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Explaining ‘Bonno,’ or Blind Passions

Light speed ahead! Do you feel that we are doing more things in person and that everything is going even more quickly than it did before? I do! It has been great to see so many of you in person.

I find that there is not enough time to actually catch up with people, especially when trying to say hello to everyone. Do you feel the same way?

I forget that the greatest gift is the intertwining of our life’s journey for even an instant, but I always find myself in the trap of wanting more. Our tradition considers this as a type of “bonno,” or blind passions.

“Bonno” is a comprehensive term descriptive of all the forces, conscious and unconscious, that propel unenlightened persons to think, feel, act, and speak — whether in happiness or in sorrow — in such a way as to cause uneasiness, frustration, torment, pain, and sorrow mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically for themselves and others.

While Buddhism makes a detailed and subtle analysis of blind passions, employing such terms as craving, anger, delusion, arrogance, doubt, and wrong views, fundamentally, it is rooted in the fierce, stubborn clinging to the foolish and evil self that constitutes the basis of our existence.

When we realize the full implications of this truth about ourselves, we see that the human condition is itself nothing but blind passions. Thus, just to live, or wanting to live, as an unenlightened being is to manifest blind passions at all times, regardless of what we may appear to be.

One comes to know this, however, only through the illumination of great compassion. Hence, awakening to one’s own nature is called the wisdom of shinjin, and the person who realizes it has already been grasped by Amida’s Primal Vow.

Like in many of life’s examples, the simple truth is that we have to think about what would really give our lives meaning. In the case of the beginning example, it is the question of quantity versus quality. “Do I speak to as many people as possible or do I spend all my time with a few?” There is no real right answer. Once coming to a determination for the situation, we just do our best.

Think about being Buddhist. Have you analyzed what path works best for you? In this Jodo Shinshu tradition, we need to be mindful of who we are in this life, commit to a path, and receive the outcome as it is. By going back in my mind and analyzing how an event or conversation went, I am just causing myself suffering that cannot be changed or was never in my control in the first place. Also, sometimes while in the moment, I find that I may not truly be committed to my efforts because I want more. I might just be spreading my attention too thin. Do you find yourself doing this, too?

Namo Amida Butsu is our mind being in the present and recognizing that we are perfectly imperfect with the aspiration for something that has already been given to us. By knowing our limitations, we can commit fully to the process of Amida’s Wisdom and Compassion.

If we didn’t, we might try to multitask or divide our attention, creating an experience that might not be as fulfilling. If we are honest about our efforts in this life and understand the true depth of Amida’s Vow for us all, we can see the impact of the Nembutsu on our lives.

How would you create a true qualitative Nembutsu sharing moment with others? It is not just saying the words, but would entail knowing the Buddha’s constant support and wish for us all, and then enacting the pure act of putting all of our hands together and reciting Namo Amida Butsu as one voice hearing the Buddha’s call.

Think of the Buddha’s wish for all of us to attain ultimate bliss. This is happiness and joy that comes from deep within that is not attained through any type of emotional or material source.

Just find the joy of being alive in this instant. Share this joy with others with the intent to turn them to a life of Nembutsu, which will help them to navigate and manage each moment of their lives.

As the final thought, it is important to take a breath, to reflect, and with the intent to change your life just try to share a moment with someone whether in person or in your heart by putting your hands together and saying the seven syllables of Na Mo A Mi Da Butsu.

Namo Amida Butsu


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