BUDDHISM IN YOUR LIFE
Following the path of Buddhism is simply living our life in awareness. There is no Buddhism apart from our life, nor is there life apart from Buddhism. Our everyday life, our joys and sorrows, our success and failures, our losses and gains, the totality of our life is Buddhism. We find meaning even in failure, even in disappointment. Our everyday life experience is the vehicle to reflect on and deepen our spirituality.
LIFE OF GRATITUDE
Modern psychology is finding that grateful people are actually happier people. This is something that Shin Buddhism has taught for centuries. Countless Buddhists have lived very modest lives, yet had profound gratitude for the teachings, for simple things like a home, a job, food on the table, friends and family, and above all, for life itself.
Because of our ignorance or delusion, our un-awakened life, we fail to appreciate or be grateful for all that life gives us. This is why we need the Shin Buddhist teachings. This is why we need the Dharma in our life, so that we might awaken to all that we have received, are receiving, and will continue to receive from this thing called life.
LIFE AND DEATH
Of all of the problems that we face in life, the matter of our mortality is the most challenging. Some religions teach an everlasting life after death. Shin Buddhism aims to awaken us to the timeless in the here and now, to transcend life and death and awaken to our true essence. Our journey is like a wave in the ocean that awakens to its essence as water and no longer fears hitting the shore.
In Shin Buddhism, listening to the teachings makes us humble. But we cannot “strive” to become humble. It is not like earning your black belt in Karate. If you feel like you are making progress, you might think, “Wow, I’m becoming really humble,” but you are actually becoming more arrogant.
A truly humble person is someone who sees their ego self. Becoming humble and seeing the ego self are two sides of the same coin that occur simultaneously. An arrogant person is weak, like a stiff oak tree that snaps in a strong wind. A humble person is strong, like a bamboo or willow tree bending in the wind.
Less than a month after our twin sons' first birthday, I was stunned by my husband's sudden death, feeling insecure and wondering how I would survive on my own. As I transitioned through grief into my new reality, over the years I knew I was more fortunate than most in similar circumstances.
My parents were my role models. They were guided by the Buddha Dharma and modeled a life of resilience and humility. Everyone goes through difficult times and suffers losses, of which they had their fair share, yet they felt grateful for their good fortune and grateful that their children and grandchildren were well.
I was supported and assisted by family and friends with everything. They spent time babysitting the boys to give me a break, taught them to fish, ski, play baseball, and took them on outings and vacations. Because I was surrounded by kindness and compassion when I needed it the most, I know an attitude of gratitude had and will continue to have a positive effect on my daily life.
Judy Matsuzaki, with her sons and granddaughter
Los Angeles, CA
Mindfulness originated from the Buddha’s enlightenment and earliest teachings over 2,500 years ago. Mindfulness has become popular in recent times, a positive sign that the Buddha’s teachings are reaching our society and culture. As people seek out the origins of today's mindfulness practices, Buddhism can deepen our understanding.
Mindfulness has long been central to Shin Buddhism.
The Chinese character 念 Nem (or Nen ) means “to think on, to contemplate on.” The character 仏 Butsu means Buddha. Nembutsu 念仏, or “Mindfulness on the Buddha,” means that one reflects on the “contents” of Buddha, which is great wisdom and great compassion.
Our society and world faces many issues and challenges. Problems abound. Suffering abounds. The Buddha teaches us that all beings are ultimately equal, but how does a Buddhist live in a world of suffering, injustice, conflicts, and crisis? We cannot turn our eyes away from the many issues of our society and the world. However, the way a Buddhist works to eliminate social inequality is important.
First, we have to be grounded in the Dharma, in the teachings, or else our solution for a social issue or problem will be based on ego-centered ignorance. “I’m right, you’re wrong” thinking only adds fuel to the fire. Based on our understanding of the teachings, a Buddhist moves out into the world and takes on various challenges in our own unique manner, often quietly and in an unassuming way.
From a Buddhist perspective, humans do not rule over the world of other beings. We are one being, one species, among millions. We must first see ourselves in our proper perspective, dependent on the lives of innumerable sentient beings who sustain our lives every day. We must see our interconnected oneness with all of life and live with a sense of gratitude.
BCA's EcoSangha movement increases awareness of the profound implications of our actions on future generations and promotes ecologically-friendly behavior in our communities.
One gift that 2020 gave me was the opportunity to see and appreciate the teachings of the Buddha more clearly. I spent much time reflecting on the concepts of impermanence and interconnectedness. The raging pandemic, the political climate, and the call for racial justice were front and center for me. The killing of George Floyd happened just blocks from where Twin Cities Buddhist Association typically meets for service, and our hometown was hit hard by the unrest that followed.
I called upon the Dharma many times to help me see clearly how I fit in; I leaned on my Sangha for support; and I looked to the Buddha for wisdom and guidance. With the teachings, we will continue to navigate these uncertain times together. Namo Amida Butsu.
Cheral Tsuchiya, with Todd and Connie Tsuchiya
Our relationships in life are the source of our great joy and also the source of our great suffering. How do we understand our relationships with others? How do we live and work with others, even those with whom we have great difficulty? How do we cope when we lose those dearest to us?
Shin Buddhism is a path for the everyday person who experiences both joy and anguish in their human relationships. Shin teachings guide us through our regular lives, as difficult as they may be at times.
SELF-ESTEEM AND TRUE SELF
Buddhism addresses the issue of the self, challenging our notion of the self, who we are and what we are. Low self-esteem or having too high a view of oneself are both issues of the ego at their core. Whether we avoid situations or beat our chests to deal with people or circumstances, our ego can make us feel as if the whole world is against us when life doesn’t go as we want it to.
Applying a Buddhist perspective to our life, we come to see our ego self that is the source of all of our problems and frustrations, and the true self that enables us to live our most meaningful and fulfilled life.
BUDDHISM IN THE WORKPLACE
We spend the greatest portion of our adult lives in the workplace. Can Buddhism help me in my work life? We don’t seek the path just for materialistic goals of making more money or having a successful business, but that also doesn’t mean being a Buddhist is detrimental to success in life.
On the contrary, it might be that a humble person, a sincere person, a person who is a good listener, is really valued by a company or business. For person who knows themselves deeply, spiritually, in a Buddhist sense, their happiness does not depend on success or prosperity in their work life.
Shin Buddhism helps me understand how my attachment to my “self” causes suffering. If my positive self-affirmation is “I am hardworking”, when I don’t feel hardworking then I feel like I’m not living up to my potential. If I make judgments about attributes that I love about myself, then it doesn’t allow me to understand the impermanence of my “self” and recognize how I’m changing with every moment.
At the temple growing up, I often heard “come as you are”. Looking back as an adult, I can now see how the temple community gave my grandma and her friends a place to be bombu, their foolish selves, and support each other along the way, surrounded by compassion. As I continue this path, I’m grateful to have bodhisattvas in the form of my grandma and her friends to guide me as I slowly and gradually let go of the culture of perfection that I’ve been brought up in.
Saying the Nembutsu is a reminder for myself because it’s something that is done without the burden of a moral category. It is a true self-affirmation—affirming the interconnection of all beings and acceptance of us as we are.
Sydney Shiroyama, with her grandmother and sister
Palo Alto, CA
Many things occur in our human lives. But, whatever difficulties or sadness we may have experienced, if we can look upon our lives as being rare and wondrous events, then we will truly have lived.