Message from Rev. Kakei Nakagawa Rinban, Fresno Betsuin
(as printed in the August, 2014 newsletter)
PATH IN THE LIGHT
Shinran Shonin repeatedly praised the virtue of Tath?gata’s teachings using one particular word, “LIGHT.”
“Sh?shin-ge” is the most important gatha in Jodo Shinshu. At the beginning of this g?th?, Shinran Sh?nin explained the workings of the virtue of Tathagata’s teachings by naming twelve types of light: “Immeasurable Light, Boundless Light, Unhindered Light, Unequaled Light, Brilliant Flaming Light, Purified Light, Delightful Light, Light of Wisdom, Uninterrupted Light, Inconceivable Light, Inexpressible Light, and Light Excelling Sun and Moon.” The “Sh?shin-ge” continues as follows:
“… the virtue of the Tathagata illuminates like light, reaching into the deepest, darkest part of my inner-self. The light certainly conquered the darkness of ignorance. Otherwise my cloudy mist of anger, hatred and desire would continue to obscure my true mind. With this light, my true mind is able to bound to the ultimate truth. The mind of great joy which responds to Tath?gata’s compassionate Vow surely overcomes and reaches all….”
When illuminated by the Light of Wisdom, we see ourselves in the state of our ignoble existence. Mostly forgetting that everything is changing moment by moment and nothing could stay forever, we constantly seek out selfish satisfactions and are ruled by an egocentric way of thinking. As a result, we make unpleasant situations for others and cause conflicts between them and us.
When we are illuminated by the Light of Wisdom and realize the reality of our condition, we are surprised by many things we never expected. I recall one such experience when I was a college student. It remains an impressive memory. With my friends, I built a new clubhouse for the activities of our circle.
We got a room in the basement of an old building. The first time we entered the room, it was in total darkness. We could not see anything. Some decided to flick on their cheap cigarette lighters. In the flame of the lighters, we were overwhelmed to see what a mess the room was in. We were willing to straighten it up, but there was no electricity and the small and brief flames of the lighters were not bright enough. Then somebody got the idea to bring in a candle and light it. We could then see the condition of the room and could arrange the large objects like the desks, large boxes, and what not. Even so, the room was still dim. Something seemed to move in the corner. It gave us a spooky feeling.
Soon the electricity was hooked-up. Now the room was pretty well lighted. We looked around and saw dust balls here and there, which had not been visible by candlelight. We cleaned the room in what we thought was a thorough fashion and brought in some furniture. There were no rats or cockroaches apparent, so we were quite comfortable with the room. We were satisfied with our cleaning job and took pride in our new clubhouse.
Shortly after we finished our work, somebody noticed some shuttered sunlight which had been covered by paint and dust. We opened the shutters. In that moment, sunlight poured into our new clubhouse. The real condition of our room now became apparent. We realized that for all the work we had done, our room was still dirty. The desk, the shelves and the corners were places where the grime was particularly noticeable. In spite of the mopping we had done so carefully by the dim electric light, the floor looked shabby under the bright light of the sun streaming in through the window. We even saw some spider webs on the ceiling that we had missed. The pride we had felt in our work vanished, and we lost our false sense of satisfaction. We had to clean the room again.
I think that we encounter the real teaching in a similar manner. A streak of light alters our sense of certainty. In our everyday life, especially in our inner life, we don’t know about the real light. We spend our lives guided by ego-centered ideas living in and for the sake of a sense of self-satisfaction, don’t we?
Here I want to share with you one of Shinran Sh?nin’s interesting writings. In his wasan, Shinran Shonin reflects deeply upon himself, referring to himself as “a person who has a mind like a venomous snake or scorpion.” He also lamented the fact that “Although lacking a mind of truth and sincerity, I am without shame and self-reproach.”ii This serious reflection and deep censure did not arise from his deluded mind. These arose through encountering the light of truth.
When Shinran Sh?nin saw the evil nature of his existence in the light, he could not help wondering what the true way of living as a human being was. The light of Amida’s wisdom let him see his evil nature clearly, let him hear the true teachings perfectly, and let him discover the true and real state that a human being is meant to be in.
When the light of truth illuminates us, we recognize that we have been immersed in a sea of egocentric prejudices and selfattached narrow views. To attain true and real shinjin faith means to be given the eyes of wisdom which breaks through poor egocentric minds and enables us to see things as they are. Because of attaining true awakening, we often become people of selfrestraint, ones who do not blindly ascribe to conventional values and who do not follow authority without submitting it to reflection based upon the teachings of the Buddha-Dharma. Attaining true awakening is to live a life in accordance with the fundamental attitude of the Buddha-Dharma which is clearly indicated in ??kyamuni Buddha’s last words, “Rely upon oneself as an island in the flooded river, rely upon the Dharma as an island in the flooded river.”
When we experience the Light of Compassion entering our heart and coming alive as the Buddha-as-words. Nenbutsu recitation becomes my expression of deep gratitude from bottom of my heart, we become more and more ashamed of ourselves for being without shame and self-examination. The ability to have this kind of self-reflection proves that Buddha’s wisdom is working upon us. Whenever we hear the teachings and deeply experience the real state of our existence, the true path of the Nembutsu practicers’ life is realized.iii
Message from Rev. Alan Sakamoto, Fresno Betsuin
(as printed in the August, 2014 newsletter)
The Amazing Power of the Mind
Just the other day, I was sitting, ok; I was lying on the couch watching television. I began to watch a commercial for a new movie. It was for the movie “Lucy.” The premise is that a lady was forced to be a drug mule and carried experimental drugs in her stomach. The packaging broke and began to affect her brain. The idea of the movie is that she was able to use more than 10% of her brain. This brought me to thinking of another movie that I had seen a few years ago. In this movie, a man took medication that allowed him to access more than the 10% of the brain that we normally use. The movie was called “Limitless,” and the main character took a single dose of this special pill a day and this transformed him rom a slovenly, failed writer to an amazing fellow. He was able to write a book in four days, dominate the stock market, learn new languages, and even, cliff dive into the ocean with Olympic-type form and style.
Wow! Wouldn’t that be a popular pill to swallow? Where can I get some of those pills! The power that our mind has over each and every one of us is amazing. Why do Nike shoes look better than Skechers? Or maybe, why does Godiva chocolate taste better than Hershey’s? A recent marketing study found that when someone says one is better than another, then our brains perceive it as so. People who were told a certain wine was expensive rated it, after tasting it, to be better than the wine that was listed as less expensive, regardless that the actual price was exactly the opposite. There are additional behavioral studies that support this wine study. It is amazing how powerful our minds are, even if we only use 10% of its potential!
Along with the power of our own mind, then add in the power of habit. Bad habits are hard to break, and good habits are hard to maintain. It’s said that it takes 2 to 3 weeks of continual practice to make a new behavior a habit. Have you ever tried to diet and lose weight by changing your lifestyle? Then you know what I’m talking about. Are you right handed? Have you ever tried to use chopsticks and eat with your left hand? It’s hard. We have trained, engrained and practiced to use our right hand only to use chopsticks. Or, just the opposite for you left-handers. What other habits do you have? Habits aren’t just physical. There are mental habits too. What do you think when you see a well-groomed man in a suit and tie versus a man with long hair in a ponytail wearing jeans with holes? Are you stereotyping each man before you get to know him? This is also a habit, a habit that you have learned, and have reinforced through trial and error.
Buddhism indirectly refers to all these habits, both good and bad, that we rely upon in our lives. Our mind has developed a methodology in the way that we do things. When we deviate from those comfortable actions, then we feel uncomfortable, and sometimes it is a very uncomfortable feeling, i.e. we believe we are suffering. For example, you may want to buy something like a new golf club or maybe a new, pair of shoes. You even plan on it by searching the ads and the internet for the best deal. Then you wait for the sale or your next paycheck, and then rush out to buy that golf club. When you get there, alas, it is sold out. You then feel disappointed. And, if you stop and think about it, the cause of your disappointment or suffering is due to your own behavior, thoughts, and actions. If you never wanted the golf club, then there is nothing to be disappointed about. If you went ahead and just bought the club right away, maybe you would be temporarily happy, at least, until the next great golf club comes out. But, then greed sets us up for the next disappointment. Sometimes, we set ourselves up for disappointment with our own behavior.
Does this disappointment occur over and over again? Maybe it is this way due to our habitual thought process or behavior. It takes time and a great deal of effort to work ourselves out of this habitual cycle. It’s not easy addressing all those attachments, and I believe that we can’t remove then all. But we can try! We can try to be the best people possible; kind, compassionate, giving, caring, and wise, just to name a few. It sure would be a lot easier if we only had to take a pill to overcome all our attachments, and reach enlightenment.
Namu Amida Butsu
Rev. Alan Sakamoto