In the past few weeks, I have written and rewritten this article. I told my wife we watch crazy scenarios on television and in the movies when we see things like monsters that roam the earth, zombies, or even an apocalypse it is understandably fantasy. There was even the movie with Dustin Hoffman called Outbreak where a monkey carries a virus and infects an American town. “Who would have ever thought? Who would have ever thought Disneyland and other theme parks would close their gates? Who would have ever thought that people would fight over things that I have always taken for granted like water, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper? Who would have ever thought that we are living it for real?”
It is my greatest wish that everyone continues to stay healthy as best as possible. If anyone needs help or assistance, please call the temple (310) 391-4351. We have a wealth of volunteers waiting to do what they can. When we pull together, we can weather this global event as one. Let us continue to do the best we can do for each other.
Buddhism teaches us to do the best we can in our mental and physical endeavors. Today it also reminds us that once we get ill, we have no control over our body and life seems to become more precious to us. In fact, life is precious no matter what state we are in. We should be appreciative to have been awakened to this. The human quality to cling to our past state of being is common. We are all dealing with the feeling of potential loss of life around us. This is why we are all staying home and protecting ourselves and others. So now, we have the Buddhist thought of clinging to life which causes us suffering and human quality of wanting to live. In the Tannisho which was a collection of interactions with Shinran Shonin, founder of our tradition a very close follower quotes him on this very subject.
Although I say the Nembutsu, the feeling of dancing with joy is faint with me, and I have no thought of wanting to go to the Pure Land quickly. How should it be [for a person of the nembutsu]?
When I asked the master this, he answered, “I, too, have had this question, and the same thought occurs to you, Yuien bo!”
Shinran: “When I reflect deeply on it, by the very fact that I do not rejoice at what should fill me with such joy that I dance in the air and dance on the earth, I realize all the more that my birth is completely settled. What suppresses the heart that should rejoice and keeps one from rejoicing is the action of blind passions. Nevertheless, the Buddha, knowing this beforehand, called us ‘foolish beings possessed of blind passions’; thus, becoming aware that the compassionate Vow of Other Power is indeed for the sake of ourselves, who are such beings, we find it all the more trustworthy.
“Further, having no thought of wanting to go to the Pure Land quickly, we think forlornly that we may die even when we become slightly ill; this is the action of blind passions. It is hard for us to abandon this old home of pain, where we have been transmigrating for innumerable kalpas down to the present , and we feel no longing for the Pure Land of peace, where we have yet to be born. Truly, how powerful our blind passions are! But though we feel reluctant to part from this world, at the moment our karmic bonds to this saha world run out and helplessly we die, we shall go to that land. Amida pities especially the person who has no thought of wanting to go to the Pure Land quickly. Reflecting on this, we feel the great Vow of great compassion to be all the more trustworthy and realize that our birth is settled. If we had the feeling of dancing with joy and wishing to go to the Pure Land quickly, we might wonder if we weren’t free of blind passions.”
Thus were his words.Record in Lament of Divergences #9
Here Yuien-bo contemplates Amida Buddha’s efforts to provide Enlightenment to everyone specifically himself. He expresses his yearning to continue his life as a human being rather than the life of a truly awakened one of light and life. Today many people are living in this way clinging to our lives full of creature comforts and material desires. We fear the loss of lives due to this new global illness. For many of us thoughts like this occurred daily before as a part of age and other factors. Shinran in this moment with Yuien-bo assures him that he is not the only one and expresses that because of this the Pure Land Path is right for them both. I myself have had these thoughts many times thinking that there is more that we can do and then look to this passage to remind myself of Amida’s Vow. The second half of the passage refers to how Buddhism teaches us that the body itself and the wanting for permanence is the root of our problems. Shinran recognizes this, but again reaffirms that Jodo Shinshu is for those entangled in the day to day life. It speaks to the true human self that thirsts for more. It is OK and because of this we say the Nembutsu or Namu Amida Butsu even more fervently. Let us think about this together and keep doing our best to stay alive. Appreciate the joy of being alive knowing we can look outside ourselves for the support and guidance we need in this life.
At this point in the world we have the opportunity to realize our suffering and attachments are not only our own but shared. We look inside ourselves and know the suffering of the world itself. With this gift of insight, we can act with a glimpse of Amida Buddha’s action and wish for each and every one of us. Amida Buddha is the Buddha of Infinite Wisdom and Compassion. With Wisdom to see our true selves, we can understand the lives, fears, and hopes of every other being in this world. From here on let us look to see what we can do with Compassion for others. This is the True Essence of the Life of a Jodo Shinshu Follower. One of our temple members once said “It is only work when you see it as work.” This means we get together and work together to share in each other’s life while spreading the Buddha’s life. By continuing the Buddha’s Vow for world, we find true Joy and Happiness. This life is called the Nembutsu (Nen – to live with, Butsu – Buddha) Life.
If you hear of anyone who may need help or supplies, please call the temple. A Sangha or temple community comes together so that we can receive, give, and share. With Both Hands together, Namu Amida Butsu.
Live with Amida’s Wisdom and Compassion for the World!
Gassho. Namo Amida Butsu
Rev. Kory Quon
Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple