The final talk of our Bodhi gathering 2019. In this talk Dharmvidya speaks about how the path to innocence is through the nembutsu and reflection on the precepts. He also answers a question about the language of Buddhism, and one on dealing with trauma.
Acharya Susthama recounts the story of Queen Vaidehi’s vision of the Pure Land. She tells of the difficult circumstances that befell the queen, and how her acknowledgement of past heavy karma leads to her receiving a vision from the Buddha.
Bodhi gathering 2019 - talk one. Rev Master Dharmavidya David Brazier gives the first talk of our Bodhi gathering.
"In this time of materialism it is not even possible for people to follow the path of faith with any ease. In fact, many people have become inoculated against faith by exposure to its degenerate forms. What can possibly avail us in these latter days? Life has become immensely complicated. People are under pressure from all sides to conform to the path of worldly success." "The innocent heart is unselfconscious. Through innocence one can find faith renewed. Through faith renewed one can find the real meaning of the practices. In these real forms one can meet the Tathagata. Meeting the Tathagata one can receive the transmission. It all unfords naturally. We are in the fourth age, the Post-Mappo, and a return to the simplicity of innocence is now the only gate that is not locked."
In my Dharma talk today I suggested that we are now in the fourth age of the Dharma. In the first age of the Dharma Buddha Shakyamuni was still in this world or had recently passed away and people became enlightened by direct encounter with him or with one of his great disciples. This was the age of direct inspiration.
In the second age of the Dharma, people were able to become enlightened and enter nirvana by means of self-power practices. It was not that these rituals had an intrinsic power, but they were what still connected practitioners with the original source. By doing what Buddha did, people received the transmission. This continued for eight hundred years or so.
By the third age of the Dharma, called Mappo, things had deteriorated. Although the self-power practices remained a shining example, there were few or no people capable of actually realising them. The times were degenerate. At this time there arose teachers who showed the path of faith as the only available possibility for deluded beings to reach the Buddha and receive the transmission, if not in this life, then in the next.
Now we are in the fourth age, the Post-Mappo. In this time of materialism it is not even possible for people to follow the path of faith with any ease. In fact, many people have become inoculated against faith by exposure to its degenerate forms. What can possibly avail us in these latter days? Life has become immensely complicated. People are under pressure from all sides to conform to the path of worldly success.
Those who still attempt self-power practices do so mostly for the sake of this-worldly benefit. We do not have Shakyamuni nor Shariputra, Kashyapa nor Ananda to show us the way. We are more sophisticated than the people of old, but this very sophistication blocks our way back to the source. What is needed now? What is needed now is a return to innocence.
Only by cutting through the interminable woes and worries of our age can we hope to find the light and this cutting through involves a great simplification and lightening. Lighten your life! Reclaim the innocent eye of the child without letting go of the knowledge gained by maturity. Learn once again to play and skip. Life has become too heavy.
We are all weighed down by possessions and responsibilities, deadlines and protocols, debt and work. Riding the Dharma, leap free. Break out of the prison. Embrace nature. Let the mind expand in wonderment. Talk to the stars and bathe in the light of the moon.
The innocent heart is unselfconscious. Through innocence one can find faith renewed. Through faith renewed one can find the real meaning of the practices. In these real forms one can meet the Tathagata. Meeting the Tathagata one can receive the transmission. It all unfords naturally.
We are in the fourth age, the Post-Mappo, and a return to the simplicity of innocence is now the only gate that is not locked.
This morning I gave a talk at Oasis. I spoke about Shantideva and his famous text on the Way of the Bodhisattva. In particular, the text, like most Mahayana texts, begins with a homage to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. It is possible that many western readers skip over this as if it were a kind of polite preliminary, like saying 'How do you do?' In fact, however, the whole purpose of such a text is to inculcate and attitude and the first essential character of that attitude is homage. Shantideva's whole purpose in creating the work is homage. Teaching the Dharma is his way of expressing his devotion to the Buddhas. Homage is also a form of gratitude. It is from the Buddhas that we have received the Dharma.
Then Shantideva goes on to say that the text may be of use to those who hear or read it, but more importantly he has written it in order to clarify his own understanding. So here there is a kind of modesty and this modesty is the other side of homage. In order to put the objects of devotion on a high place it is necessary to abase oneself. Unless one recognises one's deficiency, how can one fully feel gratitude to the Buddhas?
A little further on, there is the famous verse in which he says that receiving illumination is like being in the darkness of a night time when the sky is completely clouded over and then suddenly there is a flash of lightning and, for a moment, all is clear and bright. This kind of occurrence brings a sense of astonishment. Why me? Here Shantideva is talking about sudden illumination in a manner quite like Zen. The lightning flash is spectacular because of the darkness. The same flash occurring in the day time would not have the same impact or sense of revelation. Shantideva writes about it saying he has no idea why he has been granted some access in this way.
What we can take from this is the importance of being aware of the darkness. We cannot make the lightning flash, but we can be aware of our own obscurity. This is the same attitude of modesty. Then when some insight arises, one feels great gratitude and realises the precious nature of what has been bestowed.
Too often in Buddhist groups there is much bandying about of concepts like emptiness and nonduality in a hifaluting way that yet does not evidence the attitude that Shantideva is trying to inculcate. His objective is not that one arrive at a better intellectual understanding than the next person, but that he and we may have the right attitude of reverence, homage, modesty, gratitude and even surprise that anything of the precious Dharma at all should have fallen into our laps.
I'm a Minister with Amida Shu, a Pureland Buddhist Order. Now semi-retired, I teach on-line and hold Pureland Buddhist sangha gatherings in Perth, Scotland. This site is mainly Buddhist in content. I share the teachings of the Head of our Order, Dharmavidya David Brazier