Hello and Greetings! I want to share the article I wrote for the Federation Dharma School Teachers League. I wrote it with the understanding that Amida Buddha is constantly thinking about each and every one of us. With the time passing quickly I find myself thinking about what seems easy, but has no growth. Maybe you can think of decisions you have made that were easy, but didn’t take into consideration that it was an opportunity to give value to your life and others. If the Buddhas attained enlightenment for themselves, then it would have made their lives so much easier. They wouldn’t have had to find people that needed the Dharma or teach it in a way for others to aspire for Enlightenment. What life would we lead without the teachings? What life would we live without realizing the compassion that we receive through this act? This has been amazing time to do gardening. Even in front of our temple, what looks like a weed growing is a milkweed plant that provide valuable food for Monarch Butterflies. I had thought they would be removed quickly because they seem out of place, but now they will sprout seeds soon. I am excited to harvest its seeds and grow more plants. I could easily do this myself and find enjoyment and satisfaction. The plan is to cut off the pods and take them home to my children and harvest them together. Then proceed to plant it. We will be able to watch it grow together as a share experience. If by myself it would take less than a half an hour to harvest and plant, but with the kids it will be a messy hour and a half. Most people might find it burdensome to incorporate other or to take more time to perform a task, but that is not why we do it. This is not why we come to the temple. It is to experience, learn, share, and teach valuable lessons to each other.
As we move forward, let us think about the deeper meaning of why we come together and who benefits. It is easy to just do or not do an act, but what are we learning? Are we losing an opportunity to change a life? Sometimes, I find myself saying that it is easy not to do something or just do it on my own, but the opportunity to enrich and share this life is lost. I have to remind myself especially during this time in our lives, that we do things with purpose of making life meaningful. We do things at the temple to give people something to look forward to, to give hope for the future, to realize we are living in this life together, and to say Namu Amida Butsu together as an acknowledgement of our hope and strength that we receive.
I have been asked if the temple is holding more activities, because we need each other. Even when we had our food activity, it provided many valuable things other than just a fundraiser. It gave people something to look forward to, it gave people the opportunity to go out even just for a few minutes, it brought back good times in the past, for others it created a new experience, it provided a good meal, and it gave us all the opportunity to connect and say to each other “You are not Alone”. It took a lot of energy for those that worked it, but they received the most out of it as well. If you have any thoughts of how we can help each other please share it by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can look at where the need is and analyze how we can provide it safely. By knowing how we can help, we can empathize and exhibit compassionate support. Right now, let us all look to the future, plan our events, and from what we want to do create what is possible to give Hope through the Buddha’s efforts. Namu Amida Butsu!
Gassho. Namo Amida Butsu
Rev. Kory Quon
Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple
He who Surrenders Hope, Surrenders Life
Based on the Vow that beings ultimately attain birth,From Hymns of the Pure Land 65
Sakyamuni presented, in the Amida Sutra,
The root of good and the root of virtue,
Encouraging those of the One Vehicle.
Root of good and the root of virtue: root of good in the causal stage; that in the resultant stage is called “root of virtue.”
Those of the One Vehicle: they will be brought to birth in the fulfilled land [through the nembutsu].
It is September! It is the beginning of another Dharma School Year! How have you been? Now is the time for the Dharma to ring true for everyone. The last six months has awakened us to value our physical life. When we reflect within on how we have changed, what looks back at you? The passage above is from the Hymns of the Pure Land written by the founder of our sect Shinran Shonin. What message do you receive when you read it? Is it that Sakyamuni Buddha taught the Vow power of Amida Buddha and provides Enlightenment for all through Nembutsu? When I read this passage, I think of a simple phrase. He who Surrenders Hope, Surrenders Life. I know some people would look at this phrase and wonder how do these relate? It might also feel this seems kind of negative. Why would a seemingly negative phrase come to mind when thinking of our Nembutsu teaching?
Let’s go back a little to “It is September!” Dharma School teaches students. What do we teach? Of course, we teach students the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha’s teachings can be straight forward and written on paper, but there are deeper themes. Themes like Hope. Hope in this case is to cherish a desire with anticipation or to want something to be true. To all Buddhist this is Enlightenment or becoming a Buddha. Amida Buddha gives this hope through the Vow power to all beings that gain this aspiration. Jodo Shinshu helps us to see the wisdom in our lives and gives hope to the Bonbu or foolish beings. Understanding that we are all foolish we can think about what is important to those that are suffering so that we can create stronger ties and ease the entangled nature of our lives.
How can Dharma School teachers give Hope or comfort to those they are trying to teach and to serve? The Buddha understood this and shared the sutras. Amida knows this too and provides the One Vehicle. We as teachers uses and teaches these tools, but let us employ the strategy behind them as well. By looking through the lens of those we are trying to help, we can see what they want and provide them what they need tactfully. This is how we understand Amida’s Ocean of Great Compassion that encompasses us all. If we were able to achieve our ultimate goal alone on just the teachings, we would not need Amida’s effort or his compassion.
Our Dharma School teachers already work hard every week. With this online atmosphere, it may take a little more effort to check in with our youths. I don’t know what this means for each of you, but thank you for all your hard work. Let us take the first steps to being flexible and helping our youths. We each need to participate on outreach to help them to feel validated and connected. As Dharma School teachers we need to give support and instill HOPE in the students. I have seen adults express themselves to what changes they had to make, but I have also seen children cry asking when will this global pandemic end. Hope in the present is to help people to adapt, and to not live in fear, frustration, or self-centered desire.
How can we give Hope like Amida gives Hope through the saying of Namu Amida Butsu? How can we use our energy so they may use Buddhist tools as the foundation of their livelihood? A Life of Gratitude and Appreciation is a Life of Nembustu. This Life of Nembutsu keeps us honest. It helps us to accept life as it is and to move forward. With Amida Buddha in our Hearts and Namu Amida Bustu on our lips, together we can work hard and enjoy this time no matter what the circumstance. Nembutsu fosters Hope, and awakens us to Life. Gassho!
In Gratitude and Appreciation, Namu Amida Butsu