Message from Rev. Kakei Nakagawa
(as printed in the June, 2016 newsletter)
How could I learn the essence of Buddhism in limited time?
The best way to learn the essence of Buddhism is to do the ‘Otsutome’ at the family shrine in your everyday routine.
(*In Shin Buddhism, ‘Otsutome’ means usually the chanting of “Shoshin-ge” as to return the Buddha’s kindness with gratitude.)
It is not necessary for you to think so seriously. Simply, enter into the peaceful world of the Buddha. It takes just ten minutes each day.
Is chanting of the sutra like a play? Is it serious?
Again, do not think it too seriously. There are particular rules and etiquettes (Sah?) that must be required for any play. Because, any human without exception lives with desires and ‘Desires’ originally are tied to the reality of human beings and our fate, birth and death. And surely, ‘Desires’ are the vital resources for any life’s activities.
We are fond of delicious foods, seek a mate, look for other’s position eagerly, make money and wish for fortune limitlessly, there is nothing out of the ordinary. And we, the human being never becomes free from such desires for living until the final moment.
‘Play’ is a good technique for a human being to leave the desires for living, even for a moment. There is a free range of decision-making in the play and there is no concern of the serious matters of fate, birth nor death.
The Sah?-etiquette of everyday practice, ‘Otsutome’ as well as the Sah?-etiquette of the other Dharma-related ‘Play’ like the tea ceremony, game of incense, flower arrangement, Tanka and Haiku poetry for example, even extends to the rule of our relationship in real life; only when you would be bound by the Sah?-etiquettes in earnest, the human being could leave the greedy desires for living and gain degrees of dignity.
Therefore, you should play as in the Sah?-etiquette. Life is essentially a ‘Play’ of lofty, sublime.
The essence of Dharma would come alive as a matter of course in individuals when you could “play” with the Buddha in the Sah?-etiquette.
Is that the way, really?
Yes. And we should remember that our Rennyo Shonin brought this technique into our daily life in the 15th century. Amazingly, all of traditional culture of Japan such as Tea ceremony etc., was spread amongst ordinary people for the first time under the influence of his propagation of Dharma. Even the strict Buddhist practice restored the Buddha’s intent and was presented to the people as a relaxation of Living.
Message from Rev. Matthew Hamasaki
(as printed in the June, 2016 newsletter)
One of the most fundamental things about Buddhism is one of the most frustrating: that the ultimate awakening is beyond human conception. This is difficult because, as humans, all we have to work with is human conception. It is like trying to explain to someone who has never had a banana what bananas taste like; words are insufficient. The only way to really describe it is “like a banana.” They can have somewhat of idea of what it could possibly taste like but they will never truly understand until it finally touches their mouth.
The reason that we are incapable of reaching that understanding is because of the way we perceive the world. We view it with distinctions, categorizing everything into dualities. Good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, right and wrong. The reason that we have these distinctions is rooted in the wiring of the human brain and it makes life easier and safer to instantly discern what hurts and what doesn’t. For instance, if a child sees fire for the first time it looks pretty and they want to touch it. Instantly, they feel pain and do not like it. Their brain feels the pain and remembers so when someone lights a match near them they are careful not to be close to it.
While this is very helpful in keeping us away from physical pain, it does quite the opposite when it comes to suffering that comes from our ego. We constantly want to do what is good and what is right and we don’t like what is bad or wrong. But when we really take a good hard look at ourselves, we realize that it is all our own idea of what good and right is. We create our own truths just like everyone else create their truths. When we get a glimpse into this we start to see the true reality of how the world is. To get to this point isn’t easy, in fact it takes a great deal of effort. Unfortunately there isn’t a set of guidelines or a designated plan to get there. It is up to each of us to make it our personal responsibility to try to recognize our thinking and break through whenever we can.
Message from Rev. Alan Sakamoto
(as printed in the June, 2016 newsletter)
“The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”
I bought this book from the New York Times best selling author Marie Kondo due to its popularity, and I bought a copy to give to a friend as a gift. I thought it best that I know a little about the book that I was giving to her. I was pleasantly surprised through this easy reading book to find many references to Buddhist ideas, although, I’m not sure that the author had intended it in that way. I know what your thinking, how can a book about cleaning be related to Buddhism?
The main point of the book is to put your home in order through a very thorough and systematic method. You only keep the items that bring you joy, and throw away all the rest. “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” Ah, those attachments. We all have them, and they manifest themselves in different forms of emotions, perhaps, it’s getting upset because you don’t get your way. In the case of all those old mementos and, memorabilia from days gone by are also a form of our attachments. But what about that jacket or clothing that one-day I can wear in the future, if I lose weight or gain weight again? That’s living in the future. Buddhism teaches is that we need to appreciate and be thankful for living in the NOW! Marie Kondo goes onto write, “we live in the present…no matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past…the joy and excitement we feel here and now are most important.”
Once you gather all your items that you have decided to throw away, she says to talk to them, thank them, and explain your appreciation for all that they have done for you. She also recommends something similar when she deals with those items that she keeps, even her home. She talks to those items to express her joy, satisfaction, and most importantly her thankfulness. How many times do we take for granted that rain jacket. We focus on the rain instead of living a life of thankfulness and gratitude for having items that keep us dry. Being thankful and expressing our thanks to those items that have helped us is a refreshing and beneficial way to appreciate all the material goods that we are so fortunate to have. Marie Kondo also thanks her home
each day she returns from a busy day helping others to clean their homes. Every day, she unpacks her workbag, and thanks each and everything in that bag. Our appreciation is an important step to not take our possessions for granted, and to truly recognize the value of things we own.
The final point that struck me was her comment, “letting go is even more important than adding.” We learn so much about ourselves as we sort through and determine which pieces of clothing that truly bring us joy, or we’re holding onto but will probably never wear again. We are constantly changing. Just like the changing styles of our clothing. Our likes and dislikes are changing too. NOW is a time for us to like ourselves for who we truly are, not what we may become, and not what we were.
Lately, I have noticed a trend to minimalism. Living life with less. We even have television shows like “Tiny Houses,” that explain how people live in a smaller than average home. People are moving into the downtown areas of their cities so they don’t have to buy a car, and use public transportation, or even walk to work. The days of buy, buy, buy are changing. Do we really need everything we own? Can you do with less? Maybe you will appreciate what you have even more when you have less.
Marie Kondo writes, “when your room is cleaned and uncluttered you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” Isn’t this what Buddhism is all about? Examining our inner self? Perhaps it’s time for us to take inventory of what we have, throw away all the things that don’t bring us joy and happiness, and learn more about ourselves through Marie Kondo’s Magic of Tidiness.
I go to the Buddha for guidance.
I go to the Dharma for guidance.
I go to the Sangha for guidance.
Rev. Alan Sakamoto