Life Happens

“Although I say the nembutsu, I rarely experience joyful happiness nor do I have the desire to immediately go to the Pure Land. What should be done about this? I asked. Then he responded, “I Shinran have been having the same question also, and now you, Yu-ien, have the same thought.”

“When I carefully consider the matter, my birth in the Pure Land is settled without doubt for the very reason that I do not rejoice at that which should have me bursting with joy. It is the working of blind passion which suppresses the heart that would rejoice and prevents its fullest expression. All this the Buddha already knew and called us foolish beings filled with blind passion; thus, when we realize that the compassionate Vow of Other Power is for beings like ourselves, the Vow becomes even more reliable and dependable.”
Tannisho, Chapter 9

The summer seems to have flown by despite the fact that there were days that seemed like they would never end. I recall as a child that when we traveled to my uncle’s home in Gridley I was so anxious to get there that the ride seemed to take forever. It always seemed that the ride home was so much faster than the ride there. I realize now that it was all because of my own mind that the time would either drag on or fly by quickly. Unpleasant moments drag on, while moments of joy seem to fly by too quickly.

One of my colleagues at the University says, “Life happens”. Whether we wish it or not, whether we fight it or not, whether we accept it or not, life happens. And life happens in the form of change. Over the summer, people died, babies were born, people got married, and people experienced illness and separation. Throughout all these events I recited the nembutsu and as I reflect back on these events, I cannot say that I felt any different than Shinran and Yuien-bo expressed in the Tannisho. I suppose many of us question how we are suppose to feel, or what we are suppose to be thinking as we recite the nembutsu. We often hear that we are suppose to be grateful, but there is no gratitude most of the time but a sense of relief or a feeling of this is what we are suppose to say.

This may sound cynical, but if we contemplate our lives it is not far from the truth of what we have all experienced. We should come to the realization that the truth of who we are is revealed to us in these moments of reciting the nembutsu and as Shinran says, “…the Vow becomes even more reliable and dependable”. This realization brings about gratitude to the compassionate vow of the Buddha directed especially to “us foolish beings filled with blind passion”.

As we welcome the fall season and all the changes it brings with it, let us recite the nembutsu in spite of the lack of gratitude or abundance of it. For each moment we are alive and experience all the anxiety, joys, laughter and tears are moments revealing to each of us the truth of our lives.

Rev. Shinseki