I would like to begin my message this month by expressing deep gratitude to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha for your warm welcome and the kindness you have shown to Shoko, Ryoma and me as we settle into our new life here in San Mateo. We are particularly grateful to everyone who worked to prepare the minister’s residence for our arrival—painting the walls, shampooing the carpets, unloading the moving truck, and even stocking the refrigerator for us, so we would have something to eat when we arrived after the long trip up from Oxnard.
We are also very grateful to everyone who worked so hard to prepare a festive gathering to officially welcome us on October 20 after Sunday Service. I’m sure there were countless other kindnesses and favors that I’m failing to mention here, but please know that we truly appreciate all you have done to prepare a beautiful and comfortable place for us here in San Mateo.
Many Sangha members have been kindly inquiring about how we are settling in. Okagesama-de, I am pleased to report that we are starting to feel very much at home here in San Mateo. When people find out that we have a two-year-old son, they are always curious about how he has adjusted to the move. Fortunately, children are very adaptable, so he quickly made himself at home in our new place. The most challenging time for him seems to have been the last couple days before we left Oxnard, when we were packing up his toys and rearranging the furniture that had defined his favorite play areas. There was one set of toys in particular that he managed to dig out of the moving boxes at least three times before we left Oxnard.
However, once we arrived in San Mateo he settled right in. He likes the easy access to the covered patio and backyard, where he “works in the garden,” watering plants and moving pebbles from one planter to another. He also enjoys the freshly shampooed carpet in the house. We know he’s getting ready for a nap when he starts wandering around the house with his blanket, but we never know where he will finally plop down on the soft carpet and fall asleep. Sometimes we find him snoring away in the middle of the living room floor or in a hallway.
As I reflect on the experience of this move—stressful at times, but made so much easier and more pleasant by the kind care and support of so many people—I find myself considering what makes a “home.” Certainly being surrounded by one’s familiar possessions is part of it. Having comfortable spaces to relax, enjoy meals, and get a good night’s rest is also important. However, it occurs to me that having a home is really about the peace of mind that comes from knowing “this is where I belong.”
So what gives us that wonderful feeling of belonging in our home? For me it is a feeling of companionship, a feeling that there are people here who are supporting me and guiding me as I endeavor to live a joyful life. I find that companionship in my family, our friends, and in the Sangha. Marvelous causes and conditions have brought us to this temple where we can meet true friends in the Dharma as we gather to hear the nembutsu.
In the nembutsu, we say the words “Namo Amida Butsu,” which literally means “I take refuge in the Awakened One of Immeasurable Wisdom and Compassion.” The nembutsu is the voice of the Buddha guiding me to my true home. In the words of Shandao (613–681), the great Chinese Buddhist teacher who clarified the meaning of the Pure Land Buddhist teaching in his time:
Let us return!
Do not abide in other lands.
Following the Buddha’s guidance, let us return to our original home.
Once we have returned to our original land,
All our aspiration and practice will naturally reach fulfillment.
(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 238-239)
Our original home should not be understood as some far away place that we could travel to on a boat or an airplane. Our original home is the realm of the Buddha’s enlightenment. When we speak of Amida Buddha’s Pure Land we are referring to our original home. When we return to our original home, we feel completely comfortable and at ease in the present moment. Dwelling in our original home, we are free of any feelings that there is something lacking in our lives. We enjoy peace of mind knowing that everything we need to be happy has already been provided to us. We have all we need right here, right now. That truth is expressed in the nembutsu, those six syllables that the Buddha provided to guide us to our original home where all of our aspirations for peace and bliss are fulfilled.