What does Karma mean?
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 ---
Ahimsa Non-harming in Buddhism
Welcome everyone. So good to be back. Our New Year's service was quite wonderful. We had so many guests and generous donations of food and offering of song, drumming and deep thoughts on compassion. We are so very grateful to all who participated. About 175 people packed this hondo! All faiths all kinds of drums. It really felt like a joyful expression of Indra’s sparkling web.
Todays talk is on non-harming. The Buddha called this Ahimsa.
What did the Buddha mean when he taught Ahimsa?
Usually I try to avoid using the ancient words for Buddhist concepts. I try to bring things into the 21st century. But today maybe we’ll try thinking about the word Ahimsa and its deeper meaning. In sanskrit a-himsa means not+himsa. Himsa = Harm injury or violence. The Sanskrit root hims, meaning to strike. We begin with the idea of non-injury. In some ways it literally means not hitting. It doesn't contain an sense of the victim of violence in it. Even acting out violently against a tree or a flower pot or a wall is included in actions to be avoided.
There is profound spiritual damage done by violence - it inflicts deep karmic scars on the perpetrator. The word Harm in english is rooted in “degradation, insult, pain, grief and sorrow”. Ahimsa, is a Buddhist teaching of non-violence toward all living beings. Ahimsa encourages compassion for all life, human and non-human. It also acknowledges the “degradation, insult, pain, grief and sorrow” that happens to the perpetrator as well as the victim. We cannot harm another without being spiritually harmed ourselves.
In the time of the Buddha grand animal sacrifices were common. He saw this destruction in the name of religion as an obscene abomination. In many sutras he systematically criticises these large scale sacrifices and advocates for harmlessness.
But his teaching against harm has deeper aspects. Many times in his discourses the Buddha speaks of four kinds of people – those who (1) harm themselves, (2) harm others, (3) harm both self and others and (4) who do not harm anyone.
We have all met people who fall in these categories. The first group may inflict harm because of self loathing or as some kind of misguided attempt to purify themselves. The second group are those that externalize their rage and lack the ability to see the interconnectedness of all beings. The third group includes those who damage themselves and others. Most of us fall in this category. Because of ignorance and misunderstanding of the law of karma we lash out like a bull in a china shop - without care for the harm we do. The Buddha counsels us against being part of these three groups because it causes lasting damage. The last group, who do no harm to themselves or others, he admires. They are those who follow a way of compassion like the Buddha himself taught create a habit of non-harming.
Many important people who were not Buddhists have considered this idea of Ahimsa as a high virtue - everyone from Gandhi to Tolstoy.
The Mahatma explained…
"Ahimsa means not to injure any creature by thought, word or deed, not even to the supposed advantage of this creature."
"[Ahimsa] is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."
"Truth is my religion and Ahimsa is the only way of its realisation."
Thomas Edison thought that Ahimsa "leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." And Leo Tolstoy who said “Violence produces only something resembling justice, but it distances people from the possibility of living justly, without violence.”
The idea of “living justly, without violence” that is Ahimsa - and that is what we seek to cultivate.
Buddha taught that our thoughts manifest in our speech; Our speech manifests in our actions; Our actions develop into habits; And habits hardens into our character. The easy place to effect this chain is to watch our thoughts and with care, and let them generate from love and concern for all beings.
If we hold thoughts of harm - or harm-full thoughts - If harmful thoughts exist within me, then pathways leading to harmful words, deeds, and habits also exist, and it’s a very slippery slope. As we learned in the Buddha’s Brain thoughts and experiences literally transform the brain on a neurological level. Patterning and considering harmless thoughts create new pathways or strengthen existing ones for kindness in our brains. For people who think that chanting and mantras are for the pink-tofu-mumbo-jumbo Hippy-dippy crowd - think again - and again - and again. It can create a good habit. Chanting and mantra are effective tools of mind to pattern wholesome actions and habits of mind. They transform our thoughts, speech, actions, and ultimately the world. Meditation on Ahimsa, as Gandhi said is the “greatest force at the disposal of mankind.”
The Ahimsa meditation that we often share to exclude harmful and violent thoughts is the Metta practice. The Loving Kindness practice...
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be well.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be free from suffering
We say “May All beings.”
That includes yourself, your dear ones, strangers on the street, the worm in the apple, and the trees along Plumas street.
“Happy” and “well” and “safe”.
These most basic, inalienable rights of all beings, we too often wish only for those in the human realm.
If all beings everywhere are happy and safe, then violence and harm would not exist - there would be no place, no reason to exist.
Opportunities for Ahimsa are subtle and ever present. Ahimsa can be as easy as sharing a ride to work instead of going alone. Ahimsa is looking in the mirror and thinking “you’re lookin good today”. Ahimsa is as easy as remembering that all beings everywhere have the right to be happy and safe from harm. Cultivating Ahimsa requires mindfulness. Ahimsa grows into reality when we start to think that way.
How can we live in the most non-harming way possible. How do we keep the idea of the middle way in harmony with non-harming.
All sentient beings and even celestial bodies live the same way - by causing harm to others. We lean on them for food, shelter, and energy of life. Everyday beings are bumping into other beings, smashing them, killing them, eating them, drinking them, wearing and using them, walking and lying on them, destroying their homes. There is no real boundary to this karmic responsibility - Shinran called it the crushing weight of evil karma - it radiates through every jewel in the interdependent fabric of Indra's net. We are not advocating being perfect. We are teaching mindfulness and harm a little bit less -ness.
The Sakyamuni Buddha was a most compassionate person - but he wore a robe [made from cotton], ate from a bowl [made from a tree] , and unintentionally crushed the life out of many grasses, flowers, and insects as he walked from place to place and sat and taught the Dharma from his many lotus seats. He asked that animals not be killed on his behalf but ate meat when it was served at a lay person's home out of graciousness to the host. Through his awareness and compassion, he took responsibility for these costs and redeemed them.
We can do the same. We use our precious human life to acknowledge and repay the kindness and the sacrifice of all beings who have willingly or unwillingly surrendered their lives so that we may live. The Buddha is encouraging us to Harm Less.
I was a vegetarian for many years. When I first came into a first awareness of the frightful suffering of our meat animals, being a vegetarian made sense. [I came upon the slaughter of a lamb in a meat-market in Sri Lanka.] Over time though I resumed eating meat - out of compassion for family and friends - I take my responsibility for the suffering of beings that feed me, this arouses a compassionate heart and loving mind every time I receive their gifts..
When we say - Itadakimasu before eating - it is out of respect for all living things. Before the meal, itadakimasu is said as a thanks to the plants and animals that gave their lives for the meal we’re about to eat. It also gives thanks all those involved, from the rancher/farmer to the one who prepared of the meal. We mitigate in some way the harm done by acknowledging and accepting this harming aspect of our being.
Indras web of interconnections makes us careful and sensitive to avoid harm, but it’s closeness also makes this harming inevitable. What can we do? If harming is a natural part of living and we are living out the results of countless actions in the past. If we remember that our actions are infinitely reflected in Indra’s web we can gain a measure of control from that awareness.
The Buddha shows us that through mindfulness we can always moderate our thoughts, speech and actions. When we think on something we don’t like, we can curb any harmful thoughts that arise. If we don’t like someone, we can de-energize the pathway of hurtful thoughts. When we speak we can avoid harsh judgements and attribute kind motives even to those we oppose. We can use words that lessen the hold of harming - remove the habit of harming. Even in our actions we can calm and moderate our movements and avoid abrupt and harmful actions. This habituates us to Ahimsa.
Lets try a thought exercise together - Remember ahimsa is the removal of harm and violence from our mind and body. Here are two ways we can challenge ourselves to remove that violence and be loving kindness.
Ahimsa in the mind: it begins here.
The mind is our the most powerful tool. Everything begins here. If we plant a seed of negativity, of self-harm, that seed can grow. Soon we look in the mirror and critique ourselves, and rather than celebrating our the gifts. We cut ourselves down for not being the good looking, smart, super fit, or whatever story you’re mind is telling. So for today, observe your thoughts. Recognize that thoughts lead to actions, and in order to remove violence in our everyday life, we have to remove it from starting point - the mind. Plant the thought “You are beautiful, you are whole as you are and perfectly imperfect”. Accept that. Be with that. Just say to yourself now - “I’m ok, just as I am”
This will Harm less.
Ahimsa and the body: we are what we eat.
The body is amazing. This machine allows us to move around this world, to breathe and live - we accomplish amazing things. To nourish and love our body fully, we can remove aspects of violence from our way of living, which includes our food. In today’s world we’ve removed ourselves from the food that we eat. The principle of ahimsa challenges that trend; we should know and understand what we are eating and where it comes from and be grateful. For one day try to eat a vegetarian diet. Try to appreciate the harm done to food animals and just not be part of that for a day. Celebrate the sacredness that is life and plant a seed of non-harming.
This will Harm less.
We can live a life of Ahimsa if we cultivate its causes. The story of Indra’s web helps us to see others as parts of ourselves,. If we do this we will not harm them. But often we become annoyed with friends and coworkers. We should not let people annoy us because of our reactions - they may be harmful - Annoyance in its extreme form can lead to the impulse toward harm - at first thorough thought, then by speech, and then by action. Some more advice from the Buddha from the Aga tapati vinaya Sutta…
"...there are these five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed by a bhikkhu when it arises in him. What are the five?
Loving-kindness can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed: this is how annoyance with him can be removed.
Compassion can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed.
Onlooking equanimity can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed.
The forgetting and ignoring of a person with whom you are annoyed can be practiced; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed.
Ownership of deeds in a person with whom you are annoyed can be concentrated upon thus: 'This good person is owner of his deeds, heir to his deeds, his deeds are the womb from which he is born, his deeds are his kin for whom he is responsible, his deeds are his refuge, he is heir to his deeds, be they good or bad.' This too is how annoyance with him can be removed.
These are the five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed in a bhikkhu when it arises in him."
- [AN V.161 Aghatapativinaya Sutta]
And what of this Buddha here ? Amida Buddha - The vows of Amida Buddha are clear. We are OK Just as we are. Harmfulness and all. This is not because Amida condones violence, but it is because the violent are most in need to acceptance and support - more than anyone. This is the ultimate resolution of the puzzle of harming - how to pursue the ideal of Ahimsa. We contemplate this ideal, we accept our limitations and are grateful for the deep compassion of the universe that is there for us just the same.
When Shinran’s teacher Honen was young, his father Tokikuni was killed in front of Honen. Young Honen told his father that he would take revenge, Tokikuni last words were,
"If you take revenge on Akashi , his children will take revenge on you later. There is no way to cease anger and hatred from generation to generation. I want you to learn the Buddha-Dharma and find a way to overcome such a cycle of revenge."
Ordained at the age of 15, Honen studied and practiced various paths of Buddhism for almost thirty years in order to find the answer to overcoming anger and hatred in ordinary people. Then, when he encountered the writing of Zendo, the Chinese Pure Land master, he found the answer is the path of Nembutsu to liberate us equally. We take refuge in the infinite Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe.
The Nembutsu is the path where all sentient beings can experience the Buddha's infinte Wisdom and Compassion, particularly those who have suffered from what we call the “blind passions” of anger, hatred, greed, and ignorance.
It is this wisdom which makes us aware of suffering and pain arising from our harmful actions. It is this compassion which embraces the anger and hatred and transforms them into virtues. The essence of the Nembutsu teaching in Pure Land Buddhism is deeply rooted in the idea of Ahimsa. Practicing the Nembutsu path means practicing ahimsa. Shinran Shonin made this with for peace in our world...
“Those who feel uncertain should say the Nembutsu aspiring first for the birth of their own understanding - the Buddha Land. Those who feel that their own birth is completely settled should, mindful of the Buddha’s benevolence, say the Nembutsu in gratitude with the wish, “May there be peace in the world, and may the Buddha’s teaching spread!”
Opportunities for Ahimsa is subtle and ever present. Ahimsa can be as easy as sharing a ride to work instead of going alone. Ahimsa is looking in the mirror and thinking “you’re looking good today”. Ahimsa is as easy as remembering that all beings everywhere have the right to be happy and free. Cultivating Ahimsa requires mindfulness. Ahimsa grows into reality when we start to think that way. We can harm less. That is good for the world and good for us.
Please repeat after me the Metta practice...
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 -
The Story of Indra’s Net -
Far, far away, in the abode of the great god Indra, king of heaven, hangs a wondrous vast net, much like a spider's web in intricacy and loveliness. It stretches out indefinitely in all directions. At each node, or crossing point, of the net hangs a single glittering jewel. Since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. The sparkling jewels hang there, suspended in and supported by the net, glittering like stars, dazzling to behold.
Close your eyes, now, and imagine what this magnificent jeweled net looks like, spread across the vast expanse of space. Now, keep your eyes closed and move in close to one jewel in the net. Look closely, and you will see that the polished surface of the gem reflects all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number, just as two mirrors placed opposite each other reflect an image ad infinitum. Each jewel reflected in this gem you are gazing into also reflects all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is itself infinite.
Now open your eyes, and know that you are a sparkling jewel in Indra's Net, as is every person around you. Every jewel is connected with all the other jewels in the net; every person is intimately connected with all the other persons in the universe. Each has an independent place within the net and we all reflect and influence each other. A change in one jewel—or person—produces a change, however slight, in every other. Realize, too, that the infinite reflections speak to the illusory nature of appearances. Appearances are not, in fact, reality, but only a reflection; the true nature of a thing is not to be captured in its appearance. However powerful that appearance might be, it is yet only a reflection of what is real.In addition, whatever you do to one jewel affects the entire net, as well as yourself. You cannot damage one strand of a spider web without injuring the entire web, and you cannot damage one strand of the web that is the universe without injuring all others in it, whether that injury is known or unknown to them. This can work for good or ill because, of course, just as destructive acts affect the entire net, so do loving, constructive, compassionate acts affect the entire net. A single helpful act—even a simple act of kindness—will send positive ripples across the infinite net, touching every jewel, every sentient being in existence.