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.”