Posts Tagged ‘Namu Amida Butsu’

Does Religion Offer Hope?

January 8, 2014

A friend recently asked me if I thought that religion had anything to do with hope? I said, “yes, and If your religion isn’t offering you hope then something is wrong.”

However, as I reflected a little deeper on the question, I began to wonder how much real hope religion offers in today’s world. Certainly religion offers us, personally, much that is valuable. But does religion offer us the hope of solving the very real challenges of a world entering into the dramatic and possibly catastrophic era of climate change?

As a person of faith, I would say that the answer is “yes” and “maybe”. Religion, in theory, shows us the way. Religion offers selflessness, restraint, sacrifice, compassion, forgiveness, and faith as a response to scarcity, hardship, and suffering. It offers lives lived individually and collectively in the sharing of resources and in the care of those who are suffering. Religion offers us the only real solution to a world being consumed, quite literally, by greed.

The hope that religion offers the 21st century is found in the living of exemplary lives of compassion and concern for others. Religion must do the hard work of “saving souls” from the suffering and hellish future that will result from global climate change, war, and privation.

If we are serious about our religious lives then we cannot turn away from suffering. We must live our vows to to save beings from suffering, not in some vague philosophical way, but now, in this lifetime, in real and concrete actions. We must alleviate suffering as it exists in its many forms today, and we must work in the world to prevent future suffering. The work of saving beings, in this lifetime and on this planet, from tremendous suffering, will require heroic acts of selflessness by large numbers of individuals. It is up to us, as people of faith, to take up the work of the saints. We cannot wait for someone else to come forward and do the work. We have the answers. All that is left is to live the Truths that we all know to be true but have been afraid to accept and put into practice.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

2014: Sitting in the presence of the Buddha

December 31, 2013

This year the members of our Buddhist Congregation have been invited to participate in the recitation of 1 million Nembutsu. One million sounds like a lot. However, it is only the recitation of 26 rounds of Nembutsu, on a 108 bead Buddhist rosary, every day. It is a wonderfully simple practice. Each day we make a small effort and call out to Amida Buddha. Over the course of a year, our small daily effort results in the recitation of 1 million Nembutsu.

Nembutsu, calling out to the Buddha, is the heart of our Buddhist practice. It is a simple practice, involving only the recitation of “Namo Amida Bu!” At first the calling out to Amida may feel forced and contrived. But we must ask ourselves, what has brought us to take up the Nembutsu? What about our life is not working? Because surely if your life were completely satisfying you would not be taking up a religious practice. No. To come to the Nembutsu, to take refuge in the Buddha, is to recognize that we do not have the answers. The Buddha offers us the cure for our existential pain. The Buddha offers us answers.

To embrace the Buddha is to awaken experientially to the reality of our limited and deluded selves held within Measureless Awakening and Compassion. Nembutsu is not so much the path to awakening as the dynamic reality of Awakening. “Namo Amida Bu” is the Awakened Action of the Buddhas in each and every moment.

There is nothing special about reciting 1 million Nembutsu. It is simply an opportunity to sit daily in the presence of the Buddha and see where that leads.

Namo Amida Bu!

Ananda

Rejoicing in the Birth of Holy Beings

December 19, 2013

It is a joyous occasion when holy beings appear in the world.  They turn people’s minds away from hatred and greed and open their hearts to love and generosity. They offer humanity a way out of the cycle of selfishness and violence that causes so much suffering.  Their very lives and words point us beyond our limited selves.

Therefore, we should celebrate the approach of Christmas, which marks the birth of Jesus, the Anointed One, with whom Gautama, the Awakened One, would have found much common ground. Like the Buddha, the mother of Jesus had celestial visions foretelling Jesus’ birth and greatness.  Like the Buddha, Jesus’ birth tells a lot about his message and his audience.

Unlike the Buddha, Jesus was born into a poor family in humble, i.e. impoverished,  circumstances. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, the Holy family is forced by political strife to flee to, and live as refugees in, another country. They do not return home until there is change in political leadership.

It is not surprising then when we encounter Jesus, as an adult,  hanging out with and teaching the impoverished, the oppressed, and the outcasts. His teachings and stories are grounded in the everyday struggles and experiences of a people living in difficult situations with little if any political power or social standing. The miracles that surround Jesus address concrete needs: Hunger, Sickness, Death, and Hope.

The Christian message is not the same as the Buddhist Dharma.  Nevertheless, we should honor Jesus and learn from and be challenged by his teachings.  We should appreciate similarities, praise lives lived in deep faith, and rejoice in all good that is done in the name of Jesus.

Most importantly, we should celebrate the hope and promise that the baby Jesus offers a world filled with war, poverty, and discrimination.  Jesus offers us Love: Love as a way of life and as cure for the ills of the world.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Paul

The Awakened Heart

December 13, 2013

Personally I find the practice of Noble Speech to be one of the harder religious practices.  It is not difficult because I am running around cursing, or slandering, or gossiping. No. It is difficult because it is so easy to hurt someone’s feelings or cause pain and misunderstanding with speech.

Speech is a reflection of our thoughts. The words we choose, the phrases we use, the tones we affect, all arise out of our own insecurities and fears. Unfortunately, it is this crippling self obsession which closes our hearts to the individuals around us. It is not that we are rude or even unkind.  We are just unable to connect with others at the heart level, the level of love.

A regular, i.e. daily, spiritual discipline of prayer, study, and ethical living can go a long way to opening the heart. We cannot, however, force the heart to open.  The heart awakens in response to the call of that which is beyond self.  In our tradition Amida Buddha is that which is beyond self. The Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Bu”, is the voice of the Buddha calling to us from beyond self.

Sometimes we can hear the Buddha calling us, almost steering us on an unknown but True Course.  Other times we feel lost and can only hear ourselves calling out “Namo Amida Bu”.

“Namo Amida Bu” is the action of the Tathagatha’s measureless compassion upon our hearts and in our world.  To recite “Namo Amida Bu” is to cling to the Buddha amidst the turmoil and challenges of our daily lives.

“Namo Amida Bu” is also speech. It is Noble Speech. It is the speech of an Awakened Heart. Yet over and over again I forget the Dharma, forget the Buddha, forget all but myself and speak in ways that hurt and wound.

Namo Amida Bu!

Ananda

Encountering the Buddha in Your Daily Life

December 10, 2013

A few years ago I had the good fortune to have coffee with a friend of mine who is a retired Methodist minister. During the course of our conversation I asked him, ” Knowing what you know now, what would your advise be to your younger self?”

Without a pause he responded, “Spend more time studying scripture.”

Now of course he was thinking of the Christian Bible. But his point struck a cord and I have since taken to spending time every day reading sutras.  Usually I break this into two blocks, reading something from the Pali Cannon and then reading a bit from the Pureland sutras.  With the Pureland Sutras my course of reading and study is usually done from beginning to end over the course of weeks, starting with the Shorter Pureland Sutra and ending with the contemplation sutra. Then beginning again with the Shorter Sutra.

Reading the Sutras in this way, over time, in the course of different life experiences brings a depth and relevance to the sutras. Likewise the Sutras  begin to inform and impact the experiences of daily life.

The Buddhist Sutras are the voice of the Buddha. They challenge us to live our lives by the expansive and liberating message of the Tathagathas, not by our little and limited self building agendas that are mired in affliction and suffering.

To read the Sutras daily is to encounter the Buddha in your daily life.  It is a practice I highly recommend.

Namo Amida Bu!

Ananda

Bodhi Day

December 9, 2013

On this Bodhi Day let us celebrate the awakening of the Buddha Shakyamuni.  The one who came into the world and taught about affliction (Dukkha) and the cessation of affliction (Dukkha).  The Enlightened One who offers us a path to the ending of suffering in our own lives and in the world.  Let us embrace the teachings of the Compassionate One and strive to eliminate greed, hatred, and ignorance from the world. Without greed, there will be no poverty and hunger.  Without hatred, war will cease to exist.  Without ignorance, racism and prejudice will be unknown.

The path is our life and how we live it.  A life of healing flows out of our encounter with the Buddha and the living of the Buddha Dharma.

Life is short and uncertain.  Do not waste a moment. Today,dedicate yourself to helping all beings and striving to eliminate suffering and the causes of suffering.

Namo Amida Bu!

Ananda

Other Power and the Bodhisattva Life

November 12, 2013

Other power is that which is not self (anatta).  As Buddhists, we understand that suffering (dukkha) arises from self and self clinging.  The end of suffering (nirodha) arises from non-self or that which is other-than-self.  A life pursuing self leads to suffering, for oneself and others.  An other-centered life alleviates suffering and the causes of suffering.

In Pureland Buddhism this other-than-self is understood to be Amida Tathagata.  The pureland practitioner cultivates a relationship with Amida Buddha through reciting the Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Bu”, contemplating the Buddha, and trying to live a fully Buddhist life. Living such a life will, naturally and over time, lead to awakened compassion, the life of a Bodhisattva.

Starting on the Bodhisattva path is simple. Strive to live one’s life according to the Buddha Dharma. Follow the five basic precepts. Take refuge daily.  Set aside time daily for formal Nembutsu practice. Spend a little time every day studying a Buddhist text. Pursue a wholesome career in line with the Dharma. Reduce wants and practice generosity.

The Bodhisattva path is simple but not easy. It requires perseverance over time, years and decades.  Additionally, society reinforces a self-centered or self-power way of life caught up in the three poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Living the Bodhisattva life, a life which is other-centered, forces us to stand out from, and sometimes against, the values contemporary society. Such a stance can be very uncomfortable.

Ultimately Buddhism is a path of social transformation, leading to the creation of an  awakened society, which is also called a Pure Land. Citizenship is obtained not on the basis of wealth, social standing, or race, but on a life lived with restraint, compassion, and for the benefit of all beings everywhere.

Namo Amida Bu!

Ananda

Living a Buddhist Life

October 28, 2013

Pureland Buddhism offers those of us with families, jobs, and busy lives a way to live those lives in an authentic and fully Buddhist way. However, Living fully Buddhist lives requires us, especially in the West, to understand and embrace a few uncomfortable realities.

1. Buddhism IS a religion. Buddhism is a lifelong and daily religious path of transformation and awakening. As such we must bring the Dharma into the many mundane activities of day to day life.

When getting up in the morning it is important to set aside a few minutes to take refuge and recollect the reality of Measureless Awakening by saying Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Bu!” Before meals you should say Nembutsu or other short Buddhist prayers to express gratitude for the food received.  Before going to bed it is good to take refuge, say Nembutsu, and take a few moments to reflect on the day that is ending.

These little daily rituals and habits, which take only minutes to perform, are the individual steps along the path to awakening. Over a lifetime the distance covered by these steps will be significant.

2. The Buddhist religious life cannot be lived separate from the precepts. Living a life guided and protected by the precepts reflects our deep faith and trust in the Buddhist Dharma. We should reflect daily upon the precepts and how we have both succeeded and failed to keep them.

3. Living a Buddhist religious life means going to “church”. The Buddhist path must be lived in the company of other Buddhist practitioners.  We all need the support and guidance of fellow practitioners.  We all need to hear the Dharma. We all certainly need opportunities to practice generosity by giving of our time and energy.

By supporting and participating in your local Buddhist community/sangha/temple/chuch, be it big or small, you benefit innumerable sentient beings. Remember, without Buddhist Communities to preserve, protect, and teach the the Dharma none of us  would have been able to encounter the Dharma.

4. Amida’s measureless light is ever present. It is our own fundamental ignorance that prevents us from experiencing Amida’s all pervasive Wisdom and Compassion.

The Nembutsu is an expression our own existential suffering.  The Nembutsu is also the path that leads to the end of suffering, which the Buddha called Nirvana.

Namo Amida Bu!

Ananda

Nembutsu: Glimpsing the Dynamic and Compassionate Nature of Measureless Awakening

September 12, 2013

We are all klesha beings mired in the fruit of our own karma and swayed by the three poisons of Greed Hatred and Delusion.  As Buddhist  we recognize this fundamental truth.   As Pureland Buddhist we acknowledge our deluded condition and call out to and turn our minds towards Amida Tathagata.

This “calling out” is the practice of Nembutsu. It is a way of life rooted in the continual turning towards Amida and away from samsara. It is the practice of opening to ever-present awakening. It is the slow process of purification and ongoing alignment of one’s life with the Buddha Dharma.

In living the Nembutsu we have the opportunity to become aware of the presence of “Measureless Awakening”, Amida Buddha, in this world of samsara. This awareness is difficult because our minds are so conditioned by samsara, by our karmic nature, that it is hard to see the innumerable rays of Amida’s light suffusing the world around us.

Instead of celebrating acts of kindness, generosity, and virtue, we often dismiss or disregard them completely.  Yet these are the very actions, which reflect Amida’s light. If we are able to see and appreciate the many little acts of good that are performed each day, then we can begin to glimpse the dynamic and compassionate nature of measureless awakening.

Perceiving Amida, even through little and fleeting intuitions, can fill us with gratitude and an inner stability. Then, when our lives come to an end, we can die free from doubt.  We will slip easily from this saha world into the stream of Amida’s Awakening Mind and continue the work of becoming Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas for the benefit of all the many suffering beings.

Namo Amida Bu!