How many times have we said to ourselves, “This is once in a Lifetime?” We are constantly telling ourselves, “This is it, there will never be another one like it,” but how many of us really listen to what we know is the truth? On Monday, August 21, 2017, it was one of those times. Did you watch the solar eclipse? The moon moved in front of the sun, blocking its light. All of North America was treated to this eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality could have seen one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights. The moon covered the sun! Observers outside this path were still able to see a partial eclipse.
When I first heard about this astronomical event happening, I thought to myself, “I remember the last time this happened. I’ve been through that before.” As we get older, we take it for granted that these kinds of events happen all the time. We tell ourselves that it is “just a part of nature.” When we rationalize life, we can down play the value of events like these. We can think about how there were 4 eclipses this year. Two were solar and two were lunar. Do you do this? This is an example of our human nature taking over and allowing us to miss out. We are constantly weighing and judging, analyzing and calculating how valuable each moment is worth. As we continue on this path of Nembutsu as entangled egotistic beings, sometimes I ask myself, “What are we doing?”
On Monday, August 21, 2017, we here at the temple came to have our regular 9:30AM service. Before we began, I asked if we could finish a chant a little quicker than usual so that we could finish service early. This would allow us all to take advantage of what was happening outside. Are we bad Buddhist for rushing service? Of course not. Jodo Shinshu is not practice based. The message for this day was what we come to temple to show our appreciation for Amida’s Nembutsu which allows us to live our everyday lives and not be totally perfect. With this knowledge that our birth is assured, there are times that we should not pass up the opportunity to share the rare memorable moments in this life together.
If there are persons who, having hear the Name of that Buddha, leap and dance with joy and say it even once, know that they receive the great benefit; that is, they acquire the unexcelled virtues.
-Shinran (Notes on Once Calling and Many Calling)
When I read this passage and looked out upon those in attendance, I knew that this was a chance for our human selves to live and enjoy life. The Name of the Buddha, Namo Amida Butsu, allows us all to not feel guilty for not practicing. It also allows us to realize that by being in service could cause us to miss something special. The Buddha’s teaching reminded us to not squander the solar eclipse, but to treat it as if it were our last. The next total solar eclipse over North America will be April 8, 2024, (a wonderful way to celebrate Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday).
Again, as Amida’s followers, there was no reason to feel guilty for rushing service. We are always receiving Amida’s infinite wisdom and great compassion. It urges us to use our time to expand Amida’s Light within and share the feelings that emerge. As you can see on our faces, the temple provided this shared experience. Do not waste time. Take a moment to listen and make an effort to reflect within. It is easy to take nature for granted. It is easy to miss out on the ever–changing world around us. It is easy to miss out on the valuable lessons that are right in front of us and guide us. We cannot experience everything, but we can try and treat each moment as “once in a lifetime.” Then say Namo Amida Butsu for helping us to realize something so valuable and meaningful. Gassho.
Rev. Kory Quon
Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple