Be a Verb - Face the Dark Side

West Covina Buddhist Temple - from a talk by Rev. Mas Kodani

Senshin Buddhist Temple's Rev. Mas Kodani recently made one of his rare appearances out this way at our recent Ohigan. He began his talk by saying, "What did Shakyamuni Buddha see under the Bodhi Tree? Well, what he saw often shocks Christians, Muslims and followers of other religions." He explained, "If I ask you 'Who are You?,' you might say, 'I'm a mother or teacher, etc.,' But then I'd say, that isn't really who you are, only what you do." In the final analysis, said Rev. Mas, "You can't answer the question because there is no such thing as 'you.'" Thus, the shocking truth is, You are really only what you're doing.

Rev. Mas continued, "What the Buddha said is that you are a verb, not a noun. What you're doing is what is real, not who's doing it. Buddha said this is the basic mistake we all make and is why we suffer. For example, only walking is real, not the walker or the path. And, the more attached you are to yourself - "you" being a thing - the more trouble you get into. Rev. Mas gave the example of being cut off by another car on the freeway. Rev. Mas said that what he would normally do is tailgate that car and to curse the intruder.

However, there is a better way, said Rev. Mas. "If instead, you just say, 'Someone cut me off on the freeway...anger arising,' now you can deal with it." In other words, rather than getting caught up in one's self-importance - which would cause us to declare "How dare they do this to me" - we should simply acknowledge our feeling of anger.

"The idea of being a verb is very important," said Rev. Mas, because "it helps you to get through life." On the contrary, Rev. Mas explained, "The Buddha said that it's the belief in an unchanging soul that really messes us up...because in fact, there is no such thing."

"Just forget yourself," declared Rev. Mas, "and do it.." This is very akin to a religious experience. Do something that you really enjoy doing and totally get into it.

"Buddhism," said Rev. Mas, "is trying to get you to see that everything that messes you up is not out there, but is inside you, It is your ego. But you don't want to get rid of your ego completely because you actually need it to survive. Just get it to abdicate the throne and give up control."

"We're hopeless," said Rev. Mas. "We know all the truth about ourselves, but we do it anyway." However, as one gets older, the events of our lives usually force us to start looking inside. This is why "older is always better," Rev. Mas declared.

To answer the question of why one should look inside, especially since that tends to be seen as unpleasant, Rev. Mas referred to Star Wars II: The Empire Strikes Back, and in particular, to the scene where Yoda makes Luke enter the dark, foreboding cave. "If you don't look at the Dark Side, you can never be enlightened," he said. "Shinshu is trying to get you to see what's really happening. So, say Namu Amida Butsu all the time. This reminds you that you have work to do. Ask yourself, 'Have I seen myself today?' Shinshu is not asking you to look at the good side...look at the dark side, because it's the dark side that frees you."