Saturday, September 18, 2010
Jodo Shinshu – the only path for people of lower classes
As an ordinary person that I am, gratitude not often arises in my mind, but when it does I feel happy not only for Amida’s salvation but for every little thing that brings me satisfaction.
Those who always had what they wanted might not easy feel happiness when for example, they eat a good meal, but for me, this might bring me great happiness. Also to have enough clothes to cover my body, to have the rent paid so I am sure that I do not become homeless, to be able to pay electricity or water, etc, are sources of great satisfaction and relief. This is because every day I struggle with these matters and worry how I will be able to cope with them. Thus my mind is very much attached to such things.
To concentrate on the Dharma is never easy in the everyday life of an ordinary person who has a minimum income which is hardly enough to cover his needs. To be a full time practitioner or full time priest is completely impossible.
More than this, to have a job that does not contradict Buddhist precepts is also in many cases impossible. Many years in Europe and in the West in general, the majority of Buddhist practitioners belonged to the middle class, were highly educated and had a stable financial situation that allowed them to dedicate much time to study and practice or to travel in Asiatic countries on their own expanse, but now more and more members of the lower classes and workers are becoming Buddhists. Most of these, especialy people from the former Eastern communist countries or from Africa have a hard life and many limitations but still they are as dedicated as their colleagues from the West.
Speaking for myself, I think I am a living proof of a decadent monk in the last age of the Dharma as my means of existence can often lead to the beaking of precepts.
I work as a guard, am dressed in uniform, and am ecquiped with tools for violent intervention against those who might attack the objective I guard, usually the building of a rich person or company. Sometimes I am also on duty on footbal stadiums where I am always ready to fight, if neccesary, with hooligans and aggresive supporters. It is a violent environment where I can hardly abstein not to curse somebody, speak violently to somebody or raise the tone of my voice to people. When I go home after some high risk games I need a long time to recover after the stress.
When sometimes a rain of stones comes on me and my colleagues from angry supporters, no Buddhist feeling of peace and compassion can be found in my heart. The agitation from such a game stays with me for many hours after the game and I need long time until I am able to sleep. Sometimes even in my sleep and dreams I curse footbal supporters and want to smash their faces.
Then, after some time has passed, in my small free time when I do not work for 24 hours or even 48 hours, I try to read or write, to translate or answer to my readers letters. I also do my best to keep in touch with my sangha or people interested in Jodo Shinshu teaching from arround the country.
I do all these, saying the Name and entrusting to Amida, reading, studying, translating, etc in the middle of a chaotic life filled with violence, worries of the next rent, electricity, water and other taxes. Its not easy, but whose life is easy? I know I am not the only practitioner fighting everyday for the basic needs of shelter and food, often driven mad for lack of resources, so to all people sharing the same situation like me I send them my warm thoughts and understanding. To them I especialy wish to transmit them now, the assurance that Jodo Shinshu is exactly the Buddhist teaching they can succesfully follow, without worrying they cannot keep a calm mind in the middle of their everyday struggle for survival.
It really doesn’t matter for the Compassion of Amida Buddha that you have a job which doesn’t fit into the ideals of Buddhist precepts, that you barely have time to say the Name a few times every day because your mind is too much filled with angry thoughts and worries of what you or your children will eat tomorrow, that you are afraid of becoming homeless every month when the owner calls to tell you that you are again late with your rent, etc. Buddhism is not only for the middle or high class people, proffesors, educated persons or peacefuly and law abiding citizens.
Even if sometimes you are forced by hunger to steal or cheat others, or you become a prostitute, you should never think that you are not embraced by Amida’s Infinite Compassion. Of course, this does not mean that Jodo Shinshu encourages stealing or other kind of wrong behavior, but what this great teaching of simple faith profeses is that we cannot become pure at heart in this decadent age no matter how much we struggle.
Jodo Shinshu does not start with the ideal – we all have Buddha nature and we can become Buddhas – but with the sense of failure, with what you really are here and now.
Jodo Shinshu knows your true capacities and limitations and how hard your life is in an environment characterized by the five defilements* and because of this it does not recquire anything from you. Jodo Shinshu knows that you cannot meditate when the owner of your rented house gives you a call, or your mind is full of calculations of the prices for bread, rice or potatoes. I know it might be embarasing to talk about this, but for many people the immediate problem is not how much a religious retreat costs but the prices for bread and potatoes. People do not meditate well even when they have everything they wish, but how can one meditate with an empty stomach?
How can one become a fully awakened Buddha in this life when he can hardly find a minute of peace in his daily routine, when his mind is worried and stressed by fighting for survival? For many of us, Buddhist practitioners, who had not such a good karma as to be born in rich families or have enough income due to a high education, life seems more like that of hungry ghosts rather than of normaly human beings.
Trully I say to all people who find themselves in this situation, tormented day and night by worries related with life’s neccesities, there is only one path you can follow and this is Jodo Shinshu.
The karma fom past lives has manifested brutally in this present life giving you so many misfortunes and lack of basic needs so that the time for Dharma practice is almost inexistent.
So, as nothing peacefuly can be found in you, just entrust to Amida Buddha. No other path can lead you to Buddhahood.
To carry the nenju** in the pocket of my ecquipment when I go to work and say Amida’s Name with simple faith, no matter my mind is at peace or not, is all I can do. You and I, my friend, are accepted exactly as we are by Amida Buddha.
* The five defilements are the five marks of decay of the world we live in: 1) the defilement of views, when incorect, perverse thoughts and ideas are predominant, 2) the defilement of passions, when all kinds of transgressions are exalted, 3) the defilement of human condition, when people are usually dissatisfied and unhappy, 4) the defilement of life-span, when the human life-span as a whole decreases – according to the sutras, when it is less or close to one hundred years, 5) the defilement of the world-age, when war and natural disasters are rife.
** Buddhist rosary.