菩提樹の光明

ここ北半球では12月になると日の差す時間が徐々に短くなり、夜の暗みで暮らす時間が長くなります。冬の暗みの間、世界のさまざまな宗教には智慧の光を喜び祝う行事や祭日があります。ユダヤ教のハナカーは九本の蝋燭を家に飾り、ヒンドゥー教のディーワーリーは花火をつけ、そして年末のクリスマスのライトアップは私達が暮らす多文化・多宗教で豊かな社会の、この季節の楽しみと言えるでしょう。日本の仏教徒は12月8日に釈迦様が2,500年ほど昔に菩提樹の下で悟りを開かれた日を祝う成道会を行います。

現在アメリカの多文化的・多宗教的な社会では12月に布施、友好、助け合いの共通の価値観を強調するホリデースピリットがあります。今まで私が北米開教区の開教使をしてきた中で、何度かご門徒さんとの会話の中でちょっと恥ずかしそうにその方のご家族が12月に、色とりどりなライトが付いているもみの樹を家に飾り、その樹の下に家族や友人に渡すプレゼントを置いているという話しが出たことがあります。そしてたまにご門徒の皆さんから仏教の開教使である私に、門徒がこういう風に家に樹クリスマスツリーを飾ることに対して違和感がありますかと聞かれることがあります。

しかし、年末年始に常緑樹を飾ることは多くの国の文化にありますので、決してこれはひとつだけの宗教の伝統であるとはいえないでしょう。たとえば日本ではお正月に一年中緑を保つ松の枝を飾って、「松竹梅」で新年を迎える習慣があります。

シダッタは樹の下に座り悟りを開きました。その樹は菩提樹といい、仏教の大切なシンボルとなっています。「菩提」はインド古代の言語であるサンスクリット語で「目覚め」を意味します。シダッタは菩提樹の下に座る前の六年間、苦行に励み、食べるものを減らしたり、激しい雨や強い日差しの下でもずっと外で暮らしていました。それら苦行を続けた後、ある日シダッタの身体に限界がきてついに倒れてしまいました。ちょうどそのとき、スジャータという少女が通りかかり、倒れていたシダッタを見つけました。スジャータは可哀想に思い、乳がゆを差し出しました。その乳がゆを食べたシダッタは修行をするための体力を取り戻し、苦と楽の二つの極端な生き方を求めるのではなく、悟りへの道は中道にあるということに気づきました。

体力を取り戻したシダッタは、雨や日差しから身体をかくまってくれる菩提樹の下で柔らかい草の座布団の上に座り、すべての迷いを乗り越え、悟りを開くまでその場所を離れないと決心しました。そして一晩中座禅を続け、夜明けの明星を見たとき、シダッタはついに悟りを開くこと(成仏すること)が出来ました。この菩提樹が雨や日差しから守ってくれたことは、苦行の道から中道を歩む道を選んだシダッタ(釈迦様)の決心をあらわしているのです。

釈迦様の成道を祝う十二月に、近所の家々や街の中できらきら光っている樹々を見るのは楽しいものです。その樹々を見ていると、釈迦様が苦と楽の二つの両極端な道を歩むのではなく、目覚めへの中道を歩むように教えて下さっていることを思い出します。暗みに光が照らすこの季節、仏様の光明が菩提樹から2,500年の長い月日とアメリカとインドの遠い空間を越えて、私が今、ここで歩んでいる道を照らしてくれているような気がします。親鸞聖人は「正信念仏偈」に次のように仏様の智慧の光を讃嘆されています。

 

本願を成就された仏は、無量光・無碍光・無対光・炎王光・

清浄光・歓喜光・智慧光・不断光・難思光・無称光・

超日月光とたたえられる光明を放って、広くすべての国々を照らし、すべての衆生はその光明に照らされる。

(『浄土真宗聖典 顕浄土真実教行証門類 現代語版』143~144頁)

 

南無阿弥陀仏


The light that shines from the Bodhi Tree

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the month of December is a time when the days get shorter and shorter and we find ourselves spending more time in the darkness of night. As the darkness of the winter season arrives, many of the world’s spiritual traditions celebrate holidays and religious observances inspired by the light of transcendent wisdom. The candles of the Jewish Hanukkah Menorah, the fireworks of Hindu Diwali celebrations, and the strings of electric lights on Christmas decorations are all part of the rich religious landscape that makes this a festive time of year in our diverse community. In the Buddhist traditions of Japan, we observe Bodhi Day on December 8 in commemoration of the historical Buddha Sakyamuni’s realization of perfect enlightenment sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, India around 2,500 years ago.

Living in the multicultural society of modern-day America, we enjoy a “holiday spirit” at this time of year when wonderful common values like generosity, friendship, and goodwill are celebrated by religious and secular communities alike. Since beginning my service as a minister in the Buddhist Churches of America, I have had conversations with several members of the Buddhist temples I serve who have somewhat sheepishly mentioned to me that their family embraces the American cultural tradition of decorating their home in December with a lighted tree with brightly wrapped presents for friends and family stored at the base of the tree. Some have come right out and asked me if, as a Buddhist minister, I object to Buddhist families putting up these sorts of decorations in their home.

When I consider this question, I am reminded that the branches of evergreen trees have been used as winter decorations by many cultures throughout history and are certainly not exclusive to any one religious tradition. For example, it is customary in Japan to welcome the New Year by adorning the home with pine branches, which are treasured for remaining green and vibrant throughout the year. Pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms make up the traditional Japanese New Year decorations called sho-chiku-bai.

The tree under which Prince Siddhartha was sitting and meditating when he realized perfect enlightenment has great significance in the story of the Buddha’s awakening and is called the Bodhi Tree. “Bodhi” means wisdom or awakening in Sanskrit, anancient Indian language in which the teachings of the Buddha have been recorded and passed down. Prior to sitting in meditation under the Bodhi Tree, Siddhartha had spent six years pursuing extreme ascetic practices, fasting constantly and exposing his body to the harsh elements of the North Indian wilderness. One day his body finally gave out and he collapsed from exhaustion. At that time, a young woman named Sujata happened upon the ascetic in his weakened state and out of concern for his well-being revived him by giving him some milk to drink. In receiving Sujata’s gift, he realized that the path to awakening is realized by pursuing the Middle Way between extreme life-denying asceticism and indulging in the attachment to sensual pleasures.

With renewed energy from the nourishing milk, he accepted the gift of a cushion of grass and sat beneath the Bodhi Tree that would provide him with shelter from the elements. As he settled into his seat in the shade of the tree, he resolved not to leave that spot until he had conquered all delusion and awakened to the true nature of reality. He sat in meditation through the night and finally realized perfect enlightenment when he saw the Morning Star appear in the sky.

Because the Bodhi Tree provided shelter from the elements, it expresses the Buddha’s rejection of the extreme ascetic practices of exposing his body to harsh sunlight and driving rain. The Bodhi Tree represents the Buddha’s embracing of the Middle Way as the correct path leading to enlightenment.

In this month of December when we recall the story of Sakyamuni Buddha’s awakening and reflect on the example of his life, I take great pleasure in seeing beautifully illuminated trees in homes, businesses, and public places. For me, these trees call to mind the Buddha’s instructions to seek the Middle Way between the extremes of life-denial and indulgence. In this season of light shining in the darkness, I feel the light of the Buddha’s wisdom shining forth from the moment when he realized perfect awakening sitting under the Bodhi Tree. That light of wisdom shines across two millennia and distant oceans to illuminate each moment of my life. Shinran celebrates the wonderful light of the Buddha’s wisdom in the Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Shoshinge):

Everywhere he casts light immeasurable, boundless,
Unhindered, unequaled, light-lord of all brilliance,
Pure light, joyful light, the light of wisdom,
Light constant, inconceivable, light beyond speaking,
Light excelling sun and moon he sends forth, illumining countless worlds;
The multitudes of beings all receive the radiance.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 69)

 

Namo Amida Butsu