Tag Archives: guidance

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.”

Advertisements

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.

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

Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

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]

Subscribe to this Podcast (RSS) or iTunes

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-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

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

Shinnyo-en Monthly Focus Podcast 2012-April 

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

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

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

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

Be gentle, yet strong.

Be a person whom others miss.

Do not fight.

Treat people with respect.

And Always smile when meeting people.

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

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

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

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

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