Dharma Discussion: Kṣānti (July 26, 2020)

Click here to read about the Buddhist Virtue of Patience

How is patience defined in Mahayana Buddhism?

Three aspects[i]

(1) not giving rise to anger or annoyance—not getting angry in the first place

(2) not clinging to hatred and grudges—if you get angry, not holding onto it

(3) not harboring ill will

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Learn from the Buddha’s heart of great compassion

On Sunday, May 20, 2018, at 9:30 a.m., we will hold our annual Gotan-e Service at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, celebrating the birth of Shinran Shonin, the founder of our Jodo Shinshu tradition.  As I reflect on the profound impact that Shinran’s life and teachings have had on my own journey in the Nembutsu, I find myself recalling memories from ten years ago, when I was just beginning my formal study of Jodo Shinshu as a newly enrolled student at the Chuo Bukkyo Gakuin Buddhist Seminary in Kyoto.

I remember sitting around a cluster of desks while we ate our bento lunchboxes during my first week in the seminary, listening to my classmates speak about their varied backgrounds and life experiences.  The eldest in our group was a retired firefighter who was looking forward to pursuing his personal interest in Buddhism.
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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
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Thanksgiving

Here in United States, the month of November marks the beginning of the busy holiday season, a time when many of us find ourselves busier than usual shopping for gifts for loved ones or preparing special meals for family gatherings. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of trips to the mall and the grocery store, I have to remind myself not to overlook the true significance our Thanksgiving celebrations—the opportunity to come together with friends and family and reflect in gratitude on this life that I am able to live thanks to generosity and patience of so many people in my life, including those who have already gone forth to the Other Shore.

At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, our annual Eitaikyo Service held in November is a special opportunity for all of us to come together and express our thanks for the past members of our Sangha who overcame great difficulties to establish and maintain the thriving temple community we enjoy today.

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The Patient Ox

We will be observing our Spring Ohigan Service on Sunday, March 15 at 9:30 a.m. Ohigan is observed twice a year during the spring and autumn equinoxes, when days and nights are of equal length and the sun sets directly in the West. The Pure Land Sutras describe the Pure Land of Amida Buddha as a world of enlightenment located in the West, so Ohigan is an ideal time to reflect on the direction of our lives and reorient ourselves on the path to liberation from suffering.

As we consider what it means to lead a life guided by the Buddha’s wisdom, the Japanese Buddhist observance of Ohigan traditionally focuses on study and reflection on the Six Paramitas, a set of Buddhist virtues which are perfected by those who have crossed over from “this shore” in the deluded world of birth and death to arrive at the “other shore” of enlightenment. The Six Paramitas are generosity, moral conduct, patience, diligence, contemplation, and wisdom.

Stories of Sakyamuni Buddha’s previous lives are called Jataka Tales. Many of these stories provide clear teachings on the virtues of the Six Paramitas that can be appreciated by Dharma students of all ages.   One of these stories tells of a mischievous monkey who dwelled in the forest near a great ox. Every day the monkey would amuse himself by tormenting the ox, climbing all over his body and mocking him. In spite of the monkey’s consistently obnoxious behavior, the ox never became angry or punished him. One day, a forest sprite happened to pass by just as the monkey was in the midst of harassing the ox.

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Falling Short

As we welcome the arrival of autumn, we will be observing our Autumn Ohigan Service on Sunday, September 21 at 9:30 a.m. The Japanese Buddhist observance of Ohigan traditionally focuses on study and reflection on the Six Paramitas, a set of Buddhist virtues that, when perfected, lead us to cross over from “this shore” in the deluded world of birth and death to arrive at the “other shore” of liberation in Nirvana.

The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word paramita is “Crossing over to the Other Shore.” In Chinese and Japanese translation, the term paramita is sometimes rendered as tōhigan到彼岸 “arriving at the other shore.” This imagery of crossing over to the other shore is the basis for Japanese Buddhist celebrations of Ohigan observed at the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. In many Buddhist communities, it is customary to hold seven-day observances of Ohigan, with the middle day dedicated to gratitude towards one’s ancestors and each of the remaining six days dedicated to one of the Six Paramitas.

The Six Paramitas are listed below along with a brief explanation of the meaning of each:

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