Tag Archives: Shinso

2013-10 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Breaking Bad (Precepts)

2013-10 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Breaking Bad (Precepts)

  • The Five Precepts (Rules of Engagement)
  • Why Learning from Others Comes First
  • Extending the Awakening Universe

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A precept is a rule of conduct originally developed as standards for monks and nuns to know when their behavior had strayed from following the proper path of conduct. Depending on which text you examine, monks have about 250 precepts and nuns somewhere between 348 to 500 by which they must abide during their practice.  Lay Buddhists (you and me) within the Nirvana Sutra were given eight (8) specific ones to apply in daily life.

  • Refrain from killing.
  • Refrain from stealing.
  • Refrain from sexual misconduct.
  • Refrain from lying.
  • Refrain from becoming intoxicated.

(and 3 more that Shinnyo-en interprets as historical)

  • Refrain from self-adornment.
  • Refrain from song and dance.
  • Refrain from observing song and dance.

Magnificently and often simultaneously, Breaking Bad’s storyline (an AMC series created by Vince Gilligan) manages to violate every single one of them. The same is true of the entire world around us, every single day. But the difference between a fictional TV show and the real world, is that the show is comprised of actors performing scripted lines and not making active decisions to do a certain thing or commit a certain act. And skillful writing ensures that the outcomes of negative behavior does not have automatically positive results, particularly in the overall storyline, lest the audience become bored with predictable endings. But in the real world, people are making decisions, to break a law, or to abide. And we live in this same real world, alongside all the others, whether breaking precepts or not.

A core belief in Buddhism, just as in nature, is that other beings will only follow or emulate those who are successful, as the contrary makes virtually no sense at all. And if you attempt to admonish others without demonstrating the embodiment of success through pursuit of a path of truth, then why would anyone bother to listen to your words?

This concept is paraphrased in a number of different ways:

  • We first learn from others, and then we can step forward to practice on our own.
  •  Only when you put yourself on the right track will others follow after you.
  • Guide the troubled by standing in the same shoes.
  • Learn what we need to learn from others.

And strangely enough, all of these principles were also part of Breaking Bad’s storyline. The gift from the writers was to see that lead characters had no influence until they found their own self-truths and understood why others acted the way they did.  And akin to the way karma works, deaths and destruction did not lead to conclusion – they were only transformations of one person’s life or property to lead to another person’s greater greed and envy.

 

September and October are months leading up to the year-end period of purification and refreshing the mind and body to prepare for another year’s efforts. The ceremonies within this period (Saisho Homa) are conducted to re-purify entrances to this earthly world for welcoming the revisitation of the spiritual deities and return of Buddhas. As we individuals serve as the “vehicles’ for this visitation in-spirit, we too in the presence of ritual cleansing fires (which bring forth “light” to see the path in front of us) take time to reflect on our conduct in regards to the precepts and examine how our thoughts, actions and speech can be further improved to continue extending a world of harmony and peace around us.

 

From HH Keishu Shinso this month:

 

“…It is up to us to reach out and embrace others in the spirit of friendship to make harmony amid diversity a reality that is indestructible like a diamond.

Likewise, to create a world of friendship means to create a way of seeing the world based on friendly relations rather than adversarial ones that are very often filled with difficulties and setbacks. At times, we may encounter a challenging reality beyond our control that prevents us from building friendships. But by drawing on the resources of wisdom and compassion—which is the nature of buddhahood… —we can move forward.”

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

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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.”

2013-05 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.

2012-October Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Building a Trusted Reputation

2012-October Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Building a Trusted Reputation

The Importance of Establishing Trust
Consistency Builds a Foundation
Learning to Say, “Yes…”
Choosing the Difficult Path
2012-October Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Building a Trusted Reputation


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During an interview recently, Keishu-sama was asked, “What would you most like to be remembered for in this world?” She replied without hesitation, “Not to be formally recognized or rewarded, but to be a person who can be relied upon and trusted – to be a dependable person.”

The timeliness of this idea is quite unmistakable. On TED.com Rachel Botsman spoke this month on how a person’s reputation will become the new perception of an individual’s value, especially out in the virtual internet universe, where we will meet virtual strangers every day and virtual identities are only as genuine as the ratings or comments of others.  In this discussion there is a clear line drawn between one’s Influence (as measured by Likes, Re-Tweets, Follows and Facebook Friends) and one’s Trustworthiness (measured by positive Comments, Recommendations by others, and References by others to your own comments and opinions.)  Botsman points out that the ability to have a positive outcome from a business activity has a direct correlation to your own rather difficult-to-measure Trust factor, and has almost no relation to one’s credit score (FICO), virtual Likes or Influence rating.

So how do you go about building a good reputation?  Trust by others starts with actions towards the benefit of others. It’s easy not to trust someone who is always thinking of themselves first, or doing things in a selfish manner. Even more interesting are those who firmly believe they are making efforts for others, and yet are not sources of inspiration and seem to be beset by troubles and conflicts. The person who always barters is a good negotiator, but seldom trusted. And yet, it’s even simpler to trust someone who always acts by thinking of others first, placing themselves in “the other person’s shoes” and doing things which have no direct correlation with a reward.

Those actions must also have a consistency to them, similar to a river or stream that never dries up.  We think fondly of returning to the cool waters of an ever-present water source to refresh ourselves and cleanse our bodies and minds, but we don’t have that same affinity towards a tributary that only runs randomly, sometimes in great gushes, and other times a mere trickle. We seek every day, to find our own reliable and trustworthy sources of our own sustenance, and that includes those who inspire us and motivate us in life.

If we reflect on the Four Virtues of a Bodhisattva: Permanence (eternity or timelessness), Bliss (happiness), Self (identity or confidence), and Purity (truth)  (Jpn. Jo Raku Ga Jo) each one is attainable only through consistent practice. Each one can be soiled each time someone strays from these invaluable measures. But someone who endeavors to hold true each one of these ideals in their daily life and interactions, becomes by their actions, a trustworthy person because of their consistency and diligence to pursue them.

In a customer service training held by the Telephone Doctor, they introduce verbal phone etiquette choices that enhance communication skills for people dealing with others. The principles are the same in their training – learn to act as you would wish to be treated by putting yourself into the other person’s place before deciding how to react.

Instead of… Try using…
I don’t know. That’s a good question. Let me find out.
I can’t do… Well, what I can do…
You have to… What you need to do…
Just a second… This may take a minute. Can you hold?
No. <…> I can do <something instead>
<silence> (as a response to anything) <say something…>

When you hear the latter responses and imagine a person you’re dealing with responding that way with a smile, can you imagine feeling a little better about the response to your question, even if it happens to be not exactly what you were expecting?

It is very easy it seems to do the opposite of the Four Virtues, much like taking an elevator to the top of a mountain, versus climbing a rocky and steep path along the rocks. You can exhibit impatience, anger or frustration, lack of commitment and lying with as much ease as entering that express lift. Just as taking the stairs once in awhile strengthens our heart and muscles, so does choosing discipline in Life over convenience. We learn more from our difficulties than we ever do from our easy achievements. The interesting change of perspective that transforms the world around you is when you start seeing those challenges in terms of their presented opportunities rather than their burdens. As Life’s hurdles transform into steps, you might find your spiritual strength increasing as you exercise your free will.