Vol. XLVIII, No. 8

After 34 years as a BCA minister, it has always mystified me as to how a person gets to the depth of religious understanding that I think they do. It is like the mystery of why bad things happen to seemingly good people and good things happen to people who seem to be so self-absorbed, mean spirited, and plain nasty.

There are people who have spent an enormous amount of time and energy in temple affairs and activities without the slightest understanding or interest in even the most basic of Buddhist ideas. Then there are those who read everything in sight on Buddhism, can quote you page and line of sacred texts and still not have a clue about Buddhism as a personal religion. Others are more athletically inclined and have practiced every meditative practice known to them and claim every benefit physically and mentally this side of Bodhi (enlightenment). Most of us are somewhere in between these extremes.

There is yet another group of people who have impressed me as being profoundly in touch with what they essentially are and with what essentially is. Though they share certain qualities in common, they seem to share no common method or path to that common quality of living. Some have never read a book on Buddhism, yet seem to embody everything contained in it. Others listen to talks on Buddhism and discuss endlessly, becoming more deeply rooted as they do so. Others quietly listen to sermons and participate in the rituals, with no comments or discussion on their part, yet are immersed in the depths of the Dharma. Yet others rarely come to the temple, rarely read, rarely discuss, rarely participate in temple activities, and definitely impress you as a person profoundly rooted, unassuming, and selfless. These people all share the qualities of unpretentiousness, selflessness, a deep sense of concern and connection with others, flexibility, etc., etc. – yet no defined path explaining how they got to this understanding.

Jodoshinshu describes the condition of being embraced in the Truth – it is at a loss in explaining how to get there. The easiest method of explaining this mystery is karma. Since we are self-creating beings, we are at any given point in our life, ready or not ready to understand a religious truth depending on our karmic programming. Some of the disciples of the historical Buddha were said to have attain awakening after hearing a few sentences from the Buddha, being karmically ready to understand. But this is like saying “You will get it if you are ready to get it”. But this does not answer the question “How do I get it?”. In Jodoshinshu, which views everyday living as our meditative practice, it is perhaps more meaningful to simply answer “I don’t know how”. In any case, identifying a specific practice is at best dishonest, at worst an egocentric delusion. I don’t know, yet here I am cruising on the ocean of beautytruth. Namoamidabutsu.

Rev. Mas

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