かぎりなき生命

この一ヶ月の間に悲劇的な災害が相次いで起こり、一つの災害の収束を待たずして次の災害が起きています。災害で身内の方を亡くされた方々に、サンマテオ仏教会を代表してお悔やみを申し上げます。無量の慈悲の働きによって別離の悲しみが癒されますことを心より願っております。このような大変な時にこそ、人生の正しい方向を示して下さるよりどころを仰ぐべきではないでしょうか。私のよりどころは仏様の教えとその教えに照らされていた方々の人生です。

九条武子様(1887〜1928)は偉大な詩人であると同時に仏様の智慧の光に照られた人生を送られた方でした。1923年の関東大震災の際には救援活動に積極的に取り組まれました。震災の経験について次のように述べていらっしゃいます。

 

 四面(しめん)、炎(ほのほ)につゝまれたなかに、纔(わづ)かに生(せい)をとゞめてゐる人(ひと)たち、――そこには貴(たふと)きも賤(いや)しきも、学問(がくもん)ある者(もの)もなき者(もの)も、老(おい)たるも若(わか)きも、凡(およ)そ世(よ)のありとあらゆる階級(かいきふ)、あらゆる種類(しゆるゐ)の人(ひと)たちがゐた。
 しかし、刻々(こくこく)に迫(せま)る惨(いた)ましき運命(うんめい)の前(まへ)に臨(のぞ)んで、心(こゝろ)から念(ねん)じられるものは、みな一様(いちやう)であつた。
 久遠(くをん)の生命(せいめい)へ。――
 それは、一切(いっさい)の仮象(かしやう)から放(はな)たれた者(もの)の、最後(さいご)の願(ねが)ひであつた。人生(じんせい)最後(さいご)の念願(ねんぐわん)においては、貴賤貧富(きせんひんぷ)の差別(さべつ)はない。

(『無憂華』 108頁)

 何人(なんぴと)も久遠(くをん)の生命(せいめい)を慕(した)ふ心(こゝろ)に燃(も)えてゐる。しかし何人(なんぴと)も瞬間(しゆんかん)の幻滅(げんめつ)になやまされがちである。久遠(くをん)へとあこがれるわれらの現実(げんじつ)は、つねに幻滅(げんめつ)への連続(れんぞく)であるところに、人生(じんせい)の皮肉(ひにく)な悲哀(ひあい)がある。
 世(よ)に久遠(くをん)を説(と)く者(もの)の、如何(いか)に多(おほ)いことであらう。しかしながら、過(す)ぎし日(ひ)の経験(けいけん)と、なやましき現実(げんじつ)とを無視(むし)して、自由(じいう)に創作(さうさく)するところに、かぎりなき生命(せいめい)を見出(みいだ)すのではない。たゞ、久遠(くをん)の光明(くわうみやう)に照(て)らし出(だ)されてゐる、現実(げんじつ)をかへりみるもののみ、光(ひかり)ある営(いとな)みが与(あた)へられる。須叟(しゆゆ)にして滅(ほろ)び去(さ)るみづからの営(いとな)みが、現(げん)に光明(くわうみやう)の遍照(へんぜう)の裡(うち)に在(あ)ることを思(おも)へば、久遠(くをん)の生命(せいめい)の把握(はあく)は、短(みじか)き瞬間(しゆんかん)の現実(げんじつ)のなかに在(あ)ることが知(し)られる。

(『無憂華』 101頁)

 

11月12日(日曜日)午前11時半から永代経法要を行いますので、是非ご参拝ください。御講師は嶋裕史師です。「永代経」とは「永代読経」の意であり、「先にお浄土に往生された方々を偲びつつ、永代にわたり読経が続くこと」を意味します。また浄土真宗では故人の命日を縁にして仏恩報謝のお念仏に励み、仏法を聞く機会をいただいたことをよろこぶ法要であります。葬儀にあたり、永代経の過去帳に故人の名前を加える際に永代経懇志(お布施)いただきます。先亡者への感謝の念が込められているお布施のおかげで、サンマテオ仏教会は設立以来今日まで続いており、これからも仏教会が存続する限り永代経法要は永遠に続けられます。永代経法要が続くというのは仏教会が仏様のみ教えを聞く場として永遠に機能することを意味します。サンマテオ仏教会が不安定な時代の中にあって全ての人々が心の安らぎを見いだすところとして続くことを願っております。

 

南無阿弥陀仏

 


Limitless Life

Over the past month, tragic disasters have occurred one after another, following so closely upon each other’s heels that we scarcely have time to come to grips with one disaster before being confronted with the next. Our San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha offers our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones in these disasters, and offer our heartfelt wishes that those affected will find solace and peace of mind through the working of boundless compassion. In times like this, we seek a guiding light to show us the way forward in our lives, an axis of clarity that will enable us to maintain peace of mind in the midst of all this chaos. I find that guiding light in the teachings of the Buddha and in lives of those who have brilliantly reflected the light of the Buddha’s wisdom.

Lady Takeko Kujo (1887-1928) is one of the bright lights of the Buddha’s wisdom shining in our world during modern times. She was a renowned poet and great humanitarian who worked tirelessly in service of the poor who lived in the slums of Tokyo during the early twentieth century. The following reflections that she composed in response to the devastation she witnessed first-hand during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 shine with the light of precious wisdom.

 

Those with just a little life remaining were crowded on all sides by fire—those with high rank and low, learned and unlearned, old and young, people from all classes and abilities.

But all these people, who were moment by moment approaching their imminent fate, had one common wish.

Eternal life.

That is the final wish of everyone who has nothing more to rely upon. In this final desire, there is absolutely no distinction between great and small, high and low, old or young, male or female.

(Muyuge: Flower without Sorrow, p. 106)

 

  We all burn with desire for eternal life.

  We are, however, apt to be tormented over disappointment of the moment. Cynicism starts when our aspiration to live forever is disillusioned by its briefness.

  Many preach eternity, but it is impossible to discover the limitless life by merely talking about it, disregarding the experiences of yesterday and the torment of today’s reality.

  Only those who reflect on the fact that they are continually bathed in the light of eternity, will live a life in which there is light. Only when we consider that our life, though decaying moment by moment, is always bathed in the omnipresent life, will we begin to grasp the eternal life that is found only in each moment of reality.

(Muyuge: Flower without Sorrow, p. 99)

 

On Sunday, November 12, at 11:30 a.m., special Guest Speaker Rev. Yushi Mukojima, Resident Minister of the Mountain View Buddhist Temple, will join us for our annual Eitaikyo Memorial Service. “Eitaikyo” literally means “perpetual sutra.” It is a shortened way of referring to “a service in which we chant sutras in perpetuity to honor those who have left this world before us.” The funds to conduct the Eitaikyo Service come from donations made when an individual’s name is added to the Eitaikyo Register. Traditionally, Eitaikyo donations have been made by the family of the deceased when a loved one passes away. This practice of dana, or generosity, in grateful memory of a loved one is what has allowed this service to be conducted without interruption since the establishment of our temple. The Eitaikyo service will continue to be conducted as long as our temple exists. By continuing the Eitaikyo service, we ensure that our temple will remain a place to gather and hear the Dharma into the future without end. In this way, we hope that our temple will be a continual place of refuge for all who seek peace and comfort in turbulent times.

 

Namo Amida Butsu


浄土のはなよめ

十月にサンマテオ仏教会で念仏に生かされたご婦人方をお偲びします。その一人に江戸時代の終わり頃、山口県六連島に住んでいたお軽(かる)(1801〜1856)という妙好人がいました。

お軽は若い時は気が強いことでよく知られました。19歳の時に結婚しましたが、夫は仕事で下関や北九州に行って、お軽をおいて長く島を離れることがよくありました。お軽はそのことを恨み、島の唯一のお寺の住職に相談したところ、住職が言ったこととは、その夫との間の問題が仏法を訪ねるご縁になったことに感謝すべきだという意外な答えでした。

それからお軽はよくお寺にお参りし、仏法を聞き、ありがたい念仏者になりました。人間の先入観はなかなか離れないので、周りの人たちはお軽の心の転回をすぐには受け入れられませんでした。お軽は常に阿弥陀如来の浄土に心を向け、外面的や世俗的なことに興味を示さず、変わり者としてよく扱われました。

六連島では、五月五日の節句は唯一漁が許される日だったので、その日は誰もが海にハマグリやウニを獲りに行きました。お軽もそれに参加し、必死にたくさんの貝類をとりました。それを見た島の人たちは「よくお寺参りをするくせに、私たちよりも殺生をしている。」とお軽をあざ笑いました。

その夜、島の人たちはその日に取った貝を料理し、それぞれの家の前に貝殻の山ができました。お軽もたくさんの貝を取りましたが、家の前に貝殻は一つもなかったので、気ちがい婆々が貝殻ごと食べていると噂しました。

しかし、その夜遅くに一人の人が余った貝を新鮮に保つための海水を取りに浜に行った時、誰かが木の桶から何かを取り出して、海に入れる姿を見ました。近づいて見ましたら、貝を海に戻しながら、「怖い思いをさせてごめんね。助けられたのはあなたたちだけ、本当にごめんね。南無阿弥陀仏。南無阿弥陀仏」と言っているお軽でした。

島の人はお軽をあざ笑いましたが、お軽は人の目を気にしませんでした。必ず阿弥陀如来の浄土に往生する信心が定まったので、お念仏の安心に生かされました。そのように次の詩を読みました。

きちがい婆々といわれしわれも

              やがて浄土のはなよめに

(『妙好人おかるの歌』6頁)

 

南無阿弥陀仏


A Radiant Bride

During the month of October, we remember the women of the Nembutsu whose lives shine with the Buddha’s light of wisdom and compassion. One of the great Nembutsu poets of the late Edo Period was the Myōkōnin Okaru (1801-1856) who lived on the tiny island of Mutsure in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

As a young woman, Okaru was known for her strong personality and fiery temper. She married at age 19, but her husband travelled frequently for business and would stay away from home for long stretches at a time, causing Okaru to become frustrated and angry. When she eventually turned to the priest of the local Buddhist temple for counsel, he surprised her by saying that she should be grateful for this relationship trouble, because it was the karmic condition that led her to the Buddhadharma.

From that point on, Okaru visited the temple regularly, and her heart became settled in the peace and joy of the Nembutsu. People are often reluctant to let go of their preconceptions, so it took time for her fellow islanders to appreciate the change of heart she had experienced. With her mind always directed toward Amida Buddha’s Pure Land, Okaru showed little concern for worldly matters. To her neighbors, she appeared unkempt and peculiar.

The May 5th Children’s Day celebration was the only day of the year when the people of Mutsure were allowed to fish and harvest shellfish in the abundant waters that surrounded their island. Not only did Okaru join her fellow islanders on the beach, she was particularly zealous in gathering as many shellfish as she could. As the other islanders noticed the great trove of shellfish she had amassed, some people made snide remarks, saying “Okaru walks around all day saying ‘Namo Amida Butsu.’ If she’s such a devout Buddhist, how can she take the lives of so many living beings?”

That evening great mounds of empty shells piled up outside each home as families feasted on the day’s catch. When her neighbors noticed that no empty shells had been discarded outside Okaru’s house, some thought “That crazy old hag is eating her clams, shells and all.”

Around midnight, one of the islanders went down to the beach to collect fresh seawater for storing his uneaten shellfish, so they would stay fresh for the next day’s meal. Approaching the water, he noticed someone hunched over a basket, speaking softly. As he drew closer, he saw that it was Okaru carefully releasing the shellfish she had gathered back into the sea, saying “I’m sorry. I must have scared you when I took you away from your home today. I gathered as many of you as I could before the other islanders could get you. I’m sorry I couldn’t save more of your relatives. Now, return to your home, little shellfish! Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu.”

People would occasionally sneer at Okaru, but she did not pay any mind to what others thought of her. She enjoyed peace of mind in the Nembutsu, confident that the most important matter of her birth in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha was settled. In the words of one of her poems:

Though mocked (in this world)

              As a crazy old hag,

In the Pure Land

              I will be a radiant bride!

(Myokonin Okaru and Her Poems of the Shinjin, p. 47)

 

Namo Amida Butsu


蝉の声

夏が終わりにさしかかるにつれ、そろそろ心が9月24日の秋のお彼岸法要に向かいます。この季節はお寺の雰囲気をより味わうことができ、小林一茶(いっさ)(1763~1827)のこの俳句がこころに響いてきます。

小坊主や袂の中の蝉の声
こぼうずや たもとのなかの せみのこえ

昔から日本ではお寺が子供の教育の重要な役割を果たしてきました。現在にいたっても多くのお寺が近所の子供たちが通う保育園や幼稚園を経営しています。一茶の当時、子供の保護が出来ない家族は子供を小僧としてお寺に預かることも珍しくありませんでした。一茶自身が信仰していた浄土真宗のお寺は家族で営むことが多く、子供は幼い時から仏教のお勤めと教えを学んでいました。

蝉の鳴き声といえば日本の夏を思い出します。昔から、蝉という大きくて、立派な泣き声をする昆虫は子供に興味深く、多くの子供たちが蝉を捕まえ虫籠に入れて遊んできました。上記の俳句を読むと一茶の周りの小坊主たちが在家の子供たちと同様に遊んでいたことが分かります。その当時、あるお寺は修行の道場でありながらも、一方で子供の楽しい遊び場としても存在していました。小坊主たちはお勤めを学び、教典を勉強しつつ、夏には蝉を捕まえ、それを衣の袂に入れて遊んでいたのです。

出家してお寺に入った小坊主たち以外に、在家の子供たちも寺院の中の寺子屋で読み書きや算盤を習いにお寺に通ってきていました。サンマテオ仏教会で行われている「サマー寺子屋」というサマーキャンプは日本の寺子屋の古い仏教教育の伝統を受けながら運営されています。

サマー寺子屋に参加している子供たちは交代交代でお勤めの調声をし、毎朝大乗仏教の根本実践法である六波羅蜜(布施、持戒、忍辱、精進、禅定、智慧)を学びました。サマー寺子屋が行われていた一週間の間、お寺は小学一年生から高校一年生までの子供たちが仏教の伝統と教えを学ぶ道場であると同時に、面白いひょっとこの面を作ったり、友達と歌を歌ったり、駐車場でバドミントンをしたりして、子供たちが楽しく遊ぶ場でもありました。

一茶は念仏に生かされていた人でした。念仏に生かされるということは親鸞聖人の言葉に次のように表されています。

男女貴賤ことごとく 弥陀の名号称するに
行住座臥もえらばれず 時処諸縁もさはりなし
(『浄土真宗聖典 註釈版』 594頁)

念仏に生かされるということは日常生活から離れることなく、毎日の仕事と遊びの中で仏様の智慧の光に照らされていることに気づくことを意味します。9月17日のお参りでは、サマー寺子屋の子供たちがお勤めを担当し、寺子屋の思い出を発表してもらう予定ですので、是非ご一緒にお参りください。

南無阿弥陀仏


Cicadas

As summer draws to an end and we prepare to welcome the change of seasons with our Autumn Ohigan service on September 24 at 9:30 a.m., I have been enjoying the following haiku by the Japanese poet Issa (1763-1827) that captures the atmosphere of our temple in recent weeks:

Kobōzu ya
tamoto no naka no
semi no koe.

Little monk, I hear the cicada in the sleeve of your robe.

Buddhist Temples have long played an important role in children’s education in Japan. Today many temples run preschools and kindergartens that are attended by local children. In Issa’s day, it was not uncommon for children whose families were not able to provide for them to be placed in the care of a Buddhist temple, where they received education and underwent religious training. Issa himself was devoted to the Jodo Shinshu Nembutsu tradition, in which most temples are run by families, with children being brought up from an early age to help out with religious services.

The call of cicadas is a constant refrain to late summer life in Japan. These large and vocal insects are fascinating creatures, and catching them and keeping them as pets has been a favorite entertainment of Japanese children for centuries. This poem tells us that the children Issa knew who had entered Buddhist life at an early age had fun and played just like other children. Buddhist temples in Issa’s day were places for serious religious practice, but the life of many temples was also punctuated with the joy and playfulness of childhood. The young monks at the temple learned to chant and studied the sutras, but they also caught cicadas and carried them around in the sleeves of their robes.

In addition to children who ordained and lived the monastic life from a young age, there were children who lived with their families but regularly went to a Buddhist temple to learn to read, write and calculate with an abacus. These early education programs conducted by temples were called terakoya. At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, we model our Summer Terakoya program after the terakoya that have played such an important role in the education and spiritual growth of Buddhist children for generations in Japan.

During our Summer Terakoya, the participants took turns leading sutra chanting in the Hondo and the recitation of the Six Paramitas (giving, discipline, patience, endeavor, meditation and wisdom), the six key virtues that serve as the cornerstone of Mahayana Buddhist life. While Summer Terakoya is a place for children grades 1 to 9 to learn Buddhist traditions and deepen their understanding of the Dharma, it is also a place to play badminton in the parking lot, design a silly hyottoko mask, and sing songs with friends.

Issa lived in the Nembutsu, a Buddhist way of living that permeates our lives and was encouraged by Shinran in the following words:

For all people – men and women, of high station and low –
Saying the Name of Amida is such
That whether one is walking, standing, sitting, or reclining is of no concern
And time, place, and condition are not restricted.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 385)

In the Nembutsu, we find that rather than abandoning our daily activities to pursue an ideal of Buddhist practice, our lives are transformed such that we encounter the boundless wisdom and compassion of the Buddha in our everyday activities of work and play. If you’d like to learn more about how our Terakoya youth experienced the joy of the Nembutsu during their time at the temple this summer, please join us for service on Sunday, September 17, when the Terakoya participants will be leading service and talking about their experiences.

Namo Amida Butsu


智慧の光明はかりなし

お盆に、私たちは先に往生の素懐を遂げられた身内の方々を偲びます。今年は月日の盆踊りと月日の初盆法要を迎えるにあたり、私は今年月日に往生した私の祖母の兄、アール・ケニオンに感謝しています。

この世で最後にアールおじさんに会ったのは私の実家で行われた長男の誕生のお祝いパーティーでした。その時、アールおじさんはモーターホームをカンザスシティからミネソタにある私の実家まで運転して、ドライブウェイに停め、家の中に入った瞬間、私をハグして、「ヘンリー君、久しぶりだね。僕も仏教徒になったよ。あなたが京都で仏教を勉強した時の経験や仏様の教えを話すことを楽しみにしていた。」と言ったのでした。確かに仏様の教えは隔てなく全ての人生の拠り所であるけれども、中西部の真ん中にあるカンザスシティに暮らしている歳のアールおじさんが母側の親戚の中で私の次に二人目の仏教徒となるとは正直想像がつきませんでした。

アールおじさんとの会話の中で、年間連れ合った奥さんがアルツハイマー病で往生したあとの寂しさと向き合うために、カンザスシティの仏教グループに入って瞑想をしたり、仏様の教えを聞いたおかげで徐々に心が落ち着いていったという話を聞かせてくれました。仏様の教えに導かれ、悲しみの中にご縁の有り難さが見えてきたといいました。

私が子供のとき、アールおじさんはテキサス州のサンアントニオ市に住んでおり、私は両親と共におじさんのうちを訪れました。ちょうどその時、私の従兄弟アールおじさんの孫も遊びに来ていたので、とても楽しく一緒に遊んでいました。走り回りながら、家を出たり入ったりしていると、アールおじさんが「靴を履く前に、サソリが靴の中に隠れていないか確認してね。」と親切に注意してくれました。その旅行の間に従兄弟ととても仲良く楽しく遊べたのはアールおじさんの優しさが満ち溢れた家で過ごせたおかげだと思います。

智慧と慈悲はアールおじさんの人生のよりどころでした。仏様の教えにであったら、仏法に帰依することは自然なことだと思います。浄土和讃に親鸞聖人は次のように述べておられます。

智慧の光明はかりなし 有量の諸相ことごとく
光暁かふらむものはなし 真実明に帰命せよ

『浄土真宗聖典 註釈版』557頁

アールおじさんの人生に仏様の智慧の光が朝日のごとく照らしたように、この世の全てを照らし、暗闇をも明るくしてくださることを深く味合わさせていただきました。

 

南無阿弥陀仏


The Buddha’s Light Shining in the Heartland

In our Buddhist tradition, Obon is a time when we reflect on the lives of those loved ones who have crossed over to the Other Shore. This month as our observance of Obon on August 12 and 13 draws near, I am gratefully remembering my grandmother’s older brother, Earle Kenyon, who crossed over to the Other Shore on June 22, 2017.

The last time I met my Uncle Earle in this world he had driven his motorhome up from Kansas City to my parents’ house in Minnesota to join us for a family gathering to celebrate the birth of our son, Ryoma. He parked his motorhome in the driveway and came into the house where he gave me a big hug and greeted me, saying, “It’s great to see you, Henry! Since I became a Buddhist, I’ve been looking forward to sitting down with you to hear about your studies in Japan and discuss the teachings of the Buddha.” While I am certain in my belief that the teachings of the Buddha speak a truth that illuminates the lives of all people without exception, I have to admit that I did not expect my 84-year-old great-uncle living in Kansas City, Missouri to become the only other Buddhist on my side of the family.

In the course of our conversation, Uncle Earle described the peace of mind that practicing meditation and attending services with a community of Buddhists in Kansas City brought him while he was navigating his grief following the passing of his wife of 60 years, whom he had cared for as she faced the challenges of living with Alzheimer’s disease. He told me about how the teachings of the Buddha gave him the strength to discover moments of gratitude in the midst of sadness and the insight to treasure each day of this precious human life.

I remember visiting Uncle Earle and his wife Willa at their previous home in San Antonio, Texas, when I was boy. As my second-cousin (Earle’s grandson) Caleb and I ran in and out of their house playing games, he kindly cautioned us to make sure to check our shoes for scorpions before putting them on. During that trip, Caleb and I became great friends. When I think back on that visit, the atmosphere of caring and kindness that Earle and Willa cultivated in their home stands out in my memory as the circumstance that made that joyful time possible.

Wisdom and kindness ran through Uncle Earle’s life, so it strikes me as quite natural that he would discover a refuge for his big welcoming heart in the Buddhadharma. Shinran Shonin writes:

The light of wisdom exceeds all measure,
And every finite living being
Receives this illumination that is like the dawn,
So take refuge in Amida, the true and real light.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 325)

My great-uncle Earle’s life affirms the truth that the light of the Buddha’s wisdom truly does shine brightly throughout this world, dispelling darkness like the dawn and brightening countless lives in the heartland.

 

Namo Amida Butsu


正信念仏偈

サンマテオ仏教会は浄土真宗のお寺で、親鸞聖人(1173−1262)が宗祖ですが、親鸞聖人はもともと自分自身で新しい宗派を始める意志はなく、いつも師匠の法然聖人(1133−1212)に対しての尊敬を表されていました。『歎異抄』に親鸞聖人の次のお言葉があります。

この親鸞においては、「ただ念仏して、阿弥陀仏に救われ往生させていただくのである」という法然聖人のお言葉をいただき、それを信じているだけで、他に何かがあるわけではありません。

念仏は本当に浄土に生まれる因なのか、逆に地獄に落ちる行いなのか、まったくわたしの知るところではありません。たとえ法然上人にだまされて、念仏したために地獄へ落ちたとしても、決して後悔はいたしません。

なぜなら、他の行に励むことで仏になれたはずのわたしが、それをしないで念仏したために地獄へ落ちたというのなら、だまされたという後悔もあるでしょうが、どのような行も満足に修めることのできないわたしには、どうしても地獄以外に住み家はないからです。

(『浄土真宗聖典 歎異抄 現代語訳 6〜7頁』)

 

では、法然聖人が進めた念仏とは何なのでしょうか?念仏とは「仏様を念じる」ということですが、その中でも、法然聖人と親鸞聖人の教えは称名念仏といい、南無阿弥陀仏の名号を称えることを意味します。 「南無阿弥陀仏」というのは古代インドのサンスクリット語の言葉を漢字で音写されたもので、「阿弥陀仏に帰依します」という意味です。「阿弥陀」は無量という意味で、仏様の光明と寿命は計り知れないということを表しています。そして、光明は仏様の智慧で、寿命は仏様の慈悲を表しています。

親鸞聖人の教えには、「南無阿弥陀仏」は如来からの勅命であり、仏様の「私に帰依しなさい」という呼び声を味わうことが出来ます。疑う心なく仏様の呼び声の念仏を聞けば、喜びと感謝の念仏は常に自然と私たちの口から出てきます。このように如来の智慧と慈悲が、南無阿弥陀仏の六文字となって、私の心まで響いてくるのです。

この念仏は、阿弥陀如来の働きによって私たちの心に伝わってくるので、これを他力念仏と言います。ただ、法然聖人が述べた「ただ念仏して、阿弥陀仏に救われ往生させていただくのである」という教えはとても分かりやすいのですが、他力の念仏についての誤解と混乱がありました。その混乱の中、法然聖人の教えを正しく伝えようと努めていた一人が親鸞聖人でした。

親鸞聖人は数多くの著書を残されました。その中の「正信念仏偈」(正信偈)はたった60行120句ですが、その中には他力念仏の重要な意味が徹底的に述べられています。私が日本で出会った先生の一人に「朝に正信偈を勤める。夜に正信偈を勤める。これは浄土真宗の文化です。」とおっしゃった方がおられました。正信偈は南無阿弥陀仏のこころで始まります。

帰命無量寿如来 南無不可思議光

限りない命の如来に帰依し、思いはかることのできない光の如来に帰依したてまつる。

(『浄土真宗聖典 顕浄土真実教行証文類 現代語訳 143頁』)

 

親鸞聖人の正信偈と和讃が私たちの日常勤行として定められたのは、本願寺八代目の御門主蓮如上人でした。蓮如上人が御門主であった当時、多くの念仏のグループは教えに対する理解もお勤めの仕方もバラバラだったため、長続きしそうにありませんでした。そのため、他力念仏の教えが正しく伝わるようにと、蓮如上人は文明5年(1473年)3月、親鸞聖人の『正信念仏偈』と『三帖和讃』を出版されました。それによって、多くの方が親鸞聖人の教えに出会うことにより、感謝と喜びの念仏が布教していったのです。

 

南無阿弥陀仏


Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu

At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, we look to Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) as the founder of our Jodo Shinshu tradition. However, Shinran himself never set out to found his own Buddhist school. Throughout his writings and teachings, he describes himself as a humble student of his teacher Honen Shonin (1133-1212), as we find in the following words from A Record in Lament of Divergences (Tannisho):

As for me, I simply accept and entrust myself to what my revered teacher told me, “Just say the nembutsu and be saved by Amida”; nothing else is involved.

I have no idea whether the nembutsu is truly the seed for my being born in the Pure Land or whether it is the karmic act for which I must fall into hell. Should I have been deceived by Master Honen and, saying the nembutsu, were to fall into hell, even then I would have no regrets.

The reason is, if I could attain Buddhahood by endeavoring in other practices, but said the nembutsu and so fell into hell, then I would feel regret at having been deceived. But I am incapable of any other practice, so hell is decidedly my abode whatever I do.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 662)

What is the nembutsu that Honen taught? The Japanese word nembutsu is made up of two Chinese characters nen(m) 念 “to be mindful of” and butsu仏 “Buddha,” so one way to translate the word “nembutsu” would be “mindfulness of the Buddha.” In the teachings of Honen and Shinran, the nembutsu refers to the recitation of the words “Namo Amida Butsu.” Namo Amida Butsu is a Chinese transliteration of a phrase from the ancient Sanskrit language of India. A literal translation of the meaning of “Namo Amida Butsu” would be, “I take refuge in Amida Buddha, the Awakened One of Immeasurable Light and Life.” The light of the Buddha represents wisdom and the life of the Buddha represents compassion.

Shinran tells us that to say the words “Namo Amida Butsu” is to hear Amida Buddha calling us to take refuge in the boundless wisdom and compassion of awakening. When we say Namo Amida Butsu, we hear the voice of Amida Buddha is calling to us, saying, “Hey you! Take refuge in me (Amida Buddha).” Hearing the nembutsu in this way, we discover the joy and peace of mind that arise from entrusting in the Buddha’s wisdom and compassion. Realizing the settled mind that we call shinjin, the nembutsu of joy and gratitude flows forth from our mouths throughout the day and throughout our lives. Thus, the simple practice of saying Namo Amida Butsu becomes an expression of profound awareness of the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha constantly guiding and sustaining us.

Because the flow of the nembutsu comes from Amida Buddha, Honen and Shinran call this Other Power nembutsu. Despite the clarity of Honen’s simple instruction to “Just say the nembutsu and be saved by Amida,” disputes and confusion arose regarding the true intent of this teaching and the spirit in which the nembutsu should be recited. Among Honen’s students, Shinran was one who made a concerted effort throughout his life to clarify misunderstandings, so that future generations would be able to encounter the same great peace and joy that he found in the nembutsu.

Among the many volumes of teachings that Shinran has left for our guidance, perhaps the clearest and most concise crystallization of the teaching of Other Power nembutsu can be found in a selection of verse called the Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Shoshin Nembutsu Ge), commonly referred to as the Shoshinge. A teacher of mine once said, “We chant Shoshinge in the morning, and we chant Shoshinge in the evening. This is the culture of Jodo Shinshu.” The Shoshinge begins with the heart of Namo Amida Butsu:

I take refuge in the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life!
I entrust myself to the Buddha of Inconceivable Light!

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 69)

Shinran’s descendent Rennyo (1415-1499) established the practice of chanting of Shoshinge and Wasan as a daily liturgy in the Hongwanji School. Revered as the eighth generation leader (Gomonshu) of the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (Nishi) and Otani-ha (Higashi) Schools, Rennyo revived Shinran’s Nembutsu teaching in his time by consolidating the many small and scattered Nembutsu communities under the leadership of the Hongwanji. As part of his project to establish standard practices across the diverse communities he brought together under Hongwanji leadership, he published the “Bunmei Edition” of the Shoshinge and Collected Wasan in March of 1473. The Bunmei Edition utilized printing-press technology for mass production and widespread dissemination, so that practicers of the nembutsu throughout Japan could deepen their familiarity with Shinran’s teachings and realize peace of mind and joy through entrusting in Amida Buddha.

 

Namo Amida Butsu