Dharmavidya's Seasonal Message
December 18th, 2013
Peace to each and all.
Posted on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 04:31 PM in Amida Pureland Retreat, Amida Sangha, amidashu, Buddhism, Buddhist, Ceremony, Dharma, Dharma Talks, Dharmavidya, Friends of Amida, Inspiration, Modgala, News, Pastoral Letter , Pureland Buddhism, Retreats, Susthama, Whispers from the Bamboo Grove, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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::Pastoral Letter of 21 March 2008
The Pureland Way is a kind of open secret. It is open in the sense that anybody can easily get to know that Purelanders are those for whom their prime spiritual practice is saying the nembutsu. It is secret in the sense that few who have not immersed themselves in it realise what a transforming effect this practice has upon people’s lives.
Firstly, let us appreciate the extreme simplicity of this approach which operationalises everything that was taught by Shakyamuni and all the other Buddhas in the most direct way. Through the nembutsu we give up self, entrust ourselves to the Great Way, fulfil our karmic destiny, create a Pure Land for all, attain great happiness, and free ourselves from samsara for the benefit of all sentient beings. This is all through the power of nembutsu.
The nembutsu way is a generic spirituality. Actually it is for “Buddhists of all religions”. There is nothing sacred about the actual words of the nembutsu - in different countries it is said differently - but it becomes nembutsu by intent - the intent to reach out toward and to be open to what is sacred. The person who says nembutsu (the nembuts’sha), in effect, says, “I am a spiritual person and I am embraced by the spirit everywhere.”
To be spiritual is to relate to the spirit. Different people conceive spirit differently due to differences of human capacity. The nembutsu means “I am an ordinary person calling out to that which is most good, true and exquisite.” These two interpretations of the nembutsu are just different facets of the same jewel for the spiritual person is the person who recognises his or her ordinariness and the spirit that is everywhere is that which is most sublime.
In Buddhist terms, “sacred” means a field of merit. In Buddhism, something becomes sacred through accumulation of merit, what has become sacred becomes a bestower of merit and the best thing to do with merit is to dedicate it to whatever is most sacred so that all beings may participate in that sacredness, because merit is accumulated by open handed compassion and wisdom, which is to say, by embracing all that is as it is.
The “is as it is” is called tathata and Amida Buddha is tathagata (Japanese, Nyorai) which means one who comes from the as-it-is. This sounds complicated, and doctrinally it can be so, but in the practice of nembutsu it all becomes totally simple. Just keep saying nembutsu and all troubles dissipate, all merit flows as it should, and all the wishes of the Buddhas are accomplished naturally.
We are not in the business of retiring in Amida-shu. I've noticed this in my own life! Here's Dharmavidya's latest Pastoral letter, in which he sets out the directions his life has taken and the new directions he feels it will be taking, now he has reached his 60s:
Pastoral Letter of 30th March 2007
There is a tradition in Japan that when you turn sixty you should start some new project or direction in life. This week we have been remembering Rev. Gyomay Kubose who was the first patron of Amida Trust - a wonderful man loved by all. When he was sixty, having established the Buddhist Temple of Chicago, he went back to Japan for three years and got a masters degree in Buddhist Studies from Otani University. Gyomay sensei had not had the educational opportunities when he was young that are available now. His family had subsisted by picking fruit and vegetables as immigrant labourers in the USA and he had been interned during World War II. He went on teaching Dharma until a short illness took him away from this life at the age of 94 in the year 2000. He was a man of the twentieth century. What must we do in the 21st?
Personally I do not feel any need to go and get a further academic qualification - I've done plenty of that - so my visit to Japan in April will be much shorter than Sensei's was. I am very much looking forward to a brief visit to our friends there from whom I always learn so much. What they teach me is not so much a doctrine or academic discipline but rather they impress me with the depth of their religious feeling. It puts a stamp upon one.
No, I think my new sixties venture is going to be more to do with getting out and spreading that feeling around. Over the past eleven years since Reverend Master Jiyu died we have seen a new vehicle for the transmission of the Dharma come into being. There is clearly more design in our accidents than at first appears. The Amida-shu is now established and the Amida Order is growing and developing. Everything is now in place for a new phase of outreach.
Pastoral Letter of 23rd February 2007
Let us reflect upon the remarkable phenomenon that we all feel unfolding in our midst as the Amida community unfurls. Let us take the risk of imbibing the madness of faith. Is this communion not like a seed germinating? So far only the tiniest shoot has started to uncurl. Later we will all be amazed. We are amazed already, of course, but this is nothing. On the one hand it is important to retain modesty for we are only bombu. We cannot achieve anything of ourselves. On the other hand, we have hooked ourselves up to the immeasurable merit of Amida Nyorai who has the power to create such Pure Lands as have not even yet been dreamt.
We dare to be unlike other groups. Our Buddhism is not secularised in the way that is so common and popular these days nor are we pedlers of commercialised spirituality. We are not cynical, like the materialists and consumers. Yet nor are we like the fundamentalists who claim to know everything and only fall to quarrelling. We are an odd bunch. We have abandoned the fall back positions that modern people rely upon, so there is nothing for it but to plunge in and risk the deep waters.
We are not just importing Japanese spirituality. We deeply admire and feel grateful for our Japanese mentors. At the same time, however, our mission is greater than that. We are restoring religion, are we not? In the ancient time religion was everything. Community and religion were almost synonymous. They were inseparable, as they are once again for us. In the so-called modern age, however, many parts of life, economics, politics, science, art, and many others, have been hived off and emptied of soul. They have become deanimated elements, commercialised for utility. Crazy as we may sometimes seem, we are not like that. Although we must compromise in order to have dealings with the deanimated world around us, we are a movement for reanimation which means for real religion; for religion that reoccupies its whole domain.
A Bodhisattva has no ground to stand upon - the ground that he or she stands upon is the Dharma. One who hears the Buddha is a light unto him or herself because the Dharma is his or her light. If this is not correctly understood, great mistakes will be made. There are those who think that being a light unto oneself means doing what suits oneself, but this is delusion. Only insofar as our light and our ground are the Dharma are we true to our calling and this in the long run yields the most wonderful life. Every compromise with Mara's darkness reduces both our effectiveness and our satisfaction in the longer run.
It is in accord with the Dharma to be friendly to all. Sometimes it is difficult to be a good friend. A good friend always does what they believe to be in the good interest of the other, even though this may not always be what that person wants or believes to be best. A good friend may even be in the position of doing good for somebody who is hostile. This means: do not give up on the other party.
I am writing this at Amida France. A gathering of members of our School is taking place here and it is a supreme joy to be among such friends. There is much rejoicing that we have this very special fraternity to uphold us. “I hesitate to think what I would have been doing with my life if I had not found this,” one of our number comments and we all realise our great good fortune in having been given this wonderful sangha refuge.
“I am turning over in my mind the juxtaposition of the spiritual and the practical,” says another. We most of us realise that on the one hand our little communion has burgeoned in size and intensity of activity over the past two years well beyond our expectation and, at the same time, this wonderful expansion has been threatened by a tightening of our financial circumstances. We have to keep the ship afloat as it heads out into bigger seas.
For myself I am confident that we will come through this period stronger. I offer three watchwords to help us do so. These are:
By unity, I mean that we must each try always to remember that whatever part of the sangha’s activity we are engaged with - whether it is a local centre, a pastoral project, a volunteer scheme, attending a pan-Buddhist gathering, an interfaith activity, running a course, conducting a service, entertaining guests, or whatever it may be, we are actually part of the whole. We are at that very time a representative of the whole Amida Work. Amida is at work in this world and we are Amida’s “bodhisattvas of the Earth”. Even though one may individually be a person of little talent, uncertain virtue, or modest accomplishment, as Amida-shu we are all part of one single whole and we are always representing the whole of that whole. Also, as our organisation diversifies, it will not diversify into parallel strands, but into woven ones. It is important to organise and it is important that such organisation proceed according to the principle of complexity. Complexity sustains unity. Every strand of Amida activity should be woven into several other strands. We do not expand by addition, but by intermeshing.