The Medicine of Compassion: Pure Land Practice and Other Power in a Tibetan Buddhist Pill Tradition

27th Annual Nembutsu Seminar

Saturday, March 9, 2024

2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Dr. James

Gentry

Stanford University

Dr. Gentry specializes in Tibetan Buddhism, with particular focus on the literature and history of its Tantric traditions. He is the author of Power Objects in Tibetan Buddhism: The Life, Writings, and Legacy of Sokdokpa Lodrö Gyeltsen, which examines the roles of Tantric material and sensory objects in the lives and institutions of Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhists.

We welcome you to join us in person at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple on Saturday, March 9 for this Dharma session.

You may also join via Zoom Meeting from the comfort and safety of your own home. To join us online, CLICK HERE and sign up for “Study Classes and Seminars”.

All the Sacred Scriptures

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 5, Letter 9

The essential point of the settled mind in our tradition lies simply in the meaning of the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu” (literally, paying homage to Amida Buddha).

This means that when we pay homage - “namo” - to Amida Buddha, we are immediately saved by the Buddha. So the two-character word, “na-mo,” means to take refuge.

“To take refuge” means that we, sentient beings, setting aside various practices, entrust ourselves unwaveringly to Amida Buddha for our emancipation in the afterlife Accordingly, Amida Tathagata, knowing this fully, saves all of us, without exception.

Thereupon, since Amida Buddha saves the sentient beings who entrust themselves - “namo” - to the Buddha, the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” manifests how we, sentient beings, are all saved without discrimination.

For this reason, when we speak of attaining the entrusting heart of Other Power, we find that it is exactly what the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu,” means. We should, therefore, realize that all the sacred scriptures indeed are solely meant to make us entrust ourselves to the six-character Name, “Na-mo-a-mi-da-butsu.”

Humbly and respectfully.

This Marvelous Human Life

This past month we had the opportunity to gather three generations of our family at the Grand Canyon when my wife and I traveled with our sons to join my parents in celebrating their golden wedding anniversary at a place they visited on their engagement trip 50 years prior.  We had all visited the Grand Canyon together five years ago on the occasion of my father’s 70th birthday.  Plans are already in the works for another visit in five years’ time to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday.

I find the Grand Canyon to be an ideal place to reflect upon the passage of time in our lives.  Viewing the layers upon layers of rock that were formed over millions of years, and then gradually carved out by the waters of the Colorado River, the flow of time is on display in a rare and magnificent fashion.

On this trip, we learned that the canyon continues to evolve as the river flows like sandpaper, carrying sediment and boulders in its current.  When the spring snowmelt comes down from the Rocky Mountains, strong flows of water carry boulders the size of automobiles that scrape against the riverbed, helping to carve the canyon even deeper through the layers of hard, dry rock. Even with all these dramatic and powerful forces of nature at work, a park ranger told us, “You can come back in 50 years and the canyon will be deeper by about the thickness of one Harry Potter book.” 

Continue reading “This Marvelous Human Life”

Great Compassion and Small Compassion (April 30)

Inspired by the following verse from the Sanbutsuge, Rev. Adams will share a Dharma Talk about how the great compassion of the Buddha transcends small compassion that is limited by self-interest.

My land shall be like nirvana,
Being supreme and unequaled.
Out of compassion and pity,
I will bring all to emancipation.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Dharma Room)

We welcome you to join us in person!

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

The Medicine of Amida Buddha

In our family we have three children from preschool to middle school in age, so as the cold and flu season arrives, it seems that someone in our house is always coming down with a fever or starting to cough.  Sakyamuni Buddha taught that birth, illness, aging, and death are four inescapable kinds of suffering in this life, so there is no choice but to accept the reality that getting sick is part of being alive.  That said, when we get sick, we naturally seek medicines to alleviate our symptoms and speed our recovery.  There are also medicines we may take before we get sick to avoid the most severe illness.  When choosing medicines to take it is best to follow the advice of a good doctor.

The Buddha is often described as a good doctor because, just as a good doctor carefully investigates an illness before providing an appropriate prescription, the Buddha arrived at a deep understanding of the troubles of human life before providing suitable teachings for all people.  

Continue reading “The Medicine of Amida Buddha”

Parents and Children

In the month of May we observe our Gōtan-e Service celebrating the birth of Shinran Shonin, the founder of our Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism.  During the Gōtan-e Service, we place a statue of Shinran Shonin as a young boy in the temple hall and recall the story of his childhood.    May is also the month in which we celebrate Mother’s Day and express the gratitude and appreciation we feel for the mothers in our lives.  As we observe these two holidays of Gōtan-e and Mother’s Day, the month of May provides us with precious occasions to reflect upon the karmic bond between parents and children.  The parental figures in our lives are not limited to our biological parents.  Grandparents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are other examples of those who can provide the care and guidance of a parent in our lives.

According to tradition, Shinran Shonin was separated from his mother at a young age and left home to receive ordination as a Buddhist monk at the age of nine.   While the time that Shinran spent living with his mother and father was brief, he had a profound sense of receiving parental love and care in his life. 

Continue reading “Parents and Children”

Nirvana Day – The Essential Message of Sakyamuni Buddha’s Lifetime (February 13)

Nirvana Day is our annual remembrance of the day that Sakyamuni Buddha drew his final breath in this world and attained parinirvana, passing into the lasting peace of tranquility.

This Sunday, we will reflect upon how Sakyamuni Buddha’s lifelong dedication to guiding all beings to liberation from suffering was fulfillled when he imparted teaching of Amida Buddha’s 18th Vow:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters who, with sincere and entrusting heart, aspire to be born in my land and say my name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the five grave offenses* and those who slander the right Dharma.

*five grave offenses: 1) intentionally killing one’s father; 2) intentionally killing one’s mother; 3) intentionally killing an arhat (enlightened disciple of the Buddha); 4) disrupting the harmony of the sangha through one’s inverted views; and 5) maliciously causing blood to flow from the body of the Buddha.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Hula Lesson with Stephanie Hagio Chin
9:30 a.m. Nirvana Day 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”.

Sadness and Compassion

Conducting funerals and memorial services is one of the characteristic activities of a Japanese Buddhist temple.  As a result, Buddhism is closely associated with death in the minds of many people in Japanese communities.  When I became a Buddhist priest, one of my friends who had lost her mother at a young age asked me, “Isn’t it depressing to be around so much sadness all the time?”

Certainly, every encounter with death is deeply saddening.  At the same time, sadness is deeply connected with the Buddha’s compassion that liberates us from suffering.  Shinran Shonin shares the following reflection on compassion (jihi 慈悲) in his major work The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way:

[Concerning compassion (jihi慈悲):] To eliminate pain is termed ji 慈; to give happiness is termed hi 悲. Through ji 慈, one eliminates the pain of all sentient beings; through hi 悲, one becomes free of thoughts that do not bring them peace.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 169)

Continue reading “Sadness and Compassion”

No-one Will Be Beautiful or Ugly (October 31)

As we don our Halloween costumes to amuse and entertain each other with playful appearances, both charming and spooky, this week’s Dharma Talk will in introduce the 4th Vow of Amida Buddha, which expresses the Buddha’s wish to liberate all beings from the suffering of inequality based on physical appearances:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be of the same appearance and should be either beautiful or ugly, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

In Buddha’s mind that is free from discrimination, all beings are welcomed just as they are.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Virtual Halloween Costume Parade (wear your costume on Zoom!)
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”.

Featured Image: Noh masks from Shimakumayama noh mask festival in Toyonaka, Japan (San Mateo Sister City)

Everyone Will Be the Color of Genuine Gold (October 10)

This year we are learning about Amida Buddha, the Buddha whose image stands at the center of our temple, and his 48 Vows that describe realm of awakening we call the Pure Land. The 3rd Vow of Amida Buddha expresses the Buddha’s wish to liberate all beings from the suffering of inequality based on skin color and social class:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be the color of genuine gold, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

In this week’s Dharma talk, Rev. Adams will share how living with mindfulness of the 3rd Vow can open our hearts to treasure the rich diversity of the communities we live in.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Hula lesson with Stephanie Hagio Chin
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”.