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]
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.