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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-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.