Demon Intoning the Name of the Buddha, (Oni no nembutsu) Japan, Edo period (1615-1868) Cleveland Museum of Art
Through initiative, heedfulness, restraint, & self-control, the wise would make an island no flood can submerge.
Memorial Day 2021
Memorial Day was called Decoration Day at one time. In 1866 a group of women in Columbus, Mississippi visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who were killed in the battle at Shiloh.
Nearby were the neglected graves of Union soldiers. Neglected because they were the enemy, they were evil.
Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, and having compassion for the grief of their families, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.
They decorated the graves of the soldiers who killed their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers and yet, their compassion, beyond measure, moved them to decorate the graves of the enemy.
The Buddha taught universal truths.
Hatreds never cease by hatreds in this world. By love alone they cease.
This is an ancient Law.
Do we have compassion in us like the women who decorated graves of the enemy? It is not easy to overcome our human greed, anger and folly. But in the presence of death, we soften. That tenderness, that empathy, sometimes opens our being to the awareness of our interconnectedness, even with the enemy.
That awareness is not easy to bear. And yet, it opens that little door we guard so carefully; the door of letting go of fear, anger and hatreds. Each time we open it a bit more, we are allowing ourselves to experience not only the giving of our compassion to others, but also the willingness to receive compassion from others.
To say the Nembutsu as a Prayer for Peace (see Nightstand Buddhist below) : “To say Namu-amida-butsu is to repent all the karmic evil one has committed since the beginningless past … to give this virtue to all sentient beings … to adorn the Pure Land” (CWS I: 504).
Am I willing to decorate the graves of my enemies?
In cultivating loving-kindness, we train first to be honest, loving, and compassionate toward ourselves. Rather than nurturing self-denigration, we begin to cultivate a clear-seeing kindness. Sometimes we feel good and strong. Sometimes we feel inadequate and weak. But our loving- kindness is unconditional.
No matter how we feel, we can aspire to be happy. We can learn to act and think in ways that sows seeds of our future well-being, gradually becoming more aware of what causes happiness as well as what causes distress. Without loving-kindness for ourselves, it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others.
The Pocket Pema Chödrön, Shambhala Publications, 2008
Excerpts of Buddhist voices across teachings, across contients, across time.
The Nembutsu as a Prayer for Peace
Dennis Hirota, Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan
Excerpt from: Violence and Nonviolence in Shinran
We have considered Shinran’s treatment of violence in terms of the structure of religious realization, his response to violence in historical context, and his use of tales of violence to convey his teaching. Together, these suggest the contours of a moral anthropology that may aid us in our own times of heightened social divisiveness and cultural hubris. All forms of life are sustained by other life, but the violence of human existence is compounded by the incitements of discriminative thought. Although we may assume the autonomy of agency and the freedom of will, Shinran reminds us that in fact our thinking is conditioned culturally, socially, historically, and karmically. Above all, our immersion in samsaric existence means that our karmically conditioned actions work to bind us further to samsara. In Shinran’s somber reflection, “If the karmic cause so prompts us, we will commit any kind of act.”
As we have seen, Shinran shows us what the way forward requires. The brutal violence of the contemporary world stems from the inability to recognize and value the other. In Taylor’s modern idiom: “Humanitarian action hits a ceiling, to the extent that we aren’t yet capable of loving human beings as they are; to the extent that we need idealizations; or that with the collapse of our ideal images, we can feel only disdain, contempt, or hatred.” These passions burgeon precisely where we imagine our own good. Taylor notes: “The slogan of [Dostoyevsky’s] heroes is “we are all to blame”; the recognition that we are all complicit in sin is the gateway to grace, and hence the transformation which can take us out of the structures of evil. We are at the antipodes to self-righteous anger.”
For Shinran, saying the nembutsu is both an evocation and a manifestation of the double reality or awareness we have considered. Thus: “To say Namu-amida-butsu is to repent all the karmic evil one has committed since the beginningless past … to give this virtue to all sentient beings … to adorn the Pure Land” (CWS I: 504). Further, practitioners should “hold the nembutsu in their hearts and say it to respond in gratitude to [the Buddha’s] benevolence, with the wish, ‘May there be peace in the world, and may the Buddha’s teaching spread!’” (CWS I: 560)