As Buddhists, we like to think that we are good people. As Shin Buddhists, perhaps we know that we cannot know good and bad.
Actually, we have to acknowledge that we are evil people full of blind passions, and we also acknowledge that we are grateful and thankful for the Wisdom and Compassion that is Amida Buddha.
We all like to think that we are good people who don’t kill. However, the reality might be a bit different.
In Shin Buddhism, all sentient beings, meaning all living things, have the equal potential for Buddhahood. So, all living things are equal — humans, animals and plants are living things. And humans are not superior to plants, and plants are not superior to animals. All sentient beings are equal and have the equal Buddha-Nature.
We would like to think that I do not kill, but that is impossible. Each time I eat, I eat plants and animals. These plants and animals died so that I can eat and continue to live. The alternative is not to kill plants and animals, which means I would starve, and thus kill myself.
So, no matter what I do, I have to kill. Either plants and animals have sacrificed their lives so that I can live or I will starve. This is a dilemma that is impossible to resolve when I think about it. That is the problem. We cannot use logic. No matter that I do, I have to kill. The only way to resolve this issue is to find a spiritual answer.
The Shin Buddhist response is to appreciate the sacrifices of others and to express our thanks and gratitude.
When we eat, we can use some Japanese words. We can say, “itadaki-masu” before we eat and “gochiso-sama” when we finish eating. In a simple translation, itadaki-masu means “thankfully, I receive” and gochiso-sama means “I appreciate this good food.”
But, these are Japanese words, and they are beyond translations. There is a whole lot more meaning than just saying thank you. There is a sense of appreciation for everything that went into making the food. Everything from the seed, the soil, the water, the sun and so much more that allowed a plant to grow. Maybe there was grass and feed that allowed the cows, pigs and chickens to grow. And then there were the farmers, truck drivers, grocery store folks and so many others who brought the foods to the store. Then there was the person who went shopping, there was the cook who prepared the meal. In short, there were so many countless causes and conditions to make even one meal.
We have to express our gratitude. In the future, we can make up some words in English, but for now, we can just say itadaki-masu and gochiso-sama.
We know that we are thankful and grateful for the sacrifices of so many people, animals, plants, and things that allow us to survive each and every day. We express our gratitude by saying Namu Amida Butsu.
Namu Amida Butsu .... With gratitude and kindness beyond words.