Sunday Service, January 14th, 2018

Published January 17, 2018 by

Sunday’s Dharma Message was delivered by Mr. Blayne Higa. Blayne is a Tokudo recipient who is currently studying at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley,
as a ministerial aspirant.

In his Dharma Message, Blayne shared insight into the meaning of Nembutsu.

Here is an excerpt of Blayne’s message:

Reflecting on the power of the Nembutsu, I remembered a wonderful story from Rev. Marvin Harada’s book “Discovering Buddhism in Everyday Life.” In it he shares a lesson from his teacher, Rev. Yukei Ashikaga who in turn, learned it from his teacher Rijin Yasuda. Now Yasuda Sensei once said, “Many people think that the Nembutsu, Namuamidabutsu, means something like this—that you take a big load off of your shoulders, like a big backpack, and you sit down and you let out a big sigh of relief. That’s what people think Namuamidabutsu means, that you relax and feel relieved, with a burden lifted from your shoulders. But I don’t think that is what Namuamidabutsu means. I think Namuamidabutsu means the opposite–that instead, you put a big load on your shoulders, a big responsibility or task, and now you have the power to stand up on your own two feet and move forward in life. That to me is what Namuamidabutsu means.”

Rev. Harada goes on to say the following, “If we find the teachings of Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu to be of value to us in our lives, if we find that the Nembutsu has illuminated our hearts and minds, then we must do what we can to allow it to be shared and carried on by others. That is the power to stand up and to move forward. It is a power that comes from beyond our own ego self. It is a power that makes the load on our shoulders lighter than what it really is. It is a power that not only allows us to stand up on our own two feet, but somehow it feels as if it is pushing us up from behind.”

He also shared his reflections on the previous day’s false alert of an incoming ballistic missile:

During the 38 minutes we faced nuclear destruction on Saturday morning, I found myself reciting the Nembutsu as I quickly searched for more information on what was happening. Finding very little online, I returned to the refuge of the Name. I sat in front of my home altar, lit the candle, offered incense and took a moment to breathe and recite the Name of the Buddha. In that moment of uncertainty, I found my center and focus within the Name. And for a few brief moments amid the chaos of the morning, Namo Amida Butsu was all there was and there was a sense of peace.

In the aftermath of the crisis, I reflected on the following passage from The Teaching of Buddha, “Faith gives them the wisdom to recognize the transiency of life and the grace not to be surprised or grieved at whatever comes to them or with the passing of life itself, knowing that, however conditions and appearances may change, the truth of life remains always unchanged.” The Nembutsu is unchanging Truth. The Nembutsu is a light for us in dark places and in dark times. May we always hold fast to Namo Amida Butsu to give us courage and strength to face each moment of this unrepeatable and impermanent life.

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