Today, I would like to talk about where and how we can see the Truth and the realization I was blessed with. This is my memory spending some time with the late Rev. Shojo Honda, my Shin Buddhist priest old teacher, in Washington D.C. It was in the beautiful fall season. One day, Rev. Honda took me to some local hills and we did some hiking. I was listening to his life experiences as he shared his wisdom about Buddhism with me. That afternoon was truly a wonderful moment in my life. I can still remember the peaceful and serene time I could enjoy with Rev. Honda.
As we were talking and walking along, Rev. Honda stopped to take a break. It was only then that I realized we were surrounded by such beautiful colors in the fall leaves. Rev. Honda walked up to a tree and slowly looked up. He said “I like the sunlight as it filters through the trees” and he smiled at me. Then he said:
“Look at the leaves turning color, aren’t they so beautiful? We don’t need to go somewhere special to see and experience the fall season. We can see it just fine from this tree.”
With those few words of wisdom from Rev. Honda, I realized that the truth is not far away, but it is right here in front of my eyes. Usually, we always try to look far away to seek the answer or solution for the problem, but in most cases, the answer or solution or the truth is right here, right before our very eyes.
Unfortunately for most of us, we just can’t realize the truth or we can’t clearly see the answer because we are too close to the truth! It’s just like if we place the palm of our hand close in front of our face. If we place our palm right in front of our eyes, it’s just a blur and we can’t clearly see our hand, right?
Shinran Shonin left a great teaching for us in talking about our human blindness to our many passions:
My eyes being hindered by blind passions,
I cannot perceive the light that grasps me;
Yet the great compassion, without tiring,
Always illuminates me.
Although we are always surrounded by the truth of Amida’s Wisdom and Great Compassion and we should be able to see it anytime, we actually aren’t able to see this Truth because of our self-centered mind which is the cause of our endless blind passions. We have to wipe these blind passions out from our eyes and heart, but this is something that is most difficult for us to do because this means that we have to look at our true nature as a self-centered being.
It’s only natural that each of us to think that we are always right and we never doubt ourselves BUT we certainly doubt others. This is what Shinran meant when he said “my eyes being hindered by blind passions.”
Without a mirror and its reflection, we can’t see ourselves. Likewise, without the mirror of Dharma we can’t see our true nature. For those of us who walk the Nembutsu Path, this mirror is enhanced by Amida Buddha’s light which is always illuminating our true nature for us to see. But, the important thing for us to remember is that we must have the courage to deeply look at one’s true nature.
However, this is pretty difficult for most of us to do since we have to face so many unfavorable aspects of our self, our ego and endless blind passions, but this is what Shinran Shonin was able to realize and expressed this truth as the Nembutsu way he followed through his 90 long years of life.
Once we start to reflect on ourselves, we will become able to see the Truth of life anytime and this will lead us to the realization that we are always surrounded by Amida Buddha’s working. With this true and real realization, a whole new world of what we had not known and realized will become open to us. And accordingly, our true heart of gratitude will naturally rise from within. And, this true heart of gratitude is expressed in the words “Namu Amida Butsu,” meaning I take refuge in Amida Buddha.”
Let’s walk together within the Great Nembutsu path, reflecting and expressing our endless gratitude each step of the way in this thing we call human life.
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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。