The word “discouragement” has many similar meaning of words such as “depress,” “sunken,” and so on. An English dictionary says their meanings; 1. to lose confident or lose will to do something, and 2. to make something become less likely to happen. In Buddhism these emotional conditions are temporal and can be expressed as a realm of samsāra. These conditions are ultimately illusion because they depend on our self-attachment.
However, in much deeper dimension, I wonder if we can say the discouragement condition on psychological or mental problem is also expressed just “temporal.” Today, there are the numbers of people who have mental problems and suffer seriously by them. In this context, it is hard for me to say that these conditions are just temporal and delusion. Here, one of contradictions arose between Buddhism and us. Buddhism does not work in the reality as actual and embodiment teaching? Buddhism is just a meaningless theory? What do you think? If you had questions like them, it would be your misunderstanding of Buddhism. You might have thought that Buddhism gave you some super power to be lesser your desire, to go to Pure Land, and to cure mental problem. They are just your preconception.
Actually Buddhism does not give us such power, but teach us the way to live in this complicated world as a true human. Buddhism does not require such as faith and devotion from the beginning. What is important is your engagement to Buddha’s teachings in your daily life. Self-questions such as to what extents you are devoting and you have profound faith are not important and should not care because they are your attachment. By living and engaging with Buddha’s teaching, such faith and devotion will be produced naturally in your heart and body. I introduce you a story relating today’s topic. This is from Three Pure Land sutras, the Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life, the Sutra on Visualization of the Buddha of Infinite Life, and the Sutra on Amitāyus Buddha, which are very important and fundamental in Jōdo Shinshū. This time, I picked up the story of Ajātaśatru who killed his father on the Sutra on Visualization of the Buddha of Infinite Life. The story is a little bit complicated, so I summarize this story like this. There are king, his consort, and his son Ajātaśatru in central Asia long time ago. Because Ajātaśatru was deceived by his relative, he killed his father and suffered with deep regret killing his father and its punishment that he had painful blotch on his whole body. Ay last, he became discouragement and suffered and suffered to look for salvation to many Buddhist monks. But they could not answer Ajātaśatru’s profound question based on deep regret.
One day, he saw Shakamuni and Shakamuni praised his profound question because he knew it was not aroused without Ajātaśatru’s heartful reflection for his deeds. He asked Skakamuni “how can I, an evil person, be saved?” Shakamuni gave a Dharma talk to Ajātaśatru and he knew Amida’s working which lights all sentient beings and how to live with Buddha’s teaching so that he understood the theory of dependent origination which is the most fundamental truth in Buddhism. By living with Shakamuni’s direction, he knew that even a person who does not have will to kill others kills other sometime by one’s condition. Human is the existence to be hardly saved so that Amida saves the hopeless by his/her lights.
Ajātaśatru encountered the Dharma by Shakamuni and founded a pleasure in his suffering and regretting. Of course, to kill people is not good. What I want to focus on is that the people who were in deep depression and discouragement like Ajātaśatru can find pleasure by entrust one’s own life into Buddha’s teaching without forget about his regret killing his father.
What we have to focus on is that Ajātaśatru founded a pleasure of life in their suffering. It is like an example of Lotus flower which can only bloom in dirty pond. This is a metaphor of the enlightenment and means that we can enlighten like lotus flower as you are by turning the dirty of selfishness into selflessness. The example of Lotus flower leads us to this thinking way.
Without dirty pond, there is no beautiful Lotus flower.
Without blind passion like desire or calculation, there is no enlightenment.
Without suffering like discouragement, there is no pleasure.
That is, any each emotion has two side meanings. Ultimately Buddhism has potentiality to transcend this distinction between them by insisting on non-self. But today I want to emphasize on that Buddhism has potentiality to find a pleasure even among the suffering world.
Shinran Shonin expresses in this way; “The ice of blind passions melts and becomes the water of virtues” (CWS, p. 62). This can understand that the ice of our suffering melts slowly and becomes the water of pleasures.
Today, I discussed discouragement in Buddhism. But there is no exact answer for this question because Buddhism is not technique or theory. Without your entrustment, Buddhism is no meaning. The story I told you today showed us some Buddhist life ways. I hope we will also encounter the Dharma and be able to treat your problem by living up Buddha’s teaching in the future like the story. Then, our appreciation for Buddha will be aroused naturally from our whole body.
浄土真宗本願寺派 大見山 超勝寺 衆徒。翻訳家。ハーバード大学 神学部研究員を修了し、帰国。現在は、執筆活動や通訳・翻訳を通して、日本仏教を世界に弘める活動をしています。