,
but now I’m aware
I made a terrible mistake.
My experience is
is never myself. I had thought
that experience is
myself, but now I’m aware
I made a terrible mistake.
My feelings are feelings,
they are never myself.
I had thought that my feelings
but now I’m aware
I made a terrible mistake.
My will is will. It is
I had thought
that my will is myself, but now
I’m aware I made
a terrible mistake.
My wishes are wishes,
they are never myself.
I had thought that my wishes
but now I’m aware
I made a terrible
My deeds are deeds,
they are never myself.
I had thought that my deeds are myself,
but now I’m aware
I made a terrible mistake.
who am I?
Yes, it is true, that through
thought, experience, feeling,
will, wish, and deed
I manifest myself,
I manifest myself
when I break out
of all of these.
I am not such a limited self,
as to exist apart from others!
am the most noble:
I embrace the cosmos.
What an indescribable, subtle
existence I am! – I cannot in
speaking or writing
put down who I am!
I always touch this indescribable self,
always follow this indescribable self.
Truth is here.