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

Pie & Gratitude (November 27)

This Sunday Rev. Adams will share a Dharma Talk reflecting on lessons learned from waiting two hours to buy a single pie on Thanksgiving Morning.

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
10:30 a.m. 日本語法要 Japanese Language Service

We welcome you to join us in person!

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

Turning From Conflict to Kindness (November 6)

This Sunday Rev. Adams will share a Dharma Talk reflecting on how, in the midst of this world where anger and conflict abound, each of us has the potential to live with kindness inspired by the Buddha’s vow to “to bring sentient beings from birth-and-death to the final attainment of 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. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service

We welcome you to join us in person!

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

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 10)

This session will delve into the meaning expressed the following metaphor of the sun that shines through clouds and mists, and how the Buddha’s wisdom illuminates our lives even in times of difficulty and confusion.

The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin.

But though light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,
One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses.

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Blowing Out the Flame of Selfish Desire

February 21

The word “nirvana” means “to blow out,” as in “when a flame is blown out by the wind.”  This week’s Dharma talk will focus on the Third Noble Truth taught by the Buddha, that the peace of nirvana is attained by extinguishing the blind passions of selfish desire, hatred and delusion.

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”.

Incense Offering

Buddhist SchoolNumber of timesWay of offering
Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (Nishi Hongwanji)1 timePlace a pinch of incense directly on the charcoal without raising it to the forehead.
Shinshu Otani-ha (Higashi Honganji) 2 timesPlace a pinch of incense directly on the charcoal without raising it to the forehead.
Soto Shu2 timesFirst time: raise a pinch of incense to the forehead before placing it on the charcoal.
Second time: Place a pinch of incense directly on the charcoal without raising it to the forehead.
Jodo Shu1 to 3 times No set guidelines.
Tendai Shu1 or 3 timesNo set guidelines.
Shingon Shu3 timesRaise a pinch of incense to the forehead each time before placing it on the charcoal.
Rinzai Shu1 timeRaise a pinch of incense to the forehead before placing it on the charcoal.
Nichiren Shu1 or 3 timesNo set guidelines.
Nichiren Shoshu3 timesRaise a pinch of incense to the forehead each time before placing it on the charcoals.
Information translated from http://www.sanretsu.jp/shoukou/kaisuu.html

Why only one pinch of incense in Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha?

We offer incense as an expression of gratitude to the great oneness that is Amida Buddha.

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Olympic Victory

Growing up in Minnesota, my favorite sport was alpine skiing. As a teenager, I competed in slalom racing on my high school ski team and the great sports hero of my youth was Olympic slalom champion Alberto Tomba. Our team practiced at a local ski hill that somehow managed to rise out of the flat surrounding farmland, gradually increasing in elevation over the years thanks to innumerable dump truck loads of dirt. I never came close to winning a race, but I enjoyed practices because the course of gates was set differently each time, transforming the otherwise unremarkable little hill into a challenging and exciting place to ski.

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