Your Shin Buddhist “go to” page in the Forest City
Sentences from the Dhammapada
Leader: All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is made up of our thoughts.
Sangha: If a person speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows them, like a shadow that never leaves them.
Leader: He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me, and those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease.
Sangha: For hatred is not overcome by hatred, hatred is overcome by love. This is an ancient rule.
So many people wanted 2020 to be gone. They thought the ticking of the clock past midnight on New Year’s Eve 2020 would return the world to what was familiar ground, to being able to anticipate the next day, month or year.
There was also something else lurking below the surface, a challenge to our self-image. The discord between our self-image of tolerance and the reality of our intolerance arising from fear, anxiety and anger was more persistent than usual due to Covid.
The Dharma the Cat cartoon above questions the person I think I am and the person I really am. If a small mosquito who only draws five millionths (or 0.000005) of a liter of blood moves me to potential violent action of hating and wanting to kill it, then no wonder our self-image is having a workout.
Perhaps we can use this week to think about our own self-image of tolerance and what we would do with that little mosquito. There are as many options as there are philosophies of how to live this life.
Tolerance, according to the American Heritage Dictionary is – “The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.” Keep in mind that ‘recognizing’ and ‘respecting’ does not imply ‘accepting’ or ‘liking’.
Consider the sentences from the Dhammapada at the start of this week’s newsletter. And remember; only you can decide if they ring true.
Hōonkō observance marks the death of Shinran, January, 16, 1213, the founder of
Shin Buddhism. Ho-on-ko literally means “Dharma gathering for acknowledging indebtedness” and is observed by many Buddhist traditions to honor their founding masters.
Rennyo Shonin urged us to reflect deeply on Shinran’s teachings. Rennyo explained that the significance of Ho-on-ko is to resolve the problem of Shinjin-entrusting heart-and to become keenly aware of the dilemma of our “birds and death.”
Shinran was acutely aware of his own death. This awareness played a very important part in the overall outlook of Shinran concerning his life and his relationship to Amida. It can perhaps be said that Shinran’s own perception of himself as a finite limited individual was the most influential attitude of Jodo Shin Shu. Death itself was never good or bad, it was a condition of this existence. In the sixth letter of the Mattosho, the last recorded letter of Shinran, this sentiment is clearly stated.
“It is saddening that so many people, both young and old, men and women, have died this year and last. But the Tathagata taught the truth of life’s transients for us fully, so you must not be distressed by.
I, for my own part, attach no significance to the condition, good or bad, of a person in his final moments. People in whom Shinjin is determined do not doubt, and so abide among the truly settled. For this reason there and also-even for those ignorant and foolish-is a happy one.”
(Hongwanji International Center, Kyoto, Japan)
Of his own death Shinran said, “Throw my body in the Kamo River, let it be feed for fish.”
At this time of Hōonkō we should remember that Shinran met his own finiteness directly. His recognition of his limitedness resulted in a deep appreciation of Amida. It is for this reason that Jodo Shinshu dwells so on death. If we are able to fully realize our inability to attain enlightenment through our own effort, recognizing our inevitable end, then the value of Amida’s compassion can be truly appreciated. It is almost as if Shinran perceived himself in a meaningless maze with absolutely no way out.
Were this to be all there was to Jodo Shinshu it would indeed be a very depressing view of human existence. Even if it were known that Amida provides a means of Satori (enlightenment) for all beings this life which we presently experience would be dark and without life. However although the recognition of one’s own finiteness is the alpha and omega each of our experience is only the beginning of Jodo Shinshu.
For with the recognition of myself as I am and Amida’s absolute affirmation I am truly free to manifest my humanity. We need no longer remain huddled about the signposts which ones structured our lives. It is as if we are on the great plain with only the horizon around us. We can now strike out and manifest fully the potential of our humanness, knowing whether we succeed or not each of us is constantly affirmed and assured of eventual Satori by Amida.
It is for this we observe the birth and death of Shinran. He made known the great path on which every individual is truly free.
Namu Amida Butsu
Rev. Gerald Sakamoto
White River Buddhist Church
Published by Northwest Ministerial Association, Buddhist Churches of America