The Path to Awakening

On Sunday, December 5 at 9:30 a.m., we welcome you to join us at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple for our Bodhi Day Service celebrating Sakyamuni Buddha’s awakening at the age of 35 when he conquered Mara’s army of delusion and fully realized the path to liberation from suffering.  If you would like to attend the Bodhi Day service in person, please email smbt@sanmateobuddhisttemple.orgor call (650) 342-2541 to reserve a seat. Full Covid-19 vaccination is required. A maximum of 30 in-person attendees will be allowed, so please contact us at your earliest convenience if you wish to attend.  You also have the option of continuing to join the service from home via Zoom Meeting.

Sakyamuni left home at age 29 to seek the path to awakening.  What he sought was not merely a path that led to his individual enlightenment, but rather a path that all beings could follow to realize liberation and cross into the world of awakening.  When he realized awakening under the Bodhi Tree, not only did he arrive at the destination he had been progressing toward for years up to that moment in his life, his path forward to guide all beings to liberation also became perfectly clear.

Having clarified the path to awakening, Sakyamuni Buddha dedicated his life to teaching the Dharma to guide all beings on their journey to realize liberation from suffering.  There are countless Buddhas who have followed that same path to awakening.  The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life includes the following description of their life on that path:

Traveling freely, he roared with the thunderous voice of a Buddha. Beating the Dharma-drum, blowing the Dharma-conch, wielding the Dharma-sword, hoisting the Dharma-banner, rolling the Dharma-thunder, flashing the Dharma-lightning, pouring down the Dharma-rain, and extolling the Dharma-gift, he continuously awakened the people of the world with the sounds of the Dharma.

The light he emitted illuminated countless Buddha-lands and shook the entire world with six kinds of tremors. The light entirely encompassed Māra’s realm and made his palace shake. Māra and his assembly, trembling with terror, all surrendered without exception. He tore to shreds the net of falsehood, extinguished all wrong views, swept away the dust of affliction, and destroyed the moat of desire. He firmly protected the Dharma-castle, and opened widely the Dharma-gates. Washing away the grime of passions, he revealed his original purity. He elucidated the Buddha Dharma, guiding people to the right teaching.

(The Three Pure Land Sutras, Volume II, Section 2)

Because each person is unique, Sakyamuni Buddha is said to have taught 84,000 Dharma Gates through which living beings can enter into the path to awakening.  From the moment of his enlightenment at age 35 until he entered final Nirvana at age 80, he spent 45 years continuously teaching the Dharma.  While it is essential for each of us to identify our own path to awakening among those many teachings, we must keep in mind that the path to true liberation does not just benefit me alone, but rather is one that brings great benefit to all beings.

I find my path to awakening in the Nembutsu of entrusting in Amida Buddha.  It is Amida Buddha’s compassionate vow that carries me into the world of awakening.  Furthermore, the Dharma taught by Sakyamuni assures us that those who realize awakening through birth in Amida Buddha’s Pure Land unfailingly return to this world as bodhisattvas to guide the people who are mired in delusion to the right teaching.   Sakyamuni appeared in this with the clear purpose of attaining Buddhahood, so that he could teach the path to liberation through the Nembutsu of entrusting in Amida Buddha’s compassionate vow.

Namo Amida Butsu