Dharma Talks

RGJ Faith Forum contributions

This is a repository of various dharma talks from RBC.   We try to post the latest talk here in case you missed them live.  You are always welcome to come to RBC and experience a Sunday Service in person.   Please understand that these are ancient teachings and none of these talks represent original content. Dharma explanations are freely borrowed and shared.

To the right are Buddhist thoughts and contributions to the Reno Gazette Journals Faith Forum Series. The complete series is located here.

Interdependence of All Things 14may17

posted May 19, 2017, 9:32 AM by Matthew Fisher

- Rev. Matthew Fisher -

Good Morning everyone. And Happy Mother's day to mothers and grandmothers here today - your special day.

It is great to see all you’all this morning. I still feel the wonderful energy of our celebration of the Buddha’s Birthday last time. Just a few of the flowers are still here. Most of them have been moved to the temple’s compost bin. Now a tasty treat for the mouse family that lives there...

    The busy life of the temple has been rolling along. Cleanup day, a New member seminar on the Shoshinge  [that we just chanted] and many weekly activities enrich our spiritual lives.  Seeing all your friendly faces is very good.  In all the temples we visited in Japan I had this sense - a home feeling. You are all very welcome here in this home.

This week we’ve been working on a new entrance to the Shasta apartment. Concrete. Removing the old concrete steps and pouring new ones. Lots of very physical labor.  We busted up several thousand pounds of debris and carted it off.  One of the day-laborers we hired asked "What Buddhism is about".   I paused…thought about saying it's about compassion, or ending suffering...instead I said it's about the Interdependence of all things.

What makes everything Interdependent is really Impermanence.  We heard that in the sutra today. It is important to see.  If we can see that, life is easier to live. The joy and humor in everything is more accessible.  The Wisdom and Compassion in the universe is more visible to us.   It was strange to be talking about impermanence, when I’d just spent a couple days pounding on 60 yr old concrete with a jack hammer.  It did seem pretty permanent. Very tenaciously clinging to its form.  But in the end the concrete’s rigidity is its downfall. Its inability to bend and change makes it break. If we understand and accept Interdependence and Impermanence  in our lives, we will break less and bend more. That is a joyful life.

The Dalai Lama once answered the question “What is Buddhism about?” with, “It's about Compassion”. This is simple, the Buddha’s compassion is immense and helping each of us to see Interdependence and Impermanence in everything is the most compassionate action.

It’s about - Interdependence and Impermanence of all things -

Everything in the world is the result of causes and conditions. Nothing exists without the many causes and the conditions necessary for it to be.  There are so very many causes and interconnected conditions in the universe. As we make our way through life, obstacles hold us back. The Other Power of Amida Buddha carries us onward in spite of obstacles.  It gives rise to our realizing that the Wisdom and Compassion of the universe is here for us - We need to see that.  We are the receivers of Great compassion.

What is this Interdependence and Impermanence I speak of?

Let’s start by talking about Interdependence. About 2600 years ago Gotama Buddha said  -

When this is, that is.

          This arising, that arises.

When this is not, that is not.

           This ceasing, that ceases.

Our tradition describes the world as a changeful web of causes and results.  We are each a chain of causes and effects.    This is the Dharma view, not the usual view of the world and ourselves, but a glimpse of Reality as it is.   We say that these causes and conditions interdependently co-arise.  The old Buddhist word for this is patiiccasamuppāda.    And everything is simultaneously interdependently co-arising.   

It is important to note that the Buddhist view does see the world as explainable. The world does make sense. And it can be penetrated or understood on deeper levels.

An example of the interdependent co-arising is the concrete block next to shasta house, in the Alley.   What is the nature of its existence? Is it real, is it permanent, is it an illusion,  is it eternal?

If you say it doesn’t exist, then I direct you to the alley. Because itis gone now. In its place is a big hole.  

If you say it does exist. Why would you say that?...but if you did. We can agree that we are talking about it so it has some element of existence even now. The ideas or memories, or in the form of the little chunks that are at the concrete plant getting ground up into new concrete.

You can see - Existence and nonexistence doesn't really accurately say what the nature of the block is.  It has some qualities of both. It depends on causes and conditions coming together.

[Describe how to make concrete. ]

Water, cement powder, gravel, mixing. Thoughts.  Reason. Constant attention and a whole lot of lifting of heavy things.  - I thought the 80 lb bags were heavy until we added the water - sheesh -  Take any of these away and the concrete is gone.  Never having existed.

The Block had so many causes and conditions required for it to “happen”. The point is that all things have necessary interdependent causes and conditions and all things are born when these are present and die when these change. Existence and Nonexistence doesn't really accurately describe the nature of things. The Birth and death we agonize over - This duality is not useful.  We live in this dual thinking all the time and it is very un-healthy.   Because it's not true.  It's not an accurate way to see the world.   If we look deeply we see that all things are impermanent. If we cling to things that are impermanent - we suffer.  If you clung to the block of concrete you’d be in pieces now.  

Another way to look at this interdependence is in the parts that make it up. Things don't have their own self existence - they can’t.  As Sakyamuni described the Phema Sutra - The River Foam Sutra -  all things - even people are really made up of five components aspects: The Five Skandas.

  1. Form

  2. Sensation

  3. Perception

   4.   Mental Formation

   5.  Conscious thinking          

How can what is made up of many different changeful aspects be permanent?   It can’t.   At the end of the sutra he teaches that by realizing this - what makes us up - we are liberated from our false understanding of our own permanence.  And the permanence of other things or ideas or people. Seeing this clearly can takes us out of the clinging that causes our suffering.  Clinging to all these impermanent and interdependent things doesn't make sense. Can we grab the water in a stream? No.  Sometimes realizing how reality really is - is a scary - Nothing is as it seems nor is it otherwise -  But is it essential to our accepting the the Other Power of Amida Buddha and the Nembutsu as our path to end suffering.

Sakyamuni Buddha saw that all things are really made up of these Interdependent co-arisings.  All things are not really things at all. They are events. They are Happenings. Inter-mixes of these Five Heaps.

As I quoted at the start  - The Buddha explained paticcasamuppada as,

When I am, that is.

           I arise, that arises.

When I am not, that is not.

               If I cease, that ceases.

All things change and pass away into new things.  If you just take this way from the talk today, it will give you great benefit -  Interdependence is Impermanence.  If we cling to things that change, we suffer.  

In the Tanisho Shinran Shonin left these words for us...

‘As for me, Shinran, I have never said the Nembutsu even

once for the repose of my departed father and mother. For

all sentient beings, without exception, have been our parents

and brothers and sisters in the course of countless lives in

many states of existence. On attaining Buddhahood after this

present life, we can save every one of them.’

—Tannisho  - A Record in Lament of Divergences, (CWS), P. 664

In other words, we have all been bonded to one another as father or mother or sister or brother.  We cherish all of life as the life of our parents or sisters and brothers. We are all part of each other. And he shows to us that, wherever they may be, once we become a buddha, we will be able to help them.   This is the Great Vow of Amida Buddha.   

Even the enlightenment of Amida Buddha was interdependent.  He vowed to become a Buddha only if he created a Pure Land where Dharma understanding was easy. The Vows of Amida Buddha are interdependent causes in our lives.  About 12  Kalpas ago Amida Buddha made the 48 Vows.  About 5 Kaplas ago he created his Pure Land.

In the Larger Sūtra of Immeasurable Life, Sakyamuni Buddha tells us the story of Amida Buddha, in very ancient times and possibly in another realm, there was a monk named Dharmakāra.  Dharmakāra was a former king who, having come into contact with the Buddhist teachings through the Buddha Loke-svara-raja, renounced his throne.

He then resolved to become a buddha and manifest a Buddha-Ksetra ("buddha-field") of many perfections. This aspiration is expressed in his 48 vows. They describe the type of buddha-field Dharmakāra Bhodisattva would create, the conditions for being born into that world, and what kind of beings would be reborn there.

Amida actualized the Vow by giving us a way to access his Pure Land through The Nembutsu.  He created our interdependence with the wisdom and compassion of the universe.  By cultivating True Entrusting in the Vow.  By truly trusting that Amida Buddha is here for us -  Being Truly grateful for that Other Power we feel in our daily life, we are able to live a joyful life.   I am grateful for this interdependence. It is our interdependence with each other and with our world and ultimately with everything. If we weren't interdependent with everything nothing would be possible.  

His Vows to construct a Pure Land where all beings can attain Enlightenment deeply express the principle of interdependence. Each Vow links the Bodhisattava's Enlightenment to the Enlightenment by all beings. He cannot gain it unless we all gain it together with him. We are all interconnected in The Vow.

When Amida's great vow touches our hearts, we don’t think, “Well, as long as I am happy, that’s all that matters, who cares about the rest?” - This is the thinking of someone who thinks in separateness.  The thinking of someone who has lost sight of paticcasamuppada. This is ignorance. When we have faith in Amida Buddha we think expansively of our interdependence to all life and all that is. One Shin Buddhist teacher put it like this...

"All things, the water and the air included, are linked together, one thing encircling and being encircled by the other. The mountain and the river bestow me with so many blessings. When Amida Buddha shines upon me and all of the rest of life,  we are linked together as lives saved by that light. All things on earth, all things in the universe, are in the realm of this great life-force linking us all together."

[“Buddha’s Wish For The World” by Monshu Koshin Ohtani]

From the recent past of Shinran Shonin to the distant past of Amida Buddha, these causes are still active now.    These recent and distant labels are not even real.  It is all happening right now.  Timeless time is the word Shinran Shonin used for this.

Shinran Shonin gave us these teachings as an agent of Great Compassion.  He studied the Pure Land masters and determined that an end of suffering was possible thru - taking refuge in Amida Buddha by the Nembutsu.  Having deep and abiding faith in interdependence and impermanence is the way to happiness.  That is exactly what the Phema Sutra shows us.  Shinran focused on unburdening us of the arduous path of self-effort as taught in other schools of Buddhism and instead showed that the interdependence with the Other Power of Amida Buddha is the primary cause of our enlightenment. We change as it changes, we become as it becomes. When I am, that is. I arise, that arises.  When I am not, that is not. If I cease, that ceases.  We are impermanent and interdependent.

- Conclusion -

We can go back to the question -  What is Buddhism About ?

Its about Impermanence and Interdependence  and If we cling to things that are impermanent?  - we suffer.  If we don’t cling we are joyful.

This interdependence means that Everything is really an event in a chain of causes and results.  This is the Dharma view, not the usual view of the world and ourselves, but here we glimpse Reality as it is. We can see everything as a changeful flux.   Everything is without its own inherent existence. Everything is Impermanent and Interdependent.  Why would we ever consider clinging to such a world - what is there to cling to?  We live in a wonderful changing matrix =  Form - Sensation - Perception - Mental formation and Conscious thoughts.  We are just part of this. Intimately connected to all that is.  

Even the concrete is changeful.  It is Interconnected and Impermanent.  Nothing is more impermanent than water. But concrete is made from water. Always changing form.  Always becoming.  We are always changing and becoming.

We can see things that may be holding us back in our spiritual growth.  As we move along -  it is always our clinging and selfishness holds us back. Wanting to be like concrete seems great - but it's not.  If we let go -  If we have faith that the changes will be beneficial; if we ride along with the flow of life - we are OK just as we are. We say the Nembutsu in gratefulness for the Wisdom and compassion of the universe. We can accept ourselves and others - as they are.  We all have stuff, some of it severe, even so,  Amida Buddha created a way for us to access freedom from endless cycles of suffering. Even in our busy lives, faith in Amida can bring us to understanding.  Shinran Shonin has shown us that.  Through the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha wisdom is available to us all, right now.

The Metta prayer says it well…  [say after me]

May you be happy;

                     May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -

*In great gratitude to all the dharma teachers who .made this talk possible.


THE PENA SUTRA - Shakayamuni Buddha's Discourse on River Foam

Reading 14 May 2017

The Buddha was staying with the Avojans, on the banks of the Ganges River. He addressed those assembled “friends, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down the river, and a person with good eyesight saw it and clearly examined it. To them it would appear empty, void, without any substance.
For what substance could there be in glob of foam?

“In the same way, a practicer well-versed in the Dharma observes and examines any Physical form that is past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or extraordinary, near or far. To those well-versed in the Dharma it appears empty, without any substance.
For what substance could there be in form that is constantly changing?

“Now suppose that in the rainy season it is raining fat heavy drops and a water bubble appears and disappears on the water. A person with good eyesight sees this and clearly examines it. The water bubble would appear empty, void, and without substance. For what substance could there be in a water bubble?

“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma observes and examines feelings - past, future, or present - a   feeling that is internal or external, obvious or subtle. To those well-versed in the Dharma it appears empty, without lasting substance.
For what substance can there be in feelings that are constantly changing?

“Now suppose during the hot season a mirage was shimmering. A person sees it and clearly examines it. The mirage would appear empty.
For what substance could there be in a mirage that is constantly changing?

“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma examines any perception that is past, future, or present, internal or external, common or extraordinary. Well-versed in the Dharma, it appears empty, void, without substance.

For what substance can there be in perceptions that are constantly changing?

“Now suppose that a person is seeking wood for carving? They go to a forest with a sharp ax. There they find a large banana tree. They cut it at the root and remove the top. They peel away the outer skin and don’t find any wood at all. They clearly examine the banana tree and it appears empty, without heartwood substance for what substance could there be in a banana tree?

“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma observes mental formations that are past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle. To those well-versed in the Dharma mental formations appear void and without substance. What substance is there in mental formations that are constantly changing?

“Now suppose a magician does a magic trick and a person with good eyesight clearly sees the trick. The trick appears without substance.

For what substance could there be in a magic trick?

“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma observes any conscious thinking - past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle. To them consciousness appears without substance. For what substance could there be in consciousness that is impermanent and rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths?

“Seeing these Five Aggregates clearly, a follower of the Dharma grows less deluded by form, feelings, perceptions, less deluded by mental formations, and by conscious thinking. They grow less deluded by The Five Clinging-Aggregates.

“Less deluded they grow dispassionate. Through dispassion they are released. With release there is the knowledge that they are released from clinging. They know that the cycle of birth is ended,  the fully integrated life has been lived,  and the path complete. They know here will be no more moments rooted in ignorance.”

[Long Pause]

We will now have a few minutes of meditation - accompanied by music….

[Bow to altar]

Everyday Suchness - Chop Wood Carry Water 12 jun 16

posted Jun 18, 2016, 10:29 AM by Reno Budd

--- Namandabu - Namandabu - Namandabu ---

So happy to see you all here today. It really feels like summer!  If you are new to our temple. Welcome!  The life of the temple has been full and joyful since we last talked.  We’ve done a couple hospital visits and one on one discussions with members.  We work to make this place a welcoming and sustainable home for Buddhism.  The sangha has made this possible.  It's a peaceful place. It is a gentle place where troubles and strife seldom enter.   It is a place where we take the time to be with each other.   And where  we are all able to grow and share in the Dharma.  Thank you.

Next week we’ll have our Moon Rabbit Cafe and share food and community with 150 guests.  Bring friends, invite anyone.

The title of my talk is “Chop Wood and Carry water”.  As I prepared and studied, I found an interesting effect.   I would  do some writing and then I would see those words  “Chop Wood and Carry water”.  And I would think of some chore or project, and off I would go to do just that.   Then I'd get back to the Dharma talk writing, see the words “Chop Wood and Carry water” and - you see where this goes - the Dharma talk isn't exactly finished - But wow! I sure got lots of chores done!

Here is what I have….Buddhism is often called a religion of enlightenment.  A way of enlightenment is better for some - The Great Natural Way.   The way of Suchness.   How to approach this idea of Suchness?  Have many of you heard this term in Buddhism before?  Ok - some.   You’ve heard the word “Tathagata”?  That's the Buddha: “He who comes from Suchness”.  Suchness = Tathata in Pali.  Maybe that's not helping.

The Buddha taught that we are not seeing reality around us in an accurate and honest way. We see through the distorting lense of the self.  Our self tends to be very centered on only its interests and has the nature of clinging. This is the source of all our sorrows and difficulties. This clinging of the self to a dynamic universe. An analogy would be if we grabbed on to things that are moving, trouble follows.  Grabbing onto a moving car is unpleasant. - If you’ve ever tried that [I have] -   It’s moving and you're not, usually your hand is the thing that breaks.  

Suchness then in my analogy is the motion of the car. The true nature of reality. Dynamic, vibrant, energetic. My self delusion sees the car as static.  We could say that the actual reality of the car is conditioned by my self and so I have a distorted picture.  What we call a conditioned view.

We see things as more complex than they are. We conjure up subject and object out of what is really just suchness. We condition this reality with an extra dimension that doesn't really exist.  We are “dimensionally challenged”.  Even the Buddha had difficulty explaining un-conditioned reality to conditioned beings?  Language and vocabulary are not suited. Both Suchness and our selfish delusion are exist in the same space and time. They are not separate. They are interpenetrating realities.  

Suchness is the true mode of being that underlies all. It is non-duality.  “Diving into the oneness of reality!” as we do in gassho.

This might start to sound a bit cooky. Since we believe our selfish perceptions are “reality”, then for our world to be real, we have to perceive it as something. It can’t just BE.  We have to judge it, or name it, or describe it in some way. The self thinks we perceive the world through words, through ideas. But in fact that is chattering of the monkey mind, drowning out the harmony of reality that lies before us.

Have you noticed, everybody is taking pictures of things lately. I made fun of Selfie-ness last time. Somehow if I have a picture of me with the cake, it makes the cake more real - right. This obsession with posting pictures is just the self wanting to freeze things, capture moments in data, petrify them in time, and make them fixed - a wish that comes counter to the fact that everything is moving and changing.  But Suchness, is right now.  Before we name it or describe it or form an opinion about it. Suspend the monkey chatter and you will be relating to Suchness, each moments the as-is-ness there to experience.

Where can we see this Suchness? Everywhere. Everyday.  When life is simple it's much easier to experience Suchness - a pre-conceptual oneness with reality. It lives in everyday moments.  Tiny moments.  Like our breath.  Or dew drop on a blade of grass.  Those little teeny tiny baby toe nails!  In the “Chopping of wood and the carrying of water” we all must do.

Too often we approach life looking for the next “big thing”.   When really, what we seek is there all the time.
Suchness is reality as it is. It is the love that is present in the world for us - it's always here. Infinite and available. It is in our lives all the time, but we seldom realize it. We long for it. A drenching Dharma Rain. Diving into the oneness of reality. Immersion in that reality of love everywhere. We are not alone or separate in darkness when we take refuge in infinite compassion.  Most of the time we avoid this truth. It's amazing but the self will actively suppress our experience of suchness. We have a spark of understanding inside us - our Buddha nature.  And when we kindle that spark we have bodhicitta - the wish to reach enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Suchness was what the Buddha realized in his enlightenment.  Basking in the Dharma Rain under that Bodhi tree.

“Chop wood carry water”  comes from a Zen Koan.  A word puzzle give to a student to shake them out of a conditioned view.   Once a Zen student in China asked his master. “What do I need to do to follow the Buddha's way?”   The answer he got was…

“Before Enlightenment , chop wood carry water,  after Enlightenment chop wood carry water”.

Often students would practice for many years in the monastery before the teacher shared an insight like this.   The tendency is for us to think that Buddhism is a thing we do - Like chanting, or meditating or studying the Dharma.    In this message is a clue. A hint that the grand experience of a life free from suffering - What the Buddha offers us - is actually right here. Right now.  But we don't notice.

If we are mindful in daily acts that sustain life, we can we forget our self-centered strivings.   Koans are supposed to be puzzling. They hint to us. The Pure Land is not far away. You don't have to die to go there. It is right here in your chopping and your carrying. It will be here once your mind changes.   We encounter suchness everyday - the true nature of reality - undistorted and immediate - but we don't allow it in.

What usually happens is we fall back on bad habits - Called The 5 bad habits of the self - they have kept us bound and blinded for so long. These old upside-down views are what we use to explain and categorize our experience whole life.   As the Lotus Sutra described us “dried-out living beings, abiding in suffering and without peace and bliss”

The many troubles in our lives exist because we do not live in harmony with the Suchness that surrounds us.  The Buddha warns us against The 5 Bad habits of self -

competition - to believe I must win and you must lose for me to be happy is a grave delusion. Really win-lose thinking is actually lose/lose thinking.

deception - we tend to deceive others and ourselves. We compromise and rationalize to avoid criticism or acquire some gain.

dependency - We look to others to provide our livelihood and basic needs. We look to others to tell us how to think, feel, and be.

egoism - thinking and acting as though only my way is right results in unfortunate Karmic fruits.

laziness - we think that we can succeed without exerting our own effort in life.

These are all unnatural and calculating acts. Our small mind believes we have to do these things to survive, but like the monkey caught in a trap. To be freed we have to let go. These five habits blind us to the love and compassion that is here, everywhere for us. We can’t see that we are ok just as we are.   When we return to chopping wood and carrying water these five habits can melt away.

In our Shin Buddhist tradition we have the example of the Myokonin - these wonderful sincere people.  Their lives are without these five bad habits. In contrast, they show us how to live a peaceful life in a Buddhist way. By following the natural flow of life. By listening deeply to the Universe around us. By accepting the predominant effects of Other Power.  And by living in a state of True Entrusting. They live without calculation or pretense.  They cultivate a habit of profound trust and confidence. That is what we can call faith in the Buddha - Shinjin.  The Myokonin show us how to align faith with confidence in the Dharma - To just Chop wood and Carry water.

Myokonin are people like Doshu, Saichi and Issa.  Doshu of Akao traveled with our second founder -here- Rennyo Shonin.  He was his bodyguard at times.  These were tough times and as Rennyo revived Shin Buddhism, he experienced growing popularity and violent jealousy from older schools.  Doshu was a protector.

He is famous for many things but I will share his New Year's resolutions 1501.  He made 21 of these, but we’ll just hear a few….

The Resolutions Made on 24th December, 1st Year of Emperor Bunki

  1. Don’t neglect [as long as you live] the One Great Matter of Rebirth in the Pure Land.

  2. If you find yourself in a place where evil is being committed, leave immediately without arguing whether it’s right or wrong.

  3. If you are still alive tomorrow and you become lazy with regard to the Dharma, have shame, break free of your laziness and behave in the light of the Buddha.         -Doshu

The Myokonin way of living follows the flow of life. Being in the flow of the universe - Suchness.  An infinite universe that is full of compassion and wisdom. Naturalness is the way.   Accepting the gentle Dharma Rain where it falls.   This simple mindful living allows Deep hearing - Monpo- to develop. Deep hearing of the light. Hearing the call of Amida Buddha. Infinite love is here, calling to us all.

The Myokonin life of naturalness answers the deepest question: "Who am I? with this...

"I am nothing but this moment in the flow of life. I am nothing but this moment in the flow of life.    This flow is not in our control. It is the flow of the universe itself. The life of the universe flows in me and I just flow with life and that is myself. We do make plans. We have to. And we do make good efforts, but in the end what happens is not our own doing - It is Life's doing."  - Rev. Kiyozawa

Somehow they don’t worry all the time. We do worry a lot of the time. We worry about politics and we worry about our food. We worry about how others see us and we worry if others know what we think of them.  If we spent half the worry time on appreciating and just being grateful for the blessings in our lives, we would be much happier and more of service. We just chop wood and carry water and be with it - not to worry.  In the small moments we can let true life flow as it will, and be free.  That is the Myokonin’s life. And they share with us.

For Doshu everyday was a good day because it flowed from within naturally. Without pretense - no false front was necessary. He was sincere and earnest in living himself as he was. Many of us worry because we are hiding something. We live double lives and that causes our worry. What if they find out my secrets? I am not that smart? I am not that strong? Will they still love me?  But does it help?
Without falsity life will be at ease - naturally.   A life of naturalness is a life of freedom, where there is no need for useless worry - a life of oneness with the spiritual laws of nature - harmonizing and blending.  A life in the flow of Naturalness.

And Saichi the Clog maker, he was a simple man in the 1800’s.  A wonderful person for whom Suchness was accessible and available in his daily life.  As he literally chopped wood, making wooden shoes, for a living. He would work and all the while say the nembutsu. When a poem came to him, he would write it down on one of the wood shavings from his plane. He wrote thousands of poems. Here are a few….

No clinging to anything

No clinging to the small self,

No clinging to the Teaching.

This is in accord with the Dharma


And writing about his realization of Suchness...

My eyes change, the world changes.

This place turns into the Pure Land.

How happy I am! Namu-Amida-Butsu.

And writing about his experience of Suchness...

How happy I am!

I cannot see Namu-Amida-Butsu with my eyes,

Because it is too vast a gift to see with my eyes.

To see Suchness

I have to be embraced in Suchness.

Everything is entirely in Suchness.

And Kobayashi Issa was a myokonin of the 1700s.  A Shin Buddhist poet/priest who some of you have heard of. He was a master at seeing naturalness. He captures an essence with this insight into cherry blossoms…

Simply trust   simply trust!   Cherry blossoms in bloom
Tada tome tada tome to ya sakura saku

Simply trust, simply trust!  We can experience Suchness every day. As we chop our wood and carry our water - we feel it.  We can simply trust. We can let go the calculating mind. Avoiding the 5 bad habits of self and allow ourselves to hear deeply.  The Dharma Rain is there. It comes to us in the form of the Nembutsu. We can let love rain down on us as Saichi did.  If we take refuge in the Buddha. Our simple trust is important. It is profound - trust that you are ok just as you are. The Great Vow is for you.

A very insightful definition of happiness is to be "in the flow" where we lose our self in suchness.   This happens to artists, and athletes, and moms washing babies.  You and me [duality] melt away.  There is life happening. We do glimpse Suchness when we “Chop and Carry.  "I am nothing but this moment in the flow of life". I need to let it flow over me. I melt away. It rains down everywhere.  On good and bad, without distinction.  Good will flow when we continue to chop wood and carry water. Present in each moment of the simplicities of life.  Mindful of the wondrous miracle the enfolds us.   We hear deeply the patter of Dharma Rain - it is wisdom and compassion of the Buddha gently falling.

In the flow of a the task at hand, our Chopping and Carrying we Simply Trust.  With deep confidence in the wisdom and compassion of the universe that wishes us well.  In those small moments reality calls out to us and says these words…. Please repeat after me...

           May you be happy;

                     May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -

Reading 12 jun 16

"Dharma Rain”
  from the Lotus Sutra…

It rains equally everywhere

Falling alike in the four directions

Pouring without measure

saturating all the land.

In the mountains, streams and steep valleys,

In deep recesses, there grow

Grasses, trees, and herbs,

And trees, both great and small,

The grains, shoots, and plants,

The sugar-cane and the grape vine;

All are nourished by the rain,

And none fail to be enriched.

The parched ground is soaked,

The herbs and trees together flourish.

Issuing from that cloud

Water of a single flavor

Moistens grasses, trees and forests

Each according to its measure

All of the trees,

Great, medium and small,

According to their size

Can grow and develop.

When reached by that single rain

The roots, stalks, branches, and leaves,

Flowers and fruits with luster and color,

All are fresh and shining.

According to their substance and    marks,

And natures, either great or small

They alike receive moisture

And each one flourishes.

The Buddha, in the same way

Manifests within the world

Just like a great cloud

Covering over everything.

Having come into the world

For the sake of living beings,

He sees and expounds

The reality of all Dharmas.

The Great Sage, the World Honored One,

In the midst of the multitudes

Of gods and humans

Proclaims these words saying:

"I am the Thus Come One - The Ta-ta-ga-ta

The doubly complete honored one.

I appear within the world

Like a great cloud,  Moistening all

The dried-out living beings,

So they all leave suffering

And gain peace and bliss,  Worldly joy

And the joy of Suchness.

All gods and humans assembled here

Listen singlemindedly and well.

You should all come here

To behold the Unsurpassed Honored One,

The World Honored One,

The one beyond compare.

To bring peace and ease to all beings

Manifest within the world

And for the sake of all, speak

The sweet dew of pure Dharma

The Dharma of a single flavor,

That of liberation and Nirvana.

using a single, wondrous sound

I proclaim this principle

Constantly creating the causes and conditions

For the Great Vehicle.

We will now have a few minutes of meditation - accompanied by music.

Celebrating Our Buddha Nature 15may16

posted May 18, 2016, 4:17 PM by Reno Budd

Hanamatsuri Service May 15, 2016 Dharma Talk - Celebrating Our Buddha Nature

Rev. Shelley Fisher 15may16

Good morning to you all and welcome!  How many of you noticed our beautiful new sign on the front lawn as you walked to the Temple?  Isn’t it wonderful? Thank you to Rev. Matthew, Mike Croft, Monty Deorhing and Kris Nash for your help in making it all come together!   Thanks to everyone who helped with setup yesterday. It was a lot of fun!

Today we celebrate Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday!  Let’s take some time and reflect on the birth story Rev. Matthew read to us.  It is helpful to understand the meaning behind the legend.  It sounds like a very fanciful story. The Buddha had many many lives before he descended from Tushita Heaven. In Dharma school we often read one of these Jataka tales and reflect on its meaning in our lives.

What interesting imagery is in the story? The White Elephant.  The baby standing upright. The Seven Steps.  And the “elephant in the room”from the beginning of the story - it is an immaculate conception of sorts. [to borrow a phrase]     
Some parts of the story aren't fanciful at all.  Queen Maya wanted to give birth at her family home with her mother there, but they didn't make it.   That seems pretty realistic. It gives me a sense that this really happened, little surprises and all.  

What about the six tusked white elephant that appeared in Queen Maya’s dream?  You all saw it here - in this beautiful painting donated by Moon, Sunny and Dan especially for today's celebration. The White Elephant is a sacred animal representing fertility and wisdom.  In several sutras, Bodhisattvas are said to ride on a six-tusked white elephant like this one.

And why six tusks?
The six tusks represent overcoming attachment to the six senses, we chant from the Heart Sutra - “no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind”. Remember in Buddhism we have six, including Mind.  We get attached and cling to these senses and their sensations [sense objects].  But we need to let go.   Life is joyful when we just let sensations happen - without our wanting, clinging, or aversion.

The six tusks can also represent the Six Paramitas - the six ways to the Other Shore  - giving, morality, patience, diligence, contemplation, and wisdom.   When we apply these values life becomes joyful.

When Shakyamuni Buddha was born he stood up straight, took seven steps, and declared "I alone am the World-Honored One." (so beautifully portrayed in Moon’s painting here) And he pointed up with one hand and down with the other, to indicate he would unite heaven and earth. The seven steps he took represent the seven directions -- north, south, east, west, up, down, and right here -- seven steps going beyond this self centered world of Samsara.  He declares, "I alone am the World-Honored One" - showing his awareness that after so many lifetimes, he will be a great teacher and lead all sentient beings to a joy filled life  - free from suffering.

When we celebrate the amazing birth of Shakyamuni Buddha we are also celebrating our own birth.  We honor and treasure each birth today. It is a rare and unique event to even be born human, so we celebrate.  The Buddha’s teaching of the interdependence of all things makes it clear that our birth is the result of sooo many causes and conditions. Realizing this we can see that our birth is truly a rare and wonderful gift. We have a deep obligation to live this life in mindfulness and Joy and compassion.  Sharing the teachings of the Buddha when we can.

Shakyamuni Buddha was born a bodhisattva - a Wonderful Being - who fully realized his Buddha Nature.  He taught that we are all born with Buddha Nature - it is universal.  Why did Shakyamuni Buddha speak of Buddha-Nature? He wanted to tell us all that we each have Buddha nature - We have the potential of becoming a Buddha.

Bodhidharma’s insight says, “To find a Buddha, all you have to do is see your nature.”             
Universal Buddha-Nature means that “All sentient beings have Buddha-Nature, but it is dormant (asleep inside of us), or covered with our delusions”.  Amida Buddha was once one of us. It was through the perfect maturing of his Buddha nature that he completely rid himself of clinging and attachment for the sake of all sentient beings.  Amida Once suffered as we suffer now, that brings us close to his heart, awakening our minds to the presence of Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Compassion - Amida Buddha - in us.  Amida Himself is our Buddha-Nature.  Amida's Great Love and Compassion is our Buddha-Nature.  Nirvana (which we can easily realize in the Pure land) is our Buddha-Nature perfectly expressed.  Amida’s Great Vow -  “I will become a Buddha when,  all Sentient beings can easily be born into my Buddha Field through my merits on their behalf.”

This is our Buddha-Nature fully expressed.  

Everyone has Buddha nature, the potential to become a Buddha.  It is in the sky-like nature of our mind. Utterly open, free and limitless, it is fundamentally so simple and so natural - it is never complicated, corrupted, or stained. It is so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity.  When we think of our Buddha nature as sky-like it helps us to imagine its all-embracing boundlessness; beyond that Buddha nature has an added quality - open and expansive and clear like the radiant sky but with awareness.

Because everyone has Buddha nature, we treat all with the highest respect and greet each other with deep reverence in gassho, a bow.   This is a wonderful part of our teaching - we respect others, your family, friends, teachers and even people you do not know as a Buddha.  This gratitude begins in our minds and expands out.  This attitude in gassho can start to vibrate in our environment.  It is through gassho that we can fulfill the Buddha nature within us.  Buddha nature is the pure white lotus within us. The lotus flower grows in muddy water, rising and blooming above the muck - coming to full flower we experience enlightenment.  The lotus reminds us of the expression of our true spirit, born in murkiness fully flowering in the Pure Land.

Why is Amida's Land called pure? Because Amida's Mind is pure, Pure Wisdom and Pure Compassion.  The sentient beings born in His Land realize this same Pure Mind - the very same Pure Mind. Amida's Pure Mind and the believer's muddy mind become one and the same. Just as the white lotus rises out of the muddy pond pure and untainted.

Many Dharma talks were shared by Shakyamuni Buddha during his 45 years of giving his important teachings.  About 2600 years ago. Often he taught about the Tathagata Amitabha (Amida Buddha).  Amida was the truth he had found in his Enlightenment. Shakyamuni Buddha was a manifestation of Amida Buddha, he himself was Amida.

Today during this special Flower Festival service is a time for us to recognize our Buddha nature and rededicate ourselves as we contemplate the importance of the birth of our teacher, spiritual guide and friend, Shakyamuni - The Sage of the Shakya People - the Buddha.

We celebrate the Buddha’s birthday today.  We remember to be grateful for all that he has taught us - grateful to be born human - this wonderful unrepeatable life, grateful for showing us that we are all connected to each other, grateful to know that we all are born with Buddha nature, and grateful for Amida’s Vow reaching out to all of us, no matter how troubled, no matter how happy - that we may find Joy in life.

Mindful Living - 8fold Path Part1 17apr16

posted Apr 23, 2016, 12:31 PM by Matthew Fisher

Rev. Matthew Fisher  -

Welcome everyone.  So good to be together today.   I’m happy to see you all this morning.  Young and old and in between - everyone is here.  There is a lot going on with Spring coming outside.  Quite wonderful.

This week we participated in the Nevada Prayer Breakfast which was a  wonderful time to share with brothers and sisters of other faith traditions.

The sangha council filed a table of Buddhists. Next year maybe we can have two tables of sangha members sharing the experience.  

We removed about 100lbs of weeds from the back alley!   Now when you park in the overflow area [that collection agency’s parking lot back there with yellow signs]  it looks quite nice.   Pulling weeds is a good meditation - or misogi in Japanese - a purification, one weed at a time. Letting go the weeds in our selves.

We are here today to talk about living a mindful life - a Buddhist life. This is often a puzzle for people.  When we look at the life of the Buddha, it was so very profound and any of us would likely not be able to live like that.

The Buddha taught that our craving and feeling of want is extinguished or “blown out” by living mindful of eight guidelines.   What we call living the eightfold path.  He taught about this in the reading today - his first Dharma talk after enlightenment - the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta - The Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion - Sutra.

Sometimes people read about the Eightfold Path and think - “Huh? I could never do that. It is so strict.”  Well, it is a disciplined life.  The Buddha never said in so many words “You should .  He said If you live by these guides your suffering will melt away - Joy will flow in.

A Buddhist life has a Questing quality.  We live moving toward something -  toward joy, toward wholeness. We are not responsible or capable of being a Buddha today.   And that is OK - you are OK just as you are.   This Questing feeling sets an intention - awakening in us the urge toward wholeness - what we call Bodhicitta.  This Buddhist life is lived in becoming.  It is a habit of living and takes time to develop foster and cultivate. It is the process of becoming more human.  An important aspect of this becoming is realizing that we can’t make it on our own.  

2600 yrs ago the Buddha identified four amazing truths. He wasn't the first to  discover these, but we know from him that they have been operative in our Universe from many kalpas into the past.   The Eightfold Path is one of these truths.

Lets look at these Four Noble Truths.   When Sakyamuni Buddha reached  enlightenment under the bodhi tree he saw clearly these Truths…

  1. Life is often difficult and stress filled - but it can be joyful.

  2. How we handle the energies that arise in response to stresses is the cause of joy or  - most of the time - sorrow and suffering.

  1. When we are mindful and respond to the world in a realistic way - the stress melts away - and Joy flows in.

  1. To do this, we get in the habit of living as the Buddha recommended.  Like the Dharma Wheel here - 8 spokes - the Eightfold path.

The Fourth Noble Truths end with the Eightfold path. The Eight habits of the BUDDHIST LIFE are…

Right Understanding     Right Thought         Right Speech       Right Action

Right Livelihood      Right Effort       Right Mindfulness    Right Concentration

You notice that each of the eight begins with “RIGHT”.  Remember it does not really mean RIGHT - Like RIGHT and WRONG. That’s a very dualistic view and not a Buddhist view. The original word is samma, something like "best" or "appropriate" or "well-directed".  A  more subtle meaning.  Really closer to... juuust right.  The Buddha used the analogy of a harp string to explain..... What is just right when it comes to the strings of a harp?

Too loose - It makes no sound - This is living in laxness. A lazy undirected life has little purpose - no destination - no Bodhicitta. This is not a spiritual life.

Too Tight - The string may break.  When it’s too tight we live life in should world.  “You can't”  “Do this”  “Don't do that.” Rules and regulations pile up and compound and eventually we are wrapped so tight - that we break!  This is not discipline - it’s oppression.

Just Right  - The string gives a beautiful note of music.  As always let's understand the word RIGHT today as Juuuust Right!

The Buddha taught that we will benefit if we live mindful of these eight spokes of the wheel of life.   Mindfulness is living life present and aware of what we see before us in each moment. The alternative to this is delusion. The habit of seeing what we want to see all around us, or seeing what we fear all around us, all the time.  We live in aversion or attachment.  This is an unfortunate alternative, but very common way of living - my guess is that better than 90% of our time we live in one of these modes.   We seem to get in the habit of ignoring what is happening around us because much of it is not what we want.   It contains painful experiences - thoughts and emotions that we really don't want to spend our time on.   That is because of their difference between what we want to happen and what is happening.   The Buddha helps us soften the habit of wanting things to be different than they actually are.  
Through the eightfold path, we build a habit of letting go of strong aversions and strong attachments bit by bit, little by little.   This is a very easy path.  It is suited to regular people with regular lives.   No big requirements, no renunciation.   Only a radical acceptance of life and taking refuge in a universe larger than ourselves.  We can accept that we are not cut-out to be fantastic spiritual people.  Maybe we tend to jump to conclusions and get enraged at the slightest offence - ok there we are.   And we accept that the universe has immense and limitless compassion for us even so.   And immense and infinite wisdom if we only listen the silence.  Through mindfulness this is what we can see.  We are goof-balls in so many ways and the universe is friendly, wise, and compassionate.  We are goof-balls - Bonbunin is how Shinran says it in the Shoshinge we chanted - and Amida Buddha holds us, never to be let go.   It is the Eightfold Path that gets us to realize this.

The Eightfold Path is hard to share in this setting because there are eight spokes in the wheel.  People don't easily learn 8 things in a sitting.   But one at a time it can be easy and fun!

In effect these are eight ways of living that we need to make habit.   These are eight different aspects about ourselves that we need to monitor, practice, and probably change to help us rise to who we can be - spiritually.   The simple goal is to lead a moral life, based in compassion and wisdom.

When we learn the Eightfold Path it helps to use a memory trick - a mnemonic -  to help remember all eight….

Understanding   Thought   Speech   Action   Livelihood   Effort     Mindfulness     Concentration
Until                 Thoughts    Stop       Acting    Like        Excited    Monkeys        Confusion!

The first of the eight is ‘right understanding’.  Anything you do is more effective if you start with a clear view.   That is why we start with Right Understanding. It is the foundation. In Right Understanding (sammā-ditthi) we see clearly the four nobel truths...

  1. Life can be stressful.

  2. Stress comes from how we see things.

  3. Stress is gone when see the world as it truly is.

  4. This habit of living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.

Right Understanding is an understanding of karma, and knowing that all our actions of Body, Speech, and Mind have results. This is an immutable law of nature.  Some actions bring us to the Dharma, some actions lead away.
Right Understanding is also understanding non-self - how we are not self-existent objects, but rather we are really events in the flow of everything.   We are interdependently co-arising with the entire universe.

We trust in the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe. And we see our place as just one tiny piece in a vastness beyond comprehension. The Nembutsu - here - is right understanding. Mindfulness of the Buddha.  Recognizing that I am taking refuge in the Buddha all the time.

Right Understanding is having these wise beliefs.  Beliefs that reduce suffering, and avoid increasing stresses in life.  These beliefs  are the foundations of our understanding of the Dharma.  A of clarity of view.

This week a couple people asked me if Buddhism is a religion?  A question I get often enough.  Looking around...I have to say...if it isn't, it's doing a pretty good job of impersonating one.  Why is this an important question?  Really what they are asking  is…
“Do I need to buy into any blind dogmas or arbitrary beliefs to be part of Buddhism?”  
The most honest answer is “yes - you do’. You have to develop Juuust Right Understanding to build your world view on:  The Four Noble Truths, The law of Karma, the Non-Self nature of all things, and the Enlightenment of the Buddha are logical premises of Buddhist life.  They make sense, but do require deep and abiding faith.  Confident Faith that builds as we  learn more and experience the Buddha's way.

Please remember that Right Understanding also includes a kind of mental discipline to avoid some kinds of questions − questions that distract us , or are unanswerable, and questions that are really “academic” - meaning even if we answered them, they wouldn't bring joy. The Buddha wouldn’t answer those questions because they did not lead to joy.   So some mental discipline is needed here too.

How do we  get to juuust right understanding?   Through experience, and mindfulness, and some study of the Dharma.  Reading and participation at the temple’s classes and seminars from time to time builds Right Understanding.  Most of all asking questions fosters Right Understanding.

Remember our Mnemonic for the eightfold path…
Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding  Thought  Speech  Action  Livelihood  Effort  Mindfulness  Concentration

The second habit we cultivate is right thought -- juuuust  right thought.  Right thoughts have a pattern of letting go. Right thought puts our thoughts in a more self-less rather than self-ish cast.   Most of the time we are motivated by one kind of personal greed or another. When we foster thoughts of letting go we are - in fact - letting go of selfishness -  practicing more self-less behavior helps us toward a true view of life.  By curbing our thoughts that come from these thirsts for more stuff - we are making a habit of self-less-ness.   This brings the realization that everyone is in the same boat as us, they want happiness and to avoid pain - we can live in a way that helps us all get there.  Instead of trying to secure happiness of just one being, this precious separate self of mine, we can think about a greater good.

So much joy and all difficulties begin in thoughts.  All our actions of body and speech start with a thought.  When we affect thought, with so little energy, we can subtly direct all our actions in a more wholesome direction

Thoughts of good will and harm-less-ness - or Ahimsa we talked about in January.  Are juuuust Right Thoughts.  The just right thoughts on Compassion are the most accurate and truthful thoughts we entertain.

The Buddha taught that we are all interconnected, so discarding our selfish pursuits and working towards the greater good is in line with reality.   At first we don’t realize or appreciate what this letting go means -  living a life more focused toward peace and letting go, mostly means giving up our greed, our anger, our jealousy, and other harmful thoughts and emotions.  These prized possessions we cherish - our wounds and indignities done to us - these we carry inside us like little caustic treasures  - what Gollum called our “precious-es”.  Juuust Right Thought leaves these behind.  Cast them off and care deeply for others.

Happiness comes through finding that true light within and without. Our true nature is Eternal, Joyous, Selfless, and Pure.    Having this Right Thought of letting go means we slowly loosen the grasp of our craving and attachment to external things. We can start to find the peace and happiness that lies within -- the great Ocean of mind -- we can hear the light that is all around us.

Cultivating juuust Right Thought of goodwill and Non-harm is quite easy.  When  unwholesome thoughts arise we can simply let them go. They are only thoughts. Actions are much more difficult to undo. Thoughts of anger affect us all at times, for anger or ill will towards anyone, the Buddha prescribes the meditation of loving kindness….

May you be happy;

 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

                      And may peace and harmony fill your heart

This helps us eradicate the habit of ill will or anger.  We are not angry beings - our true nature, is “Eternal, Joyous, Selfless and Pure” - we are beings of love, compassion, and peace, wishing others happiness.  It is this state of being that the Buddha wants us to tap back into.

A Juuust Right Thought exercise - Please close your eyes  [Bell]

Search your memory of a time an unfortunate or unkind thought arose.  What was its object. What were the circumstances. Acknowledge it as just a thought. Without judgement or recrimination.
Now remedy that thought by looking at the big picture.  Think better of it.  Realize the circumstances and replace it with a more wholesome thought.

Back to the Eightfold Path...
Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding  Thought  Speech  Action  Livelihood  Effort  Mindfulness  Concentration

The third habit that leads to the other shore is juuuust Right Speech
If we choose our words carefully, we can make other people happy. To use words mindfully, with loving kindness, is a practice of generosity. We can make many people happy simply by practicing juuuust right speech.  This does require some Just Right Thought.  All theses habits are interrelated.

I’ve got another fun mnemonic - this one is for Juuust Right Speech:
T - H - I - N - K  =  Think = Truthful - Helpful - Inspiring - Necessary and - Kind

The Buddha taught us to be more care full in what we say. If we THINK before we speak many difficult situations will not arise. So much trouble and stress in life comes from things we or others say. Above all avoid lying, and any false speech.  Avoid any kind of divisive. Words that separate or divide people from each other.   We refraining from all aggressive or irritated scolding.  This is a form of harming with words and can be avoided. Lastly, when we realize we are indulging in idle and empty gossip, we just stop. THINK before we speak.

Just Right Speech is when we communicate words of kindness and simple truth and avoid speaking about others when they are not present.   We also listen deeply to what others say in order to transform conflict into harmony.  It lives in telling our truth with care and awareness.   That was Juust Right Speach.

If you’d like to try another simple exercise - please stand up [as we are able]. Turn to a person near you.  Look into their eyes and say “Thank You” in gratitude for the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe.   That is good.

The Eightfold path - remember our mnemonic…

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding   Thought   Speech   Action   Livelihood   Effort     Mindfulness     Concentration

Next time we will talk about…
Right Action - we act and give in mindfulness - with an open heart and abstain from harming, from stealing, from misusing sexuality. This is juuust Right Action.

Right Livelihood - Mindful of our time at work - We avoid professions and jobs that defile or harm.
Right Effort - Following this Path takes effort.  It is against our Bonbu nature to do these things and think these ways.

Right Mindfulness - This is really being aware of the boundless force of life, love, compassion, and wisdom that pervades the ten quarters of the universe.    

And  Right Concentration - This means we practice deep hearing of the light.

Understanding   Thought   Speech   Action   Livelihood   Effort     Mindfulness     Concentration
Until                 Thoughts    Stop       Acting    Like        Excited    Monkeys        Confusion!

Conclusion - Living the Eightfold Path is rewarding and wonderful and we do it in dedication to all sentient beings.  The idea of the path is to create a wholesome habit of living.  It gives us spiritual wings.  And leads us to harmony with the Four Noble Truths...

  • Life can be stressful.

  • Stress comes from how we see things.

  • Stress is gone when see the world as it truly is.

  • This habit of living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.

The Eightfold path brings Compassion and Wisdom in balance - it  is a middle way.   In the Buddha’s teachings, we see that compassion and wisdom are like the two wings of a bird.  If one wing is weak or broken, the bird can’t fly, the same is true with our spiritual practice.  Without balance, we don’t make progress.  Imbalance results in being either a compassionate fool or an unpleasant know-it-all.  The Buddha’s goal in life is the juuust right blending of both Compassion and Wisdom.  The we can spiritually fly.

These Right Habits are a way of changing our minds to see clearly - an expansive vision of all the worlds. This is living the nembutsu.  Mindful of the Buddha, we don’t do this by our own efforts alone. And so we take refuge in Amida Buddha.  Through Amida we experience our true nature  that is Eternal, Joyous, Selfless and Pure.  Lets share our deepest wish for all beings to realize this truth. Please repeat after me...

May you be happy;

 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

And may peace and harmony fill your heart  

- Namu Amida Butsu

You Go Dharma Sister! 3 apr 16

posted Apr 3, 2016, 1:30 PM by Matthew Fisher   [ updated Apr 4, 2016, 11:28 AM ]

- 3 apr 16  - Rev Matthew Fisher -

--- Namu Amida Butsu - Namu Amida Butsu -  Namu Amida Butsu ---

So happy to see you all here today. It really feels like spring to me this morning...this time for sure?  Though shoveling snow on Monday was fun.  The life of the temple has been full and joyful.  Last weekend we had our Moon Rabbit Cafe and shared food and community with 180 guests.  A couple hospital visits and a professional clergy association meeting filled out week of priestly duties.  I take a moment to remember Aki Miller a Dharma sister who passed on this week.

Today we focus on Dharma Sisters and their contributions - the essential spirit of Buddhism absolutely includes all beings, male and female, small and big, new and old.  These are just fictional dualities - Constructs that lack in any real substance.   That said - Women have always been integral to the unfolding of Buddhist life. You all play a role that is essential to us being here together today.

I have considered so many ideas in preparation for this talk. The role of women in many Buddhist countries and historical periods.  The very nature of the Duality of women and men.   Its place in the sutras and the thought of Buddhist teachers and Bodhisattvas.   Much of this I will save for another time.  These thoughts might obscure my deep gratitude for all the women who have done most of the work of sustaining Buddhism for 2,600 years.

I had meant to give this talk closer to mother's day. But now is always a better time to do anything - right.   As we talk about many fine women of our lineage, please consider the core Buddhist values of... COMPASSION,        ACCEPTANCE, and  RIGHT EFFORT-  that they teach even today.

The story of Buddhism has many important women...

  • Queen Maya - Prince Gotama’s mother unfortunately died after the birth.

  • Sujatta - saved the Siddhartha's life with her food offerings  - her compassion lead to Siddhartha’s Enlightenment. She was the first “Buddhist” person - taking refuge under the Bhodi Tree.

  • Mahapajpati - Aunt and the only mother the Buddha ever knew. And after His enlightenment she was the leader of the nuns.

  • Soma and  Kisa Gotami - in the reading Brittany gave us to meditate on,  The Therigatta gives us a glimpse of the depth and the clarity of many gifted women.

  • Vaidehi - A queen who asks the Buddha what she can do from here prison cell and learns of the working of Great Compassion - Amida Buddha  - [She is in the Zendo section of Shoshinge.]

  • Eshinni was the wife of Shinran Shonin. Her tireless efforts and steadfast support were more than her duty. She embodies compassion and Juuust Right Effort in every way.

  • Kakushinni - the daughter of Shinran and Eshinni.  Who really created the Shin Buddhist lineage by her devotion and care for  the aging Shinran and building the memorial temple - the precursor of our own Higashi Honganji Headquarters temple in Tokyo.

  • And Alicia Matsunaga - Co-founder of this temple and driving force behind planting the seed of Buddhism in Reno.

If it were not for these women it would be impossible for us to be here together.  We say to them   -  “Thank you so much!”.  Let's say that together  - “Thank you so much!”

Thats a lot of people in my list - My dear teacher Linda Brown at Truckee High would tell me I have to pick two of them to tell you about.  

Ok - Mahapajapati   - Eshinni  

Let me consider Mahapajapati -
She was the first woman to “go forth” in Buddhism as a Bhikkhuni or nun - about 10 years after the Buddha’s enlightenment.  There had been many women lay followers by this time.  Queen Pajapati was Maya’s sister - She raised Siddhartha's after Queen Maya died just a week after the birth.  She was very important to his life and growth as a spiritual teacher.

As he grew up the king sheltered him from any religious teaching.   It must have been Prajapati who quietly nurtured Siddhartha's spiritual growth.  Is it a surprise that the young prince resolves to be a religious seeker  - when his father gave him a purely materialistic upbringing?  Kids will do that sometimes.  The pendulum swings.

With Maya’s death - Pajapati did her duty and assumed her sister's role in the palace. She gave up whatever plans and dreams she had for herself and became queen. This is the experience of impermanence - that life does not always go according to our own plan - it was deeply felt by Prajapati. Out of compassion for all she assumed this role, and focused on her new son and raised him.

As for Siddhartha, he later came to appreciate deeply the many elements that led him to his awakening, acknowledging the many Buddhas before him whose legacy made his awakening possible. This realization did not come to him in only six years of religious study and ascetic practice, growing up there was natural exposure to the religious thought of his time. Queen Pajapati was his first teacher.  A teacher of Wisdom and Compassion.

Fast forward to ten years after Siddhartha's enlightenment - He returned to the Sakya kingdom for the first time when his father died.   There was a funeral and the Buddha shared the Dharma.  Upon hearing the teaching Queen Pajapati asked to join the order.   This was a big ask. Since there was no order of nuns and the general culture treated women as property - often expecting a widow throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre.  It was a big ask.  The Buddha considered the effect on the newly created sangha.

The story in the Pali canon is as follows:

Mahapajapati went to the place where the Buddha was, approached and greeted him, and, standing at a respectful distance, spoke to him:

"It would be good, Lord, if women could be allowed to renounce their homes and enter into the homeless state under the Dharma and discipline of the Tathagata."

The Buddha considered this suggestion but gave no response. He traveled to the next town on his circuit -  she asked again that the Buddha allow women to be ordained into an order of nuns.  He said ”no” to this second request.  As they walked to Jetavana, Ananda asked the Buddha many questions about Pajapati’s request.  He asked the Buddha if women were able to reach enlightenment, the Buddha said they can.  This was a very significant thought.  All previous religious traditions specifically excluded women from this attainment.   2500 years ago the idea of gender equality was not common.

A few days later, to demonstrate her resolve, Pajapati renounced her previous life and began her own journey of enlightenment. She shaved her head like a monk, wore robes, and walked 300 miles to Jetavana Monastery where the Buddha had arrived a few days before. The story goes that a group of 500 women followed with her.

After having been rejected two times, this was probably her last opportunity to get a “yes” from the Buddha.  Ananda, [Pajapati’s other nephew and attendant to the Buddha] intervened this time to help Pajapati and her followers.  His questions had affected the Buddha’s view.

On her third request the Buddha agreed to create the order of Bhikkhunis provided Pajapati accept the eight conditions. After Pajapati accepted these administrative conditions, her requested was accepted.

Mahapajapati was really a parallel leader in early Buddhism.  Her attainments and her ultimate enlightenment were important to the sustained growth of the Buddhist sangha.   Mahapajapati request was not for herself, but out of compassion for 50% of humanity - all of humanity.  She continued to guide and nurture the order for the rest of her life.   At peace with the changefulness of existence she was not content to live out her days in courtly pursuits and embarked on a challenging and rewarding spiritual path.   She wrote…

I've been mother and son before;
And father, brother — grandmother too.
Not understanding what was real,
I flowed-on without finding [peace].

But now I've seen the Blessed One!
This is my last compounded form.
The on-flowing of birth has expired.
There's no more re-becoming now.

In the end, Gotama Buddha himself carried her body to the funeral pyre with deep gratitude.  We all have deep gratitude of Mahapajapati she was a wonderful Dharma sister: strong, independent and, compassionate.

We had that long list…Who else can I tell you about?  -  Eshinni!  Partner and wife of Shinran Shonin.

When Shinran left the monastery on Mt. Hiei and studied with Honen in Kyoto there were many other students there.  Myoko Tanemori [Eshinni] was a hand maiden for an important lady it the imperial court and met Shinran in the Pure land Buddhist groups of the time.   Honen, Shinran and others who were making the Pure Land teaching - available to all.  Eshinni wrote in a letter…

“Numerous as clouds in the sky, all sat with sleeves touching - court ladies and grave diggers, monks and lepers. No distinction. No discrimination. All reciting the nembutsu until it felt as if the place filled with an ocean of sound.”

The idea of sharing Buddhism among everyday common people did not sit well with the politically powerful monasteries and monks at the time. [1206] Honen even allowed Shinran to marry Eshinni.

“...It is important to live the Nembutsu - if you can live the Nembutsu as a monk then do that - if you have to be married to live the Nembutsu then do that...”

They were married and soon after all of Honen’s disciples were exiled [1207].  Likely Eshinni was pregnant when they had to quickly leave Kyoto. Some were executed, but the new couple was sent to Eshinni’s home province of Echigo located between the Japan sea and the Japan Alps - it is a beautiful and sometimes harsh place to live.

Their marriage is important - it was the first openly recognized marriage of a priest - this is a tradition we continue today in Shin Buddhism.  Really a teaching partnership between wife and husband and sangha.  It makes Shin Buddhist temples welcoming to householders and families. Eshinni was essential because she was the one who supported the family through their exile and travels to the Kanto region. Her management of family lands produced and supported Shinran and their children.  Shinran and Eshinni began to share the Buddhist teaching - our Nembutsu - with the people of Echigo.   The oldest Shin Buddhist temples are there. [We visited one last year on our Japan trip.]  Shinran would go on long teaching tours in the neighboring region. In those times Eshinni would share the Nembutsu with the sangha.   

When famine struck in Echigo in 1214, Eshinni collected their 4 children and several servants and migrated to the Kanto region in the East.  On foot across the spine of Honshu must have been a difficult journey.  Pregnant at the time, Eshinni is said to have chanted the Nembutsu as she carried the little-one over the mountains to Hitachi.   A new place, and a new life, but the same role. As keeper of the home temple, Eshinni supported the family and stayed in the village of Sakai in Hitachi prefecture.  Shinran traveled and taught ranging all over the Kanto area - spreading the Nembutsu teaching.

Their life was more comfortable in the Kanto, with more nembutsu followers many viable Shin Buddhist sanghas were established.  One we visited outside of Kosama,

was just a ginkgo tree where Shinran would teach when his travels came through the village.   It is now just a stump with a protective roof over it. In memory of those days.

In his 60’s Shinran retired and quietly returned to Kyoto where the whole story had begun. Eshinni and the two younger children followed Shinran to Kyoto.  Later Eshinni had to return to Echigo, she to attend to the family businesses manage their the land.  She never saw Shinran again and corresponded by letter when possible.

We know so much about Eshinni because of 10 letters written in her hand that were discovered in 1921.  They bring us vibrantly in contact with this remarkable woman.   Here is a bit on one of those letters...

“Also, [I recall] a dream I had while we were at a place called Sakai village in Hitachi. There was a dedication ceremony for a temple building...In front of the building there were lanterns [burning] bright...there were [two] Buddhist images suspended from the horizontal part of ... a shrine gate. In one there was no face... but only a core of light, as if it were the radiance of the Buddha... distinct features could not be seen, and light was the only thing there. In the other, there was a distinct face ... I asked what Buddhist images these were, and a person - I don’t remember who ... - said "The one that is only light is Master Honen. He is the bodhisattva [of wisdom] Seishi." When I asked who the other was, he said "That is [the bodhisattva of compassion] Kannon. That is none other than the priest Shinrna." Upon hearing this I was shocked [out of  my sleep], and I realized that it had been a dream.”

Then she confides in her daughter…

“... I [have remained] silent, not telling other people [about this]. But I did tell my husband [Shinran] the part about Master [Honen]. He said, "Among dreams there are many different types, but this dream must be true. There are many [other] instances of dreams in which people have seen Master [Honen] … as a manifestation of the bodhisattva Seishi. The bodhisattva Seishi is the ultimate in wisdom, so he [appeared simply] as light." I did not say anything about my husband being Kannon, but in my own mind I never looked upon him from that day forward in any ordinary way. You should ponder these things well…”

Their relationship was profound. Each considering the other an emanation of Great Compassion itself.   Eshinni shows us that when life challenges us, when we are ready to face real adversity in our lives that’s when our hearts can truly open: we hear and appreciate the wisdom and compassion of the Universe. This is when our personal spiritual journey begins - with hearts open to reality we find ourselves on the Dharma path.  Eshinni always acted out of COMPASSION. As a mother and a wife and a teacher and Nembutsu follower.   

She deeply understood - the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism…

  1. Life can be lived in abiding joy.

  2. Joy comes when we accept the changefulness around us.

  3. We can train our minds to accept a changeful world.

  4. The path to living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.

Following the path Eshinni embodied right effort above all. Tirelessly supporting Shinran's teaching and writing. Showing that our struggles with change are not real. Things change and we naturally change with them. In gratitude and with right effort - we hear the wisdom and compassion all around us.   Joy and gratitude were hers for all of her days.

After his death, Kakushinni wanted to keep Shinran’s teaching alive and perpetuated it for his followers. She built a temple enshrining an image of Shinran. As a result, the Nembutsu teaching began to reach more people. About 50 years later, this mausoleum became an official temple and was named the “Hongwanji.” The Hongwanji temple has developed into the Jodo Shinshu school as one of the largest and most powerful Buddhist schools in Japan.

Kakushinni’s foresight and deep appreciation towards the Nembutsu teaching saved Shinran’s work and established the foundation of Shin Buddhism. She is truly the Mother of the Honganji.

Conclusion -

All the women I listed at the start were Builders and Sustainers of the tradition.  Mothers to the way of COMPASSION.   They endured and thrived in very difficult times and selflessly gave to others the gift of the Dharma.      The four noble truths teach that joy flows from ACCEPTING CHANGE.  These dear women saw changes again and again.  And learned to accept and embrace teh becoming of the world around them. Most of all they inspire us with their RIGHT EFFORT.  Each of them faced life with strength, resolve, and kindness.

As Shin Buddhists we have the advantage of being part of the Pure Land tradition, and we have a married clergy, we have a congregational system, we share a path to Enlightenment available to all - within a lifetime. It is a path of gratitude, a path of mindfulness of Wisdom and Compassion. These kind women brought the universal message of the Nembutsu - You are Ok just as you are. Troubles and all we can go forth in joy.  Grateful for the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe.  Amida Buddha.

I am so grateful to the women who did much of the work of sustaining Buddhism for 2,600 years. They have done so much for all of us. Please send their good wishes to all sentient beings - just repeat after me...

           May you be happy;

                     May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -

Thanks to to the clear thoughts of : Rev. Patty Naikai, Rev Jōshō Cirlea, James Dobbens

Dharma Talk: Finding Life's Balance - Spring Equinox

posted Mar 21, 2016, 11:35 AM by Matthew Fisher

...Intergenerational Reading for 20mar16 Dharma talk....

Three Little Pigs - middle way
Rev. Matthew 20mar16

Once upon a time, far far away, in India there were three little pigs. Their names were  Tandita, Devadatta,  and Gotama.  They enjoyed dancing and singing and living outdoors together, but sometimes it was rainy or too sunny and they wished that they had a house.  

Tandita built a house of straw. It was easy to bundle up the straw and he finished his house in only half a day. It looked a lot like a pile of straw, but Tandita didn't care. He was done so quickly he spent the rest of the day singing and dancing - he was a little lazy.

Gotama - the second pig - built his house with wood. He built the house at a steady pace and sang while he worked. He spent a whole week building the little house. He built the house so that it could easily be repaired. It was a handsome house that would last a long time if it was cared for.   When he was done he danced and sang with Tandita - it was his favorite.

Devadatta was very worried about everything.  What if a monsoon storm came?  What if a flood came?  What if a big bad wolf came to their neighborhood?  “I will make my house the best of all the piggies’ houses” - It will be perfect in every way.

Devadatta worked very hard for two weeks and built his house with bricks.  He would sing his favorite Simon and Garfunkel song - “I am a Rock - I am an Iiiiiiiland”.   The materials were costly and he was so worried about his house being strong that he didn't eat or rest.  Eventually they were all finished building their houses. The piggies sang and danced - it was their favorite.

Interestingly, a big bad wolf named Mara saw the three little pigs dancing and singing and thought, “What a juicy tender meal they will make!” He chased after the three pigs and they ran and hid in their houses.

The big bad wolf went to the house of straw and thought that if he huffed and puffed he could blow the house down. Mara is a pretty special wolf, in fact he is a demon of sorts so he could summon the power of a hurricane to blow the house down.  Naturally - He huffed and puffed and down came the straw house. Just a flattened pile of straw was left, but Tandita had run away.  Saying “run away, run a away, run away….”

The frightened little pig ran past Gotama’s wood house to Devatatta’s brick house. But the big door was locked, so he ran to Gotama’s house where he was welcomed.   Mara - The big bad wolf followed to the brick house. And he huffed and puffed blew a great wind! But the bricks could withstand the wind.  Mara got a little angry and thought about the brick house.

What is a brick house like?  It is Heavy, Solid. Rigid!  So Mara the wolf summoned an earthquake to roll through the neighborhood. The very ground rolled up and down like a big wave, the brick house broke to pieces and when Mara searched the pile of bricks, he did not find piggies Devadatta or Tandita. They had run away.  Saying “run away, run away, run away…” They ran to Gotama’s house where they were welcomed.

Then Mara, the big bad wolf, went to Gotama’s house. He huffed and puffed but the wind blew through the wood house’s boards and the few boards that did come loose Gotama quickly replaced.  Gotama taught Tandita and Devadatta to do the same. Mara the wolf tried again, but eventually ran out of breath. Gotama could fix the house as fast as it got damaged.   It took good mindfulness and awareness of the present moment, but with Devadatta and Tandita’s help he could keep up.

Mara got a little angry and thought about what had worked on the brick house. Earthquake!  Mara the wolf summoned an earthquake to roll through the neighborhood again. The very ground rolled up and down like a big wave, the pile of straw flew up in the air and the pile of brick rubble rumbled a bit.  But the Wood house flexed and swayed as the ground moved and it didn't fall down.   I think it was because Gotama used screws and not nails to build his house [that is a running argument Rev. Matthew used to have with his dad - nails - screws - nails - screws ] - anyway -   Gotama fixed the boards that came lose and the house was ok, just as it was.

He kept trying for hours but the house was very strong and the little pigs were safe inside. He tried and tried and eventually - as is the way with Mara, be became bored with tormenting the piggies and moved on to someone else who needed tormenting.

Through all of this Tandita realized that being lazy was not good. And Devadatta realized that being too rigid and worried all the time was not good. They saw the Gotama’s house was safe because it was able to change, it could flex and move when needed and it was easy to fix up if anything did break. The other two piggies both built wooden houses and they all lived happily ever after.


Dharma Talk: Finding Life's Balance - Spring Equinox
20mar16  Rev. Matthew

*** Namandabutsu - Namandabutsu - Namandabutsu ***

Good Morning, I would like to welcome everyone to Reno Buddhist Center on this morning - New visitors and old friends you are all very welcome here.

We celebrate the Equinox today.  A very special day when the Daylight and Nighttime are equal.  This has always been an important time of year for Buddhists. Nature shows us a peaceful balance today.  In the story the piggies examined the two existential extremes of indulgence and perfectionism, but real life lives in between.  Are we like one of these piggies sometimes?  Which one?  Sometimes we are guided to the middle way by seeing the extremes.

Three Little Pigs and the Middle way was a Buddhist adaptation of a story we all know.   We shared it with the children to encourage them to see life as an ongoing series of challenges that we can handle. Sometimes we will get bumps and bruises, but we can handle life.  

In the story the Piggies are building houses.   Constructing an abode. The space we live within.  The Buddha talked about this house building process when he was enlightened...

"Seeking but not finding the house builder,

I hurried through the round of many births:

Painful is birth over and over

O house builder, you have been seen;

You shall not build the house again.

Your rafters have been broken up,

Your ridgepole is demolished too.

My mind has now attained the unformed - I see reality as it is - Nibbâna

And reached the end of every sort of thirst."

Is this house what we construct around us? - our life - do we really construct that?  The causes and conditions that lead to our life are so many, that we can hardly take any credit or authorship for our life. Really what we construct is our way of looking at the world. Our refuge. The protective but permeable bubble we live within everyday.

Who is the house builder the Buddha is speaking to?  The self?  Mara?

When the house builder is seen - it disappears.  Ignorance? The Self. Clining, thirsting, and wanting.   They all swirl around ignorance.  With seeing. With Deep Hearing ignorance melts away.   That is what the Buddha’s enlightenment is all about.

Our friends the piggies build their houses as shelters against the cold and the hot.   We all need refuges at times.  A balance between activity and contemplation is important.

What about the piggies?
We all know the first piggy - Tandita is pretty laid back.  Actually his name means lazy in Pali language.   He finds the minimal amount of work he can get away with and goes right back to his favorite - singing and dancing -  after that.   We have all been this little piggy.   At times -we’ll for me - most times we put in that minimal effort and then move on.  It is strange but we think because we are so “busy” all the time, we think that everything else will fall apart of we devote an appropriate time and effort to our present moment, this activity, or this relationship.   It is quite the opposite.

Tandita’s little house is barely a shelter.  It falls apart so easily.  It lacks a foundation.  It lacks structure. It lacks the discipline of a life well lived.  It looks a lot like a haystack.

The Buddha described three kinds of laziness.
First, there is the kind of laziness that tandita shows: we don't want to do anything, and we'd rather stay in bed than get up and go with the sun.
Second, there is the laziness of thinking we are unworthy or unable, “they have more ability than me”, “other people are kind and generous but I don’t have enough to be generous”. This thinking often has the phrase “I can't” in it.   Lazy thinking doesn't really see life, it just labels and moves on - "I'm just an angry person;" "I've never been able to do things in my life" ; “I'm bound to fail." This laziness is one of Mara’s snares.

The third kind [of Lazy] Buddha describes is being busy with worldly things. How can being busy be a kind of laziness?  We can just overfill fill our time by keeping so super busy. Constantly having many tasks on a list can even make us feel virtuous. But usually it's just an escape.  When feelings and thoughts come up, we are too busy now - we’ll get to it later. We can’t be troubled with  being face-to-face with who we are.  If we fill the cup to the brim there is no room for Right Action, Right Contemplation, there is just the “I’m too busy escape”.

We are all regular people with regular lives.  Our days are very busy, our days can be frantic, it feels like we never have any space to sit for even a minute and just be. That escape is an easy way out. Because if we did take the time and make the effort we would be confronted with real life work.  As Gotama the piggy did - mindfully fixing the boards in his house as they change and needed attention.  Right now.

And the Piggy Devadatta is too strict. Too worried. He’s wound very tight.  He worries and worries.  And his house is very rigid. In his fear he constructs a life that can not accommodate change.   Brick and mortar can’t adapt.  A view of life that is too rigid is destined for trouble.


The Piggy Devadatta is full of fears and they drive him to build the brick house.   Ultimately we can see that fear of death is what drives his actions.   This at the expense of life. Building a rigid view seems safest, but it really shows a lack of faith in life.  It is vulnerable to change and lacks flexibility.
When we build a refuge to live within we are at risk when we don't allow for change. Changfulness is the nature of the universe. The downfall of all perfectionists is delusion.  This attitude comes from clinging to the self. The “I-Me-Me-My” experience we talked about last time.  We think that by perfecting the self - by  purifying or honing or training - we will be OK, happy, and joyful.  The Buddha tried that and it almost killed him.  It makes for a very tense and difficult life.

In the sutras Devadatta was a real person - Gotama's cousin. He was often second guessing the Buddha and always pushing for more.   When the Buddha allowed the monks to stay in huts for the rain retreat Devadatta thought that was too easy.  As the Buddha got older Devadatta suggested that he should be the Buddha’s successor.  He would do away with the robes, and begging, and the Dharma halls. The students would live in the forest eating insects.   This is very similar to the extreme asceticism that the Buddha rejected before his enlightenment.  He knew it didn't work. It does not allow us to openly examine life and hear deeply the Wisdom and Compassion of the universe.

Gotama piggy’s wooden house is an example of the middle way.  It is Juuuust right?   It is strong but flexible. The wind can blow through its boards. The roof keeps the rain off. The earthquake shakes it but it moves and gives as the earth wave passes. The wind blows a piece off here or there, but it is easy to repair and return to juuust right in the moment.  It is not perfect but it is juuuust right.  As we follow the Middle Way along the Eightfold Path we are not seeking perfection and we are not seeking escape. We are present in life’s ups and downs. We are able to hear deeply the wisdom and compassion of the universe. We can sit with the silence and simply be grateful - Naturalness is there for us.  We can let go the struggle and striving, the guilt and doubt melt away.   We can be happy in our little house with our little piggy friends.

In the story, the middle way is the way of the wooden house. That’s different than we usually think.  Usually we think the big solid massive unyielding thing is the best.  In a vast ever changing universe, this is a pure delusion.  An externalization of the desire expressed in Devadatta’s favorite song - I am a rock.   The fallacy of strength.

He sings... A winter's day

In a deep and dark December;

I am alone,

Gazing from my window to the streets below

On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

I've built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.

It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

Don't talk of love,

But I've heard the words before;

It's sleeping in my memory.

I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.

If I never loved I never would have cried.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

I have my books

And my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

In that song, he desires to avoid pain and brokenheartedness so he builds a fortress. He doesn't want to be hurt, so he shuts out his friends, he'll be isolated in a fortress - a prisoner. Maybe it sounds determined to build a strong house, really sounds like he’s walling himself in.  This isolates him from real life. He is only fooling himself into thinking he can.  It is a just brick delusion of self.

The last two lines express this; he's not a rock, he's a piggy that can be living life.  Life is a bumpy road and it supposed to be. That is natural. It is Ok.  

The "island never cries" line brings home the feeling.  As he sings this, he is really crying out for love.  A rock doesn't feel anything.  An Island can’t be connected.  We do feel, we are connected to everything.  The vast love and compassion and wisdom of the universe is here for us. We are part of it.  And so we live in the middle between indulgence and escape.

We celebrate the Middle Way of the Spring Equinox today - a juuust right balance between daylight and darkness occurs on this day - it is natural.  For Buddhists in particular, this is a significant happening. Dr. Matsunaga would say that it can reminds us of the natural balance of life. We can try to maintain that sense of equanimity every day.

In our Japan this day is the holiday we call Ohigan - which translates as The Other   In the  Ala-gadu-pama Sutra the Buddha describes the Dharma as raft - when grasped correctly we cross from this shore [the eastern shore of our Saha world] to the Other Shore the western shore of clarity and understanding and acceptance and gratitude and compassion. The metaphor of the Other Shore is common in Buddhism  - meaning the non-dual state of seeing reality as it is - wonders and warts and all.

The Other Shore is reached by making a new habit of living. Not one of selfish isolation, not a fortress, but an open and giving habit of life.  This is  done by active application of our energy.  By following what we call the six Paramitas.  In Sanskrit ‘paramita’ literally means ‘having reached the other shore.’ It also can mean ‘transcendence,’ or ‘clarity of vision.’  Practicing the paramitas is to practice in accord with selflessness and non-attachment, for the dual benefit of self and others.  

What are these six paramitas that I speak of?

Generosity   Dana Paramita

Ethics    Sila Paramita

Patience   Kshanti Paramita

Joyous Effort Virya Paramita

Concentration Dhyana Paramita

Wisdom   Prajna Paramita

So let’s consider these the six Paramitas with our minds on the activity of the three pigs...

Dāna pāramitā: generosity or selfless giving.  This is the first Paramita, we give what is helpful and good and give without “I-me-me-my” in the mixture.  We talked a lot about this last time.  

Remember there are many ways to be generous: (1) giving material things to support the Dharma (2) giving loving protection, and (3) giving loving understanding.  Participating in the Men’s Group or Women’s group  is a good example. True generosity is giving whatever we possibly can with pure motivation and enthusiasm like when Gotama welcomed the other piggies into his house.   

Śīla pāramitā, the 2nd way to the other shore, is virtue, morality, discipline, good conduct.  We refrain from negative actions. We habituate what is positive, and and we help others.  Gotama the piggy build the wood house and shows the others its strength - Modeling and practicing virtue and aiding others in their development is what Sila Paramita is all about.

Kshanti  pāramitā : is the 3rd way to the other shore - Patience, tolerance, forbearance. Living life with acceptance, endurance [sometimes], and gratitude always.  Two aspects of Kshanti I would mention -

The first, the patience of not being offended when someone hurts us. We patiently understand that the action did not come out of the blue - it’s the result of causes and conditions (karma) created in the past – causes and conditions we all contribute to.  Of course, this is easier said than done!

And, patience in having confidence in the supreme qualities of the Three Treasures.  Confidence arises through taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and develops through practicing the teachings that we receive.  Buddhism takes time and patience.    Kshanti is a very difficult practice for all of us.

Vīrya pāramitā : The fourth paramita is joyful endeavour Good effort, exertion, and perseverance toward understanding and supporting the Dharma.  The Piggy Gotama had this as he built his wooden house. We earnestly feel that we are beginning anew with every tiny step toward understanding and acceptance.

Dhyāna pāramitā : 5th paramita. One-pointed concentration, contemplation or meditation.  Meditation and deep contemplation can be practiced in many forms: a long, peaceful walk in nature, gardening, chanting and sitting in stillness either alone or with the combined positive energies of others at Golden Light Meditation on Wednesdays. Piggy Gotama focused as he built his wooden house.


Prajñā pāramitā : the 6th paramita.  Wisdom or insight.  Piggy Gotama wisely built his house from wood - to make it easy to repair and flexible in the face of life. Studying the Dharma with curiosity, asking questions, reading Buddhist texts, attending Dharma talks and book discussion group or talking with sangha members are wonderful ways to gain wisdom and insight into reality as it really is.  Ultimately wisdom is seeing clearly.

These are ways for finding the middle way. Being mindful of the Paramitas and naturally practicing them in our daily life is the Buddhist way.   We are so blessed to have been born as human beings in this life.  As humans, we have the ability to Give, behave well, have Patience, expend Joyous Effort, Concentrate deeply, and gain Wisdom.  We will reach the Other Shore. Please remember and practice these six paramitas.

The Noble life is life is a life lived with our struggles not an escape from them.  A joyful life not in spite of difficulty but because of the challenges we face and surmount and endure.   The Middle way is to live life fully, with its struggles and joys - Not too lax, not too constricted.  Remember our piggy friends. And occasionally ask, “Which piggy am I today?”   It is a choice we can make with wisdom.

Our sincere wish for all sentient beings in the universe on this Equinox day. [Just say after me]....

May all beings be happy;
May all beings free from harm:
May all beings receive boundless compassion;
And may peace and harmony fill their heart

--- Namandabu - namandabu - Namandabu ---

Self Help for Non-Self 6mar16

posted Mar 13, 2016, 12:00 PM by Reno Budd

from Rev. Matthew  

Welcome all - Many fun things happening at RBC. Chanting, Meditation and Book group.  Men’s group was last week and women’s group is next week. We made progress on the new sign. Re-modeled much of Hiroma Kitchen and weeded!   Sometimes Rev. Shelley suggests we rename RBC - “Our lady of the perpetual project”.  But stuff’s gotta get done- Right?  

Starting with a story - The apricot and plumb blossoms remind me of growing up in Marin county. In the Spring we used to climb and climb among the blossoms.  One time we wanted to make a rope swing. The only rope we could find was tied and tangled on another branch.  I remember sitting there and trying to untie the rope. I was in 2nd grade so it was like trying to  untie the Gordian Knot.  Anyway no short cuts, I had to untie it  to have a long enough piece to swing by.   I tried pulling and prying with a stick. That didn't work - I think it made things worse. Then I tried working the rope back on itself. I was in mid knot so that didn't work.  Then I tried working it backwards from the free end.  That seemed to do the trick. And we made the swing.  The puzzle of non-self is like a knot. Forcing and pushing doesn't solve the puzzle. Gently loosening is the best.

The Buddha taught about Anatta - non-self - In a world where all other world-views assumed a permanent eternal unchanging soul was in every being.  Buddha realized that what we feel is actually a delusion of self.  When we live this way we are not joyful.  He taught that if we wake up to the true reality of things - realize selflessness - troubles will fall away and joy flows in.  Why is this so and what can we do about it?   

The selfie-ness is the cause of Anger - Craving - Jealousy- Pride and Ignorance. Ignorance is the worst - the root cause of  the delusion.  We don’t know who we are. We are ignorant of who we are and we identify with this presumed “self”.  Right now we all have the feeling “we are here and we are listening to the Dharma talk” - what we call identity is formed around our name, our job, our likes and dislikes - we strongly identify with this construct.  It drives our choices in life.  The trouble is identifying with the attitude of I-Me-Me-My divides us from reality. We feel as though there is duality in the world - us and them - When really there is oneness.  In large part we believe in the self.  The self is the experiencer of pain and pleasure. As long as we believe there is someone - Me - here who experiences the pleasure and pain we will continue to have difficulties.  Under the feeling of self  we are in a state of constant bouncing between the two - between the wanting and the not-wanting. This makes for a very agitated being. Constantly bouncing  back and forth between the two.  Always waiting for the next shoe to drop is a hard life. We can’t find peace Joy or-  Equanimity that lasts.

The Buddha recommended that we examine life.  Why do we feel this way?  Where does this “I-me- me-my” that we feel reside?

Is our name our self?  

We are very attached to names - we are frustrated when someone misspells  it, or when another person has the same name - its a little befuddling. “Hey - buddy that’s my name”.  Its almost like we lose our identity if someone has the same name as us.  Well - yes - identity is separate and the world is not.  The Buddha wants us to look at things - closely and calmly - are we really our names?  No.

Many people have changed names and they are still apparently the same person?  When I was ordained as a priest I got a new name - Shaku Shu Nen - it means Wisdom of the Nembutsu - having this other name doesn't really change who I am.  It didn’t make me wise when I got that name. Maybe they wanted me to work toward that and I do try.

What about the Body?  Maybe the body is the place where the “I-me- me-my” resides.  When we look at a picture of our selves 15 years ago.  Is that the same you that is you today?  Well the cells are all replaced -  blood cells last about four months.   The grandad cells are the bone cells they live for about ten years. My point is that after 15 years there is very little - of that previous you alive there any more.  And don't forget. there are more living organisms in and on your body than there are people on planet earth.  They live and die every day. Is this colony “me”?  With constant change how can the body constitute the permanent self?

It Can’t.

The Buddha saw that we are actually constantly re-constituted from five categories of stuff - really they are Heaps-of-Stuff - what he called the 5 skandas...

form   feeling  consciousness  perception  mental-formations

Say them with me …

form   feeling  consciousness  perception  mental-formations

He taught that when a sense organ comes in contact with a sense object - like when your nose comes in contact with the aroma of fresh baked bread - consciousness arises.  Once this happens we have a feeling about it - feelings come in three types Pleasant feeling, Unpleasant feelings, and Neutral feelings. Notice this is before we know what is is.  The we experience perception - nose consciousness recognizes the smell as baking bread.  Then we experience what the Buddha called Metal formations - all the ways we react to a sensation process - mentally - so our wholesome or unwholesome intentions that arise in response to the sensation process.  “I want bread”, “I want the bread with butter”, “Where’s the butter”.  These metal formations are the habitual intentions that lead to actions of body speech or mind - they lead to our Karma.  This Metal formations stuff is where we develop all our ideas, opinions and prejudices - it is the  place where we develop positive qualities of mind - or not.  This is where we have some measure of ability to shape our metal habits and the person we want to become. The Buddha described about 51 different metal formations we experience.   [not going to list those]

This is important because the Buddha shows us that we are not at the mercy of our previous actions, we have a measure of control to influence our impulses and intentions as they arise.  But habits of mind are hard to break. These five aggregates all occur interdependently and are changing from moment to moment.  No one of these is the self.   The self we identify with is really the confluence of these five heaps of stuff.  And my five heaps of stuff are at times intermingled with the heaps of stuff that constitute you.  And the room and the world and the solar system all intermingling and inter-being together.

If we develop some awareness of this process of the becoming of the self in each moment, we can change and direct our self in a wholesome way. We can decide whether or not to we act-out when someone at work makes a snide comment  - or we can develop the habit of responding with forgiveness when faced with a challenge.  If we understand this teaching, we kind of de-personalize the thought. We won’t see the thought as “my thought”, instead it is the thought arising. If its not my anger, then I don't have to go to the mat for it.  Do I.  I can walk away.  Or engage constructively.

This teaching shines the light of day on the workings of the false self - the delusion of self. And the great thing about delusions is that they are like vampires - they wither in sunlight.  This helps us see thoughts and impulses for what they are just the heaps of stuff happening and not “our precious identity” that must be defended.   We can become peaceful observers of the unfolding of the mind.   This brings calm and joy where there was agitation and difficulty.  Belief in this permanent and inherently existing self brings suffering.   Freedom from this delusion brings joy.

The Buddha used the common example of a car - well he said chariot - A car is made from different parts - chassis, wheels, engine, glass - there is no real one thing that is CAR there. It’s just an assembly of parts. The self is like that - its all these different processes happening  together that seems like something solid and permanent - but its not  - really.  We are bound by this delusion.  We are constrained by the misperception that we are a self.  We can only go so far. We can’t grow and become  as sentient beings.  Because we are bound to the “I- Me-Me-My”.  Believing like this we are limited and constrained in a world that is open and free.  Being limited in a free world is not joyful.  We can be joyful if we let go the self and leave the self behind.   That is what the Buddha wants us all to do. He wants all sentient beings to do that.

                     All of them. Everywhere.  Yes - You too.

We are not our body. We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings. We are not our perceptions.We are not our mental formations. If realize that, we can be freed from clinging to the idea of self -  and the difficulties of life end.

“HE hurt ME”  “YOU took MY thingy away”  “THEY forgot MY promotion”.   “THEY did this to ME”- none of these work anymore.  They stop making sense. If you remove “I- ME-ME-MY. In fact the seem pretty silly.  Equanimity comes and joy flows in.  We can be at peace. When we focus on these thoughts, we spend all our time agitated, clinging to the “I- ME-ME-MY”.    Imagine trying to hold onto  the water in a stream - hands clenched and grasping onto the water that slips between our fingers at every instant - a very frustrating experience - add to it that we actually believe our life depends on this grasping and the opportunities for Joy are far between. Stress tension, and anxiety comes from this clinging - grasping - suffering and Dhukka result.  If we can let go that clinging.  Open our hands in the cool water of the stream - feel it flow over us - Real clarity flows in.  Peaceful and calm become easy and accessible.  This has happened to us all from time to time for brief periods.  Our judgement becomes realistic instead of skewed. Relationships become whole instead of “sided” and dualistic - Us and Them goes away. One Buddhist teacher in Thailand says it this way...

If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness.

If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness.

If you let go completely, you will be completely happy. -Ajahn Chah

Sometimes when we talk about letting go the self.  People worry that this is somehow dangerous or suicidal.  “If my clinging to self was gone would would I have reason to eat? or even get up in the morning?”

The example of the Buddha is clear. He didn't disappear or turn to smoke.  He became a wonderful compete person. Joyful and kind. He still had form - feeling  - perception - mental formations - and consciousness. He just didn't identify with them.  The thought that I am this body, or I am this thought, or I am this gender...I am this whatever was gone. From the Bahuna Sutra...

"Freed, dissociated, & released from form, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness. feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness... birth...aging... death... stress... defilement, the Tathagata dwells with unrestricted awareness.

"Just as a red, blue, or white lotus growing in the water, rises up above the water and stand with no water adhering to it, in the same way the Tathagata — freed, dissociated, & released from these ten things — dwells with unrestricted awareness."  -Bahuna Sutta

The Buddha lives like we do, but without clinging to the self ideas.  Freed and aware in joy and compassion.  We aspire to this realization.  We are all capable of this realization.  We all have this Buddha nature inside of us.

How do we get there?  What is the path?  

The path has eight aspects - like the spokes of this wheel - Understanding Thought  Speech  Action  Livelihood  Effort  Meditation and Concentration.  
This constitutes what we call Buddhist practice.  Living life in a Buddhist way.  What we find is that the illusory self - really a delusion of self  - when it is  looked at with any effort, tends to weaken.  It wilts a bit when examined. It fries in the bright light of understanding. Dogen Zenji said it this way…

“To study the Path is to study the self.

To study the self is to forget the self.

To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things”

― Dōgen Zenji

Applying Buddhist teaching is an ongoing process. Untangling and untying the knot of self takes time. Being a Buddhist is not an end, its a process. Sometimes in my interactions with folks from other traditions I run into the Rabbi.  The Rabbi is always after me about not being a good Buddhist.  I should do this and I should be active for that cause.  He seems to not understand that I am not The Buddha, I am a Buddhist. I am not responsible to perfection, rather I completely acknowledge my bombu nature and walk a path toward wisdom and compassion.  We need to recognize this is a very difficult process.   It goes against our programming.  Modern culture is absolutely opposed to the Buddha’s insights.   We walk this way against the stream.

The “Self Help”  the title of this talk refers to is this process.  Help the self melt. We engage in the process of gently and compassionately calling-the-self-out for its actions and habituating away from “I-Me-Me-My” mode in a real human life.   That is the Buddhist path.

How do we do it?  Sometimes we say that the first practice in Buddhism is Dana - Selfless Giving.  Generosity is a self melter - Self grows through possessiveness. Like a knotted fist: when you open the hand to give, there’s no more fist—no more self.  Giving untangles the knot of self.

We can give so much in our life - many opportunities to untangles the knot of self.  For example, you can give time, helpfulness, donations, restraint, patience, non-contention, and forgiveness. Any path of service - raising a family, caring for others, many kinds of work - incorporate generosity.  We also give to the temple.  A lot of traditions do.

I asked an LDS friend how they did Dana in their tradition. He said they had an institutionalized tithe. They bill the members 10% of their annual income on a monthly basis.   He said it was from the bible somewhere.  I’m not a bible scholar, so I take him at his word.  But 10% - ouch.

So then I asked the Imam at the NNMC how Dana was handled in their tradition. He explained that zakat was a Pillar of Islam.  All things belong to Allah, wealth is just held by human’s in trust.  Zakat means ‘purification’.  The Kor’an  is quite technical. It says the percentage a believer should give is calculated as follows - Of the gold, silver, and cash funds that have reached an amount of 85 grams of gold and are held in possession for one lunar year; 2.5% percent and should be given those in need. “We can also give more if we like” he said...Pretty clear.

In Buddhism we have our tradition of Dana. We give our gift of money or time and value flows from our regular life to the spiritual realm of the Dharma. It is a selfless gift received selflessly. We see selfless giving in many forms throughout our community. Members are fixing things, improving things every week. Selflessly giving their time and skills. We saw Mike and Steve and Chris this week - Thank you.  Giving untangles the knot of self.

Selfless giving also happens when temple members give money to the temple. Yes, I did use the word ‘money’ and NO, religion is not just about money.  I know that some of you probably left their old spiritual home because of money talk that got out of hand.   But, we have to occasionally talk  New people often ask - How does this place sustain? Some assume we are supported by the HQ temple in Tokyo.  We are not. And we do not pay annual tribute to them either. We are independent.

Remember, money is not thought of as evil in Buddhism. It represents value and opportunity to support the Dharma. Everything we have in the temple is the result of members and friends sharing some of their money with the rest of us. That is why we have heat in the temple. Someone gave so we could pay the heating bill. The same for the water and the lights. Even the priests small salary is the result of members and friends practicing Dana. Every single thing, even the tiny push-pins in the bulletin board, are there because of Dana. When I look at this place and think about that, I’m humbled and grateful to be with you.

Doug Erwin was kind enough to spearhead getting the little payal “donate” button on the website.  So its even easier to give Dana.   As a matter of fact there are new QR codes on the Dana boxes to make a small donation with your phone super easy. If you don’t know what a QR code is…..just don’t worry about it.

The point is that members donate regularly and that sustains the temple.  All the members make a simple pledge for annual Dana, some give this at one-go in December, others through monthly gifts.  Even if we do an annual donation, we still give something in the Dana basket each time the basket is out.  At meditation, or at the service, or book group or at Shin Buddhism 102 Class [next week]. When we receive something from temple, we always give back in this way.  Buddhists have always chipped away at the self in this way.  Self help for non-self.

In my examples of other traditions they had ready formulas on how much is right.  We have our system of juuuust right to guide us.  Like the tuning of a guitar string.  If I give so much that I am short on money in my everyday life that is too much. If I give an amount that is inconsequential, that that is too little. It will have no self-melting effect at that level.  Juuust right is in the middle there and has the best effect.  Not too much, but it should be noticeable to have positive effect on the self.

Another self help for non-self - Healthy Humility - that is a self melter.

Most of all, self grows through promoting self-importance; it’s antidote is healthy humility. Being humble means being natural and unassuming [not being a doormat, ashamed, or inferior.] It just means you’re not setting your self above others. Humility feels peaceful. You don’t have to work at impressing people, and no one is at odds with you for being pretentious or judgmental.  When we bow. We are briefly experiencing this humility. We bow to the Buddha nature in the other person.   Some folks are uncomfortable bowing more than ever so slightly.  Try it. Its ok - its good. Nice big bow from time to time. When we offer incense, the bow there is  bowing before the Wisdom and Compassion of the UNIVERSE, go ahead and bow.

In the Shoshinge chant we repeated the line - “Namua Amida bu” many times. And each nembutsu section ends with an extra Namu.  This is the act of bowing down and taking refuge in the wisdom and compassion of the universe.  Something like…

I take refuge in the wisdom and compassion of the universe.

I take refuge in the wisdom and compassion of the universe.

I take refuge...

This is a self-melter.

There are many of these traditional practices….

Let go of being “special”.  

See the big picture in mundane moments

Stop identifying with objects

Relax About What Others Think

We will look at these another time. I want to conclude with a quote from Albert Einstein. He wrote to a father who had lost his son…

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. “

The Buddha’s teaching does not justify the self. But neither does it demean or suppress self.  We don’t make self special - it’s just another mental pattern arising in our mind stream - not different or better than any other mind-object. When we ease off on the selfi-ness we center on openhearted spaciousness, goodwill toward our own thriving, and contented peaceful relationships with all other beings.  With a substantially diminished self we are free to be healthy and strong and live. To be caring and kind. To awaken, abiding as radiant, spacious, loving consciousness. To feel protected and supported by the universe. To be happy and comfortable, serene and fulfilled. To live and love in peace.

Let's do a little self melting by wishing well to all sentient beings in the universe  - just repeat after me...

May they be happy;

May they be free from harm: 

May they receive boundless compassion; 

And may peace and harmony fill their heart ...

     -  Namu Amida Butsu  -     -  Namu Amida Butsu  -     -  Namu Amida Butsu  -

Remembering our Spiritual Teachers 21feb16

posted Feb 23, 2016, 11:35 AM by Reno Budd

How are you all doing this morning?  Welcome to new folks who are here again. It seems to take a few visits to get a feel for our temple.

Founders dinner last weekend was a friendly gathering in honor of our dear teachers.  We got to know each other. Played a few icebreaker games that Rev. Shelley came up with. It was fun.
What a beautiful day!    Spring is coming soon.

We remember the founders of RBC  this month because Dr. Matsunaga died in February - the anniversary brings them to mind.   They were our spiritual teachers. Really all these people with pictures up here were the spiritual teachers in our lineage.   

What is a spiritual teacher?  We have all had thesel teachers in our lives.  Please consider that the obvious people are not always the actually ones.  A priest or Sunday School leader - sometimes.   Often the most significant spiritual teachers in our lives are other folks.  Who naturally teach us - sometimes through their actions rather than their words - to see reality as it is to be grateful for our lives and to become more fully human.

For many that is a grand mother or an important acquaintance.  Sometimes it is a brief encounter that sets the mind just so - to see well and clearly.  They help us to see wisely. They help us to see compassionately. These two are so important - in the triptych scroll here - Amida Buddha is supported by two Bhodisattvas - Seishi and Kannon. Wisdom and Compassion.  These are gifts a student experiences in relationship with a teacher.

When we start to think about our place in this great mystery of being, we are still mostly stuck in habituated patterns. Teachers help with that. We are limited in our perception in a world colored by old habits of thinking. We often benefit from a teacher, who, standing outside our world, can show us how to proceed. They challenge us to clarify our view and  give up what was not working for us.

In Shin Buddhism we don't put too much stress on this teacher-student relationship - In Shinran’s view we are all “Fellow Travelers on the path” - we are all “bonbunin”.  Embracing our limited nature with humor and acceptance.   Shinran saw that infatuation with the guru becomes an impediment to learning the Dharma and so valued everyone equally as a source of wisdom and compassion.  He did always referred to Honen as his teacher and referred to what he taught as a simple sharing of what he learned from Honen.  Shinran would be embarrassed that we call him the founder of our lineage, because all his insights and guidance came from his interaction with Honen Shonin.

What about our own spiritual teachers.  In my case spiritual teachers have been many, in early days I learned so much from my older brother - he’s 12 years older than me - so more of an uncle.  We camped and took weekend trips together - I asked questions and he was always active and engaged and kind. Answering every question in great detail.

My first Buddhist teacher was the Theravada monk Silvamsa at the Seema Malaka temple in Sri lanka.  That is a beautiful little temple in the middle of a lake in the city of Colombo.  He taught meditation and the Dharma. In my time studying with him I realized what it meant to be a Buddhist and took refuge for the first time.

Another important teacher of mine is Rev. Sam Wright he really put me back on a path to studying and teaching.  My favorite way of explaining the idea of non-self came on a canoe trip with Sam on Lake Tahoe.  As we watched little silver balls of water skitter across the surface of the lake. Each one thinking of itself as separate, but really being part of One Lake. Most of all my teachers are the Doctors Matsunaga - Daigon and Alicia.  Their kind attention and shining example is what I want to talk about today.

Alicia was a very wise woman. Not only smart, but wise. She got her masters and PHD from Claremont College. She taught at UCLA or 20 years - Japanese culture and history of Buddhism .  Her parents Henry and Alvira Orloff  retired in Reno. I think that's really how RBC - we - got here today. She came here to care for them and started the temple. Coming from UCLA this must have been quite a change,  Alicia only lived and taught here for nine years.  She was the temple master of Reno Buddhist Church - at that time.  Daigan was the temple master of Eikyoji in Hokkaido.   Weakened by cancer, Alicia passed away at the age of 66 from a heart attack on July 27, 1998.  

We heard Rev. Alicia’s voice and her way of thinking and teaching during the reading. It was about the Simsapa Sutra.  Where the Buddha counsels us to focus on one path and one goal - a joyful life and leave the other stuff for later when we have that sorted.   As we heard in the reading. Rev. Alicia was a very careful and precise person - you can hear that in her voice. She was very scholarly.  

Her last sermon was in the spring of 1998.  It was on Impermanence - Anicca in pali - the quality of change that characterizes everything in our conditioned universe of samsara.  Anicca means - changefulness.  The Buddha taught, life is like a river. A series of different moments, joining together to give the impression of one continuous flow. It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, the river looks like one continuous and unified thing. But in reality it isn’t. The river this morning is not the same as the river this afternoon. The river in this moment is not the same as the river of the next. And so flows life. It changes continuously, constantly becoming from moment to moment.  

In her Dharma talk, Alicia started by placing all kinds of medications and prescription bottles along the top of this rail here. “Look at all these pills!” she said.  “I take all of these to try to make it so things don’t change.”  But they do.  

If we don't understand the ephemeral nature of life we get attached to things and when they do fall away we suffer.   Not because they fall away, but because we cling to them as they fall.  She said “It is like falling off a horse.”  - She had done that many times in her youth-   If you try to stay on the horse and grasp at the saddle and hook your foot in the stirrup what happens?  Nothing good. Suffering, injury, maybe death.   If you accept the fall - accept the change - and look forward to what comes next you are better off.  Anicca- changefullness is the nature of all conditioned reality. Things come and go.  They become and they decay.  If we understand and adapt to this reality of life - we don’t suffer so much.

Unrealistic expectations of life are the cause of suffering. The Buddha called it ignorance.  We can do what we can, but need to accept reality.   When we consider our loved ones.  We fear their parting from us.   Even if we are just dating someone, we fear they will break-up with us. That can get so bad that they want to dump us just to get away from the crazy time.  If we can just see that we two are flowing through life with our own karma and we spend time together with each other according to that karma, when those causes and conditions are spent we wont be together any more.  That life we can live and love fully without any of the pain.

At Book group on Wednesday we discussed this. If we think of all the other humans as flowers instead of possessions, their beauty and transience is interdependent.   We love them so much more for the brief experience we have together.   What do you call a flower that never dies?   A cheap plastic flower.   I’ve seen them in the desert, someone has cast them off and they are just garbage.  But come upon a solitary lily growing in the desert and it is a most beautiful experience.  People are the same way - if we can see their changefulness as the essence of their beauty - we will feel joy. We treasure the moments together and never wait to share our love.

Alicia pointed out  another aspect of Anicca - impermanence - that unfortunate conditions or unpleasant circumstance - these too will change. The good stuff is wonderful because it is only with us for a short time, and the difficult things are bearable because they will only last a short time. I remember Alicia said “Things don’t stay the same --- It’ll will either get worse - or it will get better”.  And everyone laughed.

When things are difficult we remember the Persian proverb - “This too will pass” - it gives us some respite - a quantum of solace - to know it won’t be like this forever.  In this way too impermanence is our friend.

In Buddhism, impermanence is the number one inescapable - sometimes painful - fact of life. It is the singular existential problem that all Buddhist practice seeks to address. To understand impermanence at the deepest possible level, and to merge with it fully, is the whole of the path to joy. The Buddha’s final words express this: “Impermanence is inescapable. Everything vanishes. Therefore there is nothing more important than continuing on the path with diligence.”  

Appreciating Anicca we focus on what is important.  Alicia was dying, she was taking to heart an aspect of Buddhism she had taught many times before.  Finally, she quoted Rennyo Shonin...

“In view of these facts, it does not make sense to focus on the things we can not change? We cannot control the passing away of both young and old alike, but each of us can take refuge in the Buddha of Infinite Life who promises to embrace, without exception, all beings who simply bring to mind Amida Buddha - Namo Amida Butsu - This you can do here and now, freeing yourself of any worries concerning life.”

That’s all I can remember from her Dharma talk.  She’s still with us every day. Her character was very much that of Seishi Bhodisattva.  A wise teacher sharing the Dharma with all of us.

I’ve been sharing my teachers thoughts for a bit.  Lets take a moment and consider each one of you your own spiritual teachers -
Lets take a few deep breaths - naturally and easily, from deep down. Relax the tummy and let it rise and fall... And close our eyes to meditate on these questions….

  Who was there for you when deep questions of life first came? Bring them to mind, Look on the person, smile broadly and say “thank you”.

 • When you had built some sense of things - the way existence works - Who was there to challenge those habits of mind with questions and puzzles?      Bring them to mind, Look on the person, smile broadly and say “thank you”.

 • Who is your spiritual teacher now?  A relationship of sharing
and insight, challenge and compassion.

Bring them to mind, Look on the person, smile broadly
and say “thank you”.    

OK - open your eyes.  That was good to do.

I want to do some remembering of Daigon as well.   Daigon Matsunaga grew up in a Buddhist temple in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. His grandfather founded the “Temple of eternal light” - Eikyoji in 1900, and Daigon followed his father as the third temple master there.  He had a strong connection to the United States.  He learned english from cowboy movies as a boy. He was a great admirer of DT Suzuki and patterned his career after him.  Following Suzuki’s example, Matsunaga went to Claremont College and received a master's and doctorate degrees in theology.  He met Alicia there - she was a little ahead of him.

He taught cultural history and Buddhism at Cal State Northridge for 13 years. All along he knew that someday he would have to return to Japan as successor at the temple. He said "Fortunately my father lived a long time!"

Dr.  Matsunaga’s  personal goal was to ensure the future of American Buddhism.   Well sensei - I think you did it!
He and Alicia chose Reno to do that because it had a very small Asian population. He had seen the limitations of the ethnic temples in Southern California - where assimilation quickly pulls the young folks away. His Temple here was founded in a community of common seekers with a bond of faith in the Dharma.

We are his experiment at age 27.  After Alicia died Daigon visited us about four times a year. When he was in Japan, he would give his Dharma talks by Skype on a big 60” TV  that used to be here.  To pay the mortgage on this place he did fund raising in Japan.  Many Japanese people were very skeptical. They didn't really understand why he was so eager to bring the Buddhism to Reno. But they gave just the same.

He really thought of the US as his second home and he wanted to see American Buddhism grow.  The spirit of enlightenment enriches our culture and benefits everyone who lives here.

In 2009, I went to see him in Hokkaido at his temple.  He was dying then. We were only able to talk a few times a day for just an hour before he needed to rest.  The rest of the time I would walk in the snow or read.

My last conversations with Dr. Matsunaga were about RBC.  We talked about its progress from something like a dependent child - to semi-autonomous teenager - and finally a mature temple.  We talked about Amida Buddha - and the challenges of sharing the Dharma both in Reno and in Japan.  Here its hard to introduce so many new ideas. In Japan, it is so ingrained they seem to not ask questions.  

But mostly he told stories about his life and reflected on impermanence.  When he was a student in Kyoto, one of his professors, a very famous Buddhist Master - wrote many books - and one was entitled Flowers Fade and Scatter. We always wish that beautiful flowers will last forever. Carlis was very kind and offered flowers for the altar, and I’m sure he hopes that the beautiful flower will last for days, but unfortunately they don’t last.  I come here during the week and there are petals on the ground.  They scatter and fade away.  

Matsunaga talked about how the spirit of Buddha’s teaching has been depicted in different forms of statues, icons and carvings - a big variety of Buddha images have been created in 2600 of Buddhism.  We’ve all seen these different Buddhas and Bodhisattvas - sometimes its confusing there are so many - The one Dr. Matsunaga talked about that day was the Buddha Master of Medicine.  I assumed he came to this thought because of all the doctors in his life. He was only a couple months away from death and the colon and then liver cancer had made eating anything but liquid food impossible.

So he talked about why the Buddha is called Master of Medicine.  The teaching is very practical - very scientific in a way -  The Buddha’s method was to look at the pain and suffering of humankind -  really all sentient beings -  his approach to the problems was very logical.   He taught us to observe our situation with it’s pains - what is the nature of the pain we feel.  Longing, fear, illness - we face these difficulties in our lives.

The doctor has to diagnose a patient carefully - by observing and examining carefully, and skillfully.  Then a good doctor finds the cause of the problem.  What is the cause of our pain and suffering? Then a good doctor will prescribe the appropriate method of a treatment to heal the patient.  Any pain can be cured or healed. So the Buddha is a the Master of Medicine.  

We face not only physical pain and trouble, also spiritual difficulties.  Buddhist teaching is designed to localize the causes of our inward, spiritual pain and suffering. Then try to - without evading the issue - try to find the cause, and then to apply the best possible remedy or treatment - a Buddhist practice so that we will be able to liberate ourselves - free ourselves from that pain.  

That has been the traditional Buddhist teaching and approach taught for centuries. The reason we often find Buddha called Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha Master of Medicine.   When you see his statue, he sits cross legged with a jar of medicine in his hand.

Matsunaga wanted us to understand our situation.  The fundamental teaching of the Buddha is the fact that we have to live in this world filled with pains - large and small.  We all age, and we suffer from illness, and sooner or later, we all die.  Ageing, illness and death is an inconvenient reality for all of us.  
(Only a few of us want to age - right? - and they just went to Dharma school.)
None of us want to be ill.  None of us want to die.  But the fact of the matter is, we can’t escape from reality.  As a symptomatic remedy we look for permanence in life.  A job -  a relationship - to be famous maybe -  It is just a wish, contrary to the reality of life.  I don’t think Matsunaga wanted to sound pessimistic.  He never wanted us to have a pessimistic outlook on life.  But life is impermanent.  Our normal human wishful thinking wants things to last and be permanent. We want happiness last forever and our youth and health - last forever.  But that’s not the way it is.

Lets stop for a moment to think.  
What if none of us ever aged, and we’d stay young forever?  Or if none of us will ever got sick - just healthy forever.  Or what if none of us ever had to die?  - live forever!  The world would be a big mess!  Think about that.  
Our life is transitory, when our time comes we say farewell to this existence and move on to another birth, and another world of different dimension.  Our world is so transitory, and our life is not that long.

We have good reason to learn to appreciate every day of our lives.  If you think you are going to live forever - there is no reason to appreciate this day, this week, this month?  But because life is short, and we have what Matsunaga called “an inconvenient reality” hanging over us, we learn to cherish every moment.  

When we approach life with gratitude - we are happy and appreciate every moment.  It really is great that we are mortal.  And think about that, if no one ever died, the earth would be flooded with the humans -  total chaos would prevail -  Because our lives are brief we appreciate the little things.  We look in wonder at the little crocus flower under a cap of snow and we appreciate it.   It’s beautiful.   It’s poignant.  The birds singing in the morning outside the window.  We appreciate the beauty of those happy little creatures.

Many things we think are inconvenient, when examined carefully are not so inconvenient at all. They are really very, very important reminders for all of us to be grateful, and appreciate every moment of our life.  
He said he knew a lot of people who lived in a great, million dollar homes in So-Cal and Japan, but when you look inside their lives, often many of them lived very difficult, miserable lives.  He knew many people who lived in very simple homes, with lives full of joy and happiness.  

It’s all up to us, if we learn to appreciate every moment of our life, and what comes to us briefly.  We will have less disappointment and worry less about difficulties. We can turn it around and learn to appreciate those things, those seemingly difficult things in life.  Impermanence of our lives is the most inconvenient reality, but yet, because of impermanence, we seek out the teaching of the Buddha, and we decide we can take a step forward to follow the path to joy, ultimate liberation, and enlightenment.

Matsunaga sensei was a very kind man.  Always smiling and energetic. He always took time with people who came to the temple.  He wanted to share more time with us, but he returned to Amida Buddha’s Pure land on February 25th 2010.   He was very much like the Bodhisattva Kannon - Compassionate and giving.  Alicia reminds me of Seishi Bodhisattva - wise and clear.  Wisdom and Compassion from these dear teachers. When we look at the triptych up there Amida Buddha is flanked by wisdom and compassion. The Buddha is accessed or experienced through the actions  the two Bodhisattva's here in Samara.

Today I want to give our good wishes to these dear teachers - where ever they are, guiding sentient beings to the Dharma.  Please send your good wishes too - just repeat after me...

           May you be happy;

                     May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -

Deep Faith in Dharma 7feb16

posted Feb 8, 2016, 5:03 PM by Reno Budd

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to gather some thoughts and share them with you all. These are ideas I have been considering, if they are useful to you, that is good. If they cause you to bridle or clutch, that is OK too. Usually worth looking at. Every time we come together on Sunday is a big deal for me. Thank you.

Today we will talk about faith. Whenever we talk about this there are some who feel that faith has no place in Buddhism. If that is you - that is ok. But please bare with me as I work through my thoughts. I know some people have been burned before and might hesitate to open to faith. That is a mind-state that can heal and you can find faith again. Faith is important. It is essential.

What am I talking about - Faith?
Usually in churches of many traditions, faith is equivalent to “blind faith”. If humans are seen as inferior beings that can’t know or understand, they just need to accept the truth given. A blind trust - By means of scriptures, position of speaker, and tradition. We don’t mean it that way here. In the Kalama Sutra, the Buddha was very specific about this -

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor surmise; nor an axiom; nor specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.'
Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are avoided by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them.
And ...when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are blameless; these things are done by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to joy and freedom from suffering,' do them.

Your own experience of faith is the only touchstone.

In Buddhism faith is aware. It is seeking and it is supported by experience. The word the Buddha spoke was Saddha . I’ll translate it as faith, or Confidence or maybe Conviction. He taught that it is one of the Five Spiritual faculties - what are those five...
  1. Faith/Conviction (saddha) - controls doubt
  2. Energy/Effort/Persistence (viriya) – controls laziness
  3. Mindfulness (sati); - controls heedlessness - gives clarity
  4. Concentration (samādhi) - guards against distractions
  5. Wisdom/Discernment (prajña) –ultimately eliminates ignorance. FROM THE AKSHAYAMATI SUTRA
There is a kind of process described here by the list....
When we have come in contact with the Dharma and have weighed it against our experiences and come to a measure of faith, this energizes us. Like looking for a lost treasure at home - You have the feeling that you are Confident it is here somewhere [that’s faith]. When you find it you have a burst of energy - yes! - I got it. This energy in turn propels us toward mindfulness - like turning on a light in the room - you can’t do it without energy. This Mindfulness leads to concentration - a heightened ability to stay focused and free of distractions. Confident, Energized, Aware and Focused true wisdom comes. These are the five spiritual faculties - Faith - Energy -Mindfulness - Concentration - Wisdom.

Today we’ll look closely at Faith. Another time we can explore the other faculties.

At the beginning of the service we take refuge. Really - all Buddhists start by taking refuge. What do we take refuge in?  The Buddha, The Dharma, and the Sangha. Taking refuge is an act of faith, confident aware resolute. You can’t take refuge in something you don’t trust.  So this Faith is confidence in the Buddha, the Dharma and the sangha.

Confidence in the Buddha - 
We have confidence in the Buddha as a real enlightened teacher. We have confidence that he taught about Amida Buddha [in the about one hundred different sutras]. We have confidence in the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha - that the wisdom and compassion of the universe is there for us. This is faith in Buddha Nature - our true nature - in all of us and all things. Faith that our true nature - is eternal, joyous, selfless, and pure.

Confidence in the Dharma - 
The teaching of the Buddhas of how the universe works: The basic principles of karma and rebirth - the interdependent co-arising of all things.
Dharma is also the Buddha’s various methods of reaching unconditioned peace, happiness, and joy. Ways of becoming truly human. They are Effective methods. Dharma is not conceptual or hypothetical - it is an experience. ‘Come see for yourself” as the Buddha said to the Kalamas.

We have confidence in the Sutras - they are the teachings of the Buddha. 84,000 volumes of dharma talks like this one. Spanning the 45 teaching years of the Buddha’s life.

This is an Ancient heritage that is relevant now. It was relevant in Shinran’s time 750 yrs ago, it was relevant 2600 yrs ago when the Buddha traveled and taught. This is something we can have confidence in - we can have faith in the Dharma.

Confidence in the Sangha -
A community where we are accepted nurtured and supported on our spiritual journey. We see in the sangha compassion, peace, caring, independence. We are all part of that. We often show each other that we are trustworthy - the sangha is trustworthy. And this gives rise to deep confidence, faith in the sangha. When Dr. Matsunaga died six years ago, we gathered together and took refuge in the sangha. When we looked into each others faces we knew that one way or another RBC would continue and be a positive place in our community.

Taking refuge is made possible by faith. This Confident faith is a force, a strength, and a power inside you - we say it is a spiritual ability or faculty. We can develop it.

It is important to remember that knowledge is not enough - to have confident faith. Professor John Holt - my advisor in college - was a religion professor and had lots of knowledge about Buddhism. He was very sympathetic and he had an affinity to Buddhism, but he had no faith in the Dharma. He was content with his Lutheran upbringing and the values it taught; he them taught to his children. When I studied Buddhism in his classes I was changed by the experience. I had that feeling of bright energy that comes - The experience of the Dharma was like “This is really something special.”

Faith comes in stages - there is an initial spark awakened inside us when we come to Buddhism. The impulse toward understanding and joy. Like a first taste of brownies - you take a bit - you experience the brownie - and you think - this is good. I could eat this. This can sustain me. And then over time we continue our studies. Different recipes, different ingredients, choco chips, no choco chips. white chocolate chips, gooey, crispy ….what were we talking about?

Over time - Deeper understanding and deeper confidence. It feels so true. This is when deep faith develops. From long experience.

At the new member dinner last weekend we went around the circle and shared our path. And though everyone’s experience was unique, the common thread was that Buddhism made sense and was worth diving deeper. That is that initial taste - that awakening of faith and confidence in the teaching in our life. Then we deepen that faith though experience and study and natural absorption that happens over time. The Buddha Dharma and Sangha.

Why is this worth having, this faith. We live our lives in varying states of worry. the Buddha called it Dukkha, wonkyness is the literal translation. Like a shopping cart wheel that is just not right - it goes wobba-wobba-wobba. It is very annoying.

We want things we can’t have, we lose things we want. This clinging to things and people and ideas is never satisfying. It may be briefly pleasurable -- but not satisfying. So we fear the loss. And we react by imposing control. We grab tighter. We we use anger to control, we use all manner of calculation to avoid losing what we cling to. We just keep banging our heads against the same challenge.

We try really hard to control things. At work if we are a manager or on the line, we try our best to control. But does it give us peace of mind? If everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing - then you can relax. But do you? When business is going good, you can relax. But do you? When we are getting what I want, we can relax. But we don’t.

As a species we are all about control. We are this way about our mind and our bodies - judging, controlling. Even more so in relationships, we try to control.

But any feeling of control, is brief. With this grasping for control come the feelings of frustration, fear and anger. Our sense of security is challenged. Our sense of self is challenged. This is how we live. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit, but it’s the truth. The Dharma.

The Buddha saw that we are not happy. He saw that we are not happy because we want and want and want. He saw that we can stop the wanting and joys flow in.

What can we do? The grasping is the result of being attached to a specific outcome - that we are sure is best for us. As if we always know what’s best for us?

When we have faith and let go - When we trust that we are okay no matter what comes our way, we don’t need to control the universe. We let go. And we open ourselves to all sorts of wonderful possibilities that aren’t there when we’re attached to one narrow path.
The energy we get from faith accomplishes much more than the energy of doubt. When we are doubting or afraid, our vision narrows, breath is shallow, and heart rate jumps. Our monkey mind jumps from thought to thought and from past to future very quickly. Our concentration is gone, memory gets foggy, and we have almost no awareness of this present moment. The present moment is important! that's when life happens.

When we have faith, were calm and peaceful. Our breathing is deep, we are present in this moment. We see clearly and our vision extends all around, we literally see the bigger picture. Gratitude washes over us.

It’s like the Chinese finger trap - when we try to control things we actually feels more constrained - less in control. We pull against the trap and it hold us tighter.

When we have faith, we take refuge and stop trying to make what we want happen. We stop pulling against the universe and the natural flow of things. Stop calculating and resisting and pushing against reality.

We have Faith that all is well, even without my input. Maybe more so without my clever trying. Natural, accepting life is peaceful. Joyful.
This is not inaction - it’s aware, present, accepting of the natural flow of life. there’s a famous Einstein quote…
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we  live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

The Buddha teaches we live in a friendly universe. He taught us how to be receptive and allow things to happen. This faith in the Wisdom and Compassion of the universe is a faculty we can practice and deepen. Amida Buddha made a great vow - to bring all beings to realization of oneness in his pure land. The Wisdom and compassion of this friendly universe is supporting us at every turn - we don’t have to worry over the details all the time. In Buddhism there are many paths - We can always choose to do things the easy way or the hard way. We can muscle through trying to purify ourselves and teach ourselves and enlighten our selves, or we can let go of the trying - and gently remove our fingers from the trap.

What I am saying is - relax - it’s all out of control! Accept that. It’s the truth. We make tiny inputs, but really its all just happening - inter-dependently co-arising with everything else. Faith is letting go of control. No fear. No control. No worry. The Buddha leads us toward Joy. And joy comes when we have deep faith in the wisdom and compassion of the universe. Not when we have control, when we have faith. This Faith leads to acceptance, openness, compassion, gratitude. It leads to Wisdom. No fear. no control. no worry.

Faith is really good stuff - its useful and valuable and maybe essential to a happy life. So how do I get some of that? In the reading Matt shared with us we heard about faith in the story of Shinran and his teacher Honen - this person here.
Just to re-cap the story - There was a running argument between Shinran and the other students of Honen. Shinran would claim, "my faith in Amida Buddha and Honen's faith in Amida Buddha are identical". The other students would strongly counter saying, "How can you claim that our master's faith and your faith are identical! You have only been studying with Honen for a few years". To this Shinran replied, "Our master's wisdom and knowledge are truly profound and to say that our understanding of Amida are identical is preposterous. But as far as faith in Amida Buddha, leading to birth in the Pure Land is concerned, no difference exists at all. Both are the same." They we quite enraged by this statement. They challenged him, "How can that be possible?"

They finally decided to settle the argument once and for all by asking their teacher Honen. When Honen listened to the two views, he said, "The deep faith of Honen is a gift granted by the Buddha, and the deep faith of Shinran is also a gift from the Buddha. They are the same. “

What Shinran saw and Honen supported was that faith is not ours. It is part of the wisdom and compassion of the universe. When it comes to us it is the karma of the Buddha bearing fruit, not our own.
Faith is not countable or dividable. Just like life - is the life in me the same as the life in you? What do you think. Is the livingness in me different from the livingness in you. I can’t see a way they are different.
Or the candle flame here - from one candle to another from one source. The same flame in different places. The faith in my heart and the faith in your heart? The same from one source - Amida- the infinite compassion and infinite wisdom of the universe.

In Conclusion - The Buddha saw that we are not happy. He saw that we are not happy because we want and want and want. He saw that we can stop the wanting and joy flows in. He taught a way to let go of wanting. Of abiding in gratitude. This abiding peace that the Buddha offers is so close to us. We start by having faith in the teaching. Ultimately faith in the goodness of the universe - Amida Buddha.

The old word for this faith is Shinjin - true entrusting - knowing there is something profound and meaningful here - an inspiration that gives you energy. The energy propels you forward on your spiritual path of greater understating. The process continues, more faith more energy, deepening and affirming. That is why we continue to study and experience the Dharma. We deepen faith through our own experiences in life. Our faith in karma, rebirth, and non-self develops. Interdependent co-arising starts to make sense to us and faith deepens.
Taking refuge requires faith -- If its raining, and I take refuge under an awning, if it leaks I move on. If it provides true shelter and I experience that, I truly take refuge. Initial faith, ultimately deep faith.

Practically in our everyday life - Faith protects us from fear. Fear is the thing that stops us from living life. Something eventually goes wrong - a failure - then what we fear comes - blame, criticism, loss. That always happens. It’s Ok if something goes wrong - its a wonderful mess. Everyday of your life is a big wonderful spontaneous mess! Embrace the wonder of that - the miracle of that. We look at the future with hope - this creates a reality. The Buddha specifically taught that our mindset creates reality. Look to the future with Faith and you let go of wanting, to let go of controlling. Let go of fear and embrace joy.

Faith doesn't come from us. We don't make it. It is part of the universe like. My faith, your faith, Shinran’s faith - its all the same thing.

Please share my faith in the Bodhisattva’s deep wish to all of you. Please say it too - just repeat after me...

You will be happy;

you will be free from harm:

you will receive boundless compassion;

And peace and harmony will fill your heart
- Namu Amida Butsu Namu Amida Butsu Namu Amida Butsu -


Reading for 7 feb 16

From the Epilogue to the TANNISHO

By Yui-en-Bo student of Shinran Shonin

According to our late master Shinran, it was the same at the time of his teacher, Honen. Among his disciples, there were only a few people who truly entrusted themselves to Amida. There was once a debate between Shinran and fellow disciples. Shinran claimed, "my entrusting and Honen's entrusting are identical," Seikan, Nenbutsu, and others strongly refuted this, saying, "How can you claim that our master's faith and your faith are identical!" To this Shinran replied, "Our master's wisdom and knowledge are truly profound and to say that our understanding of Amida are identical is preposterous. But as far as true entrusting, leading to birth in the Pure Land is concerned, no difference exists at all. Both are the same." Still they continued to press Shinran, challenging him by saying, "How can that be possible?"

They finally decided to settle the argument once and for all by going to Honen, relating the details. When Honen listened to their differning views, he said, "The true entrusting of Honen is a gift granted by the Buddha, and the true entrusting of Shinran is also a gift from the Buddha. Thus, they are the same. People whose entrusting is different will probably not go to the same Pure Land as I"

[Yui-en-bo contunues] ...Since my life, like a dew drop, still hangs onto this body which may be likened to withered grass, I am able to hear the doubts of my fellow practicers and tell them what I have learned from my teacher. But I fear and lament that after my eyes close and life comes to an end, there may arise confusion because of different interpretations. When you are confused by different views, such as the above, you should carefully read the scriptures recommended and used by our late master...

The master constantly said, "When I consider the compassionate Vow of Amida, established through five kalpas of profound thought, it was for myself, Shinran, alone. Because I am a being burdened so heavily with evil karma, I feel even more deeply grateful to the Primal Vow which is made to decisively save me"...

In reality, all of us, including myself, talk about what is good and evil without thinking of the Buddha’s compassion. Our master once said, "I do not know what the two, good and evil, really mean. I could say that I know what good is, if I knew good as thoroughly and completely as a Buddha. And I could say I know what evil is, if I knew evil as thoroughly and completely as a Buddha. But in this impermanent world, like a burning house, all things are empty and vain, therefore, untrue. Only trusting in Amida Buddha is true, real, and sincere….

In tears I have dipped my brush in ink and have written this in the hope that conflicting views of true entrusting will not prevail among fellow practicers of nembutsu gathered together in a single room. [signed] Yui-en Bo 10th year of Kōan era, 9th month

What does Karma mean?- 24jan16

posted Feb 8, 2016, 4:59 PM by Reno Budd

Good morning friends. It is good to be together again. Two weeks passes so quickly. So much happens. Olivia and Tan had their baby! Alexander Mai 5lbs 8oz 17in. Yeah! Mother and baby are doing fine.

Welcome again to visitors and new friends. It is good to come together and consider the Dharma.

So - How did you do on the homework from last time? We talked about non-harming and we were going to try to gently shade our thoughts, words and actions away from harming - toward harming less. Not harmless - just harming a little less. How did we do? Some people remembered - some people tried. That is good.

Today we will talk about Karma. What it is this Law of karma we speak of?
About the kinds of karma we may create - Good or Bad? We will consider what Shinran meant when he said that Evil Karma can be transformed into Good - he described a process of transformation by the karma of the Buddha - “The Ice of our delusions transforms into the water of enlightenment.”

Karma means Action - Now I’m back to explaining a word from an ancient language. Karma is a Sanskrit word. It comes from the same root as our word Create - Kri - which means to order or to do.

Karma means Action - your karma are your actions, your intentional actions. When we make things a certain way. The fruits of your actions are the effects of those actions on your life.
The Buddha taught on karma often and understanding Karma is very important to spiritual growth. Karma is, like everything, in constant flux and change. We create our own present and future by the choices we make in each moment. This is a just right understanding. The Buddha’s teaching of karma empowers us to become the drivers in the unfolding of our lives

There are other views - Sometimes we hear people saying “That was his karma” when referring to a punishment for someone’s bad actions in the past. In other world views - like Jainism - karma is like that, seen as an explanation of bad events. If something happens to someone - they deserve it. Really close to Fate or Predetermination. But not in Buddhism.

Sometimes we hear karma used to mean justice or punishment. The old phrase - “time wounds all heels”. Some idea that the universe has a balancing agent that metes out punishment. We’d like to think the universe is just, but that is a fanciful idea. Not found in Buddhism.

The Buddha came from that way of thinking and moved into the effective and healing understanding that he taught. Karma refers to your Intentional Action in the present, the Fruits of these actions - Fruits of Karma happen later. The causes are the actions and the results are the fruit.

In the Devadaha Sutra the Buddha discussed these common misunderstandings of karma. In his time people concluded from his talks that Karma was something like this. …

"Karma is a basic principle that governs human conduct. It declares that our present experience of pleasure or pain is the result of our past conduct and that our present conduct will condition our future experience."

In the sutra he shows this is a misunderstanding. It does not accurately describe his teaching on karma, and is instead a fairly accurate account of the Jain tradition’s teaching. The Buddha actually ridicules this view. The Buddha explains that the present experience of pleasure and pain...
is a combined result of both past and present actions….
a combined result of both past and present actions.

This is very important because it acknowledges our free will and the possibility of putting an end to suffering before the effects of all past actions have...ripened.

This addition of “combined result of both past and present actions” is what makes Buddhist practice possible and effective our life. If the cause of my present difficulties is located only in the past, I can’t do anything in the present moment to stop that suffering. But that cause is not only in the past. The sutra explains that I can effect my experience in the present and change where I am going. The Buddha’s teaching on karma recognizes we have some power to drive the unfolding of our lives.

We learned from Dr. Matsunaga, that in life there are three categories of causes 1) objective conditions, 2) personal karma, and 3) Buddha’s karma. If someone experiences a painful circumstance - they crash their car - objective conditions point to myriad circumstances that contributed to the accident. I want to make this clear - We do not think most events are caused by personal karma? It is not your fault.

The victim’s personal karmic actions did not cause the accident, because by definition personal karma refers to how each of us responds to a situation on a spiritual level. The Personal karma aspect in this example is how the person responded to the accident emotionally and the kind of spiritual insight gained through the experience, despite the difficulties and pain of the situation. Maybe because of the difficulties and pain of the situation. Personal karma are actions in the spiritual part of our lives. This usually has to do with how we treat ourselves and others.

“Karma” means “action”
Actions take three forms: actions of the body, speech, and mind. What we think, what we say, and what we do; primarily in the spiritual context.

It is empowering to realize that we can affect the course of our spiritual lives. This is clearly different from ideas of predetermined fate or Divine Will that explain away the same events. Always remember, karma is applied primarily to our self (first person). It is not a way to judge others (third person), especially to explain why some people find themselves in unfortunate conditions. In Buddhism, Karma has a very special usage. It is the cause and effect in our spiritual efforts to follow a path toward understanding - clarity - enlightenment . A positive cause (=karma) leads to a positive result. A negative cause (karma) leads to negative result. The pail words associated with karma are “skillful” and “unskillful”.

When we reflect on our actions - Karma - we are considering causality in our lives. Karma is a fundamental part of the Buddha’s teaching because our actions are causes of our mind state. Ultimately our actions determine if we suffer or are joyful. Buddhism is really a study in these causes.
Why do I say that?

The Buddha realized that life is fundamentally joyful. But that most sentient beings do not experience it that way. He looked for the causes of joy in life. And the causes of our suffering. The Buddha’s great quest and the 48 vows are focused on creating a cause for abiding joy in the lives of all sentient beings. We realize that everything is the result of a chain of causes and effects. We see all things and all beings as events rather than objects. We are all Inter-dependently-co-arising through time and space. When we feel separate from anything it is really a misunderstanding in a sea of interconnectedness. The I-me-me-my we feel inside is a little misunderstanding in a vast sea of interconnectedness. We live in a sea of inter-being as the teacher Thic Nat Han describes it. Because of this we need to look at the causes of our aloneness.

That is why we focus on what causes what? It is not just an exercise. It is very practical - We focus on causes because - A condition with a cause can be ended when the cause is removed. This is true of suffering. Suffering can be ended - joy flows in. This is the third noble truth.

I feel like we are getting closer our question - What is Karma? We often talk about different kinds of karma - What is good karma? and What is bad karma?

Positive karma is any thought and its expression in words and bodily action that are in accord with the Buddha’s teachings and lead toward enlightenment. The Buddha used the word skillful - for what we might call “good” karma But it's been translated in many ways.

In the - Sevi-tabba Asevi-tabba sutra,
the “Things that should and should not be practiced” sutra.

The disciple Sariputra asks the Buddha to clarify what actions are skillful and what actions are unskillful. Buddha describes 10 skillful and 10 unskillful actions that affect our path toward experiencing reality-as-it-is -

Skillful actions are these:

Giving, Morality, Mental culture, Reverence or respect, Service in helping others, Sharing merits with others, Rejoicing in the merits of others, Teaching the Dharma, Listening to the Dhamma, Straightening one's views.

The unskillful acts are...

Killing of beings, Stealing, misusing sexuality, Lying , Slander, Harsh speech, Frivolous and meaningless talk , Covetousness, Ill-will, Wrong view - in relation to others, denying generosity or denying mother and father

If these are the groupings of good and bad karma - how do they affect us? How does karma work?
The Buddha taught that it works on our habit of mind - our tendencies. If we habituate positive actions, they become common in our experience. If we habituate bad actions, we get used to them and they dominate our lives. When we talked about Ahimsa last time - non-harming- we could see that moving our thinking, speaking, and acting away from harming would transform our lives in the joyful direction. There are pathways in the mind, if they get used a lot they get easy quick and common. Karma operates through its effect on our consciousness. Cultivating skillful actions of body speech and mind results in our having those thoughts more often, we say skillful things [or maybe just don't say things] more often and we act in useful skillful ways more often.

For example, we take the first one on the Buddha’s list of skillful actions - Giving - we say Dana. This is the first practice in Buddhism. What is Dana?

Dana is generosity, giving. The action of giving. We give to the temple to support the three treasures. Most of the time people make monetary offerings in support of the teachings. Sometimes people give their time and skills to maintain or create our Dharma refuge here.

At 3pm Saturday before a Sunday service members come and help prepare the temple for the service. This is a big job. We sweep, vacuum, straighten chairs, setup everything in Hiroma hall, and generally get the old girl ready. This is a great opportunity to cultivate good karma. And we have a chronic problem with low attendance. Yesterday this was done by 4-5 people. If you can mark it on your calendar and make it a habit.

The big project we are working on now is the Solar Array for the temple roof. Everyone was generous and giving to make that happen. It is taking a while to finish due to the winter - but in the spring we’ll finish it. the PUC has muddied the waters, but we will finish.

Please understand that Dana is not payment for goods or services; it is freely giving from the heart without expectation. We say selfless giving. Your generosity is a gift that supports not just the Center, but also the Sangha, the larger Dharma community, and your own practice. Buddhism exists in the world because of the dana of millions of people over 2600 years. [ It's been awhile since I pointed out that there are Dana boxes by the doors in the hondo and downstairs as well. That is where people give their dana.]

Dana is a skillful action - Good karma - The practice of dana orients our minds in the direction of the Buddha. When we give we are less selfish and begin to understand the third noble truth - take away clinging and we are joyful. So that is positive karma - a positive action. It's not easy or natural at first because it is a new habit, with just right effort it becomes normal.

Bad karma, on the other hand, goes against this and turns us away from the Dharma. Of course, these actions are carried out in the arena of our everyday life, but they have significant spiritual effects. They are our personal karma. They become habits and troubles we carry with us. The unresolved thoughts and actions that chew away at us on a very deep level.

Positive actions have positive results. This makes sense.

A positive result is being closer to seeing clearly our interconnectedness - enlightenment. This means to experience in life with a greater joy, serenity, gratitude and concern for all beings. But what can we do about the unskillful actions?

Can Evil Karma be transformed into Good karma?

Remember there was a third category of karma Dr. Matsunaga taught...
1] Objective Condition, 2] Personal Karma, 3] and Buddha’s karma.
Amida Buddha is infinite compassion and infinite wisdom in the universe. Amida Buddha made 48 vows to reach out to all those simple folk who are unlikely to reach Buddhahood on their own. He dedicated the merit of his many kalpas of strenuous practice to this end. This is the great store of Buddha’s karma in the universe. It is a transformational energy.

We have all had the experience of doing something and it feels later that we regret or wish we could take back - This is the application of wisdom. At the time it seemed the thing to do - “He crossed me so I slugged him” as the school yard story goes. But with reflection. With the application of wisdom and compassion even a grave error can be a source of growth and transformation. This is the Buddha’s karma bearing fruit.

This effect is very important in our Mahayana teaching, and particularly in the Pure Land path of Shin Buddhism. Shinran Shonin observed that as a foolish ego-centered being [Bombunin], he - or I can say we - are not able to effectively practice positive personal karma. We just sort of bumble along. Like the first individual in the Lonaphala Sutra Cathy read. An unskillful person who does a small unskillful act can have large effects. It seems we are traveling on thin ice as it is. Without tremendous personal strengths and a perfect spiritual environment to live in, positive personal karma is really impossible for us. This insight about his spiritual limitations came to Shinran through twenty years of practice and struggle as a Buddhist monk.

In desperation, he left the monastery to seek guidance from the Bodhisattva Kannon. [right here] In a dream she directed Shinran to the teacher Honen, who helped him to awaken to the Buddha’s karma, expressed in Shin Buddhism as “the karmic power of the great vow” of Amida Buddha.

I often tell the ocean parable in the Newcomers circle - The story of a sailor fallen overboard in the sea - After almost drowning - He awakens to the futility of struggling in the middle of an ocean. Instead, he lets go of his frantic efforts to keep afloat by his own power and lies back - facing the stars - completely relaxed. To his wonderful surprise, he finds himself floating and supported by the ocean. When he first fell in - the ocean was his enemy and he fought against it - but with wisdom he awakened to the compassion of the ocean - the stormy sea is transformed into a supporting friend. The sailor switched from a futility of relying on personal karma perspective to taking refuge in the awesome power of the ocean of Amida Buddha’s karma.

This idea of easing-off on the “I-me-me-my” power and deeply hearing-feeling-sensing - that there is something bigger out there - this idea is central to Shin Buddhism. It is expressed in our most important sutra, the Larger Sutra. In the sutra Sakyamuni taught us that Amida Buddha’s Vow’s to aid all beings were taken long, long ago. It speaks to the existence of spiritual help beyond the limited self. Available to us if our ears and minds are opened to this karmic power of the Buddha. We are freed from the grip of Mara when as we turn to Other Power we feel all around us. Other Power is a word for Amida’s compassionate actions - his karma in the world.

When we reconsider and reflect and think better of an action we are expressing the wisdom and compassion of the universe. The Buddha’s karma and personal karma come together because we all have Buddha nature. It is inside us. We have this inside us, we need to Simply Trust to let it take us onward.

Unskillful karma can be transformed into Skillful Karma by the Other Power of wisdom and compassion. That is to say, I alone cannot effect such a change. It happens naturally when I completely trust in Amida Buddha - when I completely trust in the wisdom and compassion of the universe. Quoting Shinran...

Through the benefit bestowed by unhindered light,

One realizes the shinjin of vast transcendent virtues:

Unfailingly the ice of blind passions melts

And immediately becomes the water of enlightenment.

Obstructing evils have become the substance of virtues;

It is like the relation of ice and water:

The more ice, the more water;

The more hindrances, the more virtues.

Shinran is showing that we are ok just as we are. Worts and all. Regrets and sorrows and bad judgement - they are transformed when we give up our separate ego mind and simply trust in the universe. It is a deep and quite trust that expands in all directions.

So that is karma.
As Bonbunin we bumble along, we try our best to act in good conscience and kindness. Most times we fail. When we do we are redeemed by taking refuge in the greater goodness of Amida Buddha. Karma really applies to ourself in positive reflection and meditation. It is not like fate, predestination or retribution. Karma means action of thought, speech, and body. Karma really has much more to do with the present and the future than the past.

Buddha’s karma is available to those who come to realize the futility of perfecting our goofy selves. The Buddha’s karma is none other than Amida’s Compassion or Vow-power.

Lets share in Amida Buddha’s deep wish for all beings -

May you be happy;

May you be free from harm:

May you receive boundless compassion;

And may peace and harmony fill your heart
--- Namandabs - Namandabs - Namandabs ---

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