by Charles K. Hasegawa - Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple
The day after Halloween a young mother of a Dharma School student told me the following. Her child had gathered over forty pumpkins to be carved into jack-o-lanterns. People did not buy some because of their shape and size. After carving all of the left-over pumpkins that lay unsold, he waited until darkness and lit each one. Watching them aglow in the darkness he remarked how beautiful each one of them looked. He was startled by his discovery that every unwanted pumpkin manifested a warmth from within. This discovery of a young boy must not be set aside simply as a cute observation of a child, for within a simple occurrence of everyday living we discover some profound reality of life.
The deep spiritual joy that we pursue should not be sought in the far-off horizon but will be discovered in our most immediate surroundings. Some instances might be: tiny bits of warmth that appear in a handshake, in a short exchange o greetings, in a smile of thanks that comes our way. The golden leaves turn rusty and fall, the bitterly cold air that refuses to let go of its grip, the snow that canvases the visible, are also occurrences of immediate surroundings that serve as sources of discovery and reflection. Ingredients of joy and happiness lie unnoticed, and herein lies our ignorance and hence dissatisfaction. Such a condition is called the unenlightened. Like the child who was able to penetrate the facade or appearance to see the beauty within each misshaped pumpkin, we must also see the nobleness and hence the preciousness of each life that surrounds us including our own. Each person, each event, and each thing should be a teacher of life that sheds light to the stubborn and conceited. The thick and tough cold layers within us prevent the expression of real life which lies dormant.
In listening to the Buddha-Dharma we at times get stuck in the concept of our own evil. A Jodo Shinshuistic person, however, is one who ultimately discovers the richness and nobleness of his own life, for he has always been the singular focus of Great Compassion that grasps and does not abandon. The one who is beyond salvation and therefore to be tightly in s ate of remorse and self-pity, one whose layers of coldness overwhelms any manifestation of sincerity and truth, has been the very reason for Namu Amida Butsu's appearance.
Namu Amida Butsu is the Great Compassion working to make us alive and vibrant. The dynamics of Namu Amida Butsu enables us to discover this untapped reservoir of joy and gratitude that lay hidden and make it surface. Everything becomes alive in the light of Namu Amida Butsu. We who feel we are very much alive and vibrant may remind ourselves that in low ebbs of life we easily lose that quality.
In times of darkness and brightness, Namu Amida Butsu constantly works upon you and me to discover the unchanging pool of joy and gratitude. After a sudden brain hemorrhage, a man lived for one year between the hospital and nursing home. Upon his death, his wife's words at the bedside service flashed a world transcending the dark and cold. Tearful and yet full of love and gratitude, she remarked how he had lived so long solely for her sake, knowing that she was a person who would not adjust easily to new environments and circumstances. Rubbing his arms and hands that were now becoming colder, she thanked her husband for all the love he had given her and for trying so hard for her sake to get well. This gave a prevailing atmosphere of deep love and warmth, a world of warm tears.
The light of Great Compassion shines forth through our blind, ignorant, and foolish self to awaken our true humility. What was once a dark and cold life becomes lit with a flame. Namu Amida Butsu is an ever active voice of reassurance coming from the side of the Great Compassion. It is the power that enable us to see ourselves and others as singularly unique and precious beings.
The following are Shinran Shoni's words that appear in the WASAN. "Although my eyes, blinded by passion, do not see the brilliant Light which embraces me, the Great Compassion never tires, always casting Light upon me." Savoring these words, may we reflect upon the irreplacable and unrepeatable in life we are given. And, may we extend ourselves to benefit others, for each one of us is the sole recipient of Great Compassion.