Happy New Year, everyone! At the beginning of this New Year, I would like to extend my best regards to you all.
Over these past couple of years, we have had to adjust our lives in accordance with the scale of the spread of COVID-19. I would like to offer my deepest condolences to those who fell victim to the disease and express my sympathies to those who are undergoing treatment. I would also like to express my respect and sincere gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and frontline medical professionals who have been engaging in the treatment of infected people, as well as all essential workers who have made it possible for us to continue with our lives.
This infectious disease has not only greatly affected the life of each one of us, but also revealed many issues that had been contained in our society. Sakyamuni Buddha, who passed on the Dharma to us, made clear of the fact that we cannot see the truth because we are too attached to our own thought. Therefore, it is only natural that conflicts and divisions come about in a society in which those who, like us, fundamentally self-centered beings, act in accordance based on one’s own thought.
In the following wasan poem, Shinran Shonin deeply reflected on himself and described what we humans are like,
Although I take refuge in the true Pure Land way,
It is hard to have a true and sincere mind.
This self is false and insincere;
I completely lack a pure mind. (Hymns of the Dharma-ages)
As the wasan shows, we are basically incapable of accepting the reality of this world, such as, dependent origination, impermanence, and no-self. And because of this we constantly suffer. Only through being aware of and appreciating Amida Buddha’s compassionate and salvific working, are we enabled to accept our true self. Shinran Shonin clarified that such ignorance is the very reason why Amida Buddha’s salvific working has reached every one of us. Keeping in mind that we are always embraced in Amida’s compassionate Light, let us live each day to the fullest, even though we have yet to see the end of the tunnel.
I feel truly assured hearing that many of you have been making efforts to share the Jodo Shinshu teaching within the greater society through various and innovative ways despite the current situation. It is my hope that your temples will continue serving as your spiritual home, and therefore, I humbly ask for your understanding and cooperation in support of your temples. I would like to conclude my New Year’s greeting with my heartfelt appreciation to you all.
January 1, 2022
Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha