Friday, November 18, 2005

Giving Thanks

Here is a talk that I plan to give on Sunday at an interfaith Thanksgiving service at a Presbyterian church:

As I understand it, my charge here this afternoon is to read or recite some passage from the literature of my school of Buddhism, which is Jodo Shin Shu---the True School of the Pure Land---, which is the tradition of the Cleveland Buddhist Temple.

So here goes:

NAMO AMIDA BUTSU. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU.

Of course, since I recited that in my approximation of the Japanese pronunciation of a Sanskrit phrase, I suppose that I owe you some sort of explanation.

So here it is.

There are many different schools of Buddhism, perhaps as many schools as there are Buddhists, for there is nothing that one is required to believe to be a Buddhist and each of us can only follow our own path.

But one thing that almost all Buddhists have in common is that they have many reasons for giving thanks. Giving thanks is a basic part of Buddhist practices: thanks to our parents, thanks to our friends, thanks to the lunch we ate today, thanks to things just as they are, and especially thanks to the Buddha for the Buddha's teachings.

Now the central teachings of the Buddha are that all things are impermanent, that all things are interdependent, and that no thing, no person, has an independent essence---that no person has an independent self. The Buddha teaches us that as a result of these truths that anyone---and that means every one of us---who clings to impermanent things, and especially to the idea that one has an independent self, is going to be disappointed and unhappy.

And finally the Buddha teaches that, if you don't want to be unhappy, then you are going to have to truly get rid of the ignorant belief that you have a separate self that exists somehow apart from that of others. And, of course, since that means that you must recognize the fact that you are inextricably interconnected with others, it requires that you not only want to attain your own happiness but that you want all beings to be happy.

And so the goal of all Buddhist practices is to attain wisdom and compassion. The wisdom to free oneself from the fetters of one's ignorance and greed and the compassion to wish that same freedom for all others.

But Shin Buddhists like myself, ordinary ignorant people filled with blind passions, have to recognize that we simply lack the capacity to free ourselves from the bonds of our ignorance and greed.

Now the usual translation of NAMO AMIDA BUTSU is: ``I am one with Amida Buddha---I am one with the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life---I am one with the infinite wisdom and compassion that surrounds me.''

But for an ignorant person like myself it is more likely at first to be a cry of existential despair.

We are, however, taught in the Shin tradition that if we listen carefully to NAMO AMIDA BUTSU we will hear Amida Buddha calling us to entrust ourselves to the wisdom and compassion that surrounds us. And when we truly hear that call, then NAMO AMIDA BUTSU becomes: ``Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.'' Every day becomes a day of thanksgiving. Every moment becomes an eternity of thanksgiving.

NAMO AMIDA BUTSU. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU. NAMO AMIDA BUTSU.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Close enough. It's NAMU AMIDA BUTSU.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Peter Junger said...

It is spelled in many different ways. In the current literature of the Buddhist Churches of America it is usually spelled Namo Amida Butsu---in Chinese temples it is usually spelled Namo Amita Fu, as I recall. If one were to represent the Sanskrit ronunciation in English spelling, I believ that it would be spelled ``NAMO AMITA BUDDHA.''

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Kai said...

It is interesting there is a Buddhist temple in the area you are living. Is it lead by a monk from abroad?

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Luthiel said...

I'm a korean. In korea, It is spelled "NAMU AMITA BULL." Furthermore, Buddhist in korea often say "KWAN-SE-UM-BO-SAL", after "NAMU AMITA BULL."

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you

8:26 AM  
Blogger darkclarity2k said...

I miss you Peter

9:04 AM  

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