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Doors and Doorways
We go through them every day, doors and doorways. Can doors and doorways be metaphor for experiencing life?
We hear expressions like: “at death’s door,” “darken someone’s door,” “get one’s foot in the door,” “open door policy” and “when one door closes, another opens.” Implications are death or an unwanted person, or impositions, or openness to everything and opportunities, both lost and found.
We have difficulties, we have challenges - we have dukkha in our lives. In this life we look for the door with a path to leave these behind, to leave sadness, pain and suffering behind and to walk through a door that has a way to new spaces and opportunities. The door and its doorway becomes the transition space from how we experience our life to an altered way.
I studied with a Sensei who would tell us “It is not better in California.” The message was clear, just leaving Ohio and moving to California isn’t a fresh start. It will be the same old same old. Why? Because we did not unlock the symbolic door that holds the way to “better.” And what is this better? It is the symbolic entrance to another way of understanding, another world.
The symbolic open door is inviting, a new beginning with a glimpse of what lies ahead - a view that is different. The symbolic locked closed door is what we typically do to ourselves. We stay trapped in a state of mind that believes there is no way out, no chance for change – dukkha.
A doorway is the passage leading from one place, one room, one state of mind, to another. It is the transition, not the change itself. It is the interval of saying farewell to what was left and an embrace of what lies ahead. Sometimes thinking of a door as a gate is easier. Doors are usually opaque and if closed, what lies on the other side is unknown. Gates usually have open spaces to see through, even if closed.
Regardless of the image, the door offers the line, a boundary, a frontier of two different alternatives, places. Walking through the door, or crossing over, is symbolic of a new beginning. Doors are both entrance and exit.
If you read the short excerpt in The Nightstand Buddhist below, we are shown a door and a doorway to reducing dukkha in this life. We each have our key to this door and doorway. We choose to keep it locked or we choose to unlock it. In the end, the choice is ours.
Amida Buddha’s 18th Vow is in sight on the other side of that door. Entrusting in that Vow sounds easy, but how many of us really truly believe it? It is said Shin Buddhism is the easier path, the easier doorway. It is easier but that does not mean it is easy. Easier is simply less difficult. We still need the courage and strength to unlock that door, view what is on the other side, entrust in it and walk through.
Sometimes it only happens when we are fed up with everything so much that we are willing to try anything to make it better. If that “anything” includes just moving to California, then guaranteed, the door is still closed to the next room. The only difference will be the same cell walls are painted a different color. Embracing and entrusting Amida Buddha’s 18th Vow, is the door, the threshold that is truly the first steps to awareness and enlightenment in this life.
We can never know the exact process that Sakyamuni Buddha followed to experience the Awakening he attained under the Bodhi tree. There is no doubt, however, that the key to understanding this teaching and reaching the truth is the “dharma of dependent origination,” sometimes referred to as “dependent causation.”
This means that all things are related by “cause,” “condition” and “result.” That is to say, all things in our world are interdependent and interconnected in a multidimensional, web-like structure of infinite details. The relationship of cause, condition, and result is not simply linear, as we have a tendency to imagine.
The “dharma of dependent origination” is a truth that cannot be refuted. As Sakyamuni Buddha himself said, this dharma of dependent origination is true, regardless of whether I had appeared in this world or not.”
Buddha Dharma, therefore, does not concede miracles. We must use reason to resolve our problems, and recognize the cause and conditions that brought them about.
This exists because that exists, and that arises because this arises… This does not exist because that does not exist, and that is destroyed because this is destroyed.”
Repeatedly instructing in this manner, Sakyamuni Buddha traced back to the cause of all the suffering from which no person is exempt. He then stressed the basic cause which is unawareness.
The solution to our spiritual problems, therefore, is to look into ourselves and become aware of the problem for what it is. A mere intellectual understanding of dependent origination is insufficient for awakening. We must change our vantage point so that we come to see and respond to the world in the context of interdependence.
It is said that the teachings in the first Dharma talk that Sakyamuni Buddha gave after attaining Awakening were about the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
He taught the Middle Way first, rebuking man’s way of seeking only pleasure as foolish. However, we also maintain that the opposite, extreme asceticism, was of no benefit either. He rejected both these extremes and recommended the Middle Way between them. He then taught the Four Noble Truths.
Excerpt from: Jōdo Shinshū, A Guide, 2002 – Hongwanji International Center, Kyoto
In celebration of his life and accomplishments, IBS will honor Rev. Dr. Unno at this special event. Following the delivery of the Unno Memorial Lecture, a scholarship award will be made to an IBS student for outstanding work in a master’s level thesis.
The memorial lecture will be delivered by Dr. Kenneth Tanaka and titled: Revisioning Shin Buddhist Teachings for Today: Thirteen Contributors to a Book, The Tide of Wisdom: Shinran’s Wisdom, Authentic Individuality and Social Engagement.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - Save the Date
2021 Cleveland Humanities Festival: IDENTITY
How the Buddhist Teaching on Non-Self Offers a Path in These Uncertain Times
What is identity? Does the Buddhist view allow for discussion of Identity when they assert the teaching of “non-self” (anātman)? It would be a contradiction if non-self means that “self does not exist,” but that is not what it means. It is not about whether the self exists or not objectively or ontologically. We will explore what "non-self" means and what it really means. Does "I" exist or not? If yes, then what is that "self"? If not, then what or who is the "I" in “I am”?
From a Buddhist perspective, we are called to continuously remind ourselves of the dangers of fixed identities, both in the sense of a superior belief of “exceptionalism,” and as a cause of dukkha (suffering/dissatisfaction) in this life. We live in a world that is interconnected and interdependent. The concept of Buddhist identity explores a path that offers understanding and compassion, a path for working together in this time of global pandemic and social/economic uncertainty. How we perceive our own identity determines our response to these times.
A print copy of Ken Tanaka’s latest book Jewels: An Introduction to Buddhism is available for a $6 donation at “Just Ask” on www.clevelandbuddhisttemple.org.
This event is co-sponsored by the Cleveland Buddhist Temple