Dhammapada, a collection of verses of Shakyamuni Buddha
Naga-Enthroned Buddha, 1100s Cambodia, Angkor, Angkor Wat Period, 12th century- Cleveland Museum of Art
The Mind: 42-43
Whatever an enemy might do to an enemy, or a foe to a foe, the ill-directed mind can do to you even worse.
Whatever a mother, father or other kinsman might do for you, the well-directed mind can do for you even better..
Cleveland Welcomes Reverend Roland!
Rev. Roland Ikuta
The Cleveland Buddhist Temple is pleased to introduce Rev. Roland Ikuta. Rev. Roland was ordained a Tokudo Minister in July 2019. He is currently working towards his ordination as a Kyōshi minister for the Canadian Kyodan. Rev. Roland, a physician specializing in the care of seniors, geriatrician, is transitioning towards retirement by following the path of studying Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. He currently lives in Lethbridge, Alberta Canada and attends the Buddhist Temple of Southern Alberta.
T’an-luan the First of the Chinese Masters of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism
by Rev. Roland Ikuta
Shinran, the founder of our sect of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, identified seven masters who transmitted the teaching of Pure Land Buddhism and the practice of reciting the Nembutsu. Shinran selected these masters for three reasons. Each master aspired for birth in the Pure Land. They all left writings related to the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha and the Nembutsu. Finally, he felt that each of the seven masters made a distinguished contribution to the development of the nembutsu teachings.
The seven masters include Nagarjuna (Jpn. Ryuju) (ca. 2nd – 3rd Century CE) and Vasubandhu (Jpn. Tenjin or Session) (Ca. 4th Century CE) from India. The three masters from China were T’an-luan (Jpn. Donran) (476-542), Tao-Cho (Jpn. Doshaku) (562-645), and Shan-tao (jpn. Zendo) (613-681). The two Japanese masters were Genshin (also Eshin) (942-1017) and Honen (also Genku) (1132-1212). While each was important, Shinran quotes T’an-luan the most. The name Shinran is a derivation of the Shin, the last character of Vasubandhu (Seshin) and Ran from Dornan.
What was the story of T’an-luan's life, and how did he contribute to Mahayana teachings and Shinran's thoughts? According to legend, T’an-luan was a student of the Shiron Shu sect of Buddhism. He studied the Great Collection Sutra but felt it would take an entire lifetime to understand this sutra. He decided to pursue the teachings of Taoist master Tao Hungjing to gain longevity. He then encountered the great Chinese translator Bodhiruci and eagerly showed him his prized possessions of the Taoist scriptures. Bodhiruci displayed his disdain for these teachings by spitting on the ground. He explained that although these teachings may lead to longevity, it would be a life full of delusions and suffering. He then revealed the Buddhist path taught by Sakyamuni Buddha. Bodhiruci told T’an-luan, "if you practice this teaching, you will attain emancipation and be liberated from birth-and-death forever." Having heard this, T’an-luan burned the Taoist scriptures and turned to the Pure Land path. While he wrote many commentaries on the Mahayana writings, his most extraordinary text is the Commentary on the Pure Land Treatise. It is an analysis and interpretation of the seminal work by Vasubandhu. He was able to synthesize the teachings of Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu. In this Commentary, he explains Amida Buddha and the Pure Land's nature and sets out the foundation of the Pure Land path, particularly for the ordinary bonbu person.
In his, Commentary T’an-luan clarifies the teachings of Nagarajan. The first master explained the easy path towards birth in the Pure Land as the easy practice of entrusting to attain birth in the Pure Land. T’an-luan states that the easy practice is easy, because it is accomplished through the powers of Amida Buddha. His focus on Other Power (Tariki) instead of relying on self-power (Jiriki) was essential to Shinran. Shinran felt that he could not perform any practices that would lead him to attain enlightenment due to his limited capacities. It was only through relying on the compassionate vow of Amida Buddha that we have any hope of achieving Buddhahood. T’an-luan also clarified that the Nembutsu follower travels two crucial journeys. The first is the attainment of wisdom or an understanding of ultimate reality. The second is the Bodhisattva path of compassion, returning to this samsaric world to help all sentient beings reach this state. T’an-luan stated that this attainment of wisdom and the compassionate return to help others is directed to us from Amida and is not due to our efforts or self-power.
Shinran considered the writings of T’an-luan to be critically important for the Pure Land path. He is the most frequently quoted of the seven masters. In Shōshinge (Hymns of True Entrusting Heart and the Nembutsu), he writes, "T’an-luan shows that the cause and attainment of birth in the fulfilled land lie in The Vow. Our going and returning, directed to us by Amida, comes about through Other Power.” In the Koso Wasan (poems written about the seven Masters), he quotes:" He ceased expounding the Four Treatises (the sutra of the Nirvana school) and explained the Other Power of the Original Vow. He led the ordinary people, bound by their evil passions, and encouraged them to enter the gate of Nirvana." It is clear from many of his writings that Shinran considered T’an-luan to be a great teacher and was a central figure in the evolution of Pure Land thought. He helped Honen (Shinran’s teacher), and Shinran understand the Jodo Shinshu path.
If you would like to read more about T'an-luan and a translation of his Commentary on the Treatise on the Pure Land, please read: Tokunaga Michio editor, Pure Land Writings, Volume 2, and T’an-luan. Shin Buddhist Translation Series, Publisher - Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 2018.
Namo Amida Butsu.
Rev. Roland Ikuta
Excerpts of Buddhist voices across teachings, across continents, across time.
The Guarani Legend of the Hummingbird
As retold by a chief of the Aldea Yvytu Pora community, Domingo Moreira
"One day, the jungle began to burn in flames. All the animals fled in a stampede except one small hummingbird. He seemed a little more scared and desperately tried to get closer to the flames and then returned to the bank of the Paraná River to cool off. His intention of reaching the fire seemed to have no sanity. A jaguar saw the hummingbird trying to fly into the flames and, very concerned, told him to stop, and not to return to his house because the fire could not be put out. The little hummingbird told the jaguar that he was not trying to get to his house, but that on each trip to the Paraná River, he brought all the water he could carry and threw it onto the fire. The jaguar told him, “But no! You cannot extinguish it!” The hummingbird replied, “Maybe I can’t extinguish it, but I’m doing my part to take care of my home.” After hearing this, all the animals began to do the same and fought for their home until they could tame the fire.”