Category Archives: Shinnyo Podcasts

Audio podcasts of Shinnyo-en’s guidelines and focus areas for self-impovement each month in abridged form Visit for more information, or feel free to contact me.

2012-June Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – The Path to Happiness/The Goreiju

2012-June Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast
The Path to Happiness
How The Goreiju Melody Came to Be

2012-June Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

The path to our own happiness and the path to making others happy are one and the same. When we completely dedicate ourselves towards the well-being of others, our individual path to happiness begins to unfold before us. True joy results from single-minded devotion in this endeavor of gladly striving to give joy to others. Religious practice does not mean passively asking for blessings to make up for our shortcomings; rather it is an active process of spiritual growth that results from walking the path revealed before us each and every day. Hoping for a positive result without walking such a path is like anticipating the harvest without having planted any seeds.

Instead of spending our time as we like, thinking only of ourselves, to follow the Shinnyo Teaching means to dedicate our time to others and benefit them as well. That’s when we discover true freedom, and our lives become radiant. The joy of practice comes from stepping forward to make others happy in whatever way we can. If you think, “I may be unable to do much, but at least I can do this,” “I can help my family or those around me in this way,” or, “I can give of myself in service somewhere,” then keep that thought close to your heart and don’t let it slip away. The secular and the religious life are wholly compatible.

How, then, do we practice in a balanced way? With the Teaching as the common denominator, we can start to see beyond our usual way of doing things, appreciate how others have overcome problems, draw upon the wisdom they have cultivated, and broaden our own perspective as we discover other ways of seeing the world. Regarding other people’s concerns as our own and identifying with their experiences enables us to take a fresh look at ourselves. When we look at those around us, we might even see the way we used to be. When we gather and meet, we should listen to each other with humility and share our thoughts and experiences. We can then rediscover the goodness, warmth, and compassion inside of us that we may have perhaps long forgotten. There are many who could benefit from your advice and experiences that when shared with others, often shows the commonality that lies between all of our lives.

The melody of the Goreiju, or mantra of Achala’s Benevolence and Liberation, has been described as an evocative, spiritual tune, both melancholic and sweet, and yet not an elegy. The pitch rises and falls with a slow, certain rhythm, turning the Shingon dharma chant into a melody that naturally brings tears to our eyes. But what is the origin of this particular melody?

Back in 1936, when the founders of Shinnyo-en first embarked on their spiritual path, their year- old first born son who was born on a bitterly cold winter night had begun showing signs of illness. Their house was full, day and night, with people asking to be cured of illnesses and seeking other prayers to be answered. They busily spent their days conducting prayer rituals and guiding the practitioners in meditation, but at night had their hands filled caring for their critically ill son. This was at a time in Japan just after World War I, when poverty was wide-spread and starvation and hunger abounded since most of the precious resources had been consumed during the long years of battle. Every night his mother would chant the words of Achala’s mantra with a soft melody similar to a lullaby, or children’s song, and their son would finally look relieved and settle into sleep. This melodic gift, borne from a mother’s love for her suffering child is what we have come to know as The Goreiju, or spiritual mantra.

Their first son passed away a mere 22 months into his life, and exactly 100 days after the founders had committed themselves to a life of spiritual commitment. How would you receive this kind of painful experience if you had just committed to a different life? Would you be deterred from your chosen path? In this moment of pain that only a parent who loses a child can know, the founders witnessed the exchange of their child’s life and the emergence of a melodic mantra that seemed to touch people’s hearts and unifies their spirits. They saw how the never-ending turning of the wheel of life teaches us to treasure the fragility of life, and that every moment is precious. By giving the Goreiju to the rest of the world through Shinnyo-en, the founders also wished to encourage us to give the same compassionate feelings for others, reminding ourselves that the suffering of others is what we can change through our daily actions.


2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Dharma/Karma)

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast
Dealing with Dharma and Causes of Karma
The Perpetual Cycle of Karma
Please Do Not Feed the Bears

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Dharma/Karma)


Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

Dharma, simply put, is Nature’s law.  The way things are meant to be in Nature. The way water flows to its lowest point, choosing the path of least resistance, and gradually dissolves that which impedes its progress.

Describing what Karma is would be perhaps like a sack you carry with you through life. Though unlike a regular sack that can only get heavier, a Karma sack can become lighter than air, or like a balloon, lift you up when filled with more positive (light or floating) things than negative (heavy) things.  How do you end up carrying things around in your Karma sack? By performing actions that break Nature’s law (the Dharma concept we described earlier) you increase the heavy things.  By performing actions that reinforce Nature’s law, you increase the positive light things, and can even get rid of some of the negative heavy things you accumulated earlier.

So let’s say, for example, that the Natural state of two people is simple co-existence – that is, they really don’t affect one another, and each person lives independently. An example of negative karma would be doing something towards that person that resulted in them having a negative experience, like lying, cheating or stealing from them.  A positive karma element might be helping the other person, teaching the other person, or giving something to them.

A religious element to Buddhism would be the concept of reincarnation, or living with the consequences of what you have done before in past lives, and taking into consideration that your daily actions impact the lives of your future self.  But even further than that, Buddhism also takes into consideration all spiritual influences, positive and negative, of every person you have affected for ten generations before the here-and-now.  For practical purposes, this prevents someone from simply rationalizing, “Okay, I’m being really bad in this life. But so what, It’s mine to live? I one day die, and no one else suffers.” Buddhism teaches that compassion and suffering (or positive and negative karma) is a spiritual inventory that is continuously inherited from generation to generation. To put it really simply – if your life today is really horrible, it’s probably not just your own current actions that led to it being negative. You might be experiencing the result of ten generations of similarly negative lifetimes that have passed the burden on to you. Or looking at this in a strictly psychological manner, the selective experiences of your own ancestors, through parenting practices and behavioral modification, have resulted in how you tend to react to things.

So what do you do with this sack full of negatives? You start performing positive karma actions and help balance all the negatives that you’re carrying. This process is what we refer to as “cutting karma” or more accurately “cutting negative karma.” You might consider the beginning steps being similar to filing your taxes – you need to embrace and accept your own personal liabilities as well as assets. Being able to look into a mirror and accept what you see is an important breakthrough. Instead of immediately becoming critical and determining what you want to change (which becomes ego-centric or self-centered) accept what you see and see if you can have gratitude for what you have been given as a person.

Another critical step towards changing karma is to also respect others – do not let your own negative elements affect other people.  While this is a relatively complex idea in concept, I found one of my first beginning questions about buddhist practice to be quite enlightening.

I asked, “What do buddhists do with a homeless person asking for money?” I already knew the principle of reducing your attachments to material things, like money. So it seemed sort of logical that you might just give it away to a needy person. Instead I was challenged with a different perspective: the homeless person has a heavy burden of negative karma. You add to that negative burden by reinforcing the person’s behavior, like pouring gasoline to put out a fire. Does the giving of money to that person lessen your guilty feeling about not doing something for them? (showing another self-centered action) Remember, you cannot really change anything or anybody else other than yourself. The same is true of everyone else. They must want to change themselves and also take steps to make the changes happen.  It’s also important that helping a person does not necessarily mean making things easier for that person.  Asking for a hand-out doesn’t signify the person wants to change what they’re doing, but asking for a job, or for some advice just might get them started on a new path.  These days, when encountering someone asking for money, I’ll usually suggest they do something for someone that might result in a payment, like offering to play cards, or fortune telling, or simply being a good listener, rather than relying upon someone’s guilt..

I’m reminded of a simple instruction made by park rangers to tourists in Yellowstone National Park – Please do not feed the bears.  Why? Is it because we would make the bears fat? Actually it’s because it creates unnatural expectations. The first time a previously-fed bear comes upon a tourist unwilling to feed them, it will get angry and frustrated, and result in dangerous and unpredictable outcomes.  Did you think the bear was unable or unwilling to forage for its own food? Bears that figure out that it’s easier to open up a trash can, or break into a garage for its food, instead of finding and catching prey become dependent on that source. Humans are not that far from the bears in that respect.

So, you have to be very aware of your actions, especially related to how this balance of Karma works. Think carefully about how your actions can unexpectedly generate negative Karma for another person or thing. To serve others and your own self (and ancestors), one of the basic tenements of good behavior, we must also be aware of the appropriate forms that service can take without creating more negative burden in the process.

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Bridging Beliefs)

Blending Buddhism with other Beliefs and Religions

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast


Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

Within our sangha (or buddhist community) there are to be found Christian Buddhists, and Catholic Buddhists, Jewish Buddhists and many other forms of post-Common Era dual-belief system alignments, sometimes even Agnostic and perhaps Atheistic Buddhists. So what’s the explanation for this? Or how do these belief systems co-exist?

Broadly speaking, and vastly simplified here for the purposes of discussion, most belief systems have historical development roots in three specific eras: Before Common-Era, Common-Era and Post Common-Era.  Buddhism and many others were organized in the Before Common-Era period, preceding the development of the Roman Empire by about 400 years, where civilization in general marked a change towards political rule over monarchies. During these monarchies, there would have been people who were questioning why things were the way they were, much as we continue to do today.  A few among those people chose to write down their thoughts on why the order of things and life existed, and what part does an individual play among the continually turning wheels of life as it marched on incessantly.

Some religions are centric towards a deity figure, and specific in their traditions, symbolism, and rituals towards respecting that deity.  Buddhism, similar to Confucianism following the teachings of Confucius, and Taoism regarding the teachings of Lao Tzi and Zhuangzi, follows the teachings of Shakyamuni (also known as Gautama and Siddhartha.)  These were people, not deities, and although eventually imbued with character descriptions matching how one of the purest form should be, they were and continue to be acknowledged and respected as having started out the same way you or I did – they were born, grew up and old, and eventually life passed away.  A philosophy is borne from people asking themselves, why do we live? How can we be happy? What makes us sad? And proposed answers become the fundamentals of that philosophy.  Thus, a philosophy is sort of a guidebook to how you can live your life following certain principles and having a particular positive outcome (which in Buddhism’s case is Nirvana, or a place of never-ending happiness, contentment with one’s self and others, and a sense of purity.)

As long as the way in which you exercise these principles does not conflict with your own spiritual beliefs, there shouldn’t be a conflict between them.  For example, we have laws that make it illegal and punishable as a crime to kill another person. We can abide by that law, which may not part of our spiritual belief system, and still remain true to our own beliefs. Since laws and regulations are concerned with what you cannot and should not do, philosophies provide the guidance of the complimentary – what you can and should do as a person among society. Consider a philosophy as a reinforcement to what your belief system prescribes already, in a way that can be exercised and practiced each and every day, with everyone around you, whether friend, family or even strangers and enemies.

For example, from the Bible, Matthew Chapter 7 Verse 12, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Shinnyo-en Buddhism expresses the practice principle as, “Place yourself into the other person’s shoes.”  This applies to all actions, words and opinions that affect another person. Shakyamuni came from a wealthy family that was blind to the poverty surrounding them in their own community. That’s why he felt it was important to attempt to see what the other person sees, and let that shape your actions.

Some beliefs place an emphasis on voluntary service, that is not to seek compensation for efforts provided. Buddhism emphasizes the minimization of your own ego in your actions, so you would not be performing the voluntary service with expectations of recognition for the service by others, nor being self-serving in your motivation for why you are volunteering.  At the same time, there is acceptance for those unable or unwilling to volunteer their services, and simple hope that by providing an example of how to improve the world by making efforts, without concern or motivation for recognition, everyone can benefit and live in a nicer world.

Buddhism is basically a philosophy which encompasses a variety of traditions, practices and beliefs about how to make this world into an ultimately better place for everyone.  Buddhism strives to create harmony amid diversity – to respect and appreciate differences in others, and accept that as the way things are in Nature. These actions become a way of living, and whether that is defined as a religion or philosophy is simply a matter of definitions.

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

  • Enlightenment is a Universal Truth
  • Redefining Wants versus Needs

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Subscribe to Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

One of the key ideas in the Nirvana Sutra, the principal sutra of Shinnyo-en, is that all living beings possess buddha nature. This means that all sentient beings are naturally endowed with the qualities of a buddha; all people possess the potential to become spiritually “awake” or enlightened. The sutras teach that this universal potential to attain buddhahood lies buried deep in the heart and mind of each individual. Forgetting about this inner treasure can result in personal unease, discontent, and dissatisfaction with life, as well as suffering or pain for oneself and others. Our naturally awakened nature can be overshadowed by ignorance, which leads to greed, anger, and other negative emotions that can result in wrongful deeds or actions (also known as negative karma) that cause oneself or others to suffer.

In Chapter 12 of the Nirvana Sutra, there’s a little story about how this works:
There was once a poor woman who lived in a continual state of struggle and poverty, unaware that gold was hidden in her house. One day a visitor happened by, told her exactly where the gold was, and dug it up. Although at first the woman found it impossible to believe the visitor, when she saw the gold she was overjoyed and felt deeply grateful.

Just as the woman in the story was completely unaware of the treasure buried inside her own house, many people do not realize that they have a buddha nature, or the potential for enlightenment, within themselves.  We should each strive to make our inner goodness apparent. This becomes possible by learning to act with kindness and wisdom and letting go of anger, jealousy, and other attachments—the principal causes of human suffering.

If you think about it, many times you feel unhappy when you can’t get what you think you want.  But what if you changed what it is that you want?  Maybe you already have, what you really want, and everything else is simple envy. A thoughtful concept related to anger was once said as, “offense is not offered, but yours to take.” That is, your perception as to whether something is good, bad or otherwise, is yours to control and change. By modifying your perceptions and judgements, you change the way you perceive the world. It’s a very powerful thing you have, isn’t it? It’s the ability to change yourself that results in change around you.

Meditation on such points and simple, consistent practice allows one to gradually recognize and experience the radiant buddha nature within ourselves and others. Forgiving both yourself and others for mistakes and learning to judge less and observe more. Through mutual and equal respect for for the innate goodness in each person, we can begin to realize the harmony amid diversity that creates a better world for all of us.

There are thousands of examples of people around us defying the impossible through persistence and courage. Even the Rolling Stones observed over 40 years ago, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need “

2012-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

2012-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast
New Year’s Guidance and Practices

2012-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Subscribe to Shinnyo Podcasts (RSS) or iTunes or via Flipboard

The Chinese zodiac symbol for this year is the Yang-Water Dragon. According to the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang and the five elements, yang-water signifies the ocean and the great rivers while the Dragon, rules the morning. Thus the Yang-Water Dragon symbolizes bright prospects similar to the rise of the dawning sun over the vast ocean of human nature. We hope that 2012 to be a good year that will shed light on many things.

Our guideline this year is to create harmony amid diversity.  Just as a symphony orchestra is comprised of many instruments, of varied sounds and timbre. When playing together in oneness, they create a sonic harmony, where we appreciate the combined harmonies more than the individual players.  A choir is formed of many individual voices of different character and tonality, but when brought together, produce sounds that are far more impacting and energy-filled than the individuals by themselves. In this same way, the combined energies of all the different people of the world, when brought together towards a greater goal, can produce a result beyond comprehension. This is the vision of the world we strive to achieve.

For our daily practice, beginning to create harmony amid diversity, can be achieved through two parallel paths of action:

1) Take a step of loving kindness toward the future
We have a responsibility to ensure the next generation can also share in the blessings of this beautiful planet. We should step forward to serve society by safeguarding all life, no matter how small, as we act with a compassion for all and aim to build peace.“Toward the future” means to encourage all of us to create a world of lasting happiness filled with hope, and to make that hope a reality for more than just the present, but also for the future children for many generations. Strive to learn from your past as you rise to the challenges of the present.

When we truly devote ourselves to the benefit of all people equally, we will be reciprocating for all we have received and feel the joy of practice without being self-centered. In this way, there are no enemies to be found, as we are all one people again, learning to live together in one place.

2)  Attain a deeper appreciation 
of the transcendent
Having and developing a deep appreciation of one’s foundation, or life roots, can create something new and bring it to life. Esoteric buddhism teaches of a transcendent force that activates the values the Dharma or laws of life, and helps us awaken to its many greater truths.

Meditation and reflection, both by yourself and through guidance, leads you towards embracement of all things good and bad that happen to you. That experience leads you towards discovering your own hidden pure nature and helps you set your potential for good actions, thoughts and words free. We can then explore this potential and draw on our experiences, especially our struggles, to change ourselves for the better.

By further letting others see our enlightened spirit through conscientious service for others, we share these feelings of selflessness and compassion for others and demonstrate personally how others can take their own first steps from out of their worlds of shadow and discontent and into a brighter and more contented experience that exists in the very same place. This is the base principle of creating Heaven on Earth.

2012-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

2012-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast
The Story of Shojushinin

2012-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Subscribe to Shinnyo-en Podcasts (RSS) or in iTunes or via Flipboard

In Shinnyo-en one of our important sources of teaching is woman known post-humously as Shojushinin (a dharma name meaning “heart or mind of embracement or shoju”). She was the wife of Master Shinjo Ito, one of the founders of Shinnyo-en, and the administrative head of our sangha. Noted for finding ways to apply the Buddhist teachings in her daily life, she would often relate Buddhist themes to her daily chores. She taught those who lent a hand with her in the kitchen in such a down-to-earth, accessible way that people began considering her their Dharma Mother. Those informal teachings came to be called her “kitchen sermons,”  which later became known as the “Seventeen Teachings.”

Shojushinin led the Shinnyo-en community with humility and grace, and imbued all her actions with the principles and ideas taught by Master Shinjo. She once remarked: “When we say, ‘I should have done this or that,’ it is usually too late. I hope we can take all reactions and indications manifested in this world as a reply from the spiritual world about our own actions , and ponder and learn from each one with careful deliberation. Let’s endeavor wholeheartedly so as not to have any regrets later that we could have done a little better.”

The Shinnyo Teaching provides a path for each of us to engage our buddha nature and develop it fully through our conduct and actions in the world around us. Shojushinin maintained a deep trust in this innate buddhahood throughout her life, and held an unshakable belief that everyone has the capacity to cultivate the same behavioral buddha-like manners for themselves. Shojushinin’s example provided inspiration and guidance to those pursuing the path of buddhahood throughout her lifetime, and continues to do so today.

Buddhist teachings provide a path for each of us to engage our buddha nature and develop it fully through our conduct and actions everyday in the world. In particular, the roots of Shinnyo-en buddhism were grafted from a merging of the practices found in both the smaller vehicle, or hinayana exoteric teachings, such as Tendai buddhism, and those of the larger vehicle, or mahayana esoteric teachings, like Shingon and Zen. These are the same principles found in the last and final teaching by Shakyamuni, also known as the Nirvana Sutra.  As mentioned, the principles of buddhism are meant to be passed from person-to-person directly, and not simply published and randomly absorbed by whomever happens to read a sutra, or listen to a lesson. This is because the purity and truthfulness of what is being taught should not be left up to random interpretation by the listener or reader.

Think about the old children’s game of Telephone, where children line up and at one end someone says something to the person next to them, who then relays what they heard to the next, and so on. By the time the end of the line is reached, the message is often transformed into something that doesn’t at all resemble the original words spoken. This is human nature at work – we hear what we want to hear, and not always what is actually being said. So whenever we train ourselves in buddhism we always strive to listen with pure hearts and minds and not allow our egos to change the meaning to something we want to hear.

In a practical example, if someone says, “This candy is sweet like maple syrup.” And we haven’t ever tasted maple ourselves, we would be best not to try to make up similarities like, “Oh you mean it’s like apple juice?” in order to allow our prior learning and habits to interfere with the new experience. Try to keep your mind open to imagining what “maple” tastes like and hopefully experience that kind of sweetness yourself through further exploration, so you get a true meaning of what the person was describing, rather than a rationalization of what you thought they meant.

2012-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Sounds)

2012-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast
The Sounds of Buddhism

2012-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast

Subscribe to Shinnyo-en Podcasts (RSS)or in iTunes

When you have your first opportunity to witness a Buddhist ceremony of any kind, I imagine you will hear and see a lot of new things that have little or no explanation given to you – the ringing of bells at various times, or the rattling sound of a staff with a bunch of metal rings on it, or chanting in a language unfamiliar to you.  Buddhism came a long way to reach the various countries where it is now practiced.  Originally from India, the birthplace of Shakyamuni Buddha, scholars and students traveled to and from China, Thailand, Japan, and eventually here in North America, and to every other continent on the planet. As Buddhism is a person-to-person teaching – that is, that its preferred transmission is “heart-to-heart” from one person to the next so that both receive the benefit of the teaching process, and each scholar or student has a different way of expressing the teaching attuned to the particular listener involved.

Sounds are significant in Buddhism because, psychologically-speaking, the human brain expands its activity when listening to sounds or music more than any other form of sensory input.  For example, when you’re singing a song, even one you know extremely well by heart, it’s difficult, or impossible to think of anything else while singing.  You psychologically are focused on several things at once: the lyrics, the melody, the intonation, the timbre, your vocal muscles, your emotional state, and the vibrations coming from your larynx and body as you resonate the sounds. Ancient Buddhism understood this very well.  When reciting something simple, like the often heard master syllable, “Om” your focus changes to what you are doing. Every denomination of Buddhism has its own core chant. You may have heard this one, which is related to Nichiren, one of Buddhism’s many master disciples. Or this one, which is from Shinnyo-en.  Each of these repeating chants is used to bring focus to the normally unquiet human mind, and generate spiritual harmony as it is chanted in unison with others.

The chanting you hear in the background during the introduction of each of these podcasts is from Shinnyo-en and normally accompanies three bows performed at the commencement of each gathering. These are meant to remind ourselves that our teachings do not emanate from ourselves but from the many people who came before us, and those who encounter it in the future. The unfamiliar language you hear is from the ancient roots in India, known as Pali. While certain chants have been adopted to the native language of the particular practicing denomination, such as in China or Japan, the core chants which begin each service are often performed in the original Pali to respect the origins of the teaching, and for practical purposes, because the translated versions are not nearly as poetic nor rhyming.  The musical melody is one from Shinnyo-en which became unified to our expression of the Goreiju (or spiritual mantra) Goreiju (instrumental) – Gamelan Bells.mp3. This mantra is found in many other denominations of Buddhism, but the melody is unique to Shinnyo-en and has many historical roots in the teaching.

Sounds from a spiritual sense, are meant as a purification process.  As a pure sound is emitted from a pure source, it is believed that the sound helps purify all that it touches.  Buddhist services and ceremonies are often begun and ended with sounds, whether from an instrument or the human voice.

At most every service conducted on a regular basis, you will hear the sound of a wood clave (or hyoshigi in Japanese) being struck two times, and then once.  And at the end, a single strike to indicate the end of a chant or the service chanting. When conducted by a lay person, the same sounds may be produced by striking a small gong or bell. When you’re at home doing your own home practice, if you don’t have an actual set of clave or gongs to use, you can just clap your hand to your thigh to make the sound in a similar way. As many chants are repeated, and in some cases hundreds of times, hearing the sound of the gong is often your way to know this is the time for the repeating chant to finish.

During services conducted by an officiant of higher rank, or purity in a practical sense, you will hear the service chanting by the officiant begun and concluded with the bronze chime sound (or kondo kei) instead of the wood clave.  They may also use a hand bell at the conclusion of their service chanting, further serving symbolically and sonically as a purification of the area of the service and of those attending it.

And for grand purification ceremonies you might see a religious leader walking with a wooden staff with a number of metal rings at the top – this is called a shakujo in Japanese. As they walk, you will hear the clatter of the rings as they strike the ground with the staff.  Then at the beginning and ending of each chanting, instead of a clave, bell or gong, you might hear the shakujo being shaken in-time with the chanting, and then a final longer shake to end the chant.

So this was a little introduction to the many different sounds associated with Buddhist practice and ceremonies.  I hope you will find it useful to help broaden your understanding of what is a simple and yet complex form of spiritual belief and personal development.

2012-March Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

2012-March Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast
Exploring Enlightenment and Spiritual Awakening
The Nirvana Sutra
Attaining Joy Through Your Daily Actions

2012-March Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

Subscribe to Shinnyo-en Podcasts (RSS)or in iTunes or via Flipboard

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.

2012-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

2012-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast
Five Behavioral Ideals for 2012 (+3 bonus ones)
Month of Rebirth and Departure from Suffering

Shinnyo-en Monthly Focus Podcast 2012-April 

Subscribe to Shinnyo-en Podcasts (RSS) or in iTunes or via Flipboard

In this month of April, 2012, also the centennial year of our dharma mother, Shojushin’in-sama, we are reminded that one of her most treasured ways of communicating the Teaching to us was through her kitchen sermons, outlined in-detail within her two Wisteria Cluster books.

There were a total of seventeen such ideals she created, to remind each of us in a simple way how to remain solid on your path towards enlightenment.

On the sange petal papers being issued during several key services throughout this year will be the following five ideals from those seventeen teachings:

Be gentle, yet strong.

Be a person whom others miss.

Do not fight.

Treat people with respect.

And Always smile when meeting people.

Her Holiness Keishu-sama has also provided two rephrased versions of the ideals to be better interpreted in our modern eenvironment.

They are:
To Bring out your true self – referring to the buddha nature that lies within each of us, and encouraging you to express this goodness at every opportunity. Learning to act with kindness and wisdom and letting go of anger, jealousy and other attachments transforms your perceptions from suffering into appreciation for each opportunity to adapt and improve yourself, and others.

Next is, Always keep in mind that you are a Shinnyo practitioner. Some situations may require calm acceptance, while others need candid and truthful advice, but both should be performed without giving into your emotions, but rather with compassion towards the other person. Sometimes we need to support others by providing silence and listening, but others may need strong leadership and for you to set the example of how to behave in a better manner.

Keishu-sama’s last reminder this month is to Avoid gossip. Period. This means stepping into the other person’s place and reminding yourself that being the subject of someone else’s gossip about you is painful and hard to understand. If you have opinions of others, think of how you would want to be approached by someone else thinking the same of you. How would you want to be informed of something confusing or questionable that others saw? Hopefully you would prefer someone confiding directly to you, and using kind words or supportive thoughts and suggestions.

April, the month of Buddha‘s birth, is known affectionately as the month of rebirth, and departure from suffering. Each of these ideals is meant to give you a way to measure your own progress along the way through life. And hopefully as you hold yourself to higher ideals, others will be inspired by your efforts to polish your own actions and behavior.