Did a loved one pass away between July 2019 and today?
Please submit names to Rev. Anita no later than JULY 12 We will remember them with gratitude at our special Obon Service.
In-person services resume
Sunday, July 18
Annual Obon Memorial Service – 10:30 AM
Limited Reserved Seating at this Service. Due to Covid-19 requirements by Unitarian Universalist Church, limited attendance, social distancing and mask requirements continue to be enforced for indoors gatherings
Dhammapada, a collection of verses of Shakyamuni Buddha
The Assembly of Tejapradbha Buddha - 1878, Korea Joseon dynasty - Cleveland Museum of Art
Through heedfulness, Indra won to lordship over the gods. Heedfulness is praised, heedlessness censured – always..
76th Annual Obon Japanese Festival Sunday, July 18 12:00 Noon All welcome to gather outdoors in our garden with the famous Sho-Jo-Ji Japanese Dancers and Kiko’s Kitchen Food Truck food service For updates and more information as plans are finalized and on the Festival, please check future Buddha Posts and www.clevelandbuddhisttemple.org
Rev. Isabelle Shinjo Bernard
The Cleveland Buddhist Temple welcomes back Rev. Isabelle Shinjo Bernard. Rev. Isabelle is a NYC native and a long-time active member of the New York Buddhist Church. She received Tokudo ordination in 2014 at Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto Japan.
Buddhism for Today’s World
Rev. Isabelle Shinjo Bernard
In such a time as we are currently living through, when disparate views challenge many of our cultural values, beliefs, and traditions, I am driven to ask myself how Buddhism addresses some of the issues we face in our lives as what we assumed was a stable foundation gets rocked. I find as I get older that change comes with a jolt. It is not easy and often, not pleasant. When I turn on the news in the morning, I am often tempted to quote Dorothy Parker, an author notable for her witty, acidic observances…in this case, when the radio news jolts me awake, to loudly complain “What fresh hell is this?”
Hhmmn, hhmmn, hhmmn…samsara, samsara, samsara, I mumble.
After coffee and a few grumbles, I wrestle with that most obvious of truths; that wishing for stability is like clutching at air…it was never stable or permanent. When we consider the life of Buddha, and his followers, we find more evidence of that. A basic tenet of Buddhism is that life is transient, that all things are in a constant state of change from one moment to the next...this is samsara, which refers to the cyclic, true nature of life between birth and death. Suffering is caused by our emotional attachments to the imagined constancy of a person, place, time, or object. What fresh hell is this, has a perspective on change that, for me, is quite realistic from my human perspective. All life is transient, all things in a constant state of change. Everything that exists ages and eventually dies. Aaargh!
The teaching of karma gives insights into how we should consider our ethical and moral responsibility as Buddhists. Shakyamuni redefined the meaning of the word, which was already in usage in the Vedic (pre-Hindu) community. He pointed out that before an action is taken, there is thought, motivation and desire; this directs the action and may influence the result. But rather than point to consequences only as good or evil, Shakyamuni urges us to consider how our actions affect others; how they spread out in an ever-widening ripple effect, much of which we never even see or are aware of. So there is obvious need for developing awareness of our mental processes as they are the engine that drives behavior.
So…that takes us back to samsara. Among the Buddha’s many teachings are discourses which deal with the politics of his day. Indian kings sought out the Buddha to help them solve political conflicts. Not wanting to take sides, Shakyamuni spoke about how suffering caused by conflicts might be ameliorated. In the Meditation Sutra, Shakyamuni flies to Rajagrha, to console Queen Vaidehi who has been imprisoned by her son Ajātaśatru. Shakyamuni tells her that how she can be reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha; by calling the name of this Buddha, one may be reborn in his paradise. Shakyamuni offered hope to Vaidehi, reaching through her despair, offering a practice by which she/all despairing beings could be saved, no matter their karmic circumstances, level of understanding or spiritual ability.
Sakyamuni always approached questions of human suffering with great respect; he realized that understanding the truth of a teaching was dependent on the listeners capacity. A person immersed in great suffering needs an easy method to alleviate the pain that consumes them, that affirms they are embraced within the arms of compassion and wisdom, that affirms that there is a path out of suffering.
Within Jodo Shinshu we also find this compassionate understanding of change and that which effects change. For Shinran, this was pivotal in his awakening. Meeting Honen, and encountering O-Nembutsu, transformed his understanding and his life. Shinran writes in Shōshinge:
Master Genku [Honen], well-versed in the Buddha’s teaching,
Turned compassionately to foolish people, both good and evil,
Establishing In this remote land the teaching and realization that are the true essence of the Pure Land way,
He transmits the selected Primal Vow to us of the defiled world.
Nembutsu IS Amida Buddha sharing the Primal Vow with us. We repeat o-nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu, to take refuge in Amida Buddha. Significantly, we are enabled to take refuge because we have encountered the Vow. And through the Vow we also encounter Sakyamuni Buddha and all those who have helped to preserve and propagate the Nembutsu teaching, including Shinran. Furthermore, this teaching was only able to reach Shinran because of the Seven Masters from India, China, and Japan who transmitted the Dharma. This is Karma manifesting in our lives. This is also how interconnectedness works.
Our lives are, individually and collectively, built on inter-connectedness, that which transcends time and space. Countless others who have gone before us make our lives possible. This is true for Buddhas also. Amida connects with us, through time and space, in the Nembutsu. It is through saying the Name, Namu Amida Butsu that we become awakened to Infinite Life and Light, the Compassion and Wisdom of Reality-as-it-truly-is.
A haiku poem written by the monk Ryokan reads, “Return to Amida/return to Amida/so even dewdrops fall.” Our lives, though fragile as dewdrops on a summer morning, have infinite connection to all others. And so, we entrust ourselves gratefully to Amida Buddha. Please place your hands together in Gassho, and let’s say Nembutsu together.
Namu Amida Butsu
Rev. Isabelle Shinjo Bernard
June 19, 2021
Excerpts of Buddhist voices across teachings, across contients, across time.
Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva. Northern Song Dynasty (1127). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Kansas City, MO 3-10
The Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva
Chapter 6 – Patience, continued Stanzas 79 – 86 of 134
79. When praise is heaped upon your qualities, You’re keen that others should be pleased thereby. But when the compliment is paid to others, You feel no inclination to rejoice as well.
80. You who want the happiness of beings Have wished to be enlightened for their sake. So why should others irk you when They find some pleasure for themselves?
81. And if you claim to wish that beings Be enlightened, honored by the triple world, When petty marks of favor comet their way, Why are you so discomforted?
82. When dependents who rely on you, To whom you are obliged to give support, Find for themselves the means of livelihood, Will you not be happy, will you once again be angry?
83. If even this you do not want for beings, How could you want Buddhahood for them? And how can anyone have bodhichitta Who is angry when another prospers?
84. If someone else receives a gift, Or if that gift stays in the benefactor’s house, In neither case will it be yours – So, given or withheld, why is it your concern?
85. All your merit and the faith of others, All your sterling qualities – why throw them all away? Not holding onto what might bring you riches, Tell me, why are you not angry at yourself?
86. Not only do you feel no sorrow For the evils you have done, You even wish to match yourself With those whose merit has been earned!