Tag Archives: Gautama Buddha

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.

2013-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Sesshin Meditation Training

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2013-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Sesshin Meditation Training

  • Why Meditate?
  • Why Guided Meditation?
  • What’s the Difference between Guided Meditation and Sesshin Training?

At a workshop on leadership given by Henry Givray, president and CEO of Smith-Bucklin, he cites two qualities of great leaders being self-awareness, and self-management. Self-management (or self-control) comes through motivation to change, and developing discipline to alter behaviors. But what process do you follow to become more self-aware, that is, heightening awareness of your own strengths and limitations, knowing fully your values and ideals, or even knowing what you do and how you do it? Meditation, and many other closed-eye processes are a way bring focus to your own thoughts by shutting down the myriad of stimuli that bombard our senses every moment of every day.  Ever tried sitting down and thinking about one thing, and then thinking more about tangent elements of that one thing, and soon you are wondering why you were thinking about that one thing in the first place? Being able to calm down our expansive mental abilities to think and analyze many things at once takes some form of actual physical intervention, and meditation is one of the simplest and self-capable forms of performing this feat. You don’t have to soak in a sensory deprivation chamber, or alight atop a Himalayan mountain in order to achieve a state where you can focus deeply on something. The difference is similar to taking a brief glance in a mirror to check your appearance, or looking deeply at your own reflection in the mirror to see every aspect of your physicality, even what you may dislike seeing (and perhaps even being motivated to change.)

Sometimes, even the process of closing one’s eyes and attempting to pacify one’s thoughts doesn’t come easily. Too many daily distractions have piled-up creating worrisome subjects, or maybe the thought you want to focus upon isn’t easily visualized or even comprehended. You may even not know where to begin with really complicated situations. That’s when having something else provide the structure and attention focus for you helps a lot. Even your own voice and listening to your own verbalizations to yourself can help bring the extra framework of stability needed to train our mind’s excess capacity to think about many things at once, to calm the active and continuously curious senses back down to a state of focus and reflection. This is why many forms of meditation involve use of verbalized sounds or phrases, or mantras, which help achieve the same state of thinking.  Psychologically, when you task your mind to repeat an endless phrase, which doesn’t require much thought other than to make the same sounds over and over again, with closed-eyes, you have occupied your mouth, mind and body with a single task to accomplish, which through repetition, physically hones in your awareness and senses towards a common focus — even if that task is to say, “Ohmmmm…” over and over again (or in the case of those of us in the Oracle IT software world, we might use “select * from dual;”.)

So, having achieved that nice, “happy place” state, how do you go about re-focusing on that thing you wanted to ponder, whether it was self-reflection, or how to solve a problem? That’s where guided meditation comes to play. It takes a lot of practice to maintain that state of inner calm, and also be able to introduce something else to think about, without upsetting the tranquility by piling on subject after subject to think about – as we all have so many things we’d like to figure out. Having another person or even a recorded voice instill that verbalized change of subject is how we can assist ourselves to stay focused on our own calmness, while the outside world introduces the subject of study.  Listening to this podcast is a form of that kind of guidance, as you listen to each word and form images in your mind of what is being said. Guided meditation also facilitates that same process, whether in the form of a pre-recorded meditation audio track, playing Deepak Chopra’s Leela video game, or with another person providing the verbal support and guidance.

In Shinnyo-en, as in all forms of esoteric practice, self-reflection is one of the key forms of training to support our own development towards building a persistent world of harmony and joy. Shinnyo sesshin meditation training was developed by Master Shinjo Ito as a way to bridge the elements of the original Shingon form of sesshin, which involves complete isolation from the outside world and many rigorous hours of continued meditation practice, with the needs of the contemporary and practical world of today. This version of sesshin training has been arranged into differing levels of focus, ranging from simple self-awareness, to meditative problem-solving and crisis resolution. Depending on your own individual needs or objectives, you can choose to train in whichever level is most suitable for the particular area of focus you feel you need to work on as a priority. But the common element is the same – it is not that the words that the meditation guide gives you are the prescribed answers to your problems; it is about how you interpret those words, and what actions you take to actualize their meaning. The guide-person is a virtual verbal mirror for your own self-reflection. How you perceive what is said, is the key to understanding your own inner thoughts and what you do, and how you do it. And if you get the bigger picture, that’s also what the entire world is, and everyone around you – a mirror of your Self.

From this month’s Shinnyo Reflections newsletter, sesshin is one of the keys to creating a world based on friendship. The  Shinnyo-en community, together with the practitioners and temple staff as a whole, are working to create opportunities for more people to be able to receive structured sesshin. That structured setting practice goes beyond reflecting on the indications we receive. It involves thinking about our connectedness to others, putting ourselves in the place of others, and working together with others. In the process, some of our own deep-seated fears or worries will naturally evaporate—leading us to becoming more courageous overall. By acting on what inspires us and applying in daily life what we grasp through the meditative practice of sesshin, we can truly change our lives. And this starts from not being afraid to step forward because you really care for the wellbeing of others. This selflessness and letting go of attachment will surely help us to break free from the cycle of karmic suffering toward the joy of being spiritually liberated. Our efforts to act on our sesshin training experiences nurture us to overcome whatever hurdles we may face.

2013-March Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Going With The Flow

2013-March Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Podcast – Going With The Flow

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Watching How Traffic Gridlock Forms
Harmonious Paths in Disaster
The Bodhisattva Vow

Traffic patterns, much like check-out lines at a store are fascinating to observe – people always jostling for a better position, racing ahead only to get stuck as that lane eventually slows to a crawl again. Having a higher-view, similar to what truckers can see, you start to see the larger picture of traffic. On some freeways, for whatever reason, sometimes the right-side slow lanes go faster than the left-side passing ones. Motorcyclists tend to be more aware of their surroundings, so we notice when the little red sports car that sped up quickly to race ahead, gets blithely stuck in slower traffic and fades to the rear. We notice when there’s an unusually slow driver in the far left lane causing traffic from behind to have to move right to pass.

We also notice how the large truck drivers, sentenced by regulation to an existence imprisoned within the right two lanes, also learn to drive with consistency of both throttle and path. They don’t tend to change lanes, and try to maintain a steady pace of forward momentum. Having so much mass to move, does not allow for rapid fluctuations in speed and direction, so those drivers have to plan well ahead in order to stay safe, and keep from endangering others. These professional drivers make decisions to change paths because of safety and overall-efficiency. Opening wide the throttle to jump into a temporary opening might decrease a few seconds of the trip time, but the sacrifice is an above-average burn of precious (and these days, costly) fuel. Too many snap decisions and there might not be enough in the tank to complete the trip without stopping for more fuel – adding additional delays to the overall arrival time.

Every time someone unexpectedly changes lanes, whether without signalling, or abruptly changing from one lane to another, those people displaced usually end up slowing down slightly (to keep themselves safe), and those in-front glance in their rear mirrors wondering why they are being suddenly tailgated. The people to the sides spend a few thought moments thinking to themselves “how rude!” or other distractions.  Collectively the single decision of one person to try and jump a little farther ahead of the others, ends up having collateral energy expenditures on all those individuals around them, and inevitably, that lack of focus and concentration also results in slightly slower progress.

Buddhism observes many such paths and interactions: water flowing along a stream, winds flowing through and around forests, birds migrating from place to place – each having a starting point and a destination. Each kind of energy makes its best effort to get to its ending point but deviates its path only for natural drives: danger, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Ultimately the path of least resistance is always sought, to conserve energy.  Water gains flow and volume when it moves as a whole, widening its path and straightening its course. Air becomes powerful as it goes faster and forms streams of continuous flow. Birds in flocks expend less energy to get to their destination when they take turns leading and following each other, staying within the leader’s wake, taking the least amount of energy to maintain formation flight.

March 11 marks the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the third memorial service for its victims (In Japan, a funeral is counted as the first of the yearly memorial services, so the third memorial service is conducted on the second anniversary.) The torrential water that flooded most of the Tohoku region followed its own path of least resistance. Residents noted the risks associated with building directly in the path of the ocean’s own tides, and recommended higher altitude and raised platform construction be incorporated during the reconstruction. Living in connection with the ever-present tides and constructing flexible buildings that can sway and move with the quaking earth are similar examples of harmonious paths.

Two thousand, five hundred years ago, at the Buddha’s final moment of nirvana, Chunda, the lay follower, showed us in his purity how to truly accomplish dana paramita, or the perfection of giving. Shakyamuni accepted Chunda’s sincere offering and reassured him that he’d be there whenever Chunda needed him. “There is no need to grieve over my death,” he said, “I have entered a state of nirvana. I am in a place of eternal bliss. Listen well, with a sincere attitude. I will explain the bodhisattva vow [to endeavor for the sake of all sentient beings] to you, so that serene and tranquil bliss can be attained equally by all sentient beings. You have now listened to the truth of my ever present tathagata nature; etch this truth and what you have heard into your mind, and train accordingly.”

And so, returning to our traffic analogy, imagine what traffic would be like if the very front person on every lane were concerned about holding up traffic flow for everyone behind them. And each person in-turn was focused on the safety and efficacy of each other driver’s capacity to reach their destination safely and quickly.  And even the last person was conscientious about lagging too far behind, lest someone else follow behind them.  Races go fast because each individual has the same objective – the finish line. A careless and untrained move by any individual can lead to disastrous results for everyone participating, so they each strive to maximize their potential, which results in a collective increase in effort and effectiveness for everyone.

2013-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast

2013-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Your Heart and The Stars http://ow.ly/2v0ltM

2013-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Your Heart and The Stars

2013-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Your Heart and The Stars

Creating Your Own Destiny (and Reality)
Why the Stars are Prominent in Buddhism
Practice from Your Heart

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Some people say they were born unlucky.  Yet we are the ones who create our future, and we can change our destiny at every moment of every day, with each decision and action we choose to take. From the winter solstice to the seasonal divide [in Jpn. setsubun, or the coming of spring], days grow longer as part of the yearly cycle. That is when a negative phase begins turning into a positive phase (and in the skies, the cross-over of the equatorial divide occurs from the Southern hemisphere to the Northern side.)

During the winter service rituals, we make offerings to the stars that “govern” our lives signifying our choice to respect that which is beyond our control. This comes from practices adopted into Esoteric Buddhism in which stars and planets were regarded as divinities, and included in mandalas for prayers and rituals. This gave people a practical means of effecting inner transformation by linking with the cosmic forces that move the stars in the sky and rotate the planet without our human intervention.

The Star Ritual period, during which a star offering rite is conducted daily, is held beginning with the winter solstice and concluding at the traditional seasonal divide. It comes at the time of the lunar New Year, when we are reminded of change, especially within ourselves. The Star Ritual acts as our own ritualistic purification of the delusions or karma that hinder our buddha nature from emerging. The practices of purification for spiritual growth and repentance for inner purification are performed along with the prayers and rituals. The rites are directed at transforming the stars that govern negativity into ones that govern and boost positivity, and help to reorient our minds so that we can transform our lives in the New Year. The Shinnyo-en Winter Training is held beginning with the new year and also concluding with the seasonal divide. That is why the end of the Winter Training coincides with the final homa (or spiritual purification ceremony) of the Star Ritual. During Winter Training, we endeavor in acts of purification—specific acts of practice to polish ourselves and awaken our buddha nature.
The underlying significance of Winter Training for our sangha will remain unchanging in the eternal future. As the first Shinnyo-en Winter Training started with the enshrinement of the Mahavairochana Achala back in 1935, it is a period for practitioners to go back in spirit to the beginning and renew their vow to uphold the  dharma and embody the spirit of Achala’s embodiment of perseverance and determination deep within their own hearts and minds. When our faith remains unwavering and we strive in altruistic practice, we can help to fill the world with “everlasting hope.”

In this month’s premier issue of the new English-language publication “Resonance” (formerly “The Nirvana”, available online to Shinnyo practitioners world-wide), an early observation from Master Shinjo Ito provided the essential distillation of all dharma teachings:

Jan-1975: A letter requesting that I contribute an article for the magazine Josei Bukkyo [“Women in Buddhism”] arrived while I was out preparing for a propagation trip to [the northern region of] Tohoku. Upon my return I read the letter, and when I saw the proposed title, “The Nirvana Sutra: A Light in My Heart,” I truly felt that the Mahaparinirvana (Nirvana) Sutra is indeed a light in my heart. I would even go as far as to say it is my life.

(Buddha Shakyamuni)  urges each individual to become a person who gives true spiritual support and encouragement to others. At the same time, he explains that the Nirvana teachings cannot be grasped only by theory or logic but must be mastered above all through actual practice; that is, putting the teachings into action.

In this world of the present, it may seem as if everything we see and hear brings us only anxiety, fear, or anger instead of happiness and joy. We may simply shrug our shoulders at the situation, but are we not also committing, unknowingly or at times even knowingly, the same kind of negative actions in our daily lives [that cause this anxiety, fear, or anger in others]? From child discipline to nuclear war, I think we need to give thought and reflection to these problems [instead of turning a blind eye to them]. These are not someone else’s issues. I believe the first step in Buddhism can be summed up in the phrase “give matters due thought.”

 

2013-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Arts and Growing

2013-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Arts and Growing

[audio https://jhlui1.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/201301_shinnyo_podcast.mp3]

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2013 Guideline, Items of Practice, Sonouta

Many of history’s greatest leaders share a commonality – a side affection for the Arts, whether it be music, painting, fictional literature, or even acting.  It may be that these elemental activities, that are based more on individual creativity and interpretation than well-defined scientific guidelines are what create the flexible and innovative leaders around us.

For example, a leader who has been well-versed in laws and regulations, who knows how to “play exactly by the book” may be left uncertain in times demanding alternative approaches, or when facing rapidly changing challenges.

The person who is used to making the best of whatever the given situation presents, often has the freedom to think beyond conventional solutions and offer new strategies that may extend far beyond the conservative mindset.

Today the world is facing endless problems due to climate change, political tensions, economic crises, a soaring population, natural disasters and diseases, but the lovingkindness that already lies within our hearts and forms the core of genuine spiritual practice can help dispel these dark clouds to reveal a brighter future.  Lovingkindness is the good within us and the basis of humanity and philanthropy.

Acts of lovingkindness will lead to the serenity and peace of mind that comes from feeling close to others. Good things come from loving acts and kindness is born from putting one’s beliefs into practice. As our kind and caring actions accumulate, we come to understand through personal experience the interdependence of all life along with the joy of living and being given life.  To begin this process, the steps we take, however small, should be sincere and full of lovingkindness.  Every moment that we spend being a good friend to others polishes our buddha nature further, allowing us to move closer to buddhahood.

Shinso Ito, our head priest of Shinnyo-en set forth the guidelines for 2013 during the January 1st service:

With sincere efforts made towards a borderless realm of shinnyo,
And following the example of the Shinnyo Parents,
Let us expand our ties of friendship in the world.

To help put this into practice, the two guidelines are:
1. Contributing through steps of lovingkindness.
2. Acting on our sesshin experience.

As the practice of sesshin training helps of understand our own flaws and areas needing encouragement, it is not enough just to understand that you and I have things needing improvement, but we must take steps towards actually changing ourselves as part of our efforts to reflect a better example for others.

We close with the 2013 Sonouta which reads:

Let us never fail to endeavor and pray till the world of joy is realized.

Note that prayer and self-focus is second, and making efforts comes first. This is because by actually engaging in honest efforts to encourage and support others, self-transformation comes as a symmetrical byproduct of the process. The spirit of friendship will expand in the world when we strengthen the bond we have to our own buddha nature, and to each other.

2012-October Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Building a Trusted Reputation

2012-October Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Building a Trusted Reputation

The Importance of Establishing Trust
Consistency Builds a Foundation
Learning to Say, “Yes…”
Choosing the Difficult Path
2012-October Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Building a Trusted Reputation


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During an interview recently, Keishu-sama was asked, “What would you most like to be remembered for in this world?” She replied without hesitation, “Not to be formally recognized or rewarded, but to be a person who can be relied upon and trusted – to be a dependable person.”

The timeliness of this idea is quite unmistakable. On TED.com Rachel Botsman spoke this month on how a person’s reputation will become the new perception of an individual’s value, especially out in the virtual internet universe, where we will meet virtual strangers every day and virtual identities are only as genuine as the ratings or comments of others.  In this discussion there is a clear line drawn between one’s Influence (as measured by Likes, Re-Tweets, Follows and Facebook Friends) and one’s Trustworthiness (measured by positive Comments, Recommendations by others, and References by others to your own comments and opinions.)  Botsman points out that the ability to have a positive outcome from a business activity has a direct correlation to your own rather difficult-to-measure Trust factor, and has almost no relation to one’s credit score (FICO), virtual Likes or Influence rating.

So how do you go about building a good reputation?  Trust by others starts with actions towards the benefit of others. It’s easy not to trust someone who is always thinking of themselves first, or doing things in a selfish manner. Even more interesting are those who firmly believe they are making efforts for others, and yet are not sources of inspiration and seem to be beset by troubles and conflicts. The person who always barters is a good negotiator, but seldom trusted. And yet, it’s even simpler to trust someone who always acts by thinking of others first, placing themselves in “the other person’s shoes” and doing things which have no direct correlation with a reward.

Those actions must also have a consistency to them, similar to a river or stream that never dries up.  We think fondly of returning to the cool waters of an ever-present water source to refresh ourselves and cleanse our bodies and minds, but we don’t have that same affinity towards a tributary that only runs randomly, sometimes in great gushes, and other times a mere trickle. We seek every day, to find our own reliable and trustworthy sources of our own sustenance, and that includes those who inspire us and motivate us in life.

If we reflect on the Four Virtues of a Bodhisattva: Permanence (eternity or timelessness), Bliss (happiness), Self (identity or confidence), and Purity (truth)  (Jpn. Jo Raku Ga Jo) each one is attainable only through consistent practice. Each one can be soiled each time someone strays from these invaluable measures. But someone who endeavors to hold true each one of these ideals in their daily life and interactions, becomes by their actions, a trustworthy person because of their consistency and diligence to pursue them.

In a customer service training held by the Telephone Doctor, they introduce verbal phone etiquette choices that enhance communication skills for people dealing with others. The principles are the same in their training – learn to act as you would wish to be treated by putting yourself into the other person’s place before deciding how to react.

Instead of… Try using…
I don’t know. That’s a good question. Let me find out.
I can’t do… Well, what I can do…
You have to… What you need to do…
Just a second… This may take a minute. Can you hold?
No. <…> I can do <something instead>
<silence> (as a response to anything) <say something…>

When you hear the latter responses and imagine a person you’re dealing with responding that way with a smile, can you imagine feeling a little better about the response to your question, even if it happens to be not exactly what you were expecting?

It is very easy it seems to do the opposite of the Four Virtues, much like taking an elevator to the top of a mountain, versus climbing a rocky and steep path along the rocks. You can exhibit impatience, anger or frustration, lack of commitment and lying with as much ease as entering that express lift. Just as taking the stairs once in awhile strengthens our heart and muscles, so does choosing discipline in Life over convenience. We learn more from our difficulties than we ever do from our easy achievements. The interesting change of perspective that transforms the world around you is when you start seeing those challenges in terms of their presented opportunities rather than their burdens. As Life’s hurdles transform into steps, you might find your spiritual strength increasing as you exercise your free will.

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Month

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Month – 2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Truth, Self and Goodness http://ow.ly/1mg http://ow.ly/2sijjb

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Month

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Truth, Self and Goodness http://ow.ly/1mg318

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Truth, Self and Goodness

2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Truth, Self and Goodness

Learning Oneness With Truth
Selfish Behavior or Why is the World So Cruel (to Me)?
On Being a Good Person

Audio File: 2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Truth, Self and Goodness

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September was the month when the core chant of our sangha was established as “Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai Hatsu-Nehan Kyo.” Namu is an expression of devotion and trust; shinnyo is the truth or purity (Skt. tathata); ichinyo means oneness; and Dai Hatsu-Nehan Kyo is the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, also representing heaven. This mantra expresses the intent to be one with truth through the principles of the Mahaparinirvana (Nirvana) Sutra.  By chanting the Sandai, and ingraining its focus into our daily lives and actions, we come to recognize our true selves as described in the Sacred Principles – the verses that we recite as part of our daily chanting:

Like the full moon is pure, one is essentially without tarnish.
Like the full moon is round and perfect, one lacks nothing.
Like the full moon is clear, one is essentially the untarnished Dharma.

Master Shinjo Ito taught that the Sandai was a distillation of the essence of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra.  The Sandai voices our intention to change our lives and awaken to our true buddha nature by stepping forward with gratitude and joy for the benefit of others. Psychologically, when we incorporate an idea or thought using more than one of our senses, we tend to better remember it. This is a well-known practice of many advanced childhood learning programs, such as Montessori – to impress the idea in the mind, not only by reading it, but by reading it aloud, and preferably accompanying it with a reinforcing action. So, as we chant the words aloud, we also meditate and think about its meaning, and when we put the words into action, we will incorporate it into our lives. In this process, we begin to purify ourselves of the “Three Poisons” of greed, anger, and ignorance.

Almost fifty years ago, Shojushinin said: “I hope that you can become someone whom others point to and say, ‘That’s a really good person!’ When others recognize that you have changed through your practice [of the Shinnyo Teaching] and they want to give it a try themselves, that’s when you’ll know you’ve actually changed.” The core value within Shinnyo-en is to be the example for others through your actions, life and behavior. The human potential movement of the 1970’s and 80’s used to say, “All love flows through your own love for You.” Many people back then interpreted those words to mean an ego-centric interpretation, leading to the “Me” decade. As a student of many years of those same programs, we learned what the larger meaning of self-appreciation and respect embraces. You are part of a greater whole, whether you define that as a society, the human race, or even the universe. Thus as your eyes open wider and can see yourself in those who are around you, and learn to have the same caring and appreciation for others as you would wish for yourself, that same energy and spirit embraces you in return.

The aim of the Sandai is for us to deepen our resolve to walk the Shinnyo Path towards buddhahood—actualizing the full potential of the buddha nature latent within each of us—and helping others to do the same. A first step is to express the warmth and kindness expounded in the Teaching through our words and actions as we work for the good of those around us in our daily lives. Finding true happiness and creating a better world for everyone begins with changing ourselves.

There is one of many interesting anecdotal stories presented in this month’s Nirvana about a situation in dealing with selfish behavior. Our daily lives offer up a wealth of experiences that we
may be tempted to interpret through the lens of the Self, leading us to blame others or recoil at what they say and do. But what if, on every occasion, the message of Truth is actually hidden within? By focusing on grasping the message and learning to gently suppress our instinctual self-centered tendencies, we can feel the silent but sure encouragement extended to us from
the spiritual realm that up to this point may have passed unnoticed.

An office staff member was preparing to depart for another assignment when she overheard someone say, “Oh, she looks like a runaway…” referring to the staff member’s luggage and travel attire. She was angered by the remark throughout her trip, and upon arrival told Shojushinin-sama, our dharma mother, about the incident.

“So how did you deal with it?” asked Shojushinin. The woman responded, “I thought it was so rude to say something like that, and it made me miserable. I tried hard to reflect on what happened, but I just can’t accept it.”

Shojushinin replied, “Well, then, just think of how the word “runaway” is written with the Chinese characters 家出, meaning “home” (家) and “leave” (出). Reverse these characters to read in the opposite order (出家), and you have the word for “entering the priesthood,” which is what you are actually doing. Now then, what is the difference between 家出 (runaway) and 出家 (entering the priesthood)? Running away from home involves all kinds of pain and suffering, while entering the priesthood leads one to the joy of serving the buddha realm. Try to catch the Buddha’s hidden message in what happened to you this morning as you work to become a full-fledged disciple.”

Shojushinin thus gently explained the importance of attempting to interpret daily events in a buddha-centered way. Viewing life’s challenges in a self-centered way leads to frustration and dissatisfaction. The anecdote above illustrates Shojushinin’s teaching of the significance of contemplation outside of a temple environment. At any given time, we should ask ourselves how to see things from a buddha-centered perspective, which is quite similar to Christianity’s “What Would Jesus Do?” principle of action. The philosophy is the same, with both taking a lot of effort to master the practice.

You learn to perceive daily challenges, not with a “why is Life doing this to me?” attitude, but to see each new hurdle or crack-in-the-road as something you are prepared for at that moment in-time, because the world does not change with intent how it deals with you. You are presented with that which you create for yourself. If you are faced with financial difficulty, it may be lack of experience with dealing with money, or stubbornness not to seek out expertise. If people seem challenging personality-wise or emotionally, might you not be inviting and attracting those people through your actions and behavior?  It is your actions that will create the harmony amid diversity around you. Similarly, most philosophers do not believe in Fate, as we are able to change our actions at every moment in time. Choosing a different path, may lead you to the same destination, but the experience gained will be different, and in-turn, so different will be your future decision-making.

Applying the concept of karma to embrace all actions, one negative action will offset a positive one. Only through consistent and continued accumulation of positively-focused actions can one actually change the balance of how you experience Life. Which also means, every time you think to yourself, “Why is Life doing this to me? I have been a very good person,” you basically reset your merit counter back to zero and get to start all over again. Similarly, doing something good, but expecting a return, whether a reward, or even recognition for the act, is simply bartering, and also results in a zero net-gain.

Whomever first coined the phrase, “Get over yourself,” was on the right track. But to complete the thought with accuracy and purpose, the entire concept probably should be, “Get over yourself, and do something for someone else without expectation.”

2012-August Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly

2012-August Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Attachments & Nature http://ow.ly/1lPBXD

2012-August Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Attachments & Nature

Learning A Lot From BeesShinnyo Bees (L) | LA River Bees (R)
Having A Purpose
Anger, Aggression, and Acceptance

2012-August Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Attachments & Nature

[audio https://jhlui1.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/201208_shinnyo_podcast.mp3]

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The August 2012 Nirvana, the monthly publication of Shinnyo-en, actually deals in depth with the subject of last month’s podcast – The Dharma Crisis.  So rather than duplicating a discussion of what is already available in the August issue, we will focus instead on a subject very near to the heart of the Teachings – in our modern world, learning to value and appreciate Life, and placing less importance on material things.

As many of you know, I am also a beekeeper, or bee-tender, as I discover my self to be, since I’ve discovered it’s pretty much impossible to keep a bee from going where it wants to go. ** I had been a long way on my journey of studies of Buddhist practices when bees entered my path through connection with the Backwards Beekeepers – a group dedicated to the treatment-free and organic practice of raising bees.

What I didn’t know when my journey with bees started, was how much I could learn from them and myself about the natural order of things.

One thing I’ve observed, is that people behave a lot like bees. If you look around your local CostCo store, or a busy mall during the holidays, you’re looking at human-sized bee colony behavior. Bees like surrounding something interesting, whether it’s a queen, or another bee telling where it found a great deal of pollen. Similarly, when you notice people gathered around a food sample station, or a celebrity shows up in a public place, you’re observing the same bee behavior, including the cacophony of people tweeting and Facebook’ing each other about the discovery.

Bees are happiest when they have a clear purpose and daily mission. They get depressed and pretty lazy without a queen to give them focus, or their numbers are too small to maintain a colony. Bees are unlike their cousins the wasps, hornets and yellow-jackets, which have much higher aggressive traits developed from their predatory nature. The cousins also suffer from a much shorter colony lifespan, with the majority of the colony dying within a year of their creation due to natural imbalances and limited resource availability to sustain a predatory colony through the winter. The bees carefully store their nectar and pollen to preserve the colony’s food sources throughout the same period, allowing bee colonies to continue year after year. This becomes their primary purpose throughout their individually short lives (which is usually less than six weeks long) – to help each other to survive, so that the colony as a whole continues.  The queen has a longer lifespan, but must continually deal with brand new individuals who know nothing from day one, other than to begin helping – clean the nest, feed the young, maintain the temperatures, keep out intruders, etc.  Only towards the end of their short lives can they even sting and fly properly – and it is at that time they learn to gather and forage to build a food supply to feed the generations of the future.

If you disorient a bee colony by moving its hive too many times in a row, or disturb them through constant disruption, they will become intolerant of the changes and seek more stable habitats.
That is one feature that bees have that many humans would desire – the ability to fly away from their disturbances. However, in doing so, they must leave their entire known world behind. In this subtle way, bees have learned how to eliminate attachments to their possessions. In focusing on survival of their family and colony, their priorities are to maintain their family and queen leader in safety and health. Even if they must abandon all they have worked so hard to build, collect and store, if nature demands, they quickly consume whatever honey stores they can fit into themselves and depart for a safer and more secure place. The bees know if you can’t carry it with you, it probably isn’t that important.

The term “africanized bees” started with a scientist down in the tropics cross-breeding European honey bees with local feral strains in an attempt to make a heartier and more disease-resistant bee. Tropical bees face many more difficult predators compared with their European cousins and have developed a much more sensitive nature in response to threat detection. Down in the African continent, the tribes for centuries have sought their honey by finding hollow trees with bee colonies in them and using smoke and fire to drive away the bees. This has resulted in the bees developing an aggressive response to smoke – an opposite reaction to typical European bees that become very docile when they can’t smell anything due to the presence of smoke.

Let’s look at things from the bee’s perspective. Bees sting only in defense, not because they want to attack, as they die in the process of doing it, so it makes no sense for them to form premeditated  ideas about attacking other animals. Bees are eat honey, pollen and plant nectar, and have no particular interest in animals. Unlike wasps, hornets and yellowjackets which do prey on insects and animals for food, bees have a built-in instinct to protect their colony and will perish defending it from perceived harm.

But ultra-sensitive or not, a bee simply defends its home from threats. Does this sound like a familiar behavioral trait, perhaps like that of an inner-city gang member or an ex-con from prison protecting their perceived home territory?   Strangely, most bees won’t even defend themselves, if isolated from the colony. Instead they tend to stay quietly with the only purpose left to attempt to return home. Solitary bees accept that they have no defense, other than to fly and exhaust themselves, or attempt to sting, thus ending their life. Those that survive isolation do so by bringing pollen or nectar to contribute to another nearby colony.  Without providing a contribution, a solitary bee cannot be accepted nor maintained, as the entire colony would become weak without contributions. And by nature’s design, a bee cannot survive very long on its own – perhaps 4 or 5 days before they succumb from low temperature exposure or simply being hunted by a larger or stronger insect or bird.

In our pursuit for enlightenment as to how to return to harmony with ourselves and our world around us, we need look no further than the nearest flower, upon which you might find an example of nature’s most complex, and at once, most simple creatures – the honey bee.  In their little efforts they industriously set the wheels of life in-motion by pollinating flowers and allowing plants to grow and multiply for every living thing on the planet.  That’s how much of a difference a single action can make.