Namu Amida Butsu
Few weeks ago, my car needed to be serviced in Kahului. After the car was serviced, a Filipino friend of mine gave me a ride back to the dealership. On the way to the dealer, I discovered a Bible on his dashboard and asked him, "Is this your bible?" He replied, "Yes, Reverend, I am not a good Catholic but I read it whenever I have time and learn about Jesus and God. So, I always keep it in my car. I have another one at my house. As you may know, I go to the Catholic Church and I feel that the Bible teaches me many good things. So, I gave my two children Bibles to read whenever they have time. They don’t go to Church with us but I feel that they are Catholic and respect our church and our guidance."
Wow, when I heard this from him, I felt that someone just hit me on my head with a big hammer. As a minister, I always read the teachings of the Buddha at the end of the morning service. I have read these teachings many times and memorized several phrases. When I think they are important, I use it at the temple services as my aspiration or benediction.
But I never kept these books in my car. I had a chance to go to my friend’s Catholic Church when we had the interfaith services. When their minister (Pastor?) read one of the phrases, many of the parishioners recited the phrases without looking at their Bible. Maybe these people attended bible study classes; but to me, it was so impressive as they demonstrated their enthusiasm for their religion and teachings. Yes, their teachings are always around them. It was telling me that they were always close to their religion and willing to learn more of their spiritual guidance in their lives.
How about our Buddhist Sangha? How many of you have your own Buddhist books, such as the “Teachings of the Buddha” or “St. Shinran?” Someone once said that "Our Buddhist society doesn’t have such a custom in our lives." Yes, maybe it is true but are we close to our teachings? Do you read about or understand Amida Buddha? Who is he? Do you rely on Amida Buddha and the reason why he is guiding you with his wisdom and compassion? Even though we hear these teachings many times at the temple services, are we sincerely accepting it as our true guidance? Are we sincerely sharing it with our children and grandchildren?
Maybe we don’t have confidence to share it with others. Why? I think it is because our understanding of Buddha’s teachings and Amida Buddha’s great salvation is limited. Maybe we are not close to our teaching, or we are not interested in the teachings itself. However, once you start reading Shinran Shonin’s books or a teacher provides an easier way of understanding his teachings, then we will know more about Jodo Shinshu teaching and Amida Buddha, along with his wisdom and compassion. Yes, the first step is difficult but once we open these books and get to know about his guidance, we will feel that we would like to know more about his teachings and salvation of Amida Buddha.
Shinran Shonin wrote in the "Notes on Once-calling and Many-calling" as follows:
All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of Shinjin and joy, which is directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the state of nonretrogression.
(p. 474 The Collected Works of Shinran)
When chicks are just about to hatch, the mother chicken taps the egg shell and that is the sign for the chicks to come out to the new world. For us, listening to the Buddha Dharma is just like the mother chicken guiding us to open our eyes, the eyes of our inner heart and to see the true guidance of the Shinran Shonin and Buddha Dharma itself. Buddha Dharma is for us to see the reality of life as it is. When we see the virtues of others, we should adopt them as our own. When we see the wrongs of others, we should reflect upon ourselves for the same faults
Namo Amida Butsu