Tag Archives: peace

2014-03 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Namu/Eza/Spiritual Awakening

2014-03 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Namu/Eza/Spiritual Awakening

  • Namu – What is it and Why do we say it?
  • Eza/Elevation Training – What is it? Why do we participate in it?

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Namu (Japanese, 南無, lit. devotion) from the Sanskrit word “namas” or “namo”, which means resigning one’s soul to something.

So when we chant (the core chant):

“Namu Shinnyo…” it means, “Devotion to the Truth.”

“Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo…” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness.”

“Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai-hatsu…” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness with Greatness.”

“Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai-hatsu Nehan…” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness with the Great Nirvana/Heaven.”

And finally, “Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai-hatsu Nehan Kyo,” meaning, “Devotion to The Truth and Oneness with The Great Nirvana/Heaven Sutra.”

Eza (Japanese, 会座, lit. seated meeting) – part of Shinnyo-en which bridges the world of esoteric buddhism with the lay follower practice is the creation of what I would describe as an “enlightenment preschool” of sorts.  Eza, in the traditional esoteric sense, is the monastic practice of extended deep meditation and prayer, usually in an isolated environment (for example, a cave deep inside a mountain) for months or years of individual reflection and contemplation.

In an earlier podcast, I covered the topic of Shinnyo guided mediation, or Sesshin training. Well, just as missionary school is the training grounds for priests (or Dharma Teachers), Eza is the training process for those endeavoring to become spiritual guides for Sesshin training. Please note that these two disciplines, dharma teachers and spiritual guides, are complementary, but not co-dependent roles. That is there are dharma teachers who are not spiritual guides, and vice-versa.  And through dedication and perseverance, you can achieve both in a single lifetime.

Eza, as practiced in Shinnyo-en,  involves a gradual awakening of the heart and spirit towards a seeking of pure truth. You can view the process of enlightenment as gradually increasing your awareness beyond the five primary senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch), to self-awareness, and finally beyond awareness of the self, to awareness of others and everything. It is awareness without judgement nor critique. Enlightenment embraces the development of yourself into a mirror of your surroundings, void of coloration and filtering, and yet, able to reflect the innate goodness present within each and every living being.

Since spiritual elevation is part of the esoteric practice, or put simply, the part of the buddhist practice that comes with experience, knowledge, education and self-development, there is no “Step 1, 2, 3 and presto, you’re elevated!” kind of project plan. Some people progress very quickly, and others can take decades. But as with most things in life, it is the journey itself that brings the most fulfillment and reward, not the goal. And philosophically, since attachment is one of the things we seek to lessen (and please, do be aware that the definition of “attachment” for the purposes of Buddhism is often misinterpreted, because of the original translation from sanskrit was a closest-matching definition, and not an exact matching word), ultimately it is the freedom from being goal-centric and more process-centric that begins to eliminate the worry and stress over whether we get there, or not.

For now, I will relay what I have been taught by the many who came before me:  Have gratitude in your heart for the opportunity to train each day. Be determined to succeed no matter what direction your path takes, and how many obstacles are presented to you (because you are prepared for them, even if you think you aren’t.) And focus your energies, thoughts, and spirit on becoming one with all that flows around you. Through your daily practice, eventually your perspective will have changed. And one day, when you were always looking up at the skies above you, you will find yourself among the same very clouds and sky, ready to take the next step in your path.


2014-02 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Olympic Peace

2014-02 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Olympic Peace

  • Shinnyo – What Exactly is It?
  • Opening Address by International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach

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Shinnyo [Japanese, lit. truth] refers to the nature of reality, and striving to orient oneself around it allows one to see things for what they really are, in a way that is awakening and liberating. The Buddhist practices promoting enhanced wisdom, lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, empower this way of living. This universal concept of equality is not unique to Buddhism, but is everywhere, including this week’s Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

IOC President, Thomas Bach, February 7, 2014:

[2 greetings in Russian, welcoming all to Russia and Sochi] Good evening dear athletes, Mister President of the Russian Federation, Mister Secretary General of the United Nations, dear Olympic friends and fans around the world, welcome to the 22nd Olympic Winter Games. Tonight we are writing a new page in Olympic history. [French version inserted]

Thank you to all the workers for your great contributions under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thank you to all the people of Sochi and the Krasnodar region.  Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your understanding during these years of transformation. Now you are living in an Olympic region. I am sure you will enjoy the benefits for many, many years to come. Thousands of volunteers have welcomed us with the well-known warm Russian hospitality. Many thanks to all the volunteers. Bolshoi spasiba, valantyoram! Thank you very much to everyone. Russia and the Russians have set the stage for you, the best winter athletes on our planet.

From this moment on you are not only the best <athletes>, you are Olympic Athletes. You will inspire us with your outstanding sports performances. You have come here for sport. You have come here with your Olympic dream. The International Olympic Committee wants your Olympic Dream to come true. This is why we are investing almost all of our revenues in the world-wide development of sports. The universal Olympic rules apply to each and every athlete — no matter where you come from or what your background is. You are living together in the Olympic Village. You will celebrate victory with dignity and accept defeat with dignity. You are bringing the Olympic Values to life. In this way, the Olympic Games, wherever they take place, set an example for a peaceful society. Olympic sports unites the people. This is the Olympic message the athletes spread to the host country and to the whole world. Yes, it is possible to strive even for the greatest victory with respect for the dignity of your competitors. Yes, it is possible – even as competitors – to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. Yes, it is possible – even as competitors – to listen, to understand and to give an example for a peaceful society. Olympic games are always about building bridges to bring people together. Olympic games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity.

Therefore, I say, to the political leaders of the world, thank you for supporting your athletes. They are the best ambassadors of your country. Please respect their Olympic message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue, and not on the backs of these athletes. To all sports officials and sports fans, I say, join and support our fight for fair play — the athletes deserve it. And to you, my fellow Olympic athletes, I say, respect the rules, play fair, be clean. Respect your fellow athletes in and out of competition. We all wish you joy in your Olympic effort and a wonderful Olympic experience. To all of you, athletes, officials, spectators and fans around our globe, I say, “Enjoy the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, 2014!”

And now, I have the honor of inviting the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin, to declare open, the 22nd Olympic Winter Games, Sochi, Russia.

My thanks go to BBCOne for providing an unedited and unexpurgated version of Mr. Bach’s address and exceptional unbiased coverage of the Opening Ceremonies. With over six billion people in this world, there are (at least) six billion pathways to peace. Mr. Bach has presented one. What’s yours?

2014-01 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – The New Year

2014-01 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – The New Year

  • Saisho – How to Use the Force
  • Using Diversity to Strengthen and Broaden Community
  • Self-Reflection Leading to Global Peace

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(Based upon Shinnyo-en’s Annual Guidance and Points of Practice for 2014 – Year of the Horse)

In HH Keishu Shinso’s New Year’s address she presented the 2014 guideline including working to extend saisho (lit. spiritual wonders) and our annual practices to include contributing in a loving and kind manner with diversity, and using sesshin (lit. self-reflection) to build our world of friendship. Part of our embodiment of the astrological animal traits, is not to just abide by your own birth year’s characteristics, but to also extend your focus and reach according to each year’s sign, sort of like being re-born each year into that year’s emphasis. Horse years include broadening horizons, openness, gatherings and crowds, and certainly  an attraction to many many diverse interests. So with that in mind, let’s explore this year’s guidelines and practice items as a whole.

The concept of saisho can be thought of of being similar to the concept of the “Force” in George Lucas’s Star Wars – an energy which flows through every living thing in the universe, neither created nor destroyed, but simply transitioning from form to form, and state to state.

So if entropy and enthalpy are the scientific study of such energy transitions, what does religion and spirituality do with the same concepts? Well, science does well at interpreting what happens when something occurs, such as when a brain cell is electrically stimulated causing a word to be uttered in a verbal response. And psychologically, we may be able to interpret what natural versus nurtured behavioral elements led to the specific content of those words.

But when someone’s words become altruistic — generated in a way that does not seem to directly extend from internal drives and motives, nor self-satisfying objectives, those we may speak of as being driven through a path other than simple scientific cause and effect. We might think of religion being wrapped around a focus of many miraculous events, such as rising from the dead, or surviving apocalypse, but in reality, there are other forms of “miracles” which we simply need to examine our own history to understand that the definition is temporary. Just 100 years ago, many millions fell victim to invisible virus outbreaks, and bacterial infections which were thought to be terminal (and to some extent brought about by divine retribution.) But as the collective human mind became increasingly open to the concept of “invisible life forms” and synergetic treatments, our own collective suffering diminished in return. A couple thousand years ago, we were pretty sure lead was really safe, and mercury was a form of medicinal cure.

So, the concept of saisho, could simply be humanity’s continued diminishing fear of the unknown (or hard to explain), and embracement of harmonic balance. Wave energy is a good example of harmonic convergence or cancellation. When waves are sent in opposing directions to each other, they tend to cancel each other’s energy, and result in a flattened and still surface devoid of movement. Combining wave forces in the same direction creates reinforcement and greater amplitude and strength than contained within the original separated waves. So as religions and spirituality converge and reinforce, rather than conflict and cancel each other, we may observe a rather miraculous result.

Just as small trickles of melting ice and tiny streams converge towards amazingly huge rivers and oceans, so works the power of diversity, or simply variety. In the early days of Shinnyo-en, when food and resources were scarce, the Shinnyo parents (Shinjo and Tomoji Ito) raised vegetables on the temple grounds and gave them to the neighbors and practitioners  Tomoji was known for silently cleaning and polishing attendees shoes while they attended lessons by Shinjo, simply because she thought it would bring a smile to someone’s face if they came out and found them that way. Similarly, the early morning cleaning practices wherein we go out and clean and polish a nearby public place, are not meant to be huge demonstrations in public service, but simple small efforts to make a corner of the world a brighter and more enjoyable place.

Perhaps you leave a thank you card for a co-worker for their efforts, or +1 someone’s post on Google, or have some other way to positively contribute to someone else experience of life – it’s an action that counts. It builds merit. And it is more than deciding NOT to do something.

From the ancient roots of philosophy – being a lover of wisdom, and seeker of universal truth, and contrasted with another ancient word, phronesis – seeking practical truth and comprehension, tempered with life experience, the simple example often given is about conveying words of truth to someone. Philosophically, those words can be harsh and bitter to someone unreceptive to them. Phronetically, one might avoid saying anything at all, as being the practical way to avoid the conflict. But through self-reflection (sesshin), we achieve a third state of placing ourselves into the recipients shoes, so to speak, and choose words which can enlighten the person to what we mean to say, truthfully, but without the pain, conflict, or avoidance. Sometimes this self-reflection leads to discovery that what we thought was something worth saying, wasn’t anything at all, and turned out to be an effort to persuade someone else. Remember that harmony includes diversity,  and does not strive towards conformity. Balance depends on the relative weight, mass and distribution of each element, and choosing an arbitrary center doesn’t make something balanced. So, be sure you know your own elements, and embrace your own variety (hint: it’s that self-reflection thing), and choosing your centers of balance will  become based upon solid reference points rather than guesswork.