Fundraising For Children’s Book Illustration

We have raised $563 so far.
Thank you to those who have made a donation.
Won’t you too please consider helping out with this project?
Use the donation buttons below.

I am currently in the process of having the first of what I hope will be several books published specifically for children. I believe it is important to provide the tools for parents to help them teach their children about the Lotus Sutra.

Children’s books, unlike books for adults, need to be illustrated to help engage them in the learning. I have contacted a very good illustrator whom I believe will do an excellent job. He has done the illustrations for Seattle’s two books for children. He also is currently training to become a priest.

The estimated cost to do the illustrations for the upcoming book is $1500. I am asking you, my readers, to consider helping to fund this cost. I have looked at various crowd source funding options and have found them to have a much higher cost than PayPal. The temple has been using PayPal for a number of years and I have found them to be very trustworthy, perhaps the industry leader. Other than direct donations through cash or check, PayPal will be the only way you will be able to contribute.

In return for your kindness and generosity I am offering the following as small tokens of appreciation.

❅For a donation of any amount, if received before the book publishes, I will include your name in the book, unless you request to have it withheld.
❅For a $25 donation you will receive a signed and specially dedicated copy of the book.
❅For a $100 donation you will receive copies of all the illustrations in the book.

These are small rewards and I hope you will accept them along with deep gratitude.

The book currently in the works will be drawn from the story of King Wonderful Adornment and his children which is found in Chapter XXVII in the Lotus Sutra.

I will update this page occasionally with a progress report.

Thank you for your generous support.

With Gassho,
Ryusho

Important Notice:





Please use only these PayPal buttons for your donation to be credited towards the book funding, otherwise your donation will go into the general account and I’ll be unable to credit you for supporting the book.





As of 4 June 2015 – $563 raised
As of 20 May 2015 – $513 raised
As of 7 May 2015 – $498 raised
As of 5 May 2015 – $463 raised
As of 12 April 2015 – $458 raised
As of 8 April 2015 – $350 raised
As of 7 April 2015 – $150 raised
As of 6 April 2015 – $125 raised
As of 5 April 2015 – $100 raised

Posted in children, Finances, funding, lotus4kids, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #32 – Conclusion

As I write about preparing and collecting your own set of selected phrases I am aware that many people will not actually engage in this kind of activity. For some it will be too much trouble, for others it may seem pointless, and yet others may not even feel it is worthwhile. Yet this practice has been followed by many in a number of faith traditions.

On numerous occasions folks have told me that they would like a book or collection of passages from either Nichiren’s writings or from the sutra. There is a yearning to have such a collection, yet a lack of motivation to do for oneself and rely on someone else such a simple and yet rewarding practice.

This mirrors the approach of some to life and many to the practice of health care. It is much easier to go to a doctor or hospital to be patched up for things that were originally preventable in the first place. Buddhism is fundamentally about making changes in one’s own life. At the core it is about self, and self in service to others. It really isn’t possible for anyone to do someone else’s self work.

I do hope though that even if you do not at this time engage in creating your own powerful collection of selected passages you will at least remember it. At a time when you face a crisis I hope the memory of this suggestion will linger and be something you can draw upon.

For the purpose of the blog this is the last post in this series. I will now begin work on editing this series for publication. Some of what appeared here on the blog will not be included in the final book. There are some areas I will expand upon so there will be material in the book that has not appeared here. Also there will be a section of exercises, spiritual practices that I have not written about for the blog.

As I am putting this project to bed, I have begun doing research for my next project which I am calling “Creatures of the Burning House”. I am excited about where this is taking me and what might end up being the final result. There will of course be blood suckers, denizens of deep dark places, and other intriguing creatures. Also later in the year the children’s book about King Wonderful Adornment will be completed. Perhaps also there will appear a French translation of my Magic City book. Please stay tuned to my blog as these things develop.

I thank you for the comments that have been made, it is always encouraging to hear feedback, even and sometimes especially when the comment challenges or questions something I have said. In some cases that feedback has caused me to reconsider some things I have written, so it is a great gift you give me when you post a comment.

With Gassho,
Ryusho

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, concentratioin, death, Dharma Talks, dying, education, focus, Goal Setting, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, Lotus Sutra, mind, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, Nichiren's Major Writings, Pastoral Care, peace, Prayer | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #31 – Selected Passages

Earlier I offered Lectio Oratio as a way to take the good medicine of the Lotus Sutra. I’m not suggesting a new way to practice as much as I am a way to deepen your foundational practice of reciting the sutra and chanting the sacred title of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. In fact chanting the Odaimoku while practicing lectio oratio would be a wonderful way to hear the instruction of the Buddha as found in the Lotus Sutra. As you chant and listen to your chanting and also listen to the passage you completed reading, see if a response forms in your mind. Try to not force a specific outcome, instead let your mind be still and really listen to yourself and open up to the response which is activated through your chanting and comes from your heart.

Another way to take the good medicine is for you to create your own selection of phrases from the sutra. As you read and study the Lotus Sutra begin to write down phrases that are meaningful and powerful to you. You may wish to categorize them in some manner such as a collection for when you are ill, or a collection for when you are under stress, or even a collection for when you are discouraged or have doubts.

This practice is nothing new or revolutionary. Nichiren himself prepared a special collection of phrases from the Lotus Sutra and compiled them in the Senkyo. This collection is referenced in one of his writings titled Kito Kyo Okuri Jo sent to Sairen-bo in 1273. Nichiren encourages Sairen-bo to chant the selected phrases every day. Nichiren prepared a special selection of words and phrases which he encouraged one of his followers to recite daily.

While you may feel you aren’t qualified to do such a thing. Yet I would argue that you are the most qualified to do this, since you will know which phrases really stir your inner Buddha aspect. The selections you identify will be your own special powerful medicine which you have compounded from all the golden words of the Buddha. It will match your tastes and smells so that you will be relieved of your suffering.

Mind, this is not a one day or even a one week or month project. If you practice this sincerely and with great intention I believe this is a lifelong practice. As time goes on your selections may change and certainly will grow.

Perhaps you are not aware that this sort of practice is followed in many religions. For example in Christianity one example is called Psalmody, and is simply a collection of various Psalms assembled so as to be read as one complete teaching.

As you work on your own version of selected verses do not concern yourself with complete sentences or with proper grammar. These kind of concerns are too limiting to what you will be striving to do. Select the most powerful parts no matter whether they are complete sentences or grammatically correct. Simply write them down, one after another. For the incomplete sentences simply add “…” before or after. Also as you are writing them and collecting them be sure to add the page number so you will be able to go back and read the whole selection.

As I mentioned earlier this is not a fast practice, the part of collecting may take quite a long time. There is no rush and there certainly is no harm in taking your time and really chanting about each phrase you choose to add. Just as the physician in our parable went to his books and researched the appropriate cure, and then compounded the ingredients into the most efficacious medicine for his children, so too are you making the medicine for you.

Another example that you may come across in Nichiren Shu is the Yohon. This is a collection of either full or partial chapters that are considered to be the most important or significant for an individual practitioner. This collection of selections from the Lotus Sutra is available from Nichiren Buddhist International Center.

Finally another collection of selected phrases is to be found in the liturgy and ritual for performing the Hokke Senbo. This is often times referred to as the repentence service to repent for our past unskilful or hurtful causes. I am not comfortable with labeling this as a reprentance seremony because that word limits the scope of the Hokke Senbo. Instead I prefer calling it our reflection service.

Without first reflecting on our causes and considering the circumstances surrounding the action and without also delving into why we did some action and asking ourselves was there another option which I could have taken. Without doing this we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to engage in some deep work to prepare us to act differently in the future should a similar event occur.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, compassion, concentration, death, Dharma Talks, dying, focus, Goal Setting, Good Things, Hope, language, Lotus Sutra, mind, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, peace, Prayer | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #30 – Secrets & Grieving

Please make no mistake by thinking I am suggesting somehow you are responsible for the feelings of others. Consider though, if you are worried about upsetting or concerning someone by refusing to share with them information you are in fact involving yourself in what others feel. By sharing something of the nature of your suffering, even if only in a vague way, frees you from worrying about them so you can focus your energies on yourself. It also allows you to be honest, and personal integrity is important to enriching one’s inner self.

Perhaps as you consider wether to share and how much to share you might embrace the idea of simply saying right now you are facing a serious challenge and could use support through prayer and witness.

Now, let us suppose you are the person a friend has confided in. We often don’t know what to do for someone who has shared they are facing a crisis. It is even possible there are those who wish they had not been told. Any emotional response that you experience is perfectly acceptable and it would be unhealthy of you to deny your own feelings. If you think it important to express your feelings then I would suggest you wait until a later time. Right now when your friend or loved one is sharing their information is not the time for your story, this is their story.

Frequently people feel at a loss on how to respond or what to do or say. First silence, is perfectly acceptable, as your process the information yourself. You might simply say something such as “I am always here for you, I’ll see you through this.” It may be too soon for either of you to start planning what to do. Simple presence, honest intentional witness, and genuine compassion are themselves valuable.

One reason why I suggest holding off on rushing in to do something is it can be very intimidating to the person who has shared with you something of a personal nature. It is best to give yourselves time. Also the rush to ‘do’ is mostly about your own needs, your need to feel competent, your need to make yourself heard or noticed, your need to rescue. Remember this is their moment. Be with your friend or loved one.

After some time, whether in minutes or days, perhaps you could offer some specific thing you could do. Offering something specific is actually much more help than merely saying if you need anything let me know. If your offer is turned down, you might feel unwanted, or unappreciated, or even useless. Again, those are feelings that are about you and not your friend. Because someone doesn’t want something now does not mean they may never want it.

I would offer what I have witnessed to be one of the most helpful ways to assist your friend. At times of great crisis it is tiring to constantly share the same information over and over to different people. It can also be a drain emotionally when you have to talk to people when silence is what you would prefer. Managing informing friends and associates is time consuming as well.

Offering to provide some sort of communication tree, such as a list of people you can call on the behalf or your friend. There are even web sites which will host updates and keep people informed without bothering the person in crisis. Being the point person for communication disceminatin can remove a large burden from your friend or loved one.

Running errands, if appropriate might be useful, however do not fail to take into account your own well being and capacity. If you are volunteering in such a way as to overextend yourself, then the strain on you will eventually creep into your ability to be present with your friend.

Whether you are the person in crisis considering withholding information, or you are the person who has received information it can be most helpful to learn to listen deeply to yourself. It is important to know what of your feelings are about your needs rather than the other persons.

From this I am going to segway into death and dying. Perhaps this isn’t the best possible place to write about this. I do feel it is important, as frequently you may be faced with being a partner in someone’s death, whether a friend or family member.

Where I am going to begin is with crying and grieving. I am a strong proponent of sharing and showing your emotions. Nothing is gained by withholding your sadness except causing confusion and obstructing communication. Sadness is a very real feeling, feelings are neither bad nor good, there is no wrong feeling. How we act on the feeling is what is important.

The choice is whether to withhold or hide sadness. For some the raw emotion of sadness may be a very overpowering experience. This is especially true for people who are not intimate with their own inner self or who have tried to avoid strong emotions. This is true no matter which side your on, whether the person being grieved or the person grieving. Normally in situations like this the first reaction is to do something, anything, just be active and busy.

I once attended a lecture on grieving in which the idea of ‘head, heart, hands’ was presented. First we learn or come to know about a grief situation, this is our head. Our heart aches, it hurst, this is real. The pain is so strong and present and very real so we seek to distract ourselves from feeling. This is when we start doing. I can not tell you the number of times I have been present at the time of death and everyone around the dead person reaches for their phone and starts talking. For someone who is comfortable and used to simply being present it is quite jarring.

Everyone is standing by the bedside, some petting or caressing the dying patient. Folks are crying in various ways, sniffiling, tearful, emotive, and more. Then as the patient takes the final breath, phones come out, conversations start and the noise of the medical equipment is drowned out by various competing conversations. These generally are not short, informative conversations. I have heard people planning dinner for the next week, or work related activities, even shopping lists. Now it is true that perhaps all of this needs to get done, I just find it interesting how it all happens. It is as if dying puts life on hold, but when death occurs it is business as usual.

True this isn’t always the case for all people. In some instances I notice people just all of a sudden become busy around the room, moving chairs, or turning on lights, or gathering up items. Yes all of these are perfectly normal in normal circumstances, it is interesting to notice how rapidly people seek to re-engage in what may feel like normal. How quickly the run from grief begins, and how incapable many are when it comes to grief.

Grief is real. It does not matter if you are the person to whom grief is coming to or you are the person being grieved or the person grieving. It also is not always about end of life. It may be the end of the past however it used to be. It can be the loss of a job, the loss of health, the loss of anything can be grievous.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, concentration, death, Dharma Talks, dying, focus, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, language, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care, peace, Prayer | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #29 – Secrets

This chapter contains some cautionary advice, so please give it careful consideration. There is a belief when a person receives bad news from their physician that it would be better to not tell others, such as family and friends. Of course this is a matter of personal choice. I would like to offer some suggestions to include in your consideration to act in this manner.

Usually the reasons given for not sharing important medical information is to save others from worry. Another reason may also be you yourself don’t want to feel the need to engage in complicated or detailed explanations. I would like to share some considerations to factor into your ultimate decision.

Yes it is true that others will worry about you. That isn’t such a terrible thing you know. The fact that there are people in your life who care for you is a good thing. Of course there is a difference between caring and prying, but we are talking about the former and not the latter.

Having people in our lives that do care is valuable, and perhaps more so if we are facing a difficult future. I would suggest from personal experience there are many who would be happy to have such friends, and yet have none. It might seem heroic to save friends from also suffering with the knowledge of your illness or troubles. Yet when you do so there are two people now affected in ways you may not think about.

First you are now left to bear the burden by yourself. You have in essence cut yourself off from your friends, your potential support network. You have made a cause for isolation in what might be your greates need for companionship. Yes it is true they are not worried about you, but they are not worried about you when in fact they should and would like to be.

You deprive your friend or family the opportunity to support you. You also are saying to them, ‘I care about you, I just don’t care about you enough to have you be present with me in my time of greatest need’. Yes you are alleviating their worry, yet you are pushing them away from you.

Now consider what they will feel when the truth becomes known. You in fact run the risk of causing them even greater harm and suffering had they known the truth. Finding out later rather than sooner puts them into the situation of grieving that they were not trusted. Sometimes they may not be able to help in any meaningful way other than being present with you and with your journey. Having someone present and as witness is often the most valuable thing our friends can do for us.

I have been witness to many instances where friends and family find out all to late about someone’s suffering. They are sad and grieving for two reasons; they could not help, and they are facing the loss none-the-less. For some who wish to help they realize that all they could have done was to pray and be witness, and they are now deprived of that opportunity.

For those who may consider not telling people because they wish to keep it private or they don’t want people prying I have a suggestion. You might let people know in a vague way that you are facing a serious situation in your life. Tell them you would rather keep the details private for now. Ask them for their prayers and continued friendship. Inform them that as the situation changes you will keep them informed. Don’t forget to tell them how much you appreciate their friendship and how much you value and treasure that. Because you think so much of their friendship you are telling them this and you hope to also be their friend in the process. Ask them to walk this path along side you so you are not alone.

This kind of simple conversation can provide you both an opportunity to deepen your relationship. You may find out things about each other you may have never discovered. This will come at time in which you need it most. Knowing someone cares, prays, and trusts can be a comforting resource. This is perhaps even more true when facing life’s toughest challenges.

(In my next post I will talk about the role as the person who is the friend or family member of the person who has shared information with you.)

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, concentration, death, Dharma Talks, dying, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, language, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #28 – Lectio Oratio

Lectio Divina

In the book The Magic City I wrote about the practice of lectio divina as another way of studying and practicing the Lotus Sutra. In this book I continue to employe this by sharing stories which sometimes fills in some of the missing details. In other instances it helps make the story more contemporary.

Letio divina is a practice of inserting yourself into the role of one of the characters spoken about in the sacred text of the Lotus Sutra. For example you might consider the perspective of one of the children. Perhaps you might try on the role of a child who willingly took the curative medicine. What did you experience? How was it when you recovered and saw some of your brothers and sisters had refused to take the medicine you just took yourself? What are some possible things you felt or thought when you were ill, and compare them to how it might feel different? There are a multitude of possible ways to explore this story from a differing perspective.

Each different point of view or character you assume can provide opportunities to consider the Sutra from various ways. This may enable you to either relate to your own circumstances or better understand the many challenges others may face. I believe the more we engage in this type of practice the more intimate we can become with our own life and the lives of others.

It might even be that you may identify with one role or person more strongly than with others in the parable. This too is an opportunity to engage in some personal reflection and exploration. There are many ways in which we can deepen our understanding of the Lotus Sutra. Being able to deeply embrace and incorporate the Lotus Sutra into our lives and into our views and interactions with other is critical not only to our own happiness but also to the happiness of others.

Midrash

The practice of midrash comes from Jewish scholars who use this technique to delve into what is not written in the Torah, the sacred text of Judaism. I personally relate very strongly to this practice and in many ways have used it throughout my entire life.

I recall in various classes in school being more fascinated by things that were never covered. One example of this is the subject of bathrooms, toilets, waste disposal, is rarely discussed, and yet I wanted to know. Later on I did find out the answers to my questions but never in the course of the actual lesson. When we would study about wars there never was a lot of information presented about all the little details of going to war. What about not just providing food, but all the repairs and things needed for repairs, and all the people who served in auxiliary roles that are never mentioned but certainly were necessary. These and many more small details are frequently ignored,

Some of it is, I understand, just taken for granted. Yet they can not be taken for granted if you want to get a complete picture of any event. So is the case with sacred texts. Frequently these are written with an assumption that people would know the complete story. Or sometimes the writer, being such a spiritual soul might perhaps feel the reader would fill in the missing information. In the case of the Lotus Sutra, here we are some 2000 years after it was written and those missing details are not part of our shared life experience any longer. So what do we do?

It is increasingly more difficult to place ourselves in the context of many stories because we are missing information or because the times have changed. The practice employed in midrash invites us to fill in the missing parts so we can become more intimate with the story, in other words so we can make the story our own. Making the story our own enables us to enter into the Lotus Sutra in deeper and more profound ways. It allows us to connect emotionally with the text, to feel it with our heart.

I presented several stories in this book which employed the technique of midrash. If you want to learn more about midrash and how you might use it in your study of the Lotus Sutra you might read my book on The Magic City.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, Dharma Talks, Good Things, Hope, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #27 – Lectio Oratio

Study leads to prayer and prayer leads to action. I believe this is what chanting Odaimoku is all about. It is not enough to sit and chant without getting up off the mat and doing something. The water never boils unless placed in a pot and the pot heated. No matter how much I may know about the theory of boiling water it is useless without action. Expressing our joy and devotion to the Myoho Renge Kyo by chanting needs to be followed with Myoho Renge Kyo being lived in life manifest in our devotion to saving, teaching, and bringing benefit to our entire environment. The Buddha’s and Nichiren’s lives were all about continuous action. All of the wisdom all of the enlightenment they attained was transformed from theory to valuable lesson only by the actions of those teachers. If they had lived without action and only taught theory then we would be sorely pressed I believe to manifest enlightenment ourselves, they were our examples and the proof that it can be done.

Lectio oratio is an intimate dialogue, in this case a dialogue between ourselves and the Buddha. We listen to the Buddha teaching us as we read the Lotus Sutra and then we respond. Our response is based upon what we heard, and what we hear may change over time or even due to our individual life circumstances. Then based upon our response to what we heard the Buddha say to us we decide on what actions we will take. It is up to us to move the study and reading beyond mere theory or beyond simply the story and choose the most appropriate actions for us to engage in. We listen to the Buddha, we respond and then we take action.

This is the model of the physician, both in the Sutra as well as in the office. While it is true the modern physician has a limited amount of time to listen to the patient, I have been witness to the ways in which physicians consider and reconsider what the most appropriate treatment should be to affect the greatest possible cure for the patient. Sometimes patients in the hospital do not realize that frequently there are multidisciplinary team meetings in which a patient’s medical condition is examined from a multitude of directions. I have and continue to frequently sit on multidisciplinary teams as we examine how the patient is responding to the current treatment, how might they respond better doing something else, and what more can be done for them. These meetings include the doctor, nurses, respiratory (even if you don’t think you need one) therapists, physical therapy, occupational therapy, administration, social worker, chaplain and other specialists as needed. Behind that doctor you see in your room and behind that nurse you see helping you out is a whole team being consulted in order to help get you better and hopefully home, and perhaps more importantly how can we ensure that you have the best chance of staying healthy.

Listening to the patient, studying or recalling the information learned, and then formulating a course of action. The physician in our parable decides that what is needed beyond the medicine is for him to leave and create a grief situation which will motivate his children to take the medicine. In many ways the doctor today does something similar, he instructs you to take the medicine and frequently it is accompanied by a caution, perhaps the caution is the possibility of a grief situation. If you don’t stop engaging in a particular behavior your life will dramatically change, you may die, or you may not recover. What they don’t tell you is that they too will suffer.

I have witnessed many occasions when a physician sorely grieves the death of a patient, or laments that a patient has returned to the hospital simply because they did not follow the medical advice. Lectio oratio can actually be a foundational practice in many ways in our life. What do we hear when someone speaks to us, how will we choose to respond, and then what is our actual response? The physician in our story could be said to have engaged in lectio oratio when he heard or witnessed the refusal of some of his children to take the medicine. He considered what he might do that would motivate them to take the cure. He then carries out his plan by taking the action of leaving home and then sending word back to the children that their father has died.

In summary as our own physician to our own lives and to finding the medicine to cure our sufferings and attain enlightenment we can use the prescription of lectio oratio whereby we listen to what the Buddha is telling us, we consider that in relation to our lives in the moment and then we take an appropriate action based upon the hearing and the considering. In the end our action is our response to what we heard the Buddha tell us.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, death, Dharma Talks, dying, education, focus, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, language, Lotus Sutra, mind, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care, Prayer | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #26 – Lectio Oratio

Lectio oratio is a type of prayer that is in response to the text. Some ways in which you as Buddhists might employ this concept or type of special praying is when reading the Lotus Sutra meditate on what your responses might be to what you read. In other words you read and study some portion of the Lotus Sutra and instead of merely absorbing it or even trying to define or describe what has been read and what it means the focus becomes directed to how shall you respond in your life to what you just read.

By engaging in this type of study response activity the sutras are a tool or guide on which you base your future actions. The sutra may even become a call to action perhaps, or it might be a call to reinterpret your life and environment or your relationship to both. Read the Lotus Sutra and try listening to what is being said to you and what you will do in response to what you heard. Rather than reading to understand it is more of a reading to hear. Listen to the text you study and also listen to what is going on internally as you listen. What are some of your first thoughts? Based upon what you heard what are some actions you might consider taking in your own life.

When you read the Lotus Sutra it isn’t always the Buddha speaking, so if not the Buddha then who is speaking. You might even consider whether there is some unspoken text for you to listen to. For example in Chapter III Sharihotsu jumps with joy at hearing what the Buddha said in Chapter II. He asks the Buddha to say more so.

Every time I read the first few lines of Chapter III I have a deep urge to just get up from my chair or the floor and jump up and pump my fists. I am not inclined to be as demonstrative as some football players are upon making a touch down, yet I could see Sharihotsu almost be as joyful and celebratory as that. What is Sharihotsu calling upon you to do? For me I hear the message of sharing and also expressing the joy I have found in the Lotus Sutra.

If study is not followed up with prayer, and prayer not followed by action then the study is merely and intellectual indulgence serving little purpose other than to make oneself feel good. If the only response to our study is to hold that information inside keeping solely for one’s own benefit then I suggest the message of the Lotus Sutra has not fully been realized in one’s life. The Buddha says teach others, cause others to experience joy and benefit them. How is it possible to say one believes in the Lotus Sutra and then not be moved to action.

The physician when upon returning home witnesses his children and the suffering they are enduring as a result of taking some poison causing them to loose their minds, does not turn his back, he does not say to himself I understand what makes them sick and I understand what they should do to cure themselves and then walk away or sit idly by. He takes action based upon his wisdom, knowledge, and skill. He prepares the appropriate medicine and tries many different approaches to encourage the children to take the cure.

The man upon returning home and seeing his house on fire does not simply lament the fact that his children are inside and may be burned to death. He tries calling out to them, when that fails he considers several approaches to facilitate their rescue. Finally after careful consideration he takes action.

The guide on the road to the place of unlimited treasure does not ignore the pleas of those he is leading. He considers what those who are following him need in order to continue on their journey and reach their goal.

The Bodhisattvas that arose from the ground did not go to the Buddha and say what will you give me? They went to the Buddha and asked him how he was, if he was in good health, and if he was well enough to teach. Still they did not just sit back and wait for things to come to them. They vowed to spread the Lotus Sutra in the Saha world. They promised the Buddha that they would work tirelessly to teach others no matter the difficulty they faced.

The Lotus Sutra time after time presents us with examples of the actions of those who practice Buddhism. In the promises of future enlightenment given to his contemporary disciples the Buddha describes the many actions and practices those disciples will engage in during future lifetimes as they continue on their individual journeys to becoming Buddhas.

The Lotus Sutra is more than merely a theoretical teaching to ponder. It is a teaching which repeatedly both demonstrates action as well as instructs each practitioner to engage in action. The formula that Nichiren gave us is the action of Namu based upon Myoho Renge Kyo. It isn’t simply a devotion to the Lotus Sutra it is a devotion to all of life from the Lotus Sutra manifest in our individual actions.

I mentioned that when I read the first few lines of the Chapter III I want to also jump up with joy, as that is what I hear the Lotus Sutra instructing me to do and then my prayer becomes one of action and one of joy. Let me share with you some other action prayers I hear the Lotus Sutra teaching me. Then perhaps you will recall some of your own prayers of action based upon the Lotus Sutra.

The burning house I feel calls upon me to be clever, to carefully consider the most appropriate way in which to spread the Lotus Sutra, the most effective way to teach others. It also teaches me to try to act with patience and wisdom, so that my actions are not brash or harmful. The actions of the man when he sees his house on fire is not one of fear, or panic, at least not the way I read it. Yes he has concern yet he doesn’t let the situation control him, he remains in control of himself and thereby masters the situation and circumstances he faces. If only I could be as calm in the face of such a fearful event; patience and wisdom.

When reading about the magic city, I hear a message to me that as a leader as a teacher I have a great responsibility to many people. I hear that while I may be a teacher or leader I too am on the path just as the guide walk the journey with those he was leading. I hear a message that I need to mindful of not only what I am experiencing but also what others may be experiencing. I also hear a message that not everyone experiences the journey in the same way even if the circumstances appear to be the same on the surface.

The sons of King Wonderful Adornment give me the message when I read it to know that my actions will often speak louder than my words for it is the actions of the sons that persuaded the father to take faith in the teachings of the Buddha of his time.

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Physician’s Good Medicine #25 – And

The word “and” is a summation of both parts of the elements in the formulas we speak, whereas the word “but” is a subtraction of parts and in fact an actual negation of all that occurs before. To Myoho Renge Kyo, or the Lotus Sutra, we add our devotion as expressed in Namu. Namu, activates Myoho Renge Kyo in our lives. The degree to which Namu is present in our lives, in our actions, will determine the degree of the manifestation of Myoho Renge Kyo. This manifestation appears both in our internal self as well as our external self, our environment.

Just as the physician in the parable sorts out the herbs and such that he will combine together to formulate the good medicine that is perfect in color, odor, and taste. The medicine becomes pleasing as well as beneficial in the cure of the illness of the sons who have become sick.

Over and over in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha says that it is the most difficult of the sutras to believe in and to practice and will become increasingly so as the ages pass. The further away from the time of the Buddha the less capacity there will be in people to understand and keep faith in the Lotus Sutra. Hence in a way the Lotus Sutra appears to be not so pleasing. Many of the arguments that Nichiren dealt with were that the Lotus Sutra was too difficult and so therefore should be abandoned in favor of other sutras that are easier to take faith in.

I also believe that Nichiren grappled with the most appropriate way in which people could actually engage in a practice that would suitably bring the Lotus Sutra’s benefit into people’s lives. In other words how does one engage in a practice that makes the Lotus Sutra work? The key is in the repetition of the concept of faith mentioned repeatedly by the Buddha.

I imagine Nichiren thinking over and over how do you manifest faith, how to you have faith, even what is a way to activate faith? The idea of Namu was not new, and had been used for many years by Pure Land Buddhists in reverence to Amida Buddha. The idea that simply by chanting Namu Amida Buddha and having faith in being reborn in the Western Paradise was all that was needed to become enlightened.

So devotion in faith becomes the key beginning point I believe for Nichiren’s propagation, perhaps. In our own lives think of the times when you may have gone to a doctor, who’s only proof of ability is a certificate hanging on a wall and some other customers who have been cured or helped. You visit the doctor, he listens to your descriptions of your illness, he then prescribes some medicine for you to pick up at your local pharmacy.

On your way home you stop by the pharmacy and then what do you do? Do you then next go to a chemist and have the newly acquired medicine analyzed with each ingredient compared to what is supposed to be in the medicine? After that do you then consult to see that when these ingredients are combined together they do indeed offer restorative benefit? Is it your normal course of action to delay taking the medicine until you have established beyond any doubt that the majority of people the doctor had seen and the majority of people who have taken this medicine have been cured? You might, however I believe that for most of us, we get the medicine and perhaps read the data sheet and then proceed to taking the medicine. Faith, perhaps some faith accompanied by some study, but rarely do we only study until every last little bit of doubt has been proven away.

When was the last time you studied electronics and have you refreshed your study or do you refresh your study each time you introduce a new electronic device into your life? For most I suspect that faith is a deeper integrated part of their lives in way in which not often considered. We don’t consider the new handheld computing device from the perspective of it is nice or it is pretty “but” how does it work? Or we don’t go to buy our car or drive saying “but” how does it work? Our lives, I suggest would come to a virtual standstill, even to the point of being non-functional, if we live in the concept of “but” and so we live in “and”. I like such and such, I need such and such, “and” even though I don’t know everything about it I have faith it will do what I want.

One other thing all of this has in common with our practice of the Lotus Sutra is we have evidence in our lives that indeed it does work. For those who do not see the evidence or don’t see enough evidence they quit, they walk away, or they may suspend the practice until another time. There really is no other proof than self proof and that in a way of necessity includes “and”.[I have some personal doubts about how this is written and whether it makes sense or is appropriate. If you have any comments you wish to share about how it strikes you I would appreciate you sharing with me. I am conflicted ‘and’ I am going to try it out to see what you think ‘and’ I hope you will comment. How’s that for trying to practice what I write?]

All this may seem confusing, perhaps I may not have done a sufficient job in making a logical explanation. Let me try again. We have the medicine of the Lotus Sutra prescribed by the Buddha. How do we actually take it though? Nichiren proposes that it is through devotion, reverence if you will, and so he teaches us that Namu is what activates or enables us to take the medicine of Myoho Renge Kyo. This is a prescription that says, take as much as you want as needed, or PRN as it is used in current medical lingo.

Nichiren further teaches that as we take Myoho Renge Kyo by mouth as needed we need to manifest this through Namu, our devotion. Namu isn’t in name only it also needs to be manifest in action and behavior. As we continue to take Myoho Renge Kyo through Namu, as needed, we begin to see results, or our illness of taking poisons of false teachings and unskilful previous causes begins to be cured; we see results in our lives. This ideally will motivate us to even deeper faith, even more devotion and actions based in devotion and the cycle continues.

It may be that some will refuse the medicine, or that others will stop taking the medicine before being fully cured. It happens in life that way. However there is no expiration date on the medicine the Buddha leaves for us. The medicine the Buddha leaves us in the Lotus Sutra is always good and is always available, even if it appears the physician has died and left us. The medicine, and through the medicine the Buddha, is always available for us to take and benefit from.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, Dharma Talks, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, language, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #24 – And

Now let me begin by offering some ways in which we can pray. After examining some of the illness of mind that we all may struggle with from time to time I believe it may be helpful to look at how we might pray as well as how it is that the Lotus Sutra becomes the Good Medicine.

Language is very important, knowing the value of the words we use and how those words impact our lives and our thinking is where I would like to begin. We often take for granted the words we use without considering how they affect our views of ourselves and the world in which we live.

Over the years I have begun to believe that the seemingly harmless word ‘but’ is indeed a very harmful word when we use it on ourselves. Linguistically speaking when the word but is inserted between two ideas that single word negates everything that has been said previously. Here are some examples of what I am talking about.

I don’t mean to say XXXX but I will indeed say XXXXX.
I did this thing, but I didn’t, or but it was no good, or but ….
Doing such and such felt good, but it didn’t feel good.
I had a good report from the doctor, but it wasn’t good enough.
I did a good thing, but it wasn’t enough.

The list could go on an on. We use but so frequently we are not even aware of it most of the time. As I listen to myself and to others I am surprised at how often the word creeps into our speech. Then when I listen to how it is used it becomes very clear that people use it to negate or diminish what ever preceded the word. I also begin to see how harmful that is. Often when someone might be celebrating some thing they insert the word but and you can almost witness the energy drain from their facial expressions, the light dim from their eyes, the excitement vanish from their lives.

We humans are complex beings. As we are taught from the Lotus Sutra we have three thousand states of mind, ways of being, we can manifest in any given moment of existence. We also learn from the Lotus Sutra that simply because at this moment we are manifesting one condition does not mean the other potentials no longer exist. We have the potential to manifest in any given moment any of a multitude of conditions of being. In other words we may be suffering right now and we also have within us the potential to manifest enlightenment.

We are more than any one single thing, more than any one single condition of life in one moment. In many ways I have come to believe that ‘and’ may indeed be a word of Buddha. And more accurately represents the power of ichinen sanzen because it says that in this moment I am one way, in this moment this thing happened and also within this moment is the potential to be any other way, and in this moment is the potential for any other thing to happen.

When you consider the expansiveness of the word and it is possible to see into its infinitude. And can potentially include anything, any option, any possibility, any anything. Yet but says frequently there is only one possibility, one outcome, one thing out of many things.

One image that I try to hold in my mind is my ass, my rear end if you will. When I use the word but I try to imagine me sticking my ass into that sentence. It isn’t a pretty picture. Yet when I insert and it feels to me much larger and much more pleasing. And allows me to keep going with any number of things. Also and doesn’t mean I am sticking my ass into my life.

This may seem silly or even unimportant to you in this moment. I encourage you though to play around with how you use and and but in your daily life. See if you too begin to experience the expansiveness of and and the limitations of ‘but’.

So how does this relate to prayer, you may ask?

Well, the words we use are the way in which our prayer first takes flight as an outward expression. First comes the thought, the idea or the desire. Then following the example in the previous chapter of prayer being fundamentally our actions, then speaking and words are perhaps the first place in which our actions begin. When we learn to formulate our speech in terms of words being our prayer then which sort of prayer do we wish to utter? Do you want your prayer to be small and limited in possibilities, or would you rather your prayer hold the power to manifest in infinite opportunities?

Whether our words are a formal prayer doesn’t mean they are not indeed a prayer. Our words become the manifestation of what is in our heart and so are indeed a prayer and the beginning of the prayer of action based upon faith. Faith that remains internal is merely ideology and theory. Faith that is manifest in action reveals the true depth of that faith and the true nature of that faith. Words are one way in which faith is manifest externally.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, Dharma Talks, Good Things, Hope, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu | Leave a comment