Tag Archives: giving

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

Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes or via Flipboard

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

Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

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

Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

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.