By Rinban Katsuya Kusunoki
In January, I had a chance to attend the White River Buddhist Temple’s Hoonko Service. I thought it was a rare and precious opportunity, so I joined their meditation service. After the meditation service, one lady asked me, “A Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhist) minister told me that you as a Jodo Shinshu follower should not do meditation because it is not the Jodo Shinshu practice. Is this right?” I sometimes hear this kind of question. Here is my reply. “It is true that Meditation is not the Jodo Shinshu practice. In Jodo Shinshu, listening to the Dharma is very important. But when our mind is busy, we cannot listen to anybody’s talk and guidance. We meditate to calm down our mind and prepare ourselves to listen to the Buddha Dharma. With this understanding, I think we can do meditation. We have to be careful of growing our vanity and arrogance through practicing meditation. If it is so, we should change the way of practice or stop doing it. If the meditation practice causes the three poisons (Greed, Anger, Stupidity), don’t do it. We should practice meditation focusing on Wisdom and Compassion.” I am still learning how I should understand practicing meditation. Each minister and teacher have different understandings. I would like to hear their thoughts.
This conversation with this lady gave me an opportunity to rethink the NW Convention theme, “Dana for World Peace.” People associate “Dana for World Peace” with a lot of issues like homelessness, immigrants, refugees, war, poverty, hunger, climate change, air pollution, pollution of the sea, etc. There is no end to thinking about issues in this world. Some issues are very sensitive and related to politics. We, as Jodo Shinshu followers, or a temple, sometimes think about how to make our decisions when we encounter these issues. Some people may say we should take action right away, and some people may say we should not be involved with these issues. Whatever we do, we have to have a core belief which we rely on. The core belief is “Dana”. If we are mindful of and are learning the heart of Dana from our deed, our deed must be following the reason and true meaning of “Dana for World Peace.” However, if we do the same deed and the deed causes the three poisons, the deed doesn’t follow the reason and true meaning of “Dana for World Peace.” We need to stop doing it or change the way we do it.
We are all living in different places and surroundings. We all have different issues. Even though we encounter the same issue, we all have different views. When time, politics, and trends change, the issues on which people focus also change. This is the world in which we live now. Therefore, we need guidance which leads us in the right direction. We need guidance which is not wavering. The guidance is Buddha Dharma, Nembutsu teaching. We always have to remember that Buddha Dharma is the center of our life.
When we speak of “Dana for World Peace”, whatever we do, Dana is the core belief of our deed. Our deed should not cause the three poisons. If our deed causes the three poisons, it is no longer Dana. The three poisons are the cause of our human sufferings. Peace does not follow the three poisons. Peace follows spreading the heart of Dana. This is the Buddhist standpoint. Even if we are doing right today, we may be doing something wrong tomorrow. Small differences today may cause big differences in the future. We should always be mindful that our life is proceeding toward Dana, not toward the three poisons. Please think about whether our temple programs and our life are following the true meaning of “Dana for World Peace”.
From the March issue of the Wheel of the Sangha newsletter