Tag Archives: Dharma

2016-06 June Shinnyo Podcast – The Three-Wheel Dharma Bodies

2016-06 June Shinnyo Podcast – The Three-Wheel Dharma Bodies

  • Why Three (and not 4 or 12?)
  • Intrinsic – The Nirvana Buddha
  • Compassionate – Kannon Boddhisattva
  • Strict – Mahavairochana Achala

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Shinnyo Nirvana Image

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/Okunoin_FudoMyoo.JPG

 

Let’s explore further the realms of the three areas of Intrinsic, Compassionate and Strict styles of the Shinnyo Teaching (the 3-Wheel Turning Bodies of the Buddha, Kannon Bodhisattva and Mahavairochana Achala.) Throughout the volumes of dharma teaching are a seemingly never-ending list of numerically related lists and figures. Some examples:

  • Four Means of Embracement
  • Four Immeasurable Minds
  • Four Noble Truths
  • Four Dependables
  • Four Grave Offenses
  • Four Virtues
  • Four Illusions
  • Four (or Eight – depending on which edition you’re reading) Sufferings
  • Five Cardinal Sins
  • Six Periods of the Buddha’s Life
  • Six Paramitas
  • Seven Levels of Consciousness
  • Eight Tastes
  • Eight-fold Noble Path
  • Ten Realms of Existence

Yea! – Memorize all those, and you probably still haven’t found enlightenment (but people may be very impressed with your mastery of lists.)  Every teacher comes up with their own way to help remember what you’re supposed to learn. Master Shinjo Ito noticed that the Nirvana Sutra (aka the Mahaparinirvana Sutra) kept reinforcing the basis of buddhism being founded on what are known as the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Sangha (or community), and the Dharma (or teaching).  Alone, each element exists, but only together do they form the basis for what we know as Buddhism.

Relating back to last month’s podcast about Practice, and the story of the three kinds of practitioners, he also thought about the common threads between each of the myriad sub-schools of Buddhism – each of which had a particular focal point of study (quite parallel to the various sub-sects of Christianity and Catholocism focusing on different saints, or missionaries, or how Shinto groups each have their own particular Kami (or god) as reference for their respective focus.) Within the founding of Shinnyo’s goals was the objective to unify and fuse the esoteric practices commonly found under the compassionate wisdom sects with the elements of the exoteric sects promoting determined practice, and disciplined self-regulation. Translating the three essential Buddhist elements into objective examples to study,we get:

  • Buddha => Buddha => Insight/Self
  • Sangha => Kannon (aka Guanyin) => Compassion/Ego
  • Dharma => Achala (aka Acala, Fudo Myo) => Discipline/Super-Ego

Coming from a psychology background, I tend to translate the religious themes into scientific or concrete-reasoning examples for my own consumption, but nonetheless, I think you may start to see how things fit together in this model. Within every person lies the buddha nature inside, and each person also has free-will, and also moral or ethical boundaries.  And it is the process of both self-examination of these values, and the outward expression (or practice) of these values that form the person we know.

The Intrinsic stream is our model or would-like-to-really-be-one-day self.  If everything in the world were perfect, and this were Utopian existence, these are our target elements to existence in a super-happy care-free world.  To really imagine or visualize this stream takes more than imagining a bunch of good luck comes to you; for example, you get a trillion dollars. Is having that being happy?  Or is it the potential to spend it, the happy part?  Or is it obtaining anything you want, the satisfaction you want?  And once you have everything, are you happy yet? Power, money, control, success, respect, admiration, love – what is going to get you to that happy place, and keep you there?  Our example given to us, is to imagine the opposite – never worrying about how much you have or don’t, surrounded by compassion, and being really satisfied with whatever happens to come your way.

As you noticed, compassion is part of our Utopian vision for our self. And it’s a dilemma, that to be cared for by others, you have to care about them, too.  If it’s just a one-way situation, not only does it not sustain over the long-term, but starts to transform into other things – envy, greed, jealousy, and even hatred. You might even see all this one-way caring as false – people are doing it just to get something from you. That’s paranoia, and not part of our happy place at all.

Discipline is not control, nor is it about punishment. Knowing that you have a genuine sense of where you want to be, and that you care that others can help you in creating that reality, now you need to actually pursue it and not just let it fade into the night as a nice dream.  To do that, is the work. But it’s not work if you enjoy what you’re doing. Just like any career formed around something you love to do, it transforms what was mundane, busy and irritating because it just must be done, into something gratifying and even pleasurable. Like building a house you get to live in, you take pride in doing a great job at something when you know what qualities went into creating it.  You don’t do it because you have to, you do it because you want to. Kingdoms are not strong because of the King by themselves. They become transformed because every single member contributes towards making the whole a greater presence of stability, growth, and even respect.  Each person’s discipline to go above and beyond becomes the Sangha, which ultimately satisfies the Self. And since somewhere inside you is a buddha wanting to emerge, the cycle perpetuates itself.

/* That’s it for this session. Thank you for listening. For more information feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1 With Gassho, James*/

2014-07 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Loss

2014-07 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Loss

  • Social Media and Physical Loss of Life
  • Energy Transformations
  • The Ever-Turning Wheel of Dharma
  • You Create Permanence

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While life in the eternal world (whether you call it heaven, mecca, nirvana, spiritual or the any other term) goes on, and on, existence in this world is most definitely of limited term, and in many respects amazingly short in consideration of the billions of years of the planet itself and everything around it in the universe.

When we lose someone near to us, we feel both the pangs of remorse towards missing a person we can no longer talk with, write to, or even choose to ignore. And we feel a sense of powerlessness in not being able to do anything about the person who is gone. It is a soul gone and hopefully never forgotten, but unlike un-friending someone on Facebook, or un-following someone on Twitter, the person’s physical being has left us to become part of the soil once again. Your choice to reconnect with that person’s physical presence is obstructed as though their social life account had been deleted and removed entirely. Building tribute pages and leaving phantom accounts open provides solace to those left behind, but the bits and bytes of storage making up those frozen images are a scarce fraction of the powerful presence of a living, breathing person.

Based upon science, wherein observations relative to energy as being a thing that cannot be destroyed, but only transformed into another form of energy (such as electricity becoming heat or cold, or wind against a mountain becoming a sound, or light becoming stored as potential energy through photosynthesis or photoreaction) – we should think about all that energy that made the person we knew, who they were.  The thoughts, emotions, actions and memories were all forms of energy moving and flowing within a physical shell, processed by a cerebral cortex, and transformed by muscles into words, writing and actions. But when the human body finally stops operating, where does all that energy go?

One physics-based theory is that the memories of others, our own recollections of people gone but not forgotten, are the manifestation of the transition from a physical person, to someone that continues to exist in the synapses of all those who remember them. To think that our own cherished thoughts about someone we loved perpetuate their virtual existence is something worth pondering. Over time, the memories may fade, but each time we bring a quality of their life back into our forefront thoughts, we re-energize the little batteries that keep that light shining. And it’s not just ourselves, but every person who that person touched contribute their own microvolts of remembrance to keep the energy from dissipating as heat loss.

Or metaphysically, we consider the possibility of the cycle of dharma, which also is based on the principle that energy (or spirit) cannot be destroyed, but continues to transform from state to state. In this form, we might consider the concept of karma to be the particular formula that transforms energy from one state of permanence, to another one, whether ascending or descending in form, based upon the qualities of life during that person’s time in a particular realm.  Perhaps the concept of reincarnation is just that same transformation of ethereal energy back into another living being.

So for every candle you light in memory of a lost one, or every prayer you offer in solace, or whenever you simply think about someone you’ve lost, you become the energy source which acts like a little battery keeping that person’s spirit alive, if not in physical form because ashes once again became ashes, and dust became dust. But that person’s soul energy may perpetuate and continue to flow, never lost and never destroyed.  Shinjo and Tomoji Ito (the Shinnyo Parents) used to say, “Live and act to be a person who is missed.”  And maybe that is the definition of what permanence really means.

2013-08 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – The Spirit of Living and Giving

2013-08 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – The Spirit of Living and Giving

Looking Differently at the Difficulties in Your Path
Serving or Spoiling? What’s the Difference?
Motivation and Recognition to Serve

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The post-Summer activities of Shinnyo-en often follow a bounty of community service events traditionally marking the preparations for a long winter ahead by making sure everyone has enough of what they need to keep going through the coming months. August is also the month we observe and remember the principles and teachings of our Dharma Mother, Shojushin-in.

Shojushin-in herself experienced a childhood that was riddled with hardships. From these, she gained strength of character and the ability to “interpenetrate” with others — meaning she could relate deeply to people and identify with both their struggles and joys. Her warm encouragement and guidance became an indispensable part of the Shinnyo Path and continue to this day to support practitioners in seeing their circumstances differently and in living life with more hope and purpose.

She once said, “Life may throw at you certain difficulties that may not be easily avoided. But when you do your best, acting on your belief that there is no hurdle that cannot be overcome, then a path without regrets will unfold. When you make that kind of effort to overcome a certain hurdle, you will actually feel—personally experience—how the ever-­- present lovingkindness and compassion of the buddha realm constantly support and nurture us.”

In putting into practice, one of the Three Practices, giving service to others, you might find this particular practice takes many different forms. Sometimes it means just giving another person a helping hand to accomplish something or assist someone through their daily life. Other times it might mean placing a bag of the extra fruit or vegetables produced by your garden out on the curb for others to take freely. Maybe it’s participating with a larger group in a community clean-up effort or a public service event.

There is a subtle distinction between being of service and “spoiling” someone. Think about the difference when you ask for or need help from someone because you truly can’t do something versus when you ask because you want to avoid doing it or simply don’t feel like doing it.  This difference is what builds positive merit versus negative merit in terms of overall karma. Encouragement of someone’s avoidance or simply lazy behavior by giving or doing is most often motivated by feelings of guilt — meaning you feel guilty for not giving a panhandler money or a child who begs for another toy.  Compassion comes from being able to “step into the other person’s shoes” and realize how your assistance impacts their lives. Does the act empower the person to change themselves and accomplish more, or does it actually reinforce imbalance and make the person more dependent on donations and gifts?  Think, first.

On August 23, a portion of the Murayama site (1.4M sq. meters of land originally used as a manufacturing plant, acquired by Shinnyo-en in 2002 from the Nissan Motor Company) will be opened to the public. As the first part of our plan to convert it into a more ecologically balanced, green oasis, we have built a soccer field of natural grass that will be officially opened and dedicated with a children’s soccer game. Shinnyo-en plans to further utilize this expansive area for the benefit of the public and is currently working with landscape architects, ecologists, and governmental bodies on projects that include soil enrichment and reforestation according to a recent newsletter from Shinnyo-en’s HH Keishu Shinso.

On September 21  the autumnal Higan (Coming-of-Fall service) in a Christian church for the first time. Called the “Shinnyo Celebration on the Equinox: Sharing the Light of Peace,” it will be held at St. Bart’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan, New York. The next day, September 22, 2013, we will hold another event, this one for the general public: the “Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace” in New York City’s Central Park.

In Southern California, on Sunday, September 8, 2013 from 11am to 3pm, the Los Angeles Temple will host its annual Harmony Festival bazaar including food booths, multi-cultural music and workshops, and the ever-popular “garage sale” filled with new and lightly-used items at low prices.  Mostly a financially break-even event, and not a fundraiser, it’s more an exercise in re-balancing those who have excess things giving to those who need them.

Back in 1965, when Shojuishin-in (Shinnyo Dharma Mother) was addressing the Chiryu Gakuin (Missionary School) students, she made the following observation about giving:

“When you wholeheartedly exert yourselves with all your sincerity, then the buddhas, the dharma protectors, and the Two Dojis will surely recognize your efforts. It doesn’t matter whether or not others acknowledge what you’ve done.

If you do your best only when others are around to see your efforts, then you can’t say that your mind and heart are one with those of the buddha realm. We can’t call that way of practice correct.

You’re not the one to recognize or value what you’ve done. That’s something others do. What your actions merit is decided in the buddha realm.”

2013-07 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Sacred Images

The Travels of the Shinnyo Masters
Making a Connection to the Past
Master Shinjo on Why Do We Have Buddha Images?

2013-July Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Sacred Images

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Bronze sculptures of the founders of Shinnyo-en Buddhism

The busts of the Shinnyo Parents and the Two Dojis that had been placed at Shinchoji (a Shinnyo-en main temple in Japan) and which had long been exposed to the smoke of the homa fires and incense (causing unique variations in color from their original bright golden bronze appearance when first cast) have been temporarily enshrined during their world tour at our temples in Singapore, Taiwan, six locations in Europe, and Hawaii before making their way to other temples on the mainland United States.

Here in Los Angeles, we supported their visit for a brief 3 weeks while many visitors experienced their first opportunity to make contact with these sacred images from afar. The exhibit included many educational exhibits about buddhist practices and what the purposes and meanings were for the images, sculptures and artwork represented in Shinnyo temples. Some religions forbid creating images of their deities or missionaries, possibly to prevent idolatry or misguided worship of the image itself. In buddhism, we are taught that images represent figures to assist connection with the human senses, but the philosophy is to respect those who walked the sacred path before us, not to worship them nor endow them with supernatural attributes. So, perhaps no differently than one would treasure ones old photographs of departed family members, we at Shinnyo-en are fortunate to have images which remind us in our minds and hearts to bring alive the memories and thoughts of both our founders and the originators of the Shinnyo Dharma Stream before them.

Through this tour of the Shinnyo busts, many practitioners have been able to form a spiritual connection to something infinite yet personal through the experience of touching the vajra cords attached to the busts. By spending time in front of the busts, many have reported feeling a sense of peace and calm. Others said they felt some kind of inner transformation had occurred, which helped them become more open. Some practitioners felt something warm and immediate, as if their hands were enveloped by the hands of our spiritual masters.

One practitioner said that it was a moment she would never forget, when she felt as if the Shinnyo Parents and the Two Dojis were telling her that her efforts were on track and that she was headed in the right direction.

As the busts travel to more of our centers, more people in the world can feel the atmosphere of Oyasono, a sacred site of pilgrimage where people can get closer to the core of Shinnyo Buddhism to recreate that warm atmosphere in their own surroundings.

The intention behind sending the busts to different places outside Japan is to help more people to feel spiritually connected to a sacred place that welcomes all. This international tour started in the centennial year of Shojushinin’s birth. and is due to last until the spring of 2014. It, too, is part of the enhancement of Oyasono as an eternal site, a spiritual “home” that welcomes, rejuvenates, and inspires people to truly strive toward buddhahood.

So what about the person who feels “nothing” when sitting before an image? Similar to the self-reflection that happens during meditation, one could say that the person who brings nothing to prayer, will receive exactly that — nothing. Personally, it takes a LOT of continued practice to become sensitive to all the chatter that is going on in one’s mind at any time. And closing one’s eyes only temporarily mutes one of those five major senses. Your brain is still hard-at-work bringing in smell, taste, touch, and sound sensory input, so to be able to identify and focus upon one quiet and tiny communication that may not be triggered by any of the external senses is the key to expanded listening (to yourself.) Even in a sensory deprivation chamber, you would still feel the pressure from the salt water, the sounds of your heartbeat, breathing and digestion, and taste whatever enzymes or substances are in your mouth – a continual cacophony of sensory stimulation.

This concept is perhaps the important psychological factor in religion. A person who believes there is no spirit or external force that can influence their life, often is quite correct for themselves. The human mind is capable of transcending its own environment – such as a person who is in an extremely hot/cold temperature place, yet feels nothing special (the “it’s not THAT hot/cold”-type of person.) Similarly, someone who can ignore spiritual or metaphysical influences, could similarly ignore their own sub-conscious or intuition, as well. “Mind over matter” is not just a proverbial notion.

Master Shinjo Ito during a lecture in 1965 told his students,

“When you have one good dharma teacher, many others can be educated and nurtured. Since our path is one of being a “greater vehicle,” our aim is to raise each person to be a good role model who can guide many others. Put simply, the Shinnyo Path is one that aims to nurture bodhisattvas and buddhas. That’s why I make Buddhist sculptures. By giving form to a buddha figure, I hope to encourage people to give form to a buddha in their heart and soul.”

2013-05 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – A Short History of Buddhism

2013-05 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – A Short History of Buddhism

  • A Little Mahayana and Theravada Background
  • About Walking Along the Buddhist Path
  • HH Keishu Shinso’s Successor Announced – Rev. Torikai Takashi

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In the centuries after Shakyamuni entered final nirvana, Buddhism developed into various movements, some emphasizing strict adherence to precepts (laws) and orthodox doctrines, and others that reinterpreted those precepts and doctrines to widen the Buddhist path and expand the possibilities for more people to find liberation.

A simple way of explaining how these movements grew would be to say that the former led to the development of what became Theravada Buddhism— which took hold in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia—while the latter led to the spread of what is broadly categorized today as “Great Vehicle” (Mahayana Buddhism and which later developed further in Tibet and East Asia. The Shinnyo Path and teachings developed by our masters Shinjo and Shojushinin originated out of the dharma lineage of Shingon Buddhism.

The difference between the two streams is that the Shinnyo Path—unlike its parent, Shingon—places priority on contemporary, lay expressions of traditional (Shingon) philosophy and practice. The merits of the Shingon tradition are therefore brought out all the more thanks to Shinjo’s interpretation of corresponding themes he noticed in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra when he was looking for ways to adapt what he had learned in the Shingon stream.

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra is a collection of teachings which summarizes all the important points of the Buddha’s ministry, and since Shingon Buddhism also traces its own origins to the historical Buddha, in Master Shinjo’s eyes the Shinnyo Path shares with older traditions like Theravada Buddhism what is most basic in the Buddhist path. He believed that fundamentally there was no difference between the two, and that what we had in common transcended any sectarian differences that people so often pointed to. However, we do have differences in the forms of our practice. Master Shinjo wanted to transcend the monastic-lay divide and create a path that valued tradition but was open to anyone, in contrast to the monastic emphasis in Theravada.

The way Shojushinin (our dharma mother) walked the path was to devote herself sincerely and be the first to put things into practice. This formed the basis of her efforts.

She extended her self unsparingly, always kind and loving to all. She dedicated body and soul, and her actions conveyed what the Shinnyo Path is all about. What she demonstrated through her daily life is fundamental in the understanding the goals during practice of one’s faith.

Shojushinin said, “If you really want to help people understand, you can’t just go through the motions of being nice to people. You’ll reach them when your actions and sincerity are one — when you are truly someone who cares about others.”

She also said to people, “Anyone can dictate what to do. But when you’re the first to put something into practice and demonstrate what it means, then people will gladly follow through.”

This is how Shojushinin advised people to endeavor. When you take her guidance to heart and confirm it for yourself by applying it in your actions, it will then sink in and become part of you.

Our Sesshin Training (refer to last month’s podcast for details) is a resource for providing guidance and clarity on different outcomes or destinies. It is not meant to predict the future. It points to a path of dharma on which one still has to endeavor in order to achieve happiness.  The guidance given during this training is meant to aid a person in making the best possible choice when it comes to facing a potentially life-altering decision. The reason this kind of resource is available is to provide insight that can help a person to keep walking the bodhisattva path and not get too distracted by the unavoidable decisions that one faces as an emotional human being.

Guidance given in sesshin should never be taken as contradicting common sense or sound decision making. For example, a precipitous slope or mountain path may be indicated in the guidance during sesshin rather than an easier route. This should be taken as pointing to insight that we can cultivate — such as when we have the determination to climb uphill, and our efforts are grounded in the wish to do so for the sake of the happiness of others, then no matter how steep the incline, we can carry through unafraid and with confidence. That is because when our motivations are outwardly centered, then we’re dharma centered, and we follow the natural flow of nature’s own path.

Similarly, the “dharma” in “dharma protectors” also refers to a path that truly brings us happiness because we’re walking it for the sake of others.

Finally, we close with some organizational news: Based on the governing laws of Shinnyo-en, on the second day of the Festival of Ever Present (March 29, 2013), HH Keishu Shinso appointed the Venerable Reverend Torikai Takashi, the Assistant Executive Director of the Shinnyo en Office, to become the next head of Shinnyo-en. As her appointed successor, Mr. Torikai will enter the final training stage in the transmission of the Shinnyo dharma lineage: the rites associated with the Ever Present Tathagata. But in terms of being entrusted with succeeding and upholding everything that the Shinnyo Dharma stands for, each member of the sangha shares in that responsibility. It is her sincere wish that we endeavor in this pursuit — in one heart with the ever present source of liberation, and one with the world we all live in.

2012-July Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Living Boddhisattvas / Embracement

2012-July Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Living Boddhisattvas / Embracement
Living as a Boddhisattva
Embracement of Everything, even Your Enemies

2012-July Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Living Boddhisattvas / Embracement

[audio https://jhlui1.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/201207_shinnyo_podcast.mp3]

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A sonouta, or spiritual poem, by Master Shinjo Ito reads:

Though human, we are bodhisattvas
When we dedicate ourselves for others.

So just what are a bodhisattva’s practices?  A Nirvana Sutra passage advises us to put the needs of others before our own and always act in the spirit of being a “great vehicle.” With the determination to behave with this mindset and put it into action, we can become bodhisattvas ourselves. Each person’s practice is unique, but we can discern what it means for each of us individually and carry it out by engaging in self-reflection.

An ideal should be something we build with other people rather than force upon them. Try to be a foundation for others, communicate well, and help one another. You don’t have to do anything special: it may be small actions like cleaning up a classroom or public place, preparing the office before others arrive for the day, tidying up after they leave, or even just listening sincerely and carefully to what others say. By making these small efforts in our everyday lives, we can heighten our aspiration for enlightenment and come closer to awakening ourselves.

The repeated process of self-reflection followed by action that incorporates our insights into our daily lives helps us approach our own ideals. Self-reflection may also generate regrets about the past. But when that happens, we simply need to react quickly and resolutely, with a determination never to repeat our mistakes. By enriching this experience through the application of our insights in daily altruistic practice we can further polish our own behavior and bring forth the radiance of a bodhisattva within our own lives.

At the recent Lantern Floating in Hawaii, HH Shinso Ito wrote the English words “Mother Ocean” and the characters “摂受” (Jpn. shoju, meaning embracement) upon the lanterns that were set afloat on the sea. She wanted everyone to know that when we offer consolatory prayers based on the Nirvana teachings we include all beings—past and present—as well as mountains, rivers, plants, and trees. The Buddha embraces all forms of life with loving compassion. The buddha realm of permanence and bliss is inclusive of all life—down to the smallest creature—and everything is interrelated. Nothing exists independently from others.

One other topic this month relates to a situation in Shinnyo-en’s history known commonly as the Dharma Crisis. In this particular event, similar to many events we have witnessed throughout history, a religious leader was questioned or challenged as to his or her convictions, practices or actions. Master Shinso Ito and the then named, Sangha of Truth, the early identity of Shinnyo-en, were brought under questioning by the Japanese government related to sanctity and conformance to religious doctrines of approved organizations at the time.  While the Dharma Crisis itself could be subject to an entire podcast, this month we examine what instigated the event and how it was dealt with in the context of Master Ito’s own bodhisattva practice.

The original charges asserted were brought by a person within the Sangha who had achieved a position of great responsibility and stature within the organization. He was well-educated in the scripture, and was considered a dharma teacher and educator by the Sangha. But this person was, as all of us are, a human.  As his status increased in the organization, he made incorrect and improper decisions in his relationships with others in the Sangha, and used his position to create opportunities to increase his own self-importance and power. His high-ranking position in the Sangha brought into question the purity of the Sangha’s practices.  After all, how can one regard an organization as pure, if its own leadership does not demonstrate purity?

When confronted by Master Ito as to his conduct, he immediately resigned but did not admit any responsibility nor apologies for the lives he had altered. Those same individuals were the ones who supported Master Ito’s innocence of the charges by the government. After the Crisis period was over and Shinnyo-en regained its stability, very little was ever mentioned to lay followers about who this person was, nor how he came to his position.  But internal practices were put into place throughout the organization to educate each person of leadership about their responsibilities to others and how human nature can lead us to the wrong ideas and the wrong actions.

If you have the opportunity to inspect one of the original carved wooden plaques bearing the Shinnyo-en characters in Japanese, which were hand-sculpted by Master Ito himself, you would discover a small and unique annotation on the reverse sides which when translated reads, “With prayers for the future enlightenment of O-san.” It is this “O-san” who was the person who initiated the charges in the Dharma Crisis. Master Ito, with his own hand, carved these words as his own advocacy for forgiveness and acceptance of the person who would have been most responsible for destruction of the Sangha, or in simple terms, his enemy.  The teachings remind us that every single person and living thing has a Buddha-nature. It may be buried beneath layers of karmic dirt that has accumulated over years of neglect, but it is always there.  Helping others reveal this nature, and with it a universal sense of peace and balance, starts with your own compassion towards what you, as a human, may not perceive as likable or desirable.  We all have within ourselves, as humans, an “O-san” like nature. It is when we acknowledge that it exists and care more for others that the “O-san” qualities diminish and fade.

This was the principle of Shoju, or true embracement, in actual practice by Shinnyo-en’s founder. As he always felt one should set behavior by one’s own example in life, he thus demonstrated his own path to enlightenment and life as a boddhisattva through his actions. We can do the same both in practice, and spiritually through our requests for “Osegaki” (or Spiritual Purification) wherein we remember our ancestors, forgive them for their mistakes and misgivings, and learn to incorporate these changes in behavior to help reduce or eliminate them from both our own lives and those who depend upon us.

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

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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)

[audio https://jhlui1.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/201205_shinnyo_extra_dharma_podcast.mp3]

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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.