Welcome to ARIZONA BUDDHIST TEMPLE!

The mission of the ARIZONA BUDDHIST TEMPLE is to encourage Sangha:

1) to learn the joyful and compassionate teachings of Amida Buddha;

2) to practice these teachings in their daily lives; and

3) to share the teachings with others.

All beings be happy. May they be joyous and live in safety. All living beings, whether weak or strong, tall or short, big or small, visible or not visible, near or far away, already born or yet to be born. May all beings be happy.

 

May no one deceive or look down on anyone anywhere, for any reason. Whether through feeling angry or through reacting to someone else, may no one want another to suffer. May all beings be happy.

 

Sunday, May 5th

9:00 am – Q&A Session

10:00 am – Dharma Service

Open to Public

 

Sunday, May 12th

8:30 am – Morning Meditation

10:00 am – Dharma Service, Shotsuki Hoyo

11:30 am – Mother's Day Lunch

Open to Public

  

Sunday, May 19th

9:00 am – Q&A Session

10:00 am – Dharma Service, Gotan-E

11:00 am – Dharma School Class

11:30 am - Graduation Potluck

Birthday Sunday

Open to Public

 

Sunday, May 26th

Memorial Day Weekend

--Temple Closed--

See Separate Schedule Below for Cemetery Services

On The Road

 

Sunday, June 2nd

9:00 am – Q&A Session

10:00 am – Dharma Service

 Open to Public

 

 

 

Memorial Weekend Visitation Schedule

 

Friday, May 24th

9:30 am – Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery

 

Saturday, May 25th

7:30 am – Glendale Memorial and Glendale Resthaven

9:00 am – Phoenix Greenwood Memorial

 

Sunday, May 26th

8:00 am – South Mountain Resthaven Park

9:00 am – Mesa Cemetery

 

 

Morning Meditation

Please join us for some quiet sitting, chanting, and guided meditation. Most sessions last from 10 to 20 minutes. Sit in one of our comfortable chairs, borrow one of our zafus or bring your own!

 

-see above schedule for meeting times-

 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

5:00 pm – Dinner

 (Delicious Bento Box for $12.00 – please call to order)

6:45 pm – Bon Dance and Taiko Performance

 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

10:00 am – Obon Service

 (Rev. Nobuo Miyaji Guest Speaker)

Hatsubon (First Obon Service)

 

Bon Dance Practice Sessions

Obon Odori is June 8th, and there will be many fun, new dances for everyone to enjoy and learn. The dance practices will be at 7:30 pm on Monday May 27th, Wednesday May 29th, Friday May 31st, Monday June 3rd, Wednesday June 5th, and Friday June 7th. Practices will be held at the Temple.

 

If you would like to purchase a Bento Box for Saturday June 8th,

please call 602-278-0036 to order or ask for additional information.

 

Arizona Buddhist Temple

4142 W. Clarendon Avenue

Phoenix, AZ 85019

 

www.azbuddhisttemple.org

Dharma in the Desert

 

The official podcast of the Arizona Buddhist Temple hosted on SoundCloud. The purpose of this cast is to spread the teachings of the Dharma and provide different insights into the teachings of the Buddha. Every cast is a brief introduction of Buddhist concepts, followed by a Dharma message written by one of the temple ministers.

 

Hosted by:

Rev. Lynn Sugiyama

Sensei Vonn Magnin

Sensei Mike Tang

 

 


 

 

Dharma Message

 

 Ungyo Lynn Sugiyama

 

Hello!   It is now the month of May and the Obon season will start next month.  It seems time goes by so fast.  To the temple membership, I want thank all of you do for always supporting the Arizona Buddhist Temple.  Without your help we cannot exists and to maintain the Temple as a vital place to hear the Shin Buddhist teachings.  

 

             As many of you heard, on April 15, 2019, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, was severely damaged by a large fire.  The cathedral is over 800 years old.  It holds so much history, art, and other artifacts.  Several priests and firemen ran into the burning structure to save what they could.  I was very impressed by this selfless act.   One sacred artifact saved was the Holy Crown of Thorns that was said to been worn by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion.  

 

When I reflect on the Notre Dame Cathedral, I remember this story I want to share with you.   In 1474, a fire broke out at a temple built by Rennyo Shonin in Yoshizaki, Fukui-ken, Japan.  As the flames grew, Rennyo Shonin lamented that a copy of Shinran Shonin’s major work, the Kyogyoshinsho (The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way), still remained in the burning temple.  This document was a handwritten copy by Shinran Shonin and it would be destroyed forever.  Then, a sincere disciple of Rennyo Shonin named Honko-bo, stepped forward.  He thought that if this book was destroyed by the fire, followers in the future would never see and read the teachings of Nembutsu directly written by Shinran Shonin. 

Honko-bo ran into the burning temple, and through the smoke and flames, he found the Kyogyoshinsho.

 

When he picked up the book, Honko-bo realized that the fire spread all around him and there was no place to escape.  In time, the fire was finally extinguished.  Days later, the disciples searched through the temple’s black ruins, and found the body of Honko-bo.  He was curled up in a fetal position.  When they examined further, they discovered that Honko-bo was holding something.  They realized that Honko-bo had somehow found a knife and cut his stomach open and he placed the copy of the Kyogyoshinsho inside his wound.  The book cover was stained with Honko-bo’s blood, but it survived miraculously intact.

 

This book was so valuable to Honko-bo, that he gave his life to protect the great words written by Shinran Shonin.  Because of this heroism, many of the important Shin Buddhist texts can be read, bound in a red cover to remind us of the courage and sacrifice made by Honko-bo.  For Honko-bo, he placed greater value on Shinran Shonin’s Nembutsu teachings, more than his own life.

 

When we are faced by disaster, I think all of us would do anything to help and save others, especially the people we love most.  If my daughter was in a burning home, my wife and I would sacrifice everything to save her.  We are grateful to have a safe life and the simple things like clothes, food and a place to live.  Perhaps we should truly ask ourselves what is the one thing of value in our own lives? 

 

Shinran Shonin wrote this wasan or hymn that states,

Those who hear the Buddha’s name,

Going even through flames that fill,

The great thousandfold world to do so, 

Attain forever the Stage of Non-retrogression.

(Hymns of the Pure Land #31 from the Collected Works of Shinran, pg. 332)   

 

This hymn tells us that the whole world and universe may be on fire just like a home may be on fire. The flames represent the chaos and violence in the world, but it also symbolizes the delusions of greed, anger, and ignorance that we suffer from in our lives.  When we hear and say the name of Amida Buddha, we are able to go through those flames to reach enlightenment.  There is no way to reverse the follower’s path to the Pure Land.   It is Amida Buddha’s vow or promise that we go to the Pure Land when we say Namo Amida Butsu.   

 

 Let us take the time to place great value in the Buddhist Teachings taught by Shinran Shonin.  We may face great tragedy in our lives and it may feel that we are in a burning home.  This will awaken us to the fact that we have one precious life to live.  Because we have this limited life, we should take the time to listen to Buddhist teachings.   By understanding the teachings, we can find deep meaning in our lives and attain perfect peace and enlightenment. 

 

Thank you for reading. 

Namo Amida Butsu.     

 

 

 

President's Message

 

Kris Nakashima - May 2019

 

Dear Sangha,

 

 

  The last few months have been a very busy time for the Arizona Buddhist Temple, from Matsuri, to the BCA National Council Meeting, to the PHX Night Market, and everything in between.  The spring season of 2019 has been a particularly busy one with so many major events in such a short period of time.  Yet we as a temple, can remain proud of our accomplishments as we have persevered every time.  Our efforts having never been in vain, always moving forward like an unstoppable horde of White Walkers showing the world the power of a united Sangha.

 

  I would like to thank Liz, Beverly and Betsy Matsumoto, along with Tracey Tang, the Jr.YBA, the parents, and everyone else, for volunteering their time and energy at the 2019 PHX Night Market.  This was our first time running a vendor booth at this sort of event and everybody did a great job putting forth our best efforts.  The knowledge, experience, and practice we have all received from this event will prove invaluable in all our future events.

 

  Memorial Day weekend will be at the end of this month in May.  Our ministers Lynn, Vonn, and Michael will be cruising all over Phoenix to provide Cemetery Services for the deceased.  As such there will be No Temple Service on Sunday May 26th.  If you would like to attend the Cemetery Services, please check out our schedule.

 

  As we enter the month of June, preparations for our annual Obon Festival will begin.  Odori dance practices will be held as festival approaches, and I hope many of you are able to attend and participate in this celebration of our loved ones.

 

  In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of the Arizona Summer.  Make some ice-cold lemonade and jump in the swimming pool or do as a true-born Arizonan likes to do, crank up the AC, stay inside, and play a ton of video games.  Have yourself a Summah!

 

In Gassho,

 

Kris Nakashima

 

 

 

 

Arizona Buddhist Temple Women's Club

 

Betsy Matsumoto

 

  We would like to thank everyone who helped with the Hanamatsuri bento. Special thank you to Miyoko Ariza for the tsukemono, Mine Tominaga for the teriyaki sauce, Parents Club mothers for baking the cupcakes and to Asahi Bakery for donating the mini fruit rolls.

 

  The annual BWA Mother’s Day Dinner will be held at Hana Japanese Eatery on Wednesday, May 8, at 5:30pm. Details on menu and prices will be at the temple during Sunday Dharma Services.  Deadline to make a reservation is Sunday, May 5 at 12:00 noon.   

 

  Visit the ABT Thrift Store. We are receiving donated items almost every week. We are open on Saturdays & Sundays, 10am-3pm.  Please verify that the store is open as it might be closed because of temple events or activities.

 

The next BWA meeting will be on Sunday, May 5 at 9:00am.    

 

Kids Korner

 

 

Birthday Sunday: May 19th

 

Birthday Cake: Murray Family

 

Chairing in April: Jr. YBA

 

Early Father’s Day and Pizza Party:  We will be celebrating an early Father’s Day on May 5th.  We will be taking the dads to Peter Piper Pizza for lunch after service.  Everyone is welcome to attend.     

 

Mother’s Day:  We will be celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday May 12th.  This year the dads will be making lunch.  We will be eating hotdogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers chips and fruit.  Please come and help us celebrate all the moms.   

 

Graduation Potluck:  The graduation potluck will be held on May 19th.  Please bring a dish to share and celebrate our graduates

 

 

 

 

Dharma School Kid of the Month

Our Dharma School Kid of the Month is Sean Belcheff! Sean made a wonderful picture about family! Great job Sean!

Japanese American Citizens League, Arizona Chapter 

Announces Flower Growers Memorial on Baseline Road

 

 

  PHOENIX, AZ— On October 20, 2019, the Japanese American Citizens League, Arizona Chapter (JACL-AZ) in collaboration with the Circle K Corporation and the City of Phoenix, will unveil a memorial to the Japanese American farmers who grew flowers on Baseline Road for over 50 years. The memorial will be located at the northwest corner of 40th Street and Baseline Road and will include photographs of the fields and a short history of the Japanese American families who lived and farmed along Baseline Road.

 

  Funded and installed through a donation from the Circle K Corporation, the memorial was conceived and included during the master plan redesign of the Baseline area. Historian Pamela Rector and former JACL-AZ president Ted Namba worked with the City of Phoenix and Circle K to ensure that the vision of the memorial was fulfilled.

 

  The unveiling will take place on October 20, 2019 at 10 am at the northwest corner of 40th Street and Baseline Road and will be followed by a reception at Baseline Flower Growers, 3801 E. Baseline Road, Phoenix 85042.

 

 

Contact: Kathy Nakagawa, Board Member, Japanese American Citizens League-AZ Chapter, email: nakagawa@asu.edu, phone: (602) 373-7322

AZBT Wants YOU!

-Volunteer Today-

 

Dear Sangha, 

 

  We are looking for additional volunteers for the Toban schedule. The Temple needs more people to help keep our Hondo and associated facilities clean. Right now the schedule is 7 groups rotating every other week with 3 people in a group. The cycle is about every 2 months. 

 

  It takes about 1 hour to vacuum the "Hondo" (Main Hall) area and mop and clean the restrooms and kitchen. We would appreciate any availability anyone has to help keep our Temple clean. 

 

  To sign up or for more information, please contact Mine Tominaga at

 480-­‐838-­‐3057 or see her at Sunday services. 

 

Thank you! 

Arizona Buddhist Temple Board Members 2018

 

Megan Tang

President, Religious

 

  I have been coming to temple regularly since my senior year of high school. I have

childhood memories of coming to temple for Obon and Hanamatsuri. I met my now

husband through the Temple and we have been happily married now for 6 years.

Chuck Matsumoto helped Mike and I fulfill the Temple roles we now have today.

We hope to serve our Sangha to the best of our abilities. We are grateful for the

temple community and hope to continue to aid in spreading the dharma for future

generations.

 

Jim Kawashima

Vice President

 

  I really had an awesome experience attending the Buddhist Temple in San Jose during my youth years and Jody & I want our children, Lauren and Kendall, to have the same. Many of my best friends are from the temple and from the YBA. I enjoy and appreciate the Dharma talks and learning Buddhism. I value the friendships made and building relationships with the Sangha.

 

Mino Inoshita

Maintenance

 

  84 still young and healthy. BSEE from ASU, retired computer HW designer, married 55 years to only wife Kathryn and have one daughter, Sandra. ABT Board member for about 37 years and counting.

 

Kris Nakashima

Membership

 

  I have been attending services at the Arizona Buddhist Temple since I was little, long before I can even remember. My family is originally from the Big Island of Hawai'i, having associated mainly with the Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin as well as the Puna Hongwanji. My parents after having lived in Hawai'i, Saipan, and California for a number of years, eventually moved to Arizona where I was born. The youngest of my siblings, I grew up in Chandler for most of my youth until I started High School where I then lived in Las Vegas for a few years before eventually returning to Arizona to attend Art School, where I graduated with a Bachelors in 2007.  Even when I was living in Las Vegas, I would regularly travel with my parents to Phoenix to participate in Arizona Jr. YBA activities., in addition to Obon, the Arizona Matsuri, Hanamatsuri, Potlucks, and regular Dharma Services. 

 

  These days I work as an editor for a  film and video company in the east valley along with freelance graphic design as a side gig.  I also manage the AZ Temple Website, so let me know if you feel like posting something cool!  I consider many in the Sangha as my friends and family as well, having encouraged me throughout my lifetime to maintain an open mind, a compassionate heart, and to seek a greater understanding of the world around us.... hmm does that sound too corny?

 

Karen Magnin

Secretary

 

  I have been a member at our Temple for 11 years. I have been happily married to

Vonn Magnin for the last 21 years. I have two beautiful boys: James and Lance. I

have been a kindergarten teacher for the last 21 years. I really enjoy being a member

of our Temple and the community.

 

Eugene Nomura

Treasurer, Finance

 

  I am a second generation native Arizonan. I have lived in the Valley all my life.

My favorite reading is science fiction novels.

 

Joe Murray

Assistant Treasurer, Finance

 

  The first time I came to the Temple was with my then girlfriend Enid Sugiyama for an Obon dance where I sort of learned how to dance the Tanko-Bushi. Over the next

few years, we would attend occasional services on special occasions, but we did not

begin to attend regularly until our daughter Ehsa was born. (I will never forget the

generosity of the temple members during Enid’s baby shower). When Kaoru was not

feeling well and Enid was expecting Nicholas, Sugiyama Sensei, two-year old Ehsa

and I would attend service and have lunch at Cherry Blossom afterwards. Over the

years we have made many good friends and memories while participating in Temple

activities, road trips and events and we hope to continue to contribute to the Temple

for many years to come.

 

Lorenzo Frausto

Member at Large

 

  My name is Lorenzo Frausto and my family and I have been coming to temple for

about 4 years. My wife, Suzanne, found out about temple through the booth at

Matsuri and we immediately liked it after our first visit. I have lived in Arizona my

whole life and am an immigration attorney. I watch too many movies.

 

Tracey Tang

Member at Large

 

  I am a last year pharmacy student whose temple attendance probably predates my

birth. Seeing the involvement of my family and the support of my community has

shaped the person who I have become, and I want to help give back to the community that has given me so much. When I am not doing artwork, design work, or home work, you can find me watching the latest Korean dramas. Please feel free to stop by and say hi or contact me with any questions!

 

 

 

Memorial Services for 2018

 

  It is never easy to lose someone we love.  Unfortunately, everyone has to go through this event.  Even though we grieve for our family member who is dying, as Shin Buddhists we believe that they become awakened to the heart and mind of Amida Buddha and at the time of death they are directed to the Pure Land by the Amida Buddha.   There, they join the ranks of the truly settled where they attain Nirvana, the place of eternal bliss and tranquility.  (Collected Works of Shinran, pg 153, 1997).   They have attained Buddhahood, and it is taught that our loved ones then return to this world to teach and guide us to the Pure Land. 

      

  The memorial services are for the living because they are opportunities for us to remember our loved one and to listen to the Buddhist teachings.  The memorial should not be considered to be a burden to the family and grudgingly planned.  It should be planned from the heart.  In this manner, the memorial service can be conducted without ill feelings and the Dharma message can be clearly heard.  Memorial services can be planned this year if your loved ones passed away during the years in parentheses listed below:     

 

1st Circuit (2017)   

3rd Cycle (2016)25th Cycle (1984)

7th Cycle (2012)33rd Cycle (1976)

13th Year (2006)50th Cycle (1969)

17th Year (2002)100th Cycle (1919)

 

If you have any questions, please call the temple at 602-278-0036.  Thank you.

 

In Gassho,  

Lynn Sugiyama

STATEMENT FROM BUDDHIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA: BCA Update, 08/23/17

 

Statement on the Killing in Charlottesville, Virginia

 

  On August 12, 2017 at a white supremacist rally, a neo-Nazi drove a car into the people protesting his ideology. He killed a woman and injured 19 other people. It was very deplorable and sad to see this incident in Charlottesville, Virginia. I would like to express my deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims’ families and friends.

 

  The action that we witnessed was caused by anger and hatred deriving from a sad American historical background. We, as American citizens and residents, are experiencing the heavy karmic effects of our past history. We should be reminded of the American doctrine that all people are equal, as we often hear. We should turn to the core values of each individual’s religion or faith to find the way to live harmoniously.

 

  No matter what path we walk, we know that we should not get angry or hate others. We know that we want to love everyone. And at a time like this, we all ask why this happened and how we can stop this type of human behavior.

 

  We, as Buddhists, come to hear the urging voices coming from our teachers in the midst of this world of suffering -- this world of samsara. The Buddha is standing with us with tears in his eyes, urging all of us to turn to the Infinite Compassion and Wisdom in order to transcend love and hate. Transcending love and hate does not mean that we eliminate our feelings of love and hate. It means that we recognize and understand that these powerful emotions exist within each of us; they are part of our human condition. We seek to encounter people who feel deep sorrow for our human condition and aspire to attain something worthier.

 

  When we are touched and moved by the Vow of the Buddha to save all beings from suffering with Infinite Wisdom and Compassion directed at us to find the True and Real World beyond our foolish thoughts, we begin to live our lives with humility, understanding, and concern for one another.

 

  Ultimately, we are all within the World of Oneness. Let us start with each individual to help create a better community by hearing the Compassionate Call from the World of True Equality.

 

Namo Amida Butsu,

Rev. Kodo Umezu

Bishop, Buddhist Churches of America

 

Ignorance and blind passions abound, When reflect on the establishment of the Vow,

Pervading everywhere like innumerable particles of dust. We find that the Tathagata, witout abandoning sentient 

 

Love and hatred arising out of accord and conflict beings in pain and affliction,

Are like high peaks and mountain ridges. Has taken the directing of virtue to them foremost,

 

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 400) Thus fulfilling the mind of great compassion. (CWS, p.408)

 

Buddhism In My Life 

 

By Sara Jay 

 

Since I was 5 years old, I have been attending the Arizona Buddhist Temple on Sunday’s, as well as attending seminars and conferences in Los Angeles in the Bay Area for the Jr. Youth Buddhist Association. Because of my dedication to Buddhism, you may think I completely rule out any other religion. However, my father has taught me the complete opposite. The many teachings I have learned, only sought to teach me that everyone in this world is made up of events that make them different and unique from each other. However, our connections to each other, interdependence, make us a unifying force in the world. Our differences are not meant to make us defy each other. They are meant to contribute to a grander force that will better the world and make a more peaceful place. By following the Eightfold Path, I have been able to see the brighter light and that you make your own path. By doing so, I have pursued a more open lifestyle, accepting the change I see in the world instead of running from it.  

 

One of the most substantial events in my Buddhist life that helped me to become who I am today is my first leadership conference at Nishi Buddhist Temple my freshmen year. It was an event that brought us so much closer to one another in a period of hours. We were in a room with posters around us that read: school, friends, family, economic status, the future, yourself, etc. Then the administrator would say, “go to the side of the room that makes you feel secure.” Because of this, I was able to witness who felt most comfortable at home, and who was most comfortable with their friends. Then they would say, “go to the side of the room that you hide from the world.” This was the point that made me said. I saw people at ever poster. Some were insecure about themselves, others who lacked friends, and some who had troubles at home. This made me see that so many people lead different lives than us. We may know them as our friends from YBA, but that is only one small, minute part of their life. Similar to what we see in everyday society, you really cannot fathom what people are experiencing in their lives, as humans are very skillfull at picking and choosing what they express on the outside.

 

The teachings I have learned from seminars, conferences, and weekly Dharma service discussions have taught me that each and every individual is different. There are aspects of our lives that intertwine us, but the events, people we have met, and places we visit separate us from being identical. I learned that there are reasons why some one may have said a rude comment, or why someone chooses to be extremely quiet in school. We should not judge them for this, as we most likely express some of these habits ourselves. But if we can learn to identify and express understanding towards one another, then we will only better ourselves and the world as a whole. Overall, Buddhism has taught me that diversity is a beneficial attribute, and we should rejoice in its presence instead of shying away from it. 

 

 

What Reincarnates: A Clear Explanation 

 

David Belcheff 

 

    I have received valuable responses to my article, “Buddhist Peace—Before, After, and During This Life”, (Prajna, November, 2016; and the British journal, Pure Land Notes #30, December, 2016). The problem of traditional Buddhist doctrine simultaneously upholding the notion of no-self (anātman) and the contradictory notion of reincarnation has been an object of sustained contemplation for me and a topic of discussion with Dharma friends for years. One Dharma friend directed me to the work of Ian Stevenson. Another Dharma friend claimed that the Buddha simply left us with a mystery regarding the simultaneous assertion of reincarnation and denial of substantial selves. So, with help from my friends and the Larger Sutra, I pressed on, trying to make sense of this “mystery” until, at last, discovering a satisfactory explanation that conforms to Siddhārtha Gautama’s rational methodology and to his great insight into the issue of impermanence: It is relationships—most technically, patterns of relatedness—that reincarnate, not individuals. For humans, especially, patterns of relatedness between our genes (biology), memes (communications culture), and extended phenotypes (material culture) reincarnate. This view takes the Buddha’s assertion of no-self seriously. Also… 

 

• It explains all of the phenomena related to testimonies of reincarnation, including visitations from dead loved ones, without positing survival of individual personhood after death. Think of patterns of relatedness rippling across regions and generations, much like the hundredth monkey effect.

 

• Relationships exist between the “extremes” of pairs (or groups) of subjectivities. Therefore, relationships accord with the principle of the Middle Path. And, as such, relationships are not accessible to the grasping or calculating mind. Relationships are homeless. Relationships do not dwell exclusively in this or that personality, but visit them all.

 

• If patterns of relatedness persist, life after life, then the unique personalities involved in a given relationship are merely – and wonderfully, and deliciously – incidental, accidental, finite, mortal, evanescent, special. From the gratuitous aid of a stranger to a loving life-long relationship, the “and” of Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” spontaneously manifests, ever fresh and alive, as the dependent arising of mutually-acknowledging subjectivities.

 

    Furthermore, relatedness (rather than personalities) reincarnating is falsifiable. Our relationships with others—whether alive, dead, or fictional—already reincarnate from instant to instant, so we can empirically test the correctness of this view at any time. It is not persons, but relationships that are reborn each instant. It is patterns of relatedness that account for personalities, and that “return” over and over again in the “return to earth-school until getting it right and graduating from the wheel of samsara” analogy; for example, centuries-old conflicts that still persist today.

  

    This view puts to rest worrying about what happens after we die. Liberated from such ontological anxieties, we are free to focus on peaceful and happy relationships (which is what we really are), rather than obsess about the right-or-wrong, he-said-she-said, rule-bound, tit-for-tat exchanges within relationships—whether generous or mean-spirited. Am I so mighty? No matter how great my self-cherishing, my precious identity, my spiritual ego, my “annoying humanity” (as my wife calls it), I am still going to face the same oblivion as Shelley’s “Ozymandias.” Yes, it is true that everything we think, say, and do matters a great deal, and we are all “responsible for our actions,” as we robotically remind ourselves. But when we misunderstand a self (whether our own or another’s) as an atomistic automaton, rather than a complex assemblage of relationships, we fall into error. When we attack another, we never just attack an individual being, we attack an entire network of relationships. Likewise, when we love another, a wondrous union of relational love flows through us into the midst of another wonderful gathering of relationships, affecting untold revolutions of “peace and happiness” (see Dharmākara’s thirty-third vow).  

 

    Ultimately, then, it is our relationships that really matter. Relationships are powerful. Individual identities only seem so. Shin Buddhism has a wonderful term that helps us understand relationships, rather than individuals, as the locus of life-activities, and even of consciousness: “Other Power” (Tariki). Other Power undulates through friendships, studentships, parenting, devotion, pastoral care, diplomacy, charity, etc., and also through our relationships with food, technology, and other non-human beings we encounter in the world.  

 

    When understanding patterns of relatedness, and not individual persons, as that which “reincarnates,” the term, Sangha, and Shinran’s notion of Dharma friends (ondobo/ondogyo), come to mean so much more, and the Shin canon can be heard in a much deeper key

 

 

1) Amida Buddha selects all helpless, hopeless, foolish, ordinary beings drowning in the karmic ocean of birth and death as the targets of his inconceivable Vow. This means that we have a special connection with all other beings as fellow targets of Amida’s Vow. How, then, could we not naturally aspire to regard all others with the same compassion expressed in Amida’s Vow “to remove the roots of the afflictions of birth and death of all” (Larger Sutra 1:6)?

 

2) In his “causal stage,” as the bodhisattva, Dharmākara, Amida Buddha learned an eternal practice from his teacher, Lokeśvararāja. This practice is called kuyō (Skt., puja, lit. “worshipping with offerings;” see, e.g., the twenty-fourth vow). Kuyō involves visiting countless Buddha lands, making offerings to them all, and learning relational wisdom from the “good and evil natures of heavenly and human beings living there.” The practice of kuyō emerges spontaneously from the relationship between Lokeśvararāja and Dharmākara, spreading out like rebounding ripples in a pond, expressing itself as the Vow to save all beings, to make each and every one a Buddha. Identified especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth vows, and supported by all forty-eight vows, the relationship Amida has with all beings, the kuyō selected as his eternal practice, manifests in his Name. 

 

    From these two relational templates, we develop an awareness of every being we encounter as: 1) a fellow target of Amida’s boundless compassion, and, thereby, 2) a Buddha in the making, or a teacher of relational wisdom. Amida’s Vow-mind, then, models the correct attitude to maintain towards every being, in every moment, in every incarnation.  

 

    For further study, see: the third, sixth, and ninth chapters of the Tannishō; and the third, fourth, fifth, and forty-fifth vows of the Larger Sutra, reading the events of past lives as history, and the beautiful, homogenous golden appearance of humans and devas as relational rather than as personal forms of being, i.e., as love.  

 

 

ARIZONA BUDDHIST TEMPLE

4142 W Clarendon Avenue

Phoenix, AZ 85019

Phone: (602) 278-0036

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Email:azbtemple@gmail.com