Your Shin Buddhist “go to” page in the Forest City
Three Treasures - 1
Hard is it to be born into human life. Now we are living. Difficult is it to hear the Teachings of the Blessed One. Now we hear it. If we do not realize the Truth in this life, when will it be realized? Let us reverently take refuge in the Three Treasures of the Truth.
I TAKE REFUGE IN THE BUDDHA.
May we absorb ourselves in the principal of the Way to Enlightenment and awaken in ourselves the Supreme Will.
I TAKE REFUGE IN THE DHARMA.
May we be submerged in the depths of the Doctrine and gain wisdom as deep as the ocean.
I TAKE REFUGE IN THE SANGHA.
May we live in harmony in the great assembly as disciples of Buddha and be free from all hindrances, becoming units of true Accord in the Life of Harmony, in a spirit of Universal Oneness, free from the bondage of selfishness.
Even through myriad ages of kalpas hard is it to hear such an excellent, profound and wonderful doctrine. Now, we are able to hear and receive it. Let us thoroughly understand the true meaning Tathagata’s Teaching.
Shin Buddhist Service Book, Buddhist Churches of American, 1994
Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno
(A rare bird in the lands and very much like a black swan)
Juvenal, Roman poet 2nd Century CE
Some expressions just sound more impressive when you say them in in Latin, like vise versa or carpe diem. “Black swan” isn’t one of them. In fact, most of us would rather not know about black swans. But when if we stop and think about it, isn’t the current use of the term about as Buddhist a concept as we can find?
Back in Juvenal’s day, a black swan meant there was no such thing, all swans had white feathers. Saying it was a black swan was saying it was impossible. That is until the age of discovery when a Dutch exploration party spotted them in1697 in Western Australia. The term took on a new and different meaning; the one still used today “…a perceived impossibility might later be disproven.”
We have black swan events in science, religion, financial markets, geopolitics, medicine, ideas, and disease and, in our own personal lives. One model for black swan events says it has three aspects:
nothing we know from the past can be used to predict them
since we can’t predict them we are unprepared for the catastrophic life changing events they bring
and, as humans we have a need for explanations - after the fact of such catastrophic events, we come up with explanations and say we could have, would have, should have predicted them.
Beginning to sound a little familiar? We came face to face with two black swans in 2020: Covid and the February 20 stock market crash and then its recording breaking volatile ups and downs. And true to the third aspect of the model - there are those now claiming these were predictable and action was not taken soon enough to reduce their harmful impact.
Our knowledge is limited. We simply do not have the ability to connect all the causes and conditions that bring about these events. Further, we are attached to the ideas of a predictable future, I know I am. And the more the future deviates from my expectations, the more frustrated and unhappy I become and end up in what I call dukkhaland.
Someone complained the other day as to why history books are continuously being rewritten. This falls neatly into the 3rd aspect of black swan events. As time goes by, distance is created between an event and our knowledge of the causes and conditions leading to that event. New facts, new research, and new findings are uncovered that were not known at the time. A history professor once said the history of an event cannot be written accurately until at least 50 years has gone by.
As humans, by definition, we can’t predict black swan events. But, as Buddhists we continue to understand the teachings of dependent origination; causes and conditions; impermanence and our own limited human bonbuness. Our teachings are ancient and rational. The Four Noble Truths explain the way of the world. It is only our unrelenting attachments that make the reality of this life more difficult.
When faced with what seem to be insurmountable personal problems, we can overcome these ordeals by remembering that we are not alone.
I believe the reason why we are able to cope with our anxieties and sorrows is because we are not alone. We are able to live by supporting one another through our connections with each other. I myself, have special bonds with those around me. That is why I always feel that we should not ever leave alone those who are left in solitude.
In Japan, people often used to say, “okagesamade ‘thanks to everyone and everything’” or “otagaisama ‘we are in this together.’” When something good would happen to a person, they would say ‘okagesamade,’ not forgetting to give appreciation to the other person. When something bad would happen, people would say to each other “otagaisama” in order to express solidarity in identifying with each other’s struggles. These people understood the idea that “Being on my own, I am not a complete person,” that without the support of each other, we cannot live. That is precisely why these words naturally came about.
Moving Forward Just As You Are: Living In These Uncertain Times by Monshu Kojun Ohtani. PHP Institute, Kyoto, 2017
You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day - unless you’re too busy: then you should sit for an hour.