Lecture on the Lotus Sutra Now Available

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Now available "Lecture on the Lotus Sutra"

Now available “Lecture on the Lotus Sutra”

Now available on Amazon “Lecture on the Lotus Sutra” (click the link to open Amazon). You can now purchase a copy of my completed lecture on the Lotus Sutra. This book contains all of the serialized postings that appeared here in the Fall of last year. Those posts were edited and new material was added to the book which was not posted on the blog. I hope you will consider purchasing a copy for your own study and understanding of the Lotus Sutra. Frequently Amazon has the book discounted. The book will not be available in digital format.

Thank you for your support.

With Gassho,
Ryusho Jeffus

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

Physician’s Good Medicine #26 – Lectio Oratio

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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.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, death, Dharma Talks, 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 #25 – And

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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

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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

Physician’s Good Medicine #23 – Prayer

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If you turn your thoughts outward instead of inward the scene might look like this. You see the backed up cars and your car has come to a complete stop. As you are peering around you begin to chant Odaimoku for whatever has happened ahead. You begin to direct your prayer forward that if there has been an accident involving injury that the injuries be treated and the person or people are cared for and safe. The prayer further expands to concerns for the first responders on the scene that they are safe and able to do their jobs to assist any involved. You might further expand your thoughts and prayers to all those ahead and behind who will be impacted by this delay.

Your intimacy with the Lotus Sutra begins to manifest as the same compassion the Buddha had for all the people of the universe when he revealed the Lotus Sutra. If you think about the beam of light that emits from the brow of the Buddha, the one that illuminates the people of the four corners of the universe and allows you to see their practices and their relationship with their Buddha. In like manner you can cast your own enlightened life, your mind’s eye, your compassionate heart outward. You can direct your energies either inward or outward, the choice is yours. Your intimacy with the Lotus Sutra begins to deepen your experience and awareness of the truth of enlightenment within your own life. This sense of security about your life enables you to direct your energies and concerns towards others who do not have the sense of security of enlightenment. One is expansive and the other a contraction.

Our posture in prayer frequently looks like us sitting down in front of a box with a piece of paper inside. Our eyes are cast upward as if in adulation and expectation. As we sit in this posture though what is going on internally? Is our heart directed then back at ourselves with our life being the singularity of our universe? I propose that as we gaze upon the Gohonzon that our mind’s eye, our heart, is further directed towards all of life, what we can see, what we can know and beyond to what we do not see. And then most importantly what are our actions? Do our actions then manifest our prayer in the form of working to alleviate the sufferings of others?

Also when I think of intimacy I think that it isn’t routine. A relationship that falls into patterns of routines carried out without thinking or consideration soon grows stale and fails to expand or grow. The same happens in our attitude toward our Buddhist practice. If we allow the intimacy with the Lotus Sutra to grow complacent, to become routine, or to be taken for granted then our prayer looses energy, it looses power and it will eventually loose effectiveness ether to ourselves or to others. Every day our relationship with the Lotus Sutra and with chanting Odaimoku needs to be refreshed and renewed. It isn’t enough to merely accumulate time in front of the Gohonzon, it isn’t enough to accumulate years of practice. These are meaningless measurements when it comes to manifesting the benefit of practice. The accumulation of wealth, power, status are also not important measures of our benefit. What I believe is most important is what is going on inside you and what you are manifesting outward to benefit other beings.

Intimacy can sustain us when all may seem hopeless. If however there is no deep connection to the Lotus Sutra, if there is no deep embrace, if there is no deep kiss if you will, then your ability to turn to the and stay connected with the Lotus Sutra becomes increasingly more difficult when your life encounters a true test of faith.

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Physician’s Good Medicine #22 – Prayer

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The degree to which our lives are seamless from kneeling to walking and living in prayer is the degree to which we are able to take and receive benefit from the good medicine of the physician, the gift of the way on the path to enlightenment.

There is also an aspect to prayer that manifests degrees of intimacy. Consider if you will the type of person who continually asks things of people he knows yet who themselves never bothers to understand or consider what they can do for others. This type of person soon wears out their welcome in the eyes of others, and finds that people tire of helping and soon the help is not their anymore. The odds are greater that help will be available when the person doing the requesting deeply considers who would be the best person to make a particular request of and also what might be done on their part to make it easier for help to be given.

When we engage in prayer from the perspective of the Lotus Sutra it would be well advised to consider what we are really asking for. Is our prayer even something that is possible to have fulfilled. For example if one drives home from work one day and at the end of the street you see several fire trucks, and you can see flames and smoke rising up, yet still you cannot see which house is on fire. It is foolish to begin to chant and pray that it isn’t your house on fire. The fire has begun, the house in flames and that sort of prayer expects that suddenly the flames would transfer to another house, wishing the damage done to somehow be undone and also to be transferred to another homeowner.

This is an abuse of your ability to pray and also shows a lack of intimacy with Buddhism and the true nature of the reality of life. Perhaps a better prayer might be to pray for the ability to handle whatever outcome there may be if the fire is your house and if the fire is another’s house then pray to be able to help the other family and that no harm come to anyone.

Consider for a moment, you’re driving to work on the freeway and you come upon a traffic jam that you can clearly see stretches for miles. Oh, man, you’re going to be late for work. Not again, you sigh. Or perhaps you bang on the steering wheel in frustration. You may dig out your phone and see if you can find some alternate route or perhaps to call in to work. All of these are actions not uncommon and certainly within the bounds of common social behavior. Nothing out of the ordinary here, you might say.

In a way the hypothetical person here has engaged in various levels of prayer. The frustration that this has happened to them, the search for some solution for themselves, the covering of their own tardiness. Yet I propose to you another way of being in those moments, a way of being that is much more expansive and certainly more in keeping with a life expanding towards enlightenment.

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

Physician’s Good Medicine #21 – Prayer

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We recite the phrase Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. In fact we are taught to recite this phrase without end. Yet what is it we are saying, what is it we are doing and setting into motion? Namu means everything and more the word Namaste means. We are saying that we bow down, we respect, we revere, we devote, we honor, we believe, we support, we wish to emulate, we wish to be Myoho Renge Kyo. That is what we say, but how do we act? Do we actually act that way in our daily life?

If every living being is a Buddha as taught to us in the Lotus Sutra, do we treat them all with Namu? If we are unable to view each living being as a Buddha then we have not fully incorporated the spirit of the Lotus Sutra into our lives. Chanting endless Odaimoku without any action or without action that aligns with the core values taught to us in the Lotus Sutra is little more than a hollow activity.

We often wish to place prayer on some level that is outside of daily living. Prayer in fact is many sided. It is not meditation alone, nor is it simply liturgy. Prayer is those things and it is also all of the activity that occupies our every moment of life in between meditation and liturgy. Prayer is a yearning for the simple presence of the Buddha in your life and the only way that can manifest is through your actions in life. If your actions are not those of the Buddha then there will be no Buddha present in your life.

Uttering petitions for various things, or objectives, or goals without the action to support the appearance of those things will be disappointing and bear little fruit. Even our prayers for things outside our lives such as for friends, will show little positive impact if they are not matched with strenuous effort on your part to treat all life as worthy of the same compassion you have for that dear friend.

As I right this section on prayer I do so having just participated in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of what has been referred to as Bloody Sunday, the day when 600 peaceful marchers were attacked by police wielding billy clubs, and using attack dogs and horses to trample the men, women, and children in the group. This took place in Selma, Alabama as these peaceful protesters were seeking to secure equal voting rights for all Americans regardless of color. On that day over 50 people required hospitalization with many more suffering injuries that may not have warranted a hospital stay, but certainly must have been traumatizing.

On the day I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a bridge named after a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, local authorities estimated that over 110,000 people were out to walk the bridge in remembrance of the Bloody Sunday event. This event and the activity of walking in memory of those people and that event is still something I am internally processing as I think about what happened on that first day and what has happened since. I also think about the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who was a close friend and ally of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Let me share with you Rabbi Heschel’s words. “For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

I believe that our every action and our every word wether in front of the Omandala Gohonzon or not is without a doubt a prayer. Our actions are our prayer, our efforts are our prayer. What do our actions say about what prayer lies deep in our heart?

There is no definition of Namu that I can think of that isn’t an action based word. Namu is not a passive add on to Myoho Renge Kyo. Namu calls on us to engage in some manner of action in relation to the Lotus Sutra, to Myoho Renge Kyo. Reverence, honoring, revering, and others are all active and engaging words. Our relation to Myoho Renge Kyo is one of our actions in relation to our understanding and belief in the Lotus Sutra.

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 #20 – Prayer

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To begin this chapter on prayer I would like to offer two stories that to me illustrate one view of how prayer manifests and is to be approached as a Buddhist. While the individuals in these two stories were not Buddhist that doesn’t prevent us from learning from their examples. The two individuals here are and were real people I have known though I have disguised them to some degree. One is still living and I have interactions with that person on occasion, the other individual has since died, and my connection with that person were remote at best.

These two people are so different from each other except in how they lived their lives. One person a physician, reasonably well off, educated, and Caucasian. The other a woman, poor, minimally educated, living is less than optimal circumstances. What these two people shared was a sense of dedication manifest through action. Their prayers were the work of their lives and not the sound of their voices.

The good doctor several years ago began to devote more and more of his time and private research to the study of AIDS and the search for a cure. Through the years he has managed to run many trials and has worked hard to receive funding for prescriptions for many drugs and drug combinations that would have been prohibitive price wise to those who most needed it. All of my experience with him reveal a very humble man who while allowing the spotlight to shine on him never seeks it out and quickly reflects its light on many others. In many ways you could say the young men and women of Charlotte and beyond who have benefited from his tireless efforts are his children he seeks to provide the good medicine to cure them of their ills.

Auntie only had five children of her own, three she raised as her children were in fact her grandchildren. More than 20 other children were never hers except they were neighborhood children whom she always had time for. Often the children would call upon her to mend clothes, provide a meal, or help sort out the many difficulties that children often manage to get into. She was always there to help with the homework, even when she herself would struggle with what was being expected of the child. She was the mother to many, always there, always with care. So many times she had to provide just the right medicine for the many different ‘ills’ of the children. She did plane work, simple, underpaid, but regular. She pinched pennies, frugality was her middle name, though the children never knew of what she went through. She was determined that they should suffer as little as possible.

Prayer is less about the words we utter than about the lives we live. We have a choice in how we live and that choice frequently if not always reflects the heart of our prayer even if our words to not match. We can say all manner of clever phrases yet it is our actions that ring the loudest.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, Dharma Talks, Good Things, Hope, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu | 1 Comment

The Physician’s Good Medicine #19 – The Physician’s Cure

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(This section is out of order and should have been posted after #15)

The physician’s cure, as I mentioned in the beginning of this chapter is composed of seemingly impossible to attain ingredients. The illusion is that they are impossible, when in fact they are merely extremely difficult. The Lotus Sutra offers the analogy of a one-eyed tortoise finding a piece of wood with a hole in it the perfect size and shape of the tortoise itself as an indication of the difficulty of seeing a Buddha in one’s lifetime.

“This Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter X, page 180)

Since the Buddha died some 2500 years ago it may seem as seeing a Buddha would be impossible. Yet it is not impossible if we realize that the Eternal Buddha does not die. So how do we see the Eternal Buddha? Believing in and understanding the Lotus Sutra is the key and the Sutra itself says it difficult to do this, but not impossible. Comparing some impossible things found in the Nine Easy and Six Difficult things in Chapter XI we can gain a perspective on just how difficult it is to follow the Lotus Sutra.

The Six Difficult things are; 1.) Expound this Sutra, 2.) Copy and keep this Sutra, 3.) Read this Sutra, 4.) To keep this Sutra and expound to even one person, 5.) To hear and receive this Sutra, and 6.) Keep this Sutra after the death of the Buddha. In other words it is extremely difficult to keep, read, recite, copy, and teach the Lotus Sutra in this age so far removed from the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. These things are more difficult that doing such things as “putting the great earth on the nail of a toe and go up to the Heaven of Brahman.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter XI, page 196). At the conclusion of the Beholding the Stupa of Treasure Chapter XI in the Lotus Sutra we have the section of verse recited during services called the Hotoge. In this verse those people who are able to take faith in, practice, understand the meaning of this Sutra, and teach others are praised and told of their worth and value in the eyes of all gods and men.

Wisdom and understanding of the Lotus Sutra is possible through faith and practice. Neither wisdom or understanding are gained through simple intellect. If the possibility of attaining enlightenment rested solely upon how much one knows of the Lotus Sutra or of an individual’s intellectual capacity then the promise of enlightenment would not be universally achievable. Enlightenment comes from faith and faith is a function deeper than intellect. Faith is a feeling not an idea.

People get sick, they go to the doctor or hospital to be cured. Sometimes they are given some medicine to take and sometimes they are advised to take some specific actions such as diet, exercise, or avoiding certain foods. On the surface this seems easy enough and usually straight forward. Frequently the instructions make perfectly good sense. Yet for all of that many people either don’t take the medicine or they stop taking the medicine too soon, or they don’t follow the prescriptive advice of life-style changes. Doing the seemingly simple easy things are in fact the most difficult. It is exactly the same with faith in the Lotus Sutra. Just as I have witnessed patients who fail to do as the doctor says and become ill again, so too with the number of people who occasionally chant the Odaimoku or recite the Sutra. Before too long they completely abandon their practice, they instead choose an easier thing and nothing changes in their life and then of course it is that Buddhism doesn’t work for them. We are indeed complex beings, us humans.

For us the ingredients of the Physician’s Cure are the five practices of the Lotus Sutra, to keep, read, recite, copy, and teach this Sutra. All of these are simple enough except they are indeed very difficult.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, Dharma Talks, Good Things, Hope, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu | 1 Comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #18 – Metanoia

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Metanoia from the Greek word simply means to change one’s mind. It also means a spiritual conversion. While penance is associated with it in its more Christian interpretation this would not be the case and not possible from a purely Buddhist perspective.

It may be true that in our individual lives we have made causes for which we are regretful, is to the person impacted by those causes we would seek forgiveness and understanding, and not some dirty or force outside ourselves. We may even have cause to regret actions we have made against the environment but again it is there were we should make efforts of repair. Learning to understand how our causes affect not only ourselves but others as well is also part of taking the good medicine and making meaning.

A story if you will. A man comes home to find his house almost completely destroyed. The contents have been scattered throughout the house. In the kitchen all the plate shave been smashed, the table broken to splinters. The living room is a disaster, the television is busted, the couch stuffing is strewn everywhere. Upstairs he hears one of his children raging, he is frightful of what he will find. As he makes his way up the stairs he can see into his own bedroom, the room he used to share with is wife who has left him.

He knows what he will face she he finds his child, this is the reason his wife left him after all. The child whom he continues to love even at the cost of the pain it causes him, and the cost to his marriage is up there. In the cost pocket the father carries a new prescription which he is sure will finally be the cure for the seizures his son has, seizures he can not control.

These seizures have gotten worse over the years as the child has grown, but the father has ever given up regardless of the cost financially, physically, or emotionally. It is all he can do, all he thinks of doing is to keep trying. At the doorway to the room of the child the father leans his back against the door frame and slowly slides down. As he does so he holds out the medicine he hopes his son will take, the medicine to bring his son back to his right mind. He can force his child to take the medicine, the child to strong and he too weak. He simply holds his hand out with the medicine towards his child.

Some unspeakable link is made some awakening occurs in the child, perhaps it is the lack of coercion or perhaps it is the tears of the father. Whatever it is the child takes the medicine.

Since this is simply a story the cure can be the magic cure or it may be only a temporary cure and one that needs to be continually administered. In real life it can happen both ways. In our spiritual lives it more frequently is the later; we continually may need to experience awakenings and changes of mind.

But what is to be done about the damage done to the house. The plates remain broken, the stuffing is not magically inserted back into the sofa. The TV doesn’t
T repair itself, nor does anything, either in he story or in our lives. Part of the metanoia process is not just an awareness of a different or changed future it also includes an awareness of the connection we have to the past with the realization that we can not undo the past but we are accountable for and may need to be ready to do the work to attempt repair.

As the woman who was dying of cancer became aware we do need to participate in our dying and equally so in our living. In some ways this in itself is the medicine as much as is the reality of our own Buddha potential. It isn’t enough to simply be aware of or belief in our Enlightened nature, we must participate in it, we must act upon it.

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Physician’s Good Medicine #17 – Metanoia

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One understanding of making meaning is the realization that life is more than random events with no connection backwards or forwards. Our lives, and this is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism, are and endless stream of causes and effects stemming from causes and effects and morning forward to future causes and effects. Beginning to understand our present and making a choice as to how we proceed into the future.

Legacy has a connotation of choosing what impact our lives will have on our future and possibly on the future of others. Legacy and meaning making are tied together in our advance into the future whatever it may be. Legacy is also a history of our past regardless of whether it had meaning for us.

After being called to provide a Buddhist prayer for a patient I spent time with her talking about her faith and understanding of Buddhism. Over the course of more than a month in the hospital she made great effort to deepen her understanding of Buddhism and the death she knew she faced because of ovarian cancer. What had it meant to live, what was the value of her life?

The parable of the physician and his sick children can be understood also from the perspective that being born in this Saha world is to the act of taking poison. We are born forgetting out eternal connection to the Eternal Buddha, we are unaware of the truth of our Buddha potential residing in the core of our lives. Our lives as Buddhists is the journey to rediscovery of that truth or the realization of the good medicine.

When I was in first and second grade there was not a moment in school when I didn’t experience fear, terror even. Going to the bathroom or any place in school where I could potentially be trapped by other boys and made fun of was frightful. Late one afternoon even the playground became unsafe as a group of those same boys got ahold of some rope and used it to hang me from a tree. I was cut down and taken to the emergency room.

When my mother came to get me I would like to think her anger at me was more about her fear that something bad had happened, I’m not sure. Even at home when I complained of the way the other boys made fun of me there was no understanding. It was as if I were inventing the whole thing in spite of the evidence of the hanging.

The summer between second and third grade we moved to a new city, which meant I would be going to a new school. Though I lacked the capacity to explain what occurred with my thinking at the time I now understand as an awakening. In the study of children who grow up in abusive environments there are those who develop skills of resilience. Common among that group is the realization that the environ they are living in is broken, they can not depend on others to fix it and so they usually either withdraw and develope inner defenses or develope survival strategies to exist as active players.

During that summer I made a decision that I would change my name and use my first name. I remember even going through all the ways in which my fist name might be used to tease me. I practiced all the torments in my head, I played them over and over, to the point where I could say them better than anyone else could possibly say them. Going to school I introduced myself by my first name and that is the name I kept in my public life even if my parents refused to ever use it.

I had an awakening if you will that I am ultimately responsible for the meaning of my life, and what is most important is how I understand myself and how I view and value myself.

As the woman who had ovarian cancer was dying her last words to me were “I didn’t realize I would have to participate so fully in my death.”

We don’t have to participate in either life or death. We have a choice. We can choose to wander aimlessly on, ever endlessly moving towards and unavoidable end of our lives. We can choose to ignore this reality, but we can not escape it.

Some people when they hear a term such as spiritual awakening immediately think of some mystical experience, perhaps some brilliant light, or some other physical or emotional experience. Of course those things may happen, however fundamentally I believe it is an awakening, even if only subtly of an awareness of the ability to participate fully in life, living, and even death and dying.

The Lotus Sutra teaches us that our legacy for the past and into the future is as Bodhisattvas with an eternal connection to the Buddha who arise from our seemingly mundane lives in a seemingly impure world and manifest our true potential and reveal our connect from eternity as Buddhas. The medicine the Lotus Sutra offers us from the skilled physician, the Buddha, is that we are not who we seem to be but that we are truly are Buddhas who have simply emerged, awaken to an understanding, that we have always been disciples of the Eternal Buddha and as such possess all the inner potential to become equal to the Buddha.

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