Reflecting on Wisdom, Joy, and Authenticity (July 18)

San Mateo Buddhist Women’s Association Corresponding Secretary and Young Buddhist Editorial member Juliet Bost shares a Dharma Talk on the topic of “Reflecting on Wisdom, Joy, and Authenticity”

To join us for online Dharma Services, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Transcript

Please join me in Gassho.

From Shinran’s “Hymns of the Pure Land” (“Jodo Wasan”):

“The light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light

Harbors the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom;

Its virtuous working supasses conceptual understanding,

As it benefits the beings throughout the ten quarters.”

(#57)

Thank you everyone for joining us for this morning’s service. I am very grateful to Rev. Adams for inviting me to share my Dharma reflection with you all today.

I chose this wasan to share today because it holds a lot of meaning for me, especially these two first lines: “The light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light / Harbors the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom.” Even if you haven’t read a lot of texts like these, you may notice that “light” is a recurring theme or motif used to describe Buddha-like attributes — indeed one name for Amida Buddha the “Buddha of Unhindered Light,” as noted in this wasan, and a common translation of “Buddha” is the “Enlightened One.” “Light” appears in a lot of our everyday language too. For example, “bright smiles” means we’re happy; “bright eyes” means we’re alert and prepared. A single kind gesture can “brighten” our day; our loved ones who bring us much happiness can be the “light of our lives.” Light is all around us, whether it’s light we can see or light we can feel, and every being is nurtured by this light, all of us in our similarities and our differences. 

When I first read this, I couldn’t help but think of a moment from one of my favorite movies: The Lion King. In one scene, the king of the savannah, Mufasa, teaches his son, Simba, about the borders of the kingdom, illuminated by sunlight and contrasted by the shadows of forbidden territory. He also teaches him about the “circle of life,” the cycle of interdependence among all animals. Here I’d like to invite everyone to watch the scene together, and notice what light and dark represent for Mufasa and Simba.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JawCb15MWLc (00:03 – 01:10)

There’s a lot to unpack in this short clip: the teaching of impermanence, illustrated by the setting sun; the teaching of interdependence and interconnectedness; the circle of life, which may be compared to the cycles of birth and rebirth we know as samsara. For now, let’s just look at the role light plays in Mufasa’s lesson to Simba. He says, “Everything the light touches is our kingdom”; then, later, when Simba asks about the shadowy place, he says, “That’s beyond our borders. You must never go there.”

This division between the light and dark places maps neatly into categories we’re familiar with: light vs. dark parallels known vs. unknown, seen vs. unseen, and good vs. evil. But as we know in life, light is not always good, and the dark is not always bad. For example, sunlight brings warmth, but spend too long outside and you may get sunburnt. The darkness of the night makes it difficult for us to see, but many nocturnal animal species find safety in the dark.  

In many ways, the light of the lion’s kingdom mirrors the limitations of our own perspectives. We may not be the rulers of kingdoms, but the distinction between “mine vs. not mine” and “me vs. not me” deludes our worldview just the same. This mindset prevents us from recognizing and understanding that we are profoundly linked to all people and all beings, in ways we may not even understand.

There are a lot of complex and insightful explanations as to why it is easy for us to see the world in these divisions. One common teaching we’re all familiar with is bombu — we are all foolish beings, limited by the fact that we only experience the world through one body and one mind in the present life. Yet I believe this is the crux of the wasan I shared: In order to understand our place in the circle of life, so to speak, we can start by recognizing the “lights of purity, joy, and wisdom” that we encounter in all our lives.

When I first read through this particular line, “Harbors the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom,” I wasn’t so sure what to make of “purity.” “Joy” and “wisdom” are much easier to identify; we have all experienced happiness, even if the source of that happiness was different. We have also all encountered someone wise in our lives, and gained wisdom ourselves by learning and by doing. But “purity” is a little different. Not only is it extremely subjective, changing depending on who you ask, but the word carries with it a lot of assumptions and judgments. A pure substance is devoid of all traces of other substances, like chemical elements or precious minerals, and we value pure substances much more than substances we consider to be tainted with other materials. When we ascribe “purity” to people, we tend to think of innocence and goodness, maybe imagining someone who is optimistic and even naive. But what does it mean to be “pure”?

In my quest for answers, I looked up “pure” in a dictionary — the Merriam-Webster dictionary to be exact. It defines “pure” many times over, but my favorite is “being thus and no other.” This definition makes slightly more sense when used to describe stuff, but still doesn’t make much sense when describing people. What does it mean for a person to “be thus and no other”?

I’m sure you all may have answers to this question, but I’m going to offer my interpretation. I liken “purity” to “authenticity” — a self-awareness unburdened by outside expectations and an expression of that knowledge of oneself as one exists in the world. In other words, someone who is authentic is someone who is true to one’s own values, personality, and interests. 

But there is more to authenticity than just “the self” — and more to “you” than just “you.” The teachings of non-self, interdependence, and interconnectedness caution us against clinging to an idea of an independent self and independent being as the end-all be-all of our existence. The “you” in this moment is the product of many causes and conditions that brought you here, some even beyond the realm of our understanding.

Another way of thinking about this teaching of “non-self” can be to position yourself at the intersection of many different histories. These histories can be specific to your family or shared by the communities you call home. For example, as a Yonsei, a fourth-generation Japanese American, I inherit specific legacies from my grandfather’s military service during World War II in the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team as well as his family’s story with forced relocation and, for some of his siblings, incarceration. As a queer Asian American, I also inherit legacies of the historical queer liberation movement and the unique struggle of queer Asian Americans to have their voices heard in both the queer community and Asian communities. And finally, as a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist in America, my experience as a religious minority is also greatly shaped by the collective history of the Buddhist Churches of America and the temples residing here.

In learning the stories that have brought us to where we are, we can be mindful of and acknowledge this complexity in others we meet as well. Within everyone are countless experiences we may never know first hand — wisdom outside our grasp. Yet this complexity is universal among all humans and all beings, something worth tapping into as a uniting force, rather than a divisive element. I’d like to share a video with you all that illustrates this point concisely.

I love this simple yet profound explanation. Just as leaves of all colors, shapes, and sizes need sunlight to grow, so too do humans of all colors, shapes, and sizes need the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom to grow and flourish. In this way, we can acknowledge diversity of conditions, contexts, and cultures, and recognize our shared desire to live as our authentic selves, in similarity and in difference.

Let us revisit the words of Shinran Shonin. Please join me in Gassho.

From Shinran’s “Hymns of the Pure Land” (“Jodo Wasan”):

“The light of the Buddha of Unhindered Light

Harbors the lights of purity, joy, and wisdom;

Its virtuous working supasses conceptual understanding,

As it benefits the beings throughout the ten quarters.”

(#57)

Unsurpassed is awakening, I vow to realize it (August 1)

This week we will continue our four part series exploring the Four Universal Bodhisattva Vows that express the compassion and dedication to service that characterizes the Dharma path of Mahayana Buddhism.

The theme for the July 25 talk will be “Unsurpassed is awakening, I vow to realize it.”

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Finding Your Gate to Awakening (July 25)

This week we will consider the third of the Four Universal Bodhisattva Vows, “Dharma gates are inexhaustible, I vow to know them all.” There are 84,000 different Dharma gates through which we can enter into the true wisdom taught by the Buddha, so we must each find our own path to awakening.  For those struggling to find their way in these uncertain times, Amida Buddha established the Pure Land Gate through which all beings can easily enter into the realm of peace and bliss. 

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Japanese Language Service 日本語法要

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Reflecting on Wisdom, Joy, and Authenticity (July 18)

This Sunday our service will be led by our Sangha members.  San Mateo Buddhist Women’s Association Corresponding Secretary and Young Buddhist Editorial member Juliet Bost will share a Dharma Talk on the topic of “Reflecting on Wisdom, Joy, and Authenticity”

Schedule
(Shoshinge chanting will resume next Sunday on July 25)
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service with talk by Juliet Bost
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion led by Juliet Bost

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Flowing into the Ocean of Compassion (July 11)

This week we will continue our four part series exploring the Four Universal Bodhisattva Vows that express the compassion and dedication to service that characterizes the Dharma path of Mahayana Buddhism.
Reflecting to the second bodhisattva vow, “Blind passions are limitless, I vow to sever them all,” we will consider how the currents of greed, anger and ignorance are transformed when our minds flow into the ocean of the Buddha’s great compassion.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

BCA Bishop’s Memorial Service (July 4)

Rev. Kenju Masuyama
Bishop of the Buddhist Mission of North America (1930-1938)

As we observe our annual Buddhist Churches of America Bishop’s Memorial Service at this time of transition in our lives, we recall the leadership of Bishop Kenju Masuyama, who led our national Sangha during the Great Depression and the period when the Nisei generation was maturing toward adulthood.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Compassion without Borders (June 26)

This week we begin a four part series exploring the Four Universal Bodhisattva Vows that express the compassion and dedication to service that characterizes the Dharma path of Mahayana Buddhism. As we consider the first bodhisattva vow “Living beings are limitless, I vow to liberate them all,” Rev. Adams will share reflections on the artificial borders we create between our ourselves and others, and how the Dharma guides to a realize a life of kindness by reminding us that all beings share a common wish to live at peace.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. 日本語法要 Japanese Language Service

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Father’s Day: Receiving Skillful Guidance (June 20)

On the occasion of Father’s Day, Rev. Adams will share some Dharma reflections on the skillful, and at times unexpected, ways in which the parental figures in our lives guide us on the right path forward.riends play in our journey through life together on the path of the Nembutsu.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Dharma School Awards Ceremony & the Path of the Nembutsu (June 13)

As we conclude another school year of extraordinary challenges met, Rev. Adams will share reflections on the important role that good Dharma friends play in our journey through life together on the path of the Nembutsu.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Right Concentration: The Settled Mind (June 6)

Featured image: Sangha member Ben Tsutaoka concentrating on his work at the 2019 SMBT Mochitsuki

We live in a world where we are bombarded all day long by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and opinions vying for our attention.  How can we settle our minds on the the great matter of liberation from suffering in the cycle birth and death?   This week we will look to the Buddha’s teachings on Right Concentration, the eighth aspect of the Eightfold Path, for guidance on how to focus the mind, free from doubt and distraction.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.