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.
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.”