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Cleveland Buddhist Temple Newsletter

Dharma from the Forest City

Supervising Minister Rev. Ron Miyamura, 
Midwest Buddhist Temple

Contact Rev. Anita, Resident Tokudo Minister, CBT at:

October 3, 2020 Edition

Wasan 38

The Buddha’s majestic power
and Primal Vow –
Fulfilled, luminous, resolute,
and ultimate –
Are means of compassion
beyond conceptual
So take refuge in Amida,
the truly immeasurable one.

(Excerpt from A Pure Land Teaching Jōdo Shinshū Song of True Shinjin… Compiled by Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii 1999.)

image courteousy of Saad Chaudry,

it does not mean to be in a place

where there is no noise, trouble

or hard work. it means to be in

the midst of those things and still

be calm in your heart.


My dharma friend, now living in California, gave me this quote on a refrigerator magnet. Like most “wise” sayings, it sounds nice, but doesn’t give up the secret password to get there. Since I spend more time at the kitchen sink, putting it on the window sill there, I got to look at it every day.

And like all things, it eventually became “wall paper,” in other words, I stopped seeing it or thinking about it, until…, until the minimum peace I had is lost.
You may wonder how I select the excerpts from Buddhists I include in this post. It has to do with what I, bonbu (foolish human being) that I am, find helpful to regain some peace at that point in time. And, to make sure I really pay attention to the words, I don’t do a copy/paste, but actually type it all out.

Ken Tanaka’s book boiled down the essence of the Four Noble Truths to its simplest message. Unlike the refrigerator magnet, the teaching of the Buddha gives the secret password to peace. We have the key, we have the password, we know intellectually it is true and yet what stops us? What stops me?

After reading what the hot dog vendor said “Sir, the change must come from within you,” it reminded me the work is mine to do. Shin Buddhism welcomes us to “come as you are.” Yes, I am already in a good spot, no doubt. So how do I marry this coming as I am to the “change must come from within you?”

For me, it started a little bit at a time, by first becoming aware. Aware of the words I spoke in anger, aware of the unkind acts I did and the unkind thoughts I thought. The awareness revealed that those acts and thoughts did not leave me feeling better off. In fact, they just added to my stewing even more. I might have felt righteous at the time, but that gave way dissatisfaction.

A little bit at a time, that is the best I can do.

Namo Amida Butsu.

In Gassho,
Rev. Anita

Please email me at Would really like to hear from you, your comments, thoughts, or just to say “Hi.”

Jewels: An Introduction to American Buddhism for Youth, Scouts, and the Young at Heart by Kenneth Kenshin Tanaka BKD American, 2020.


Kenneth Kenshin Tanaka

Excerpts from Chapter 5 – Four Noble Truths, continued

Second truth: The cause of our suffering lies in our attachment for clinging

As we look at the second of the Four Noble Truths, I wish to begin with a well-known American Buddhist joke…

… As an Awakened person, the Buddha no longer had any attachments or G.A.S. (greed, anger/hatred and stupidity). At the same time, “attachments” also refer to the gadgets that are attached to the end of the vacuum cleaner for reaching narrow spaces such as under the sofa. This is why the Buddha had no attachments to get to the narrow spaces! I hope you got it.

This second truth emphasizes the fact that our suffering is caused by G.A.S. This was obvious in the case of the greedy dog, for it was because of his greed and stupidity that he suffered the loss of his bone. His greed also brought great suffering and misery to the puppy.

In the case of Prince Siddhartha, before he became the Buddha, he experienced extreme suffering upon witnessing a dead person. And his pain-and-suffering was due to his desire (or greed) to want to live, or in his own words, due to his “craving for existence.” And this was compounded by his ignorance (or stupidity) about the truth of impermanence, that is, that everything including our body changes and eventually ceases to exist.

Now, we can certainly empathize with Prince Siddhartha, because everyone desires to live a long time and to be in good health. However, no matter how common and universal the thirst for life is, it is still greed, nevertheless. This truth (that desire to live is, indeed, greed) discovered by the Buddha will probably be hard to swallow for many of us.

It certainly was for me, when I was rudely awakened in my sophomore year in high school that we all have to die. I vividly recall feeling that it was unfair, and that it wasn’t how it was supposed to be. In the Buddhist teaching wasn’t much of a consolation initially when it reminded me that my discomfort with death was due to my greed and attachment to life.

However, the teaching has since helped me to see that the roots of my suffering regarding death lie within myself. It was my greed and stupidity (or ignorance) that were preventing me from having the wisdom to see and live in accord with the truth: everything changes and comes to an end, including my body.

So, my suffering was due to my failure to develop the wisdom or awaken to the truth. This may differ a bit from Christianity, where suffering stems from our “sin,” due to our failure to keep our promise or covenant with God. Buddhism values wisdom to see truth, while it seems to me that Christianity values humans’ relationship to God. However, in the end, the values of the two religions can be seen to be similar, since God for Christians is truth, and wisdom from Buddhists is to awaken to the truth.

Third truth: Our suffering ceases when Awakening is realized

Now, let’s move to the third truth, which states that are suffering ceases when Awakening is realized. Awakening is the state realized by the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, and is also known as “nirvana.”

“Nirvana” literally means “blown out.” So it is the state when the fire of attachments or G.A.S. has been blown out. You can now find “nirvana” in your dictionary as an English word and has come to mean “extreme happiness, bliss, freedom and/or liberation.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was, as previously mentioned, and internationally famous American rock band call “Nirvana.” When asked why they settle on that name for his band, the singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain answered that he “wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of mean, raunchy punk name…” In that same article of the interview Nirvana is described as “transformed state of personality characterized by compassion, peace, deep spiritual joy and an absence of negative mental states and emotions such as doubt, worry, and fear.”

To better understand the state of Awakening or nirvana, I wish to share another well-known American Buddhist joke

A Buddhist monk wanted a hot dog so he walked over to a hot dog vendor on a busy street corner. The vendor asked, “What would you like, sir?” The monk answered, “Make me one with everything!

To make sure you got it, let me explain. The conversational meaning is that he wanted one hotdog will all the condiments, which include mustard, ketchup, diced onion, pickle relish, and sauerkraut: in other words, “make me one [hot dog] with everything [on it].”

But the deeper meaning points to a religious experience where a person feels at “unity with” or “one with” other people, nature and the universe (“everything”), associated with the state of Awakening: so in other words, “make me one with everything.”

The Buddha experienced a profound realization in which he no longer saw himself as being separate and alone but connected to everything around him as in our metaphor of Indra’s Net of Jewels. Within this experience of interconnectedness, the Buddha now saw clearly

1) the nature suffering,

2) the cause of suffering, and

3) the past to overcome suffering.

This Awakening revealed that a change had to come from within himself.

Now here comes the follow-up to joke, about the lung in the hotdog, which directly illustrates the present topic. Well, after getting a hot dog, the monk gave the vendor a $20 bill, with even though a minute passed, he did not get the change back.

The monk waited patiently for a while but when it was not forthcoming, the monk became a bit flustered and finally asked, “Well, where’s my change?” The vendor squarely face the monk and replying with confidence, “Sir, the change must come from within you,” as he pointed his index finger toward the Buddhist monk!

The monk wanted “change” as in money, but the vendor switch the meaning of “change” to mean transforming the mind or Awakening. And the joke becomes funnier since the roles are reversed. It should be the monk telling the vendor. However, it is the hot dog vendor telling the monk with the monk should already know: Awakening involves change in the way we see things in accordance with truth. And it is this change that leads to the jewel within each of us to shine forth!

(Chapter on Four Noble Truths with the 4th truth and summary to be continued)

Ken Tanaka offers you a free download of the entire book at:

Cleveland Buddhist Temple

21600 Shaker Blvd, Shaker Heights
Ohio 44122 United States

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