What Do You Mean These Aren’t My Shoes?

| September 1, 2015

I started this piece with this question, because growing up in the BCA, the Buddhist Churches of America, I have always felt we were following our ministers by Watching and Living by their example. VHBT has a GREAT lineage of past ministers. As the new minister, I felt that it was my honor and duty to come to the temple and fill the hole that had been left for the past 16 months.

We all have a vision of what the “perfect” minister is or should be. I was speaking to one of the temple members from whom I had received much inspiration during my youth (and am happy he is part of the Venice Family), and he said, “They aren’t your shoes. They won’t fit! You’ll only get blisters! You have to find your own shoes.”

With this thought, I realized something that is difficult to see and easily forgotten: the Truth is, none of us are Buddhas, yet. We are Jodo Shinshu Buddhists and have come to follow Amida.

For a person like me who has no roots of good to speak of,
No roots of good to count toward my birth in the Pure Land,
How happy I am to receive Namu Amida Butsu
Turned over to me by Amida: Namu Amida Butsu
— Saichi

After reading this poem by Saichi, I am reminded of the Nembutsu path, and that it is for me. The Buddha made the Universal Vow to engulf us all. I relate to this understanding of “no roots of good,” where even if I were to say Nembutsu I sometimes question if it was under my own power for my own enlightenment? Did this saying of Namu Amida Butsu come out spontaneously? And is my appreciation for Amida Buddha enough when those words leave my lips? Saichi honestly says that the actions that we perform for our own birth is slighted by our desires and that these impure efforts are not what truly matter. It is the realization that only Amida passes us this gift of the Name, Namu Amida Butsu. Only the Buddha’s work that ushers us to peace is pure. When this is the case, all we can do is just do our best and have great appreciation for what we have received.

I am a new minister, stepping out upon this path with the thought that I am joining many of you from behind. How grateful am I to be sharing these precious moments as part of your VHBT family. How lucky am I to be standing next to so many of you with the deep understanding that the Nembutsu has been turned over to us. It is time to walk in my shoes now, and sometimes, in my slippers. Together let us do our best and travel on the Buddha’s path to the Pure Land!!!

Namu Amida Butsu!

Rev. Kory Quon
September, 2015