“The Golden Chain” is a traditional recitation within American Shin Buddhist communities, much loved as a children’s reading.
For decades, it has been recited in Buddhist Churches of America temples, youth services for Dharma School, young Buddhist groups, and scouting and basketball programs.
In my Jodo Shinshu temple, saying “The Golden Chain” comes as naturally as saying Nembutsu, or the Name, of Amida Buddha, joyfully expressing gratitude for Amida’s compassionate vow.
‘The Golden Chain’
I am a link in the Buddha’s golden chain of love that stretches around the world
I must keep my link bright and strong
I will try to be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than myself
I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts, to say pure and beautiful words, and to do pure and beautiful deeds, knowing that on what I do now depends not only my happiness, but also that of others
May every link in the Buddha’s golden chain of love become bright and strong, and may we all attain perfect peace.
As I write this reflection on “The Golden Chain,” our country is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, is suffering an economic recession, and is gripped by massive gatherings for racial justice.
We have witnessed relentless suffering, death count milestones, and panic-buying of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We have seen yet another viral video showing violence against an African American person. There are so many killings of people I do not know, yet the stories are so familiar they begin to repeat themselves. I am overwhelmed by feelings of pain, numbness, and exhaustion. This is when I go to “The Golden Chain.”
For me, there is a profound restorative power in this simple message of practicing acts of kindness and respect to all beings and recognizing the interdependence of life. “The Golden Chain” is a guide for living an engaged Buddhist life. In the despair of this unprecedented reality, it encourages us to embrace our humanity.
This simple teaching contains many essential concepts of Buddhist engagement.
I am a link in the Buddha’s golden chain encourages me to release my self-centeredness, assumptions, and delusions, and to reflect on oneness with Amida Buddha, the chain that connects us all.
Knowing that on what I do now depends not only my happiness or unhappiness, but also that of others encourages me to be aware of my karmic impacts. Acknowledging our interdependence encourages empathy and listening deeply to those crying out for help.
May every link in the Buddha’s golden chain of love become bright and strong, and may we all attain perfect peace affirms our bodhisattva ideals and aspiration for all to access the Pure Land.
The shock of all that is happening in the world now is still raw, and the landscape of this new reality is constantly changing. Wherever the next breaking news story inevitably leads, I will come back to “The Golden Chain” as an aspiration for restoring humanity in a time of inhuman challenges.