The Nembutsu is the Dynamic Taste of Amida Buddha
Written by Rev. Shinkai Murakami
Namu Amida Butsu
“Mother’s taste.” Have you ever heard the word or phrase “Ofukuro no aji?” I see several cookbooks with the title called “Ofukuro no Aji” which means “Mother’s taste.”
As you may know, I love cooking! Especially Japanese dishes. Whenever I cook and share my dishes with our temple members, some say, “Sensei, your taste is “Kansai.” (The meaning of the phrase is “You are from Osaka because your taste is like Osaka taste.”) However, I am from Fukuoka. Surprised, the members say, “Oh, I thought you were from Kansai (Osaka area) because you use a lot of katsuo-dashi (dried bonito flavor), have good fragrance, and your taste is kind of light.” The secret is dried bonito which makes the dishes taste so good. Our member received a savory fragrance which made the dish taste delicious on her tongue.
My taste when cooking comes from my mother. Through her dishes, I developed a sense for cooking based on her flavors. My sisters are also influenced by our mother’s cooking. So, when I eat my sisters’ food (I have three sisters) I feel that I am eating my mother’s food. My children also feel the same way. When they went to Japan and stayed at my sisters’ house, they say “Aunty, this is just like my dad’s taste.”
My mother passed away about 12 years ago, but I grew up with her taste. Even when I visit a restaurant, I compare the restaurant food to my mother’s dishes. Generally, my thoughts are that “my mom can make better than this, or my mom’s taste is way better than this.” There’s nothing like a mother’s cooking!
When mothers make food, mothers always add special tastes to all her dishes. What are the special tastes? Love! Our mothers’ add their sincere heart and kindness. So, whenever we eat our mother’s food, “Oishiiii, the taste is so delicious” is our uncontrolled reaction. Mothers always put their sincere hearts into the dishes as their secret and extra flavor! That is the reason why we always remember our mother’s great tastes.
This concept is similar to the taste of Namo Amida Butsu. When we recite Namo Amida Butsu, this is “the essence” of Amida Buddha’s great name. Yes, it is his great wisdom and compassionate heart that always guides us on the path of the truth.
For example, one of our Hongwanji members went away to the mainland right after high school and lived on the mainland where there were no Buddhist temples nearby. The nearest temple was about 200 miles away from their town, so they lost her tie with the Hongwanji while living in the mainland. When they returned to Hawaii and visited one of the Hongwanji temples, they felt a very nostalgic feeling. Once they entered the temple, with the fragrance of the incense they truly felt that they had returned home. Without knowing, they put their hands together in Gassho and said “Namo Amida Butsu”. They truly felt a sense of peace and serenity.
Namo Amida Butsu is a very short phrase, but it is truly Amida Buddha’s great essence and heart. So, when they heard the Nembutsu from other Nembutsu followers, without knowing the precious taste of the Nembutsu floated out from her mouth with a warm feeling of peace and serenity. Yes, even if nearly 50 years had passed, they remembered the embrace of Amida Buddha’s infinite wisdom and compassion.
Reciting Namo Amida Butsu is Amida’s calling voice that Amida Buddha’s infinite wisdom and compassion are always embracing us all at any place and at any time. This is our Jodo Shinshu’s way of tasting Amida Buddha’s great wisdom and compassion in our precious lives. I personally feel that the guidance of the Nembutsu is truly like “Mother’s taste” which we always remember and gives us a warm feeling of peace and tranquility.
When we say “Namo Amida Butsu,” The countless Buddhas throughout the ten quarters, surrounding us a hundredfold or a thousandfold, rejoice in and protect us. -Hymns of the Pure Land
Namu Amida Butsu