A Friend Dies - Ananda

A Friend Dies

March 29, 2013

As Buddhists we strive to alleviate suffering.  We do this in many ways, but often in involves following the Eightfold path or trying to perfect the Ten Bodhisattva vows.  Ideally we practice the Buddha Dharma not for ourselves but for the benefit of all beings.  To that end we dedicate our accumulate merit to others, that they my quickly be liberated from the endless cycle of suffering.

In the Pureland tradition, this desire for the all beings to be free from suffering, is at the heart of the Nembutsu, the practice of recollecting the Tathagata by continuously reciting, Namo Amida Bu.  We as self-centered and deluded beings cannot affect even our own salvation, even less the salvation of others. So we call upon the Buddha of Limitless light, Amitabha, that his compassion may liberate all beings.  Hearing and reciting the Nembutsu, means to leaving behind this world of Dukkha and entering the realm of the Buddhas, which is called sukkah, the antidote to Dukkha.

In the Sukkha Realm all beings hear the Dharma, Practice the Dharma, and ripen in the Dharma until they become Buddhas, Awakened One’s, freed of the trap of self, and are able to liberate beings from suffering and the causes of suffering.

As Buddhists who practice the Nembutsu, each recitation of Namo Amida Bu is prayer that all beings will be reborn in the Sukkha Realm, and not remain trapped on the endless wheel of suffering that is the Dukkha Realm.

That is the theory.  But I confess that my heart is broken every time a friend or relative dies.  I grieve at the loss I feel and for the loss and pain of those who love the departed.  As a student of the Dharma, I know that death comes to all of us, that it is part of this Dukkha realm.  As a Pureland practitioner I recite the Nembutsu every day with the hope that all beings can be reborn in the realm of the Buddhas.  As a practitioner I am deeply aware that the only barrier to directly experiencing the Buddha’s limitless compassion is self-clinging. And as a minister I recognize that I must put aside my own grief and try and help the one dying obtain a good birth as well as provide comfort and support to the family and friends.

Though my heart may be torn apart with pain and grief, I am aware, at some level, of something bigger. It does not lesson the hurt or in anyway protect me from the darkest grief. However it does allow me to wakeup the next day willing to love people even more than before and suffer again the pain of loss and the many hurts that is part of caring human relationships. What this is I do not know. Some might call it faith.  But to me it feels more like the years of accumulated practice have created a world in which it is impossible to forget the reality of the Buddhas.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Ananda

Rejoicing in the Joy of Others - Ananda

Rejoicing in the Joys of Others

March 20, 2013

Rejoicing in the joys of others is one of the four boundless thoughts found in all schools of Buddhism. In Sanskrit the term is Mudita, which is often translated as Altruistic Joy.  Altruistic Joy is the mind-state in which we rejoice in the joys and good fortune of others and pray for their joy and good fortune to increase.

This basic Buddhist practice is radical in its opposition to the accepted worldly practice of disparaging individuals or organizations that are successful or are doing good in the world.  Altruistic Joy is an antidote to the negativity that seems to be creeping into every waking hour of our lives through various media and technologies.

If we want to stand against this pervasive negativity we should all strive to practice Altruistic Joy. However, as Buddhist, rooted in an understanding of the emptiness of self, we must not allow the practice of Altruistic joy to become part of our “self building” project. It cannot be something we do so we will be holy or become a better person. Rather we must cultivate Altruistic Joy with the aim of minimizing suffering.  We cultivate Altruistic Joy because we have faith in the Buddha, faith in the teachings of the Buddha, and faith in the community of Buddhist practitioners and want to join them in building a world free of suffering and causes of suffering.

While there are many wonderful practices to help us cultivate Altruistic Joy, the simplest is the recitation of the Nembutsu: Namo Amida Bu.  It is simultaneously a statement of faith in the triple gem as well as prayer for an end to suffering for all beings everywhere.  It is a joyous shout with those who are experiencing joy and fortune. It is also a lament and prayer for those experiencing suffering and distress. Through the Nembutsu the Tathagata’s compassion is made manifest.    To recite the Nembutsu is to turn our ear away from the negativity of the world and listen instead to the calling of Amida Tathagata.

Namo Amida Bu!

Peace, Ananda