Expressing Our Sincere Gratitude
Written by Rev. Shinkai Murakami
Namu Amida Butsu
During the month of February, most of the Buddhist temples will be observing Buddha Shakyamuni’s Nirvana Day service. What is the meaning of the Nirvana Day? Nirvana Day means Buddha Shakyamuni’s memorial service.
I think, throughout the world, Buddha Shakyamuni is the only one who has been having memorial services for more than 2500 years! Why do we observe this memorial service? After all these millenia, we observe his memorial service because it allows us to express our true and sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Buddha for his great spiritual guidance and encouragement into our precious life. According to the legend, during the 45 years of Buddha Shakyamuni ministerial life, he shared about 84,000 spiritual advices to many of his disciples throughout the country of India.
Through his teachings, we all receive encouragement and hope in our daily lives.
When we chant the sutras, some are long, and some are short. The longer ones take about one hour and thirty minutes to chant and the shorter ones take less than five minutes. I firmly believe that all of the Buddha’s messages, regardless of length, are spiritual encouragement to help people understand and accept things as they are. With his great message, many people receive a warm feeling of peace and serenity in their hearts and became true followers or disciples of the Buddha. He used many examples for all of us to understand the guidance and practice in our daily lives.
One of the famous examples is the eightfold path. These eight practices are simple, and we are able to practice them during our daily lives. Through these practices we are able to realize the joy and happiness in our precious lives.
Recently I met a physician and had an interesting conversation with her. This physician grew up in a Buddhist family, but didn’t participate in temple activities. However, she still used Buddhist concepts in her personal life and at her practice. What are the Buddhist concepts in her life and at her practices, you may ask…
She grew up towards the end of the plantation era. While she was growing up, many plantations were starting to close and people were moving away to major cities to seek better opportunities. Her family had also decided to move to the mainland. So, a month before they left for the mainland a few neighbors got together to host a farewell party. She remembered her neighbors being very kind and always sharing many things with them. One thing that really impressed upon her, was when one of her neighbors, an elderly man, said to her; “I would like you to become like this wonderful Japanese word. As long as you are able to understand the true meaning of this word, you will offer, support, and care about others with a true mind of gratitude.” This physician said, “Rev. that elderly man’s guidance helped me build the great foundation of my life, which enabled me to achieve my goals. So, this kanji letter always reminds me about the foundation of my life and my life itself.”
The Kanji letter she had learned is “hito” ,which translates to “people” in English. This Kanji letter has two lines, one is long and other one is short . These two lines support each other to stand. The reason is because people need to care, work together, and understand each other to exist. I believed that this is the true meaning of the Sangha. We are not able to accomplish our goals by ourselves. Someone is always assisting us, whether behind the scenes or outright. Buddha’s guidance is not only for us to be reborn into the Pure Land of the Buddha, but for us to understand or be aware that all our lives are interdependent and that we are always supporting each other.
The Shinshu pledge teaches exactly what Buddha taught many people about 2500 years ago. Kind words, smiling, caring about others, and helping people who need help. Even if we are sharing our happiness with others, happiness never decreases. In fact, we are always seeing other people smiling! This is the true way of Buddha’s teaching.
In the teachings of the Buddha he said…
Just like a soft breeze and a few blossoms on a branch that tell the coming of spring, so when a man attains Enlightenment, grass, trees, mountains, rivers and all other things begin to throb with new life. If a man’s mind becomes pure, his surroundings will also become pure. In a land where the true teaching prevails, every dweller has a pure and tranquil mind. Indeed, Buddha’s compassion untiringly benefits all people, and His shining spirit exorcises all impurities from their minds.
During the last 45 years of Buddha’s life Buddha shared everything with his disciples and told them…
Make of yourself a light, rely upon yourself: do not depend upon any superstitions and magic. Make my teachings your light, rely upon the Nembutsu. Following the Nembutsu path is like entering a dark room with a light in the hand; the darkness will all be cleared away and the room will be filled with the light. People who understand the meaning of the great wisdom of the Nembutsu and have learned to follow the Nembutsu path are in possession of the light of wisdom that will clear away the darkness of ignorance in our heart.
May we all follow the spiritual guidance of the Buddha and walk the path of the truth with great guidance of the Nembutsu, the light of truth and rejoice in the happiness with others. On this Nirvana Day, The Buddha Shakyamuni’s special memorial service, may we all express our true gratitude and appreciation by following his great guidance in our lives.
Namu Amida Butsu