Your Shin Buddhist “go to” page in the Forest City
Children’s Meditation Reading
Golden Chain – II
I am a link in the Buddha’s golden chain of love that stretches around the world,
I must keep my link right and strong.
I will try to be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are
weaker than myself.
I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts, to say pure and beautiful words,
and to do pure and beautiful deeds, knowing that on what I do now depends
not only my happiness or unhappiness, but also that of others.
May every link in the Buddha’s golden chain of love become bright and strong,
and may we all attain perfect peace.
Shin Buddhist Service Book, Buddhist Churches of American, 1994
The Evil Person – The Good Person
“Even the good person attains birth in the Pure Land, how much more so the evil person.”
Shin Buddhism welcomes all to “come as you are.” Entrusting in this reality was brought home to me many years ago in a hospital room. The elderly mother of friends was in the hospital. Her two children took turns spending the night with her – I never understood why.
One day, they asked if I could spend the night with her since they were not well themselves. When I arrived, my friend who was there during the day was beside himself. He explained she was fine all day, but then suddenly became obsessive about the equipment in her room not working. No amount of reassurance registered in her mind. The same questions, the same worries were repeated over and over even after she said she understood.
She was agitated to the point that I asked the nurse for help. The nurse explained it was due to “sun downing.” After the dinner tray was delivered, my friend left to go home to rest. The mother remained agitated, did not want to be left alone and needed someone at her bedside at all times. Someone to reassure her she was safe. It was exhausting.
I was afraid and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to comfort her. The nurse prepared her for the night, gave her pain killers for her bed sores and dimmed all but one light in the room. She rested a while but struggled to stay awake. She started talking about being afraid, afraid to fall asleep. The nursing staff kept reassuring her she was safe, that they would stay awake and look after her.
But she was still afraid. When we were alone, I knew she was Roman Catholic, so I asked if she wanted to pray the Lord’s Prayer. We recited it together. I then suggested we try calming the breath by our Zen practice of counting the inhalations and exhalations. This was a new concept for her, but she listened and it seemed to be working, until out of the blue she looked at me and said “I’m afraid if I fall asleep I’ll die and go to Hell!”
My heart broke for her. She was not afraid of sleep, she was not even afraid of death. She was afraid of Hell. She kept repeating she was not a good person. She said nothing of Jesus, about the forgiveness of sins, only that she was not a good person. Nothing helped. She believed that if someone stayed next to her they would keep her safe from a certain Hell.
Each one of us must have such fears, such doubts in our own hearts. Maybe not all the time, but maybe when we are ill, or things get difficult, or when we have lost a loved one. Some, like my friend’s mother believe in a creator who creates and then abandons us to Hell unless we follow the “rules.” We then feel fear; rage against the world, against our “fate.” against life, against one another.
The gift of the Nembutsu, the reality of “Even the good person attains birth in the Pure Land, how much more so the evil person,” how comforting it that? To know you can “come as you are.”
My friend’s mother gave me the gift of realization that night, the gift of truly understanding that if even the good, how much more so the evil… How much more so someone like me.