Deep Hearing

by Rev. Castro. March 2000

Shinran Shonin compares the call of Amida Buddha to an imperial edict. You ignore it at the peril of your life. Of course, the threat is not to your physical existence but to your spiritual life. Amida Buddha is calling us to awaken to an “other power.” This other power is not an external power like a creator/controller God but the power of enlightenment itself; the boundless spirit of wisdom and compassion.

I think Amida’s call takes many forms. Whenever I hear a siren, it calls me to pay attention to something outside of my self-centered interests and pursuits. It reminds me that I am a member of something vastly larger than myself; like a single cell in some great organism. When the cells are healthy, the body is healthy. But, when the cells lose a sense of the whole and their relationship to the whole, then the result is like a cancer which may kill both the organism and themselves.

When we listen to others and respond to others, it creates a healthy society. Sometimes the other power calls us to hear the painful cry of others. Sometimes we hear the unbounded laughter and glee of little children. At our Fall Seminar, Rev. Koyo Kubose coined the expression “deep hearing.” How often the siren of an emergency vehicle goes by and we don’t pay any attention to it. Our religion should sensitize us to deeply hear, acknowledge and gassho – whether to life’s pleasures or life’s pains.