2014-01 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – The New Year
- Saisho – How to Use the Force
- Using Diversity to Strengthen and Broaden Community
- Self-Reflection Leading to Global Peace
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(Based upon Shinnyo-en’s Annual Guidance and Points of Practice for 2014 – Year of the Horse)
In HH Keishu Shinso’s New Year’s address she presented the 2014 guideline including working to extend saisho (lit. spiritual wonders) and our annual practices to include contributing in a loving and kind manner with diversity, and using sesshin (lit. self-reflection) to build our world of friendship. Part of our embodiment of the astrological animal traits, is not to just abide by your own birth year’s characteristics, but to also extend your focus and reach according to each year’s sign, sort of like being re-born each year into that year’s emphasis. Horse years include broadening horizons, openness, gatherings and crowds, and certainly an attraction to many many diverse interests. So with that in mind, let’s explore this year’s guidelines and practice items as a whole.
The concept of saisho can be thought of of being similar to the concept of the “Force” in George Lucas’s Star Wars – an energy which flows through every living thing in the universe, neither created nor destroyed, but simply transitioning from form to form, and state to state.
So if entropy and enthalpy are the scientific study of such energy transitions, what does religion and spirituality do with the same concepts? Well, science does well at interpreting what happens when something occurs, such as when a brain cell is electrically stimulated causing a word to be uttered in a verbal response. And psychologically, we may be able to interpret what natural versus nurtured behavioral elements led to the specific content of those words.
But when someone’s words become altruistic — generated in a way that does not seem to directly extend from internal drives and motives, nor self-satisfying objectives, those we may speak of as being driven through a path other than simple scientific cause and effect. We might think of religion being wrapped around a focus of many miraculous events, such as rising from the dead, or surviving apocalypse, but in reality, there are other forms of “miracles” which we simply need to examine our own history to understand that the definition is temporary. Just 100 years ago, many millions fell victim to invisible virus outbreaks, and bacterial infections which were thought to be terminal (and to some extent brought about by divine retribution.) But as the collective human mind became increasingly open to the concept of “invisible life forms” and synergetic treatments, our own collective suffering diminished in return. A couple thousand years ago, we were pretty sure lead was really safe, and mercury was a form of medicinal cure.
So, the concept of saisho, could simply be humanity’s continued diminishing fear of the unknown (or hard to explain), and embracement of harmonic balance. Wave energy is a good example of harmonic convergence or cancellation. When waves are sent in opposing directions to each other, they tend to cancel each other’s energy, and result in a flattened and still surface devoid of movement. Combining wave forces in the same direction creates reinforcement and greater amplitude and strength than contained within the original separated waves. So as religions and spirituality converge and reinforce, rather than conflict and cancel each other, we may observe a rather miraculous result.
Just as small trickles of melting ice and tiny streams converge towards amazingly huge rivers and oceans, so works the power of diversity, or simply variety. In the early days of Shinnyo-en, when food and resources were scarce, the Shinnyo parents (Shinjo and Tomoji Ito) raised vegetables on the temple grounds and gave them to the neighbors and practitioners Tomoji was known for silently cleaning and polishing attendees shoes while they attended lessons by Shinjo, simply because she thought it would bring a smile to someone’s face if they came out and found them that way. Similarly, the early morning cleaning practices wherein we go out and clean and polish a nearby public place, are not meant to be huge demonstrations in public service, but simple small efforts to make a corner of the world a brighter and more enjoyable place.
Perhaps you leave a thank you card for a co-worker for their efforts, or +1 someone’s post on Google, or have some other way to positively contribute to someone else experience of life – it’s an action that counts. It builds merit. And it is more than deciding NOT to do something.
From the ancient roots of philosophy – being a lover of wisdom, and seeker of universal truth, and contrasted with another ancient word, phronesis – seeking practical truth and comprehension, tempered with life experience, the simple example often given is about conveying words of truth to someone. Philosophically, those words can be harsh and bitter to someone unreceptive to them. Phronetically, one might avoid saying anything at all, as being the practical way to avoid the conflict. But through self-reflection (sesshin), we achieve a third state of placing ourselves into the recipients shoes, so to speak, and choose words which can enlighten the person to what we mean to say, truthfully, but without the pain, conflict, or avoidance. Sometimes this self-reflection leads to discovery that what we thought was something worth saying, wasn’t anything at all, and turned out to be an effort to persuade someone else. Remember that harmony includes diversity, and does not strive towards conformity. Balance depends on the relative weight, mass and distribution of each element, and choosing an arbitrary center doesn’t make something balanced. So, be sure you know your own elements, and embrace your own variety (hint: it’s that self-reflection thing), and choosing your centers of balance will become based upon solid reference points rather than guesswork.
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