Enlightenment, or knowing why everything is the way it is, is not a distant reality that can take countless lifetimes to attain. Rather, it is a part of the world we inhabit and experience every day. With the guidance of a good teacher, we are taught that enlightenment can be realized through the activities of body, speech, and mind, known as the Three Secrets or Mysteries. All actions, or karma, emanate from these three sources. In esoteric buddhism, the concentrated power of the body, speech, and mind is activated by forming hand signs called mudras (denoting the body), chanting mantras (your speech), and visualizing the buddhas in meditation (using your mind). Training in these practices allows one to experience the buddha nature that exists both within ourselves and in the universe around you.
A sutra is a term given to the writings and translations of teachings by Shakyamuni Buddha. The Nirvana Sutra focuses on his teachings in the final moments of his life as he summarized and clarified all that he had taught previously.
This last sutra contains four key ideas:
1) Everyone without exception can hope to attain nirvana;
2) The presence, guidance, and compassion of the Buddha is timeless;
3) All living beings possess a buddha nature; and
4) Nirvana (or heaven) exists here and now in this world and is characterized by permanence-bliss-self-purity.
Those last 4 terms permanence-bliss-self and purity, could also mean, a timeless sense of happiness through the awareness and acceptance of one’s self, with truth and without reservation. So it’s the cultivation of everyone’s innate positive nature that brings about the universal sense of joy.
Shinnyo-en’s founder, Shinjo Ito once said, “Time is precious. How many people can say with confidence that they spend their time in a truly meaningful way? We may not be able to achieve anything big with our time, but it would be nice if we could say we used it wisely” it is how we use our time now that determines the path we take.
Should we spend our time staring at a bare patch of dirt waiting and hoping for something to grow? Or perhaps instead, with intention and dedication plant a seed, provide food and sun, and water it carefully so that new life may truly develop. Because all living things are interdependent, your own spiritual awakening comes, not from self-enlightenment, but helping others to develop and open their own eyes. As those people you touch and interact with also gain a sense of permanance-bliss-self and purity, your own world begins to grow and prosper.