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.
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
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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.
Why isn’t incense raised to the forehead in Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha
One common understanding is that incense is raised to the forehead as an expression of gratitude for the purification that is received (Jpn. itadaku 頂く) though the offering. In the Jodo Shinshu tradition, the way of offering incense expresses the understanding that the fragrance is not something we receive for our own self-purification, but rather is something that we offer as an expression of our gratitude and reverence for the Buddha’s great compassion. The words of the Buddha found in the Three Pure Land Sutras assure us that the Buddha’s great compassion embraces us just as we as are—with all our impurities of body and mind—so incense does not serve the purpose of purification in the Jodo Shinshu tradition.
Some common explanations for offering incense three times:
The most common understanding is that incense is offered to
Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana Buddha)—as a symbol of the principle of true reality
Kobo Daishi—as a symbol of our Master/Founder
Ancestors—as a symbol of our origin
Another common understanding is that incense is offered to “burn away” or purify the negative karma created by
Incense may also be offered on behalf a departed loved one
as an expression of homage to
in order to eliminate/purify oneself of the three poisons
before going to the next realm.
A person who offers incense on behalf of a departed loved one shows their respect and honor for the deceased through the intentions described above. Through the power of the Buddha, Bodhisattva, or other being (ex. Fudo Myoo) to which the incense is offered, impurities are transformed into virtues or merit (Jpn. kudoku 功徳) that can support and aid the deceased when they are about to be born into the next realm.
These understandings are based on the Shingon goma fire ritual, in which spiritual thoughts are burned with the fire of the Buddha to create goodness or remove karmic defilements. In this way, the fire, smoke and incense express a goma fire ritual conducted by a representative of the deceased.
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.