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.  Just as a good doctor begins by examining the conditions of an illness, the Buddha looked deeply into the nature of human existence and identified the pervasive nature of suffering in birth, illness, aging, and death.  Like a good doctor, who proceeds to investigate the cause of the illness, the Buddha awakened to the truth that our suffering arises from clinging to and being carried away by the three poisons of greed, anger, and delusion.  Having identified the cause of an illness, a good doctor, will set a goal and encourage the patient to achieve optimal health.  The Buddha assures us that we can awaken from delusion and realize the state of ultimate liberation from suffering.  Like a good doctor who prescribes suitable medicines and care to treat an illness, the Buddha offers teachings that make clear the path to awakening and freedom from discontent.

The medicines we receive from our doctors may take the form of pills or shots.  There are some medicines that we take to get relief when we have already gotten sick.  There are other medicines, such as vaccines, that we receive before we get sick in order to prevent serious illness.  From time to time, people do contract illnesses after they have been vaccinated, but because the vaccine strengthens their immune response, they often do not get as sick as they might have had they not been vaccinated.

In the eyes of the Buddha, suffering is the fundamental illness of human life, and the Buddha provides the medicine of the Dharma, the teaching of true reality, as the medicine.  We receive the medicine of the Dharma by hearing the Buddha’s teachings and entrusting in the truth that the teachings impart for our lives.  It may be personal crisis or deep sadness that leads a person to seek guidance from the Buddha’s teachings.  In those cases, the crisis or the sadness is the precious karmic circumstance which brings the comfort of the Buddha’s wisdom into one’s life.  Just as a vaccinated person can have a strengthened immune response, one who regularly hears the Dharma in daily life receives a mind grounded in the wisdom of the Buddha’s teachings and can draw on that wisdom for strength in times of crisis or loss.  Shinran Shonin offers the following words to describe the medicine of Amida Buddha:

There was a time for each of you when you knew nothing of Amida’s Vow and did not say the Name of Amida Buddha, but now, guided by the compassionate means of Sakyamuni and Amida, you have begun to hear the Vow. Formerly you were drunk with the wine of ignorance and had a liking only for the three poisons of greed, anger, and folly, but since you have begun to hear the Buddha’s Vow you have gradually awakened from the drunkenness of ignorance, gradually rejected the three poisons, and come to prefer at all times the medicine of Amida Buddha.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 553)

“To prefer at all times the medicine of Amida Buddha” is to recognize the way in which we have been led astray and caused to suffer by our greed, anger, and folly.  No longer lost in a state of confusion, we are resolved to follow the path to awakening that is illuminated by the wisdom of the Buddha.  There will be moments of stress and sadness as long as this life continues, but if we steadfastly turn our ears to the Buddha’s teachings, we will not stray from the path to liberation.

Namo Amida Butsu

Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day): Effortless Kindness

March 6, 2022

This Sunday’s service will include our celebration of the Japanese Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) holiday. Inspired by the many valuable contributions that girls make to our Sangha and community, Rev. Adams will share a Dharma talk about the meaning of Amida Buddha’s 20th Vow, which emphasizes cultivating the roots of virtue and concentrated Nembutsu practice:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters, upon hearing my name, should place their thoughts on my land, cultivate the roots of virtue, and direct their merit with sincere mind desiring to be born in my land, and yet not ultimately attain birth, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

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

To join us for online Dharma Services, 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”.

Right Mindfulness

May 16

The seventh aspect of the Eightfold Path, Right Mindfulness(Jp. shōnen 正念 )is to live each moment with awareness of the Buddha’s wisdom and compassion at work in our lives.  These days “mindfulness” has become a buzz-word with mindfulness practices being prescribed by doctors and taught in business settings and public schools. 

The Nembutsu (念仏)Recitation of the Name of Amida Buddha Namo Amida Butsu is one of the oldest and most widespread mindfulness practices in the Buddhist Tradition.  This Sunday we consider how Nembutsu practice relates to the present day mindfulness movement.

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”.