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.  

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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. 

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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)

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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”.

Dharmakara’s Wish (September 12)

This Sunday we begin our new Dharma School year! During this coming year we will be learning about Amida Buddha, the Buddha whose image stands at the center of our temple. We’ll begin on Sunday, September 12 by revisiting the story of Dharmakara Bodhisattva, the king who abandoned all his wealth and power in order to fulfill his wish to bring peace and comfort to all the people of the world.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Morning Exercise Program
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”.

48 Vows of Bodhisattva Dharmakara (Amida Buddha)

From the Three Pure Land Sutras, Volume II: The Larger Sutra, pg. 20-29

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1

“‘If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be hell, the realm of hungry spirits, or the realm of animals in my land, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

2

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land, should, after their death, return once more to the three evil realms, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

3

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.

4

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.

5

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not remember all their former lives,[1] and thus be unable to know at least the events of the previous hundred thousand kotis of *nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

6

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine eyes,[2] and thus be unable to see at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

7

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine ears,[3] and thus be unable to hear the teachings being expounded by at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddhas or remember them all, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

8

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess the wisdom to see into the minds of others,[4] and thus be unable to know the thoughts of the sentient beings of at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

9

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine feet, and thus be unable to go beyond at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands in a thought‐moment, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

10

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should give rise to any thought of attachment to their body, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

11

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the stage of the truly settled and necessarily attain nirvana, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

12

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my light should be finite, not illuminating even a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

13

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my life should be finite, limited even to a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

14

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the number of sravakas in my land could be counted and known, even if all the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas in the *triple‐thousand great thousand worlds should spend at least a hundred thousand kalpas counting them, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

15

When I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land will not have a limited life span, except when they wish to shorten it freely according to their original vows. Should this not be so, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

16

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should even hear that there are names of evil acts, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

17

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all glorify and praise my name, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.[5]

18

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.[6]

Continue reading “48 Vows of Bodhisattva Dharmakara (Amida Buddha)”

Dharma Discussion: Śīla (July 19, 2020)

Please review the Bodhisattva Precepts

Discussion Questions

  1.  How do you practice these precepts in your daily life?
  2. Is there meaning in doing one’s best, even though one is not able to practice these perfectly in daily life?
  3. Which of these do you think our world needs most at the present moment?

Honen’s Perspective on upholding precepts (from The Passages on the the Selection of the Nembutsu in the Original Vow)

If the original vow required us to make images of the Buddha and to build stupas, the poor and destitute would surely have no hope of birth, but the fact is that the rich and highborn are few, while the poor and lowborn are exceedingly many.  

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Listening and learning

My wife Shoko recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Tokuma Monju Adams-Ichinomiya, at the Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center. Throughout the delivery and post-partum period, Shoko and Tokuma have received excellent care from the doctors, nurses, and other staff at Kaiser. The conscientious and compassionate treatment that our family has received inspires a deep feeling of gratitude in us for the quality of health care that we have access to.

When people first learn Tokuma’s name, they are often curious about its meaning. In Japanese, the name Tokuma 徳眞 is written with two Chinese characters: “Toku 徳” (virtue) and “ma 眞” (truth). During our Bodhi Day Service in early December, we chanted the “Verses in Praise of the Buddha (Sanbutsuge)” from The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. At that time, we were still thinking about possible names for the baby, and during the chanting the character “Toku 徳” in the following verses caught Shoko’s eye:

 

Your observance of precepts, learning, diligence,

Meditation, and wisdom—

The magnificence of these virtues (toku 徳) is peerless,

Excellent and unsurpassed.

 

Deeply and clearly mindful

Of the ocean of the Dharma of all Buddhas,

You know its depth and breadth,

And reach its farthest end.

 

In these verses, Dharmakara Bodhisattva recognizes and praises the virtues of Lokesvararaja Buddha. This passage from the Sutra reminds us that our path to awakening is fulfilled when we live with the humility to recognize great virtue in others and learn from their example. The character “ma 眞” means “truth,” and refers to the truth of the Buddha’s teachings as a guide for living with wisdom and compassion. Shoko and I chose the characters Tokuma 徳眞 for the name of our third son as an expression of our wish that as he finds his own path on the journey of life, he will be guided by the virtuous truth of awakening.

In our family, we have a custom of choosing the middle name of our children taking inspiration from the wisdom of the lives of those who have come before us. Our two older sons have middle names from ancestors on my side of the family. When we found out that we were pregnant with our third child, Shoko shared with me a Japanese proverb that has been passed down in her family over the generations and that she often heard from her mother growing up: “When three minds come together, they have the wisdom of Manjusri (Monju 文殊) Bodhisattva. (Sannin yoreba Monju no chie.)” In Mahayana Buddhism, Monju is revered as a bodhisattva of profound and penetrating wisdom. In the Amida Sutra, Monju appears as a representative of the beings of awakening who gather to hear the Buddha’s teaching. The truly wise recognize the importance of listening to others. The proverb above expresses the truth that three ordinary people who come together and listen to one another are able to realize great wisdom and insight. With the birth of Tokuma Monju, our wish is for our three sons to listen to one another and come together to realize profound wisdom, drawing on their unique perspectives to realize a greater depth of insight than they would each be capable of on their own. We are truly grateful to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha for all your support and friendship as our family grows together in the Nembutsu.

 

Namo Amida Butsu