Check out our the new Bright Dawn Lay Minister blog to get your weekly dose of dharma.
Check out our the new Bright Dawn Lay Minister blog to get your weekly dose of dharma.
Read our latest newsletter by clicking on the Buddha.
Featuring: An essay by Jennifer Munson on finding her way to the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship. Elesha Morris gives us a guided meditation for grounding and gratitude, Myoshin looks at writing haiku as Buddhist practice, plus Buddhist spoken word, and teachings from Koyo Kubose.
Lately the world seems on fire, with mass shootings, mass migrations and terrorist attacks. People are more polarized of late, cultural shifts, deep old wounds are festering and all of these are changing the landscape, the earth seems to be moving under their feet and many are taking refuge in nationalism, bigotry and fear. The rawness and depth of this really hit home with me, especially when the little refugee boy washed up on the beaches of Turkey. I have a boy about this age…the image haunted me for days. What would make a father put his child at risk like that. A picture of the city his family left was published with the caption, “this is why you put your children on a boat.” The city the boy was from was destroyed; a city of skeletons, torn and broken homes, some burning, desolate and abandoned streets, the same streets that had heard laughter and music, the buzz and honk of rush hour, bird song and the heart beats of lover, now was a city of the dead, with only the sound of distant mortars, more a mausoleum of lost hopes, and dreams. Looking at the picture I was reminded of the words of the Buddha, “The world is burning.” And it is not just from war torn areas, there are refugees everywhere, there are spiritual refugees, spiritually homeless who have homes, spiritually friendless who have friends, those who know where they are at is not “right” that something is missing. It seems we are all looking for refuge, looking for a spiritual home.
Thinking of the small child dead on the beach, I wondered if that was my child, where could I find refuge from the pain, disappointment and impermanence of it all. Refuge is a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble, it’s a coming home. But we don’t have to experience the horror that the family from Syrian experienced to ask for or seek refuge. I have come to realize that as spiritual refugees many of us have wandered through self-help books, careers, relationships, materialism and addictions to find some home, some sort of refuge but only to be disappointed. The Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa explains that anyone who ‘goes for refuge’ must therefore be a ‘refugee’, so that as Buddhists we are ‘refugees from conditioned existence.”
As I have keep going on our journey I have found it, and it has always been waiting for me in the Buddha, the Dharma and the sangha, it was like coming home. I think this makes sense since we go to refuge saraṇa-gamana which in Pali could be translated as “coming home” we come home to the Buddha, the Dharma and the sangha.
It is my hope that faced with such suffering as the refugees from Syria, I could still find my refuge by taking refuge in the Buddha, in the fact of his Awakening: and the three jewels, placing trust that he actually awakened to the truth, that he did so by cultivating qualities that we too can cultivate. That through my understanding of impermanence and the compassion of the Buddha, that awakening can be my ultimate refuge.”
May it be so.
Tricycle: Can you talk a little bit about how you understand surrender in Buddhist practice?
Taitetsu Unno: In the first place, surrender is a Western religious category. In Buddhism, surrender is at the core of giving up the ego-self; but we don’t use a special term for it, because the whole thrust of Buddhist life revolves around surrender, giving up the ego.
Here there is a cultural difference—I can use the example of the martial arts. In this country, martial arts are described as “self-defense.” In the martial arts in East Asia, the aim is to train oneself to such an extent that there is no “self” to defend. That’s very hard for people to understand. I find the same problem in American Buddhism. For example, recently I read an article in which an American Zen Buddhist described visiting Japan, and I realized that American Buddhism is “psychotherapeutic” Buddhism, whereas in Japan, Buddhism is “faith” Buddhism. The core of faith is surrender, the giving up of the small-minded ego-self.
Tricycle: But how can we learn to surrender the ego-self voluntarily?
Taitetsu Unno: In the Shin Buddhist tradition, as we listen to the teaching we are made to realize that we can never surrender ourselves. Resistance comes from the deepest center of our karmic selves. That’s why the Buddha Amida’s compassion says, “Tai, you don’t have to surrender.” When I hear that, when I understand that I can’t do it because it’s not my nature—that it’s like saying, “Fly to the sky”—then I realize that I don’t have to surrender, yet, naturally and spontaneously, the surrender takes place by virtue of true compassion. This is “other-power” working through “self-power.” But this requires a tremendous struggle. As long as I think I can do it myself, it’s not going to work.
Tricycle: But how can we learn to let go like that more often? I know I can get there in unusual circumstances, but not ordinarily.
Taitetsu Unno: In Shin, the Pure Land tradition, it comes down to listening to the teaching. There is no meditative practice as such. Listening is becoming awakened. I have my own views of things, and Buddhism presents its views. Gradually, my views are displaced by the views that enlightened Buddhist teachers have cultivated for 2,500 years.
Tricycle: Do you think that American Buddhists overemphasize meditation?
Taitetsu Unno: Yes and no. The temple of modern life requires moments of silent meditation, but that’s not the goal of Buddhism. We were in Japan for six months recently, and while there I was reading articles and essays written by Buddhist laypeople and monks. The very distinguished abbot of a huge Zen monastery wrote this little article that said, “In Zen, there are only three things. First, cleaning. Second, chanting. And third, devotion. That’s all.” Many Americans go to Zen hoping to get enlightened, but they don’t want to do the cleaning. It’s very demanding and rigorous. You get up at 3:00 A.M.—and you not only sweep the floor, but you have to mop it. On your knees, you know? And then you have to chant, for an hour in the morning and an hour at night. You can understand why a bright young American boy would say, “What am I wasting my time for? I want to get enlightened.” But enlightenment can be manifested only in the daily chores of cleaning and sweeping and polishing—and chanting and devotion.
Tricycle: And the teaching.
Taitetsu Unno: Oh yes. Some people like to meditate and physically they’re able to, but some people can’t because of health reasons or life situations such as family obligations, economic problems, and so on. That doesn’t make them less of a person or less of a Buddhist, you know?
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