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.

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.

Ryokan: The Zen and Shin Buddhist poet

Here is a great post on one of my favorite poets Ryokan – the Holy Fool of Zen and Shin.  Here is a link to the original

http://jkllr.net/2008/04/07/ryokan-the-zen-and-shin-buddhist-poet/

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Ryokan: The Zen and Shin Buddhist poet

Here’s something I didn’t know before, but worth passing along. The famous Zen monk and poet, Ryōkan, evidentally had a soft-side for Amida Buddha and Shin Buddhist teachings, in addition to his extensive Zen background.

The Pure Land poems of Ryōkan are not well-known in Ryōkan’s otherwise illustrious career as a poet-monk. I was intending to write something else tonight, but while looking up sources, I found in River of Fire, River of Water a reference to Ryōkan’s poetry. One of his poems reads:

If not for Amida [Buddha]‘s inconceivable vow
What then would remain to me
As a keepsake of this world?

Here, Ryōkan clearly talks about the Pure Land notion of the Vow of Amida Buddha to lead all beings into the Pure Land. He describes the knowledge of this Vow as his keepsake, when all around him is empty and impermanent.

Another one, described in the book as “well-known” reads:

Return to Amida,
Return to Amida,
So even dewdrops fall.

Here, Amida is the compassionate parent (oya-sama in Japanese) we return to when times are tough, or we lose trust in Amida. Amida never forsakes us, no matter how often we leave him (having done this myself now and again), and always leads us to the Pure Land.

I always enjoy it when Zen and Jodo Shinshu blend. 🙂

Namuamidabu

Why Shin Buddhism

Here is a great essay from Scott Mitchell published by Patheos. I thought I would reblog it here. Here is the original link http://www.patheos.com/blogs/asthewheelturns/2010/06/why-shin-buddhism/

 

Why Shin Buddhism

 

 

I have been asked on more than one occasion why I’ve chosen to follow the Shin Buddhist path. Many times, I get the strong impression that the asker is thinking to him/herself, “Isn’t Shin Buddhism a Japanese Buddhist path? You’re not Japanese. You didn’t marry a Japanese Buddhist. What’s the deal?” I think, despite the obvious problems with those stereotypes, that it’s still a valid question. It’s as valid a question as why one chooses Zen or Nichiren or Shambhala or any other school of Buddhism.

And I’ve always had a hard time clearly articulating my reason. I used to think that this was in part due to the issue of practice (i.e., why this practice and not some other) and how difficult it is to talk about practice in the context of a school that, on paper, doesn’t actually practice. Or, perhaps, it was due to the fact that my choices are largely personal, and some of those stories, frankly, are none of your business!

But I’ve been reflecting on this more over the past week or two and I think I know where the confusion comes from. I think it has to do with the nature of religion and spiritual practice, with different folks’ expectations of what spirituality looks like.

There’s a well-worn trope out there that suggests that most folks who come to Buddhism in the West do so in part because of the spiritual technology of Buddhism, i.e., they wanna meditate. And certainly there is a well-developed path of religious/spiritual practice in the world that focuses on the sole practitioner and his/her valiant efforts at pursuing some sort of personal spiritual fulfillment. And, let me be perfectly clear, despite my often sarcastic asides around here, I think this path of spirituality is a perfectly valid, perfectly appropriate path.

But the thing of it is that it’s just not for me. I’m not a lone crusader. Despite the fact that I spent a good portion of my youth desperately clinging to my individuality, my uniqueness, my self-appointed status as “not a joiner,” the truth of the matter is that I really do want be a part of something, that I really like being with other people.

As much as there is the ideal of the lone practitioner in the long history of world religions, there is an equally valid path that suggests that one can be spiritual (some may say should be spiritual) in community. That spirituality isn’t something one does alone on the cushion or sequestered in a monastery but is something one does in the world, with others.

My earliest experiences with Buddhism, my earliest memories of sitting in the zendo, doing kinhin, of being silent — these are uncomfortable, lonely memories that facilitated feelings of disconnect, of isolation.

These memories are in stark contrast to my experiences with Shin Buddhism. These experiences include temple services filled not only with chanting but with singing, with music, laughter, and with children. And the spontaneity that children always bring to any social event. These experiences include bar-b-quing chicken over an outdoor pit behind the Berkeley Buddhist Temple during the bazaar with a bunch of total strangers, all whom were welcoming and friendly. My experiences of Shin Buddhism are largely experiences I’ve had out here in the world of work and family and friends, countless small moments where I am reminded of my deep interconnection to other people, moments where I am forced to pause, reflect on how beautiful, how fragile this world is, how grateful I am for this life, with all its joys and all its imperfections. Just as it is, as the saying goes.

For me, spirituality has always been something out here in the everyday world, not something I set aside time for, not something I “practice” necessarily, but something that just happens. Something that is an integral part of my life, my friends, my family — even and especially those friends and family who aren’t Buddhist. For me, spirituality is something that I strive to integrate into all aspects of my life, a vehicle to connect me to the world, not to isolate me from it.

I have deep respect for folks who are able to use the spiritual technology of mediation for similar ends. But it never seemed to work for me. So I was deeply fortunate to find a model of Buddhist practice within Jodo Shinshu that does work for me. And that’s why I stick with it.

 

(For more information about Shin Buddhism, I highly recommend the website of Prof. Al Bloom, Shin Dharmanet.)

The Compassionate Light of the Buddha Amida

The Buddha of Infinite light casts her compassionate light
on every finite living being; regardless – even though we are
blinded by passions & run in circles, her light is unobstructed.
Is there anyone among you who can out run the sun?
Where are you running too anyway? It is true we are foolish …
beings – so stop running, take refuge in Amida Buddha,
the healing light, the unobstructed light of compassion.

Namu Amida Butsu.