Message from Rev. Kakei Nakagawa
(as printed in the October, 2016 newsletter)
I always read ‘Five Remembrances’ before my Dharma messages. These passages may be the oldest principles practiced by followers of Mah?y?na Buddhism like us, since ??kyamuni Buddha’s passing.
Please read once:
I am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health.
There is no way to escape having ill health.
I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the
nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from
My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.
By relying on the truth-reality of the Dharma, the fellowship of the Sangha, and the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, may I realize my true nature, and liberate other beings from sufferings. “Namo’amitabha?”
The first four remembrances reminds us of ‘Anitya’, the first concept of ‘Three Seals’ of Buddha-dharma; meaning “Everything in the Universe is changing moment by moment. So, all existence in the universe could never be controlled by anybody.” This truth-reality creates the cause of sufferings and we cannot run from this situation.
The fifth remembrance clarifies the essence of ‘Inter-dependency’ as an attribute of ‘An?tma’, the second concept of ‘Three Seals’; meaning “Nothing could exist by itself. So, all existence in the universe is originated dependently”
Without sticking to a delusional view by making sure of actuality, this remembrance is confirmed to live through karma-effect of Buddha-dharma so that this life may not be in vain again.
And a decision as the practicing followers of Mah?y?na Buddhism is being expressed by the last paragraph.
In first, following the last words of Buddha, we entrust Dharma, Sangha and Buddha in order. (This order tells us that ‘Five Remembrances’ originates in the earliest period of Buddhism.) Then, joyful indeed the advanced interpretation of Nenbutsu, six syllables of the word of Buddha as follows and concludes the ‘Five Remembrances’.
When we respond to Buddha’s voice and recite, we already join in Buddha’s Wish-for-the-world. And this conduct may be the only karma-effect for us to resolve life’s problem, may not be it.
You can use ‘Five Remembrances’ as your everyday reminder of the Buddha-dharma as well as the long line of practicing followers and monks since 2,600 years ago.
Message from Rev. Matthew Hamasaki
(as printed in the October, 2016 newsletter)
I enjoy cooking. I like watching the Food Network and cooking competition shows and I enjoy being in the kitchen and putting meals together. It also makes me happy when I taste the dish that I made and it doesn’t taste half bad! But, I don’t have a ton of experience so a lot of things that I make I have to look up on the internet. I can only imagine how people figured out recipes before Google! Perhaps bookshelves of cookbooks or Rolodex’s full of hand written secrets or phoning all of your friends until someone has an idea of how to make something. All I have to do is plug some general thought into the phone in my hand and voila! I instantly get hundreds of people’s take on the recipe that I can choose from. Sometimes I will find a recipe I like, make a grocery list, and go to the store to get what I need. Although, having such an easy time finding a recipe, I have gotten lazy and oftentimes I will wait until I have already gotten to the grocery store to try to look something up for dinner. At one particular grocery store, however, I wasn’t able to get reception. I was getting so frustrated having to walk around trying to find a spot where I had one bar of reception so I could look up a recipe. I was mad at the grocery store for having such thick walls and mad at the phone company for not making the signal stronger and mad at my phone for not being able to get the signal. I was upset at so many things which made my life so much easier when really I should have been upset at myself for not taking the time to think ahead.
If we are to achieve any of our goals in life, we are required to have patience. Of course, there are many other things which are required, like time management or particular skills, but one of the most important is the ability to keep striving to get to where we want to be even when the path seems long and we are getting tired. This is especially true in a time and place where we have so many conveniences afforded to us. We live in an incredible time in the sense that we have access to exponentially growing amounts of knowledge and increasingly improving technology, but our spiritual state as human beings has not changed at all. If anything, these conveniences have made it even harder for us to make progress. We expect to have everything handed to us and we expect it immediately. It is quite the opposite with the path of Buddhism. The teaching that Buddha Lokesvararaja said to the monk Dharmakara before he became Amida Buddha, “It is as if a person were to bail out the great ocean using a pail and eventually reach the bottom after many kalpas. Such a person would then obtain the precious treasures to be found there. Likewise, if one seeks the Way sincerely and diligently, one should be able to reach one’s goal.” The thought of using a pail to empty the ocean sounds insane! Ultimately our goal is to let go of our ego driven thoughts and although it may be counterintuitive, it takes immense effort and so much time to let go. Whenever we feel like we’ve made some progress, inevitably they will come back. But do not lose hope. Over time we will see that, little by little, the ocean which is our suffering is getting lower and lower and that the treasure is, in fact, the change we have undergone.
Message from Rev. Alan Sakamoto
(as printed in the October, 2016 newsletter)
My Attachment to USC Trojans Football
I usually ponder, dwell on, and think about my newsletter articles for at least a month before I write them. I think about how they impact me, and how my lessons can be shared to help you find your way to the Buddha Dharma. This provides serious reflection, and at times, bursts of laughter as I ponder and write. This month’s article is no exception to the comical side of my life.
Many of you may know my love for sports, and my passion for the USC Trojans football team. I can see many of you sigh and groan (especially if you cheer for UCLA). A few weeks ago, the college football season began, and USC opened on the road versus the defending National Champions and the current ranked #1 team in the country, Alabama. USC got pulverized in an embarrassing loss on national television. I was sad and depressed after that game. I didn’t want to read any articles or listen to anything about how poorly the Trojans played. Then the next week, USC won! I read every article, and listened to every radio and podcast I could find. I was happy. Then last weekend, USC lost to Stanford. Again, I was sad and depressed. Yes, I live and die with my teams, and I am loyal in good and bad times. Well, mostly during the good times.
I realized how attached I am to the results of the USC football games, and that I didn’t quite understand the subtleties of the Buddhist concept of attachment. A truly interesting statement coming from a minister isn’t it?
Western belief is that attachments are good. Take for example and mother and child. And, just think about the attachments we need to have in order for us to have a relationship and date. And then we have basic needs that are a form of attachment, like breathing and eating. Just think of our reaction if our head is covered with a plastic bag and you could not breathe. We are certainly attached to breathing! And, my attachment to hamburgers! Well, I’ll have to leave that for another newsletter article.
Buddhism tells us that non-attachment means to be present without our grasping or controlling. And, that our suffering/dissatisfaction is directly related to how attached we are. We see this in Buddhist cosmology when we talk about the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. In pictures, those who reside there have large stomachs, long narrow necks, and pinhole sized mouths. These creatures represent our endless desire for satisfaction and capacity to be satisfied. It is representative of our grasping and addiction.
You’ve seen this if you ever walked through and looked at people in a casino. There is an intense look of focus, no eye contact with others; couples are there together but not really as they are consumed with playing their own slot or video poker machine. People don’t seem to smile or be happy unless they have won or are winning. Can you think of somewhere else that is more representative of our desires for wanting, grasping and addiction? There is this sense that people are trying to get something or somewhere and never getting it, and if we do win, then it is just temporary.
Now getting back to my USC football attachment. The key is not the attachment since we all have them, and cannot live without them. But the difference is the attachment to the outcome.
Freedom comes from not being attached to the results. Don’t grasp, don’t identify, and don’t take it personally. For the mind is what creates Nirvana and Samsara, it creates Heaven and Hell, and it is the source of our own liberation from our own suffering/dissatisfaction.
So, for me? Sorry, I was just looking at the calendar to see who USC plays next weekend. I need to cheer for my team(s) and not be so sad and depressed when they lose, and not be so happy when they win. I need to work on my attachment to the outcome. Things are just as they are, and the results of the game really don’t impact my life unless I let it. Yep, I really need to work on that one!
I go to the Buddha for guidance.
I go to the Dharma for guidance.
I go to the Sangha for guidance.
Rev. Alan Sakamoto