Welcome, everyone to our latest newsletter for Spring / Summer 2019. We have a great issue for you with works by:
- Jacob Burdis
- Matt Wright
- Gretchen Saiyo Sensei
- Toby Parcell
- LeLe Morris
- Kakuyo Sensei
A lot has happened over the months since we last published with bringing back Children’s Meditation and the wonderful work done by Danika and Terry on this, and more and more people attending on a regular basis. The most significant thing this year was the induction of Gretchen Saiyo, Dave Jiyo, Jenn Renyo, Dan Kaiyo, and locals Ray and Gordon Greer into the Bright Dawn Lay Ministry.
It was a joy to see Gretchen, Dave, Dan, and Jenn among others become Lay Minister in our tradition. To think all of this started because of our fellowship.
Going to induction this year was a pilgrimage for me - it served a similar purpose that ritual serves and that is to remember to remember. To remember why I became a lay minister in the first place and what Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Buddhism really means to me. Remembering to remember is important and is at the heart of any gratitude practice.
How easy it is to get sidetracked by the tyranny of so many urgencies, this is the nature of my life with two toddlers, work and our growing sangha and doing it all in my 50s!
It was amazing to meet all the new Lay Ministers and to see unity manifested in so much beautiful diversity. We come together from all walks of life and unified by the vision of Rev Goymay Kubose Sensei in the way of oneness. As I watched the induction, this time as an observer I thought of each lay minister and the beginning of their new life after their induction. Each one will start off their own unique ministry from individual spiritual enrichment and practice all the way to creating welcoming and safe sanghas.
The one thing that struck me was their open bright faces as the received their induction and the light that radiated from each of their faces - the light of their hearts and the light of their practice shining forth. It was simply the radiant faces of those that had found a home in the dharma.
Standing there, I imagined Reverend Gyomay Kubose Sensei there with us and unknown to the inductees. As each one wore his okesa for the ceremony, he would bow to each of them and their readiness to share the Way of Oneness in body mind and spirit.
How graced we all are to have these beautiful, luminous, ordinary beings serving in our various communities.
Namu Amida Butsu.
Christopher Kakuyo Sensei
The most difficult thing I have attempted to do, as Buddhist and an Immigrant, under this administration, is finding balance on how to be a “good” Buddhist and activist. Find an emotional healthy balance as an immigrant under this Administration / President has been one of the hardest things I have ever attempted to do in my life.
Being an activist while trying to be a decent Buddhist, well, it’s been brutal. Somedays just waking up and taking a shower is a very difficult thing to do. So forget about meditating. I am putting all my energy into just breathing.
Surviving as an immigrant takes all the energy you have in your body and soul. It starts as soon as I wake up early in the morning and I’m reminded, constantly, that I am an immigrant and that I am not welcome here, that I need to learn how to live with the fear of being targeted and deported, daily because of who I am.
But, you want to know something? I would not have it any other way. I am proud to be who I am, especially today. Especially under this administration. We came to this country because of the endless demand and consumption of drugs, which gave the cartel enough power to take control over of my hometown making it impossible to live there and very unsafe to this day. It is impossible for me to even think about going back home to where I came from. Just imagine for a minute having to live with that sentiment every day. So that as an escape route is out of my lists of solutions.
I have learned that running away from the things that cause me pain won’t make them go away. When I decided to study Buddhism, I had no idea what I would find. This was unfamiliar territory to me. I was searching for peace and comfort, for assurance and safety and for an affirmation that things would be ok after a nasty divorce. What I didn’t know is that when I started on this path I would find so many things. It was a new journey and it was actually showing me the way to forgiveness and understanding. The journey had just begun and I knew it. I was ready. It was an overwhelming feeling that came over me like a warm fire inside my chest. Calming, peaceful and comforting. I opened my entire being to the feeling that came over me. Quickly, like a fire that takes over an entire forest. I closed my eyes and welcomed it with open arms. I started waking up every morning at 5 am to meditate and during that 45 minutes of silence I discover me, I found the path to my peace. A peace I have not experienced in a long time. I needed that quiet and intimate moment for me by myself.
Years later I found our Sangha. I remember walking that spring Sunday morning, also into an unknown territory carrying with me nothing but all my pain and sorrow. Again, I was reminded. You are an immigrant you are a guest here. I sat quietly and I begin observing and listening to the affirmations. I smiled at the familiar words. I opened my heart and closed my eyes and by then that’s when the entire sangha started singing all together in unison the chant.
Om Namu Amitbhaya, Buddhaya, Dharmaya, Sanghaya - O Namu Amitabhaya, I lost my shit. I couldn’t stop sobbing and I was trying my hardest to hide it, sobbing quietly so people chanting wouldn’t notice the emotional Latina crying her eyes out during her first visit. Oh no! I am good at hiding pain, what was happening. Immigrants; one thing you should know about us is that we are good at oppressing our emotions and hiding our pain when we need to, it is something we immigrants are very familiar with.
All I can remember that day was that same familiar warmth feeling inside my chest like before when I first started my Buddhist journey, that fire. It felt like I had a fire about to explode inside me, it was overwhelming and beautiful, powerful and healing all at the same time and at that moment, I knew I had found a refuge, my refuge a place where I could bring all my pain and sorrow. I found a much needed safe space. I have found. . . home.
This is Buddhism to me. Embracing the pain while sitting with it. Getting close to it to later released it in full awareness. Such a hard thing to do. I’m no expert. Actually, quite the opposite. I am an amateur. I’ll always be and I have accepted that. I don’t like pain. I don’t enjoy its company. It’s a nasty deceiving shitty companion. But this has become a regular practice for me in order to maintain a certain level of sanity. This is how I have learned to survive by sitting with the pain, mine and of others suffering. This is how I balance being an immigrant and not such a shitty Buddhist.
Although I am still relatively new to Buddhism, I have already learned a fundamental concept that has literally changed my entire approach to life. Instead of striving to continually change and become something different than I am today, the task in life is to discover the nobility at my core and live life fully in each moment enlightened by that discovery.
My “Inadequacy” Mindset
My entire life, up to about 6 months ago, I operated under the premise that the mark of a successful life is to change into something God and my religion expected me to be. I was taught that I was clay in the master’s hands and that if I learned to be malleable and humble, he could transform me into something beautiful; into something that I was incapable of becoming on my own. I worked to be humble, to keep my ego in check, and to do good. I worked to internalize a list of commandments that, at their core, were rooted in being good to myself and others. I regularly spent my time in the service of others, and often found joy in this relatively simple way of life.
While my intentions in life were always rooted in love, compassion, and service towards myself and others, it was the very foundation described above that often kept me from truly realizing my intentions. Firstly, equating my value and success to a finite list of “dos and don’ts” caused me to constantly struggle with a sense of inadequacy. Because I was not able to perfectly abide by all of the “dos and don’ts”, I viewed myself as inherently flawed. I worked to cultivate patience with myself and my progress, and to trust that in God’s time, he would help me become what he expected me to be. Living life with this abiding sense of inadequacy literally damned me from being fully present and fully available in every activity I was engaged in. When alone, I often worked to fill the void with distractions so as to not confront the uncomfortable truth that I wasn’t enough.
I couldn’t ever be fully present with myself.
When with others, I often overcompensated to distract others from my insecurities. I would inadvertently put others down while simultaneously accentuating my strengths, all in an effort to avoid the fear of rejection and discomfort that would come if others discovered all the ways in which I was inadequate.
I couldn’t ever be fully present with others.
Additionally, I began to equate others’ value and success with the same finite list of “dos and don’ts”, which instilled in me an unhealthy sense of judgment and condescension. Because this list was my measuring stick for a good life, I strived to be surrounded by those who exuded the discipline to fully abide by it. I had learned from western wisdom that I am the average of the people with whom I spend most of my time. But by surrounding myself with those I wanted to be like, I was continually reminded of my inadequacies. Because I spent so much energy and awareness on my faults, I had less capacity to actually achieve the perfection I was seeking. Also, this mindset caused a significant rift with some of the people I ought to have cared for the most. Since my brother and sister didn’t “abide by the list”, I felt better than them. Ironically, loving my family and serving others were on the top of the “dos and don’ts” list. But my slavish adherence to it actually made this more difficult for me to accomplish.
My “Nobility” Mindset
When I began learning about Buddhism and mindfulness, I learned that in order to be truly mindful in the present moment, I had to learn to see my divine, noble self with complete acceptance and compassion. In his book The Center Within, Reverend Gyomay Kubose taught, “When one is aware of the nobleness in oneself, one cannot help but be noble (pg 60)” and “to know Buddhism is to know oneself (pg 76).” I learned in the second noble truth that when I want life (and in this case, myself) to be different than it is, suffering is the result. I began to see the delusion that had occupied my previous mindset: that I was inherently flawed and that I needed to be fixed. I began to become aware that much of the suffering I experienced was rooted in this mindset. I was attached to the aversion of my inadequacies, and the desire and greed to be something I wasn’t.
I have grown up being very impressed by this quote by Goethe, “If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” The principle of this quote always rang true to me: emphasizing someone’s potential helps them grow into that potential, and emphasizing someone’s limitations or weaknesses actually gives power to those weaknesses to persist. However, I’m learning that while the intent of this quote is true, it’s premise is actually the opposite of reality. Treating people as they are, as they truly are at their core, IS helping them realize their true potential. This is the teaching of the “soundless sound”: not seeing people as the sum of their actions or their “sounds” but seeing them as capable of an infinite variety of sounds. Their potential isn’t in changing and becoming something different but is in reaching inward and discovering the nobility at the core. On the flip side, treating people as they ought to be can actually be a source of suffering for all involved. In other words, expecting people to be different than they are will cause suffering. Holding expectations for others and being attached to the realization of those expectations will cause suffering. Instead of trying to change people, Buddhism is recognizing the inherent nobility already invested in everyone: seeing past behavior, and looking deeply at the goodness of the core.
As I have begun to incorporate and cultivate this mindset in my life, I have ironically increased my capacity to live the “dos and don’ts” list of my former mindset. Because I am no longer preoccupied with an abiding, distracting awareness of my flaws, I have more capacity to forget myself and be fully present and engaged in life’s activities. I am learning to see Christ, not just as a Savior who will fix the broken me, but as the teacher who can guide me to the Kingdom of God within. Through Buddhism, I am a better Christian. Through studying Christ’s teachings, I am a better Buddhist. My Christianity is made up of non-Christian elements, and my Buddhism is made up of non-Buddhist elements: they are one. I am closer to my brother and sister than I ever have been. I am a better father, a better husband, and a better friend. I love myself and am learning to hold my fears and aversions tenderly with compassion as they arise. I am striving to live “selflessly” and mindfully, ever aware of the beauty of the present moment. I am learning to recognize the nobility within and truly believe that I am enough.
Buddhist Statuary from the Art Institute of Chicago
Last June I visited Chicago for the first time. One of the places that were important to see was the Art Institute of Chicago. This famous museum founded in 1879 is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Far too large to see in a single day, I made a point to spend significant time with the Asian collection. It includes bronzes, ceramics, and jades as well as textiles, screens, woodcuts, and sculptures. There are captions – I’ve included a little more information about the Fudo statue because while very popular (even now) he may be unfamiliar to many who might not understand his intense demeanor. I took a lot of photographs, here are just a few. –
Sensei Gretchen Saiyo Faulk
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the suffering in the world. It can happen just by watching the news for ten minutes. War, poverty, racism, sexism, racism, and environmental destruction- these are all part of the world we live in. We all experience and witness dukkha.
I have always been sensitive to suffering, both others and my own. Throughout my childhood, I took comfort in faith. I believed in a god that could overcome evil, which I saw as the source of suffering. However, when I became an adult, I lost my belief that god really had our back. I could not understand why suffering continued and why god allowed it to go on. Well-meaning leaders tried to provide reasons why this was the case, but they were ultimately unsatisfactory.
My relationship with suffering has gone through a number of phases since then. At first, I was angry. I was angry at God, angry at society, and most of all, angry with myself. Despite my righteous indignation, I too caused suffering. I became discouraged at my inability to stop the cycle. In an attempt to escape, I turned to drugs and alcohol. However, even this did not end the pain. In the years that followed, I developed a deep cynicism. I could see little goodness in the world.
Years later when I sobered up, I experienced a shift. My sobriety came as a result of people who showed up for me despite my best attempts to resist their help. They did not want anything but my wellbeing. At first, this was hard to understand. It did not fit the narrative I had created that people are only out for themselves. It challenged my rigid belief that we live in a hostile universe and are destined to die alone.
This was my first real adult experience with the third Noble Truth. For the first time in years, I saw that there could be a solution to suffering. I realized that the story I had created about existence was incomplete. Yes, there is suffering, but there is also a solution. In part, it requires that I accept the possibility that I live in delusion. It compels me to challenge my narrative about myself, about others, and about life itself.
When I am able to do this, I experience the solace the third Noble Truth offers. Despite all of the apparent suffering in the world, there is hope. What a revelation! This does not mean that I can then rest in blissful idleness. I must take action. It begins with my own practice. In meditation, I begin to see the cracks in my narrative. I understand more deeply the patterns of craving that give rise to suffering, and I become better equipped to release my attachment to them. This changes the way I engage with the world around me. I am able to live in hope. On my better days, I can do this- other days, not so much. I keep at it though and try to offer myself some measure of compassion. This helps me give others the same consideration to come as they are. I am profoundly grateful for the third Noble Truth.
It offers promise to a suffering world.
You are the mountain you wish to conquer the top is already you and the bottom isn’t a negative, it’s the challenge of the rocks and trees which you come to realize are not challenges but more of you. As you being to follow the streams of accepting how you are, you enjoy the presence of the air and view through the thick leaves above. You are everything on the mountain that causes you fear and you’re as fearless as the mountain lion you’re as caring as the mama bear to her cub. You cut and bruise during the journey through bleeding is another extension of flowing love and life. You are that thorn that pricked you and the dirt it grew from and the water that keeps it alive.
The dead grass and trees don’t care they are dead they have extended to the sun for many years knowing nothing of satisfaction they remain on and you to will die and remain on. Twirling in the air from nesting you are the birds flying free. You may feel you cannot continue but you are the rest and the thrive ahead turning around doesn’t make you weak that's another journey which is the top which again you already are. The mountain and all of its beauty; is you and any parts are seen as ugly is you too, that doesn’t mean that ugly must be true for there are many sides to beauty and beauty knows nothing of its existence so perhaps its best to say you are that and that doesn’t know what that is.
Breathe in life and exhale love you are the mountain.
“One person is all people; all people are one person; one practice is all practices;
all practices are one practice.
All living beings are included in one thought.
It is because of this mutual interconnection between all things,
including the Buddhas themselves, that if one but calls upon Amida’s sacred name once,
it has the same virtue as if one did it a million times.”
Ryonin 良忍, 1072–1132 Founder of Yūzū-nenbutsu-shū
“Faith dispels doubt and hesitation,
it liberates you from suffering and delivers you
to the city of peace and happiness.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Faith and Buddhism? You might be thinking; “Wait a minute, I thought Buddhism wasn’t a religion - no gods, right? So I don’t have to deal with all that faith business now, do I? I’m here for the meditation, healing, recovery, not that religious stuff again!”
OK, I get it. But I’m going to ask you to look at the word a little differently. Is it necessarily oppressive? Could there be another way to use it? A way we have been practicing together every Sunday when we sing Om Namo Amitabhaya? Let’s look at the origins of faith specifically in Pure Land Buddhism.
There are two Buddhist terms which classify broad avenues towards spiritual enlightenment. Jiriki 自力 – “one’s own strength” is the term for self-power, the ability to progress through one’s personal efforts. Some examples are scholarship and meditation. Jiriki is intrinsic to Theravada and Zen traditions. Tariki 他力 means “other power” or “outside help.” The Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship has been strongly influenced by the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness. It is related to the Pure Land Buddhism of Jodo Shinshu in which Tariki often refers to the compassionate power of Amida Buddha. Where does this concept originate?
Hōnen (1133–1212) became a monk at age nine and studied at the Tendai temple on Mount Hiei near Kyoto. It was common for monks there to take bodhisattva vows and many years of training. Hōnen was deeply concerned with finding a way to bring enlightenment and freedom from rebirth to all beings through Buddhism. During his studies, he found a Chinese Pure Land text with the statement,
“Only repeat the name of Amitabha with all your heart.
Whether walking or standing, sitting or lying,
Never cease the practice of it even for a moment.
This is the very work which unfailingly issues in salvation,
For it is in accordance with the Original Vow of that Buddha.”
Salvation? (whoa!) Yes, in the sense of escape from suffering, the cycle of rebirth and our human flaws and karma. This commentary persuaded Hōnen to believe the practice termed Nembutsu in Japan (Namu Amida Butsu), was all one needed to enter Amida’s Pure Land. It had previously been included in other teachings, but Shandao was the first to propose that only Nembutsu was necessary.
What is this Original Vow? In the Mahayana text Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, the Bodhisattva Dharmakara (who became Amitabha Buddha) made forty-eight vows. The eighteenth said that any being in any universe desiring to be born into his Pure Land and calling upon his name even as few as ten times will be guaranteed rebirth there;
“If when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters
Who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me,
Desire to be born in my land, and call my Name, even ten times,
Should not be born there,
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.”
This is a somewhat convoluted way of saying; “If you don’t get to go, then I’m not going either!”
Sukhavati, the Pure Land of Amida Buddha; in this beautiful and peaceful place the reborn will be instructed by Amida and bodhisattvas until enlightenment is reached. They then have choices; they may return to any of the six realms of existence as a bodhisattva for the benefit of all beings. Or they remain, reach Buddhahood and from that point deliver beings from suffering. This Vow forms the basis of Pure Land Buddhism as well as Nembutsu practice. What makes all the difference is that this vow extends to everyone, not just the good or religious, but includes those most in need of assistance.
This new understanding prompted Hōnen to leave Mt. Hiei and found the Jōdo-shū sect of Buddhism in 1175. Hōnen’s teachings emphasized the importance of the Primal Vow and Tariki over the Jiriki practices of Tendai. It was a radical concept with far-ranging results, controversial to the existing power structures. Here was teaching for all those who would never become monks or nuns or were not even welcome in temples. There is an aid for those who are most in need, and unable to help themselves through traditional means. And who is not imperfect to some degree? The message was heard by the disenfranchised; outcasts, samurai, farmers and other elements of society normally excluded from Buddhist practice, such as women. Unusually, Hōnen expressed concern over the spiritual welfare of women. He rejected the significance of bodily functions which Japanese religious culture (and others) considered spiritual defilement. This has led to a greater role for women in Jōdo-shū sects than in some other Japanese Buddhist traditions.
These same teachings became central to the later Jōdo Shinshū sect as well. The founder Shinran Shonin (1173–1263) was a disciple of Hōnen. After years of rigorous monastic practice, he did not believe he could obtain liberation entirely by his own efforts. His great awakening was a ground-breaking leap from obstructions and desires into the Other Power of the Original Vow. He saw Amida as a narrative representation of the infinite life force of the universe, a force of compassion for all beings. He quotes Tz’u-min;
“That Buddha, in the causal stage, made the universal Vow: When beings
hear my Name and think on me, I will come to welcome each of them,
not discriminating at all between the poor and the rich and wellborn,
not discriminating between inferior and the highly gifted,
not choosing the learned and those upholding pure precepts,
nor rejecting those who break precepts
and whose evil karma is profound.
Solely making beings turn about and abundantly say the nembutsu,
I can make bits of rubble change into gold.”
The mechanics of “Never cease the practice of it even for a moment” have been debated for centuries. Is it better to recite the Nembutsu once? Athousand times? Recite out loud or in the heart? Is sincerity all that matters? There were and are many thoughts on this, particularly the normal human concern over the difficulty of maintaining mindfulness during life’s ups and downs. In clarification, Rennyo (1415–1499) 8th head-priest of the Jodo Shinshu sect emphasized Other Power that cannot abandon anyone, deserving or not. He taught an Amida Buddha who reaches out to all and suffers with all humanity in true compassion. Faith-based on Tariki became a primary attitude over strenuous Jiriki. Through Rennyo’s efforts, Jodo Shinshu grew to become the largest, most influential Buddhist sect in Japan. Rennyo emphasized gratitude, such that every recitation of the Nembutsu after the first one expresses gratitude at being assured rebirth in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha;
“Whenever we utter the Buddha’s name
Thereafter it is an expression of gratitude and indebtedness to him.”
That concept remains revolutionary. It is at the heart of “just keep going” as taught by Bright Dawn. We cannot fail because the Vow remains. In gratitude of this care, I recite Namo Amida Butsu, aligning myself with Infinite Light, compassion, and mercy.
Pure Land teachings say that mindfulness of the “Name That Calls” – particularly through saying the Nembutsu – is enough. It is faith in that one believes Amida Buddha did indeed fulfill his bodhisattva vows, therefore our Pure Land rebirth and ultimate enlightenment will happen. The Nembutsu as meditation can also lead to the realization that we are already enlightened here and now. Perhaps enlightenment is what exists on the other side of the door of our habits and perceptions. It has been said that Zen often tries to break down the door through hard training. Pure Land traditions say “here is the key to the door;” the Nembutsu.
“Having abandoned the mind of self-power
to perform various practices and miscellaneous acts,
I have entrusted myself to Amida Tathagata with singleness of heart recognizing that he has resolved my crucial after-life problem
once and for all.”
Rennyo’s “after-life problem” is common to theological inquiry. We all wonder about such things. In fairness, I will point out my thoughts here are from multiple influences and not a specific teaching of the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship. Buddhism has multiple points of view regarding what occurs after death. I remain open to these explorations.
How we live in the present moment is central to Buddhist teachings. The assurance of enlightenment does not grant one permission to behave badly. The Buddha’s teachings of kindness, compassion, and healing are still to be observed and extended to ourselves and to others. As mindfulness deepens, we come into closer alignment with Amida. Shinran said that those who follow this path will develop the desire to work positively for others and avoid doing harm. They are motivated to do good for the sake of compassionate action, rather than merit for better rebirth.
There are many types of Other Power. They include historical Buddhas and ancestors, cosmic Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the manifest world informed by Buddha Dharma. Ippen said; “Among all living things mountains and rivers, grasses and trees, even the sounds of blowing winds and rising waves – there is nothing that is not the nembutsu.” Ideally, Tariki and Jiriki work together in life, with balance. This balance exists in sects of Buddhism other than Pure Land. We chant with gratitude, we meditate for awareness, we extend kindness to others.
The ideal of the Bodhisattva is a great point of doctrine and historically separates Mahayana and Hinayana schools. On a personal level, this is voiced in our Refuge Vows. Why would we do this if we did not have at least some level of faith? If we did not have faith that the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha will benefit us? If we did not have faith that Amida’s vows are possible? If we did not have at least some small faith that the vows of past and future Bodhisattva’s are possible and that our own Bodhisattva vow is possible? We have hope. It is not scientific, there is no material proof. Yet I see faith everywhere in Pure Land traditions. The Japanese word is Shinjin, meaning faith and trust. It is the term for a deep, spiritual experience of Oneness with Amida Buddha, accessed by speaking the Nembutsu.
The knowledge that we are welcomed to the Pure Land can give certainty and confidence to face daily life. Am I able to reach enlightenment on my own? I am neither a scholar nor monastic, I do not know. I use the word faith now, and it is universes away from what was demanded of me as a child. This is not faith with a flip-side of eternal punishment. It is not a faith which requires blind acceptance in lieu of rationality. Buddhism – Pure Land or not – encourages our intellectual engagement and clear-thinking.
What does it mean to entrust in Amida Buddha? I see it as a matter of relationship. Relationship does not mean an abrogation of responsibility or lack of self-determination. It is a choice to journey with. Knowing one's weaknesses, accepting what is offered with gratitude and engaging in kindness. “Religious” words and concepts don’t need to be alarming, we can reframe the limited definitions of the past. Re + ligāre = to bind together. It doesn’t imply judgment, inferiority, disrespect for intelligence or power-over. It means we’re in this together. I do not find it difficult to apply these concepts to Other Power and Amida Buddha.
I know the vows of Amida or the practice of Nembutsu do not have the same appeal to everyone. The many approaches of Buddhism show us means of opening to enlightenment and service. All are valid, being shaped by centuries of thought and cultures. Regarding Hinayana vs. Mahayana, Beatrice Lane Suzuki said: “Why not accept both as representations of the same truths, and take that one to ourselves which is best suited for our own mind?” I agree. I have found what best suits my own mind. And let’s not forget to have respect and compassion for any whose needs are answered by a different point of view. Buddhism poetically talks about boundless dharma doors and “eighty-four thousand paths to awakening.” As we show respect to other spiritual paths such as those followed by family members, we can ask the same for our own choices.
Namu can be interpreted as respect, trust, to take refuge in. I express gratitude to The Name Which Calls. I express gratitude for faith, not the faith of a child without options, but the faith of an adult who continually chooses refuge.
“Dark is the night
When I have lost my way
Amida Tathagata leads me by the hand;
How great the Vow-Power is!”
Namo Amida Butsu.
Many people who begin to travel the Buddhist path will at some point decide to confirm their commitment to the Buddhist way. The Buddha called the decision to follow his teachings “Going for Refuge.” We all go for refuge, but often we seek comfort in things that will ultimately prove unsatisfactory. Going for Refuge in the Buddhist sense means we have committed to relinquishing those attachments that are causing us more difficulty in favor of a higher refuge.
Most Buddhist traditions have some ceremony or service that formalizes this act of going for refuge, and a Sensei credentialed by the Bright Dawn Center for Oneness Buddhism can perform this service.
The purpose of the Salt Lake Buddhist Ti Sarana ceremony is to function as a personal expression of an individual’s wish to confirm and deepen his or her commitment to the Buddhist path. Our confirmation ceremony does not necessarily imply that one becomes a follower of a particular approach or tradition. Our confirmation is less an institutional standard and more a tool for individual spirituality.
We conceive of our Ti Sarana ceremony as a broad gate for anyone who wishes to confirm his or her religious identity. It should be mentioned that a confirmation ceremony is not necessary for a person to be considered a Buddhist. Institutional validation is not mandatory. Being confirmed is not required to receive Buddhist services such as weddings or funerals.
People who are Buddhist because they were born into a Buddhist family rarely feel a need for a ceremony to confirm their identity as Buddhists. Perhaps because of the concept of baptism, persons coming to Buddhism from other traditions often feel the need for a confirmation ceremony. A confirmation ceremony is to be encouraged for all Buddhists, regardless of their backgrounds. Such a ceremony is an invaluable way to deepen one’s spirituality.
To be able to participate in our Ti Sarana ceremony, we ask that you attend our fellowship on a semi-regular basis since you will be taking Refuge with us. You are also asked to attend a Ti Sarana Introduction course (offered a month before the scheduled ceremony) – The course will give you a brief overview of what going for refuge means, what the five precepts are and the Bodhisattva Vows. This will also give you a chance to ask questions and better prepare for the ceremony. You will also be asked to write a short spiritual biography. It doesn’t need to be long, but give us a little information about your spiritual journey—your religious background, what brought you to Buddhism, and what books and people have influenced you. This will need to be completed no later than two weeks before the service along with any gratitude offering you wish to forward to our Sensei and Bright Dawn.
Our Ti Sarana or Going for Refuge Ceremony takes place twice a year. Our next scheduled ceremony is in August during our Summer Retreat- August 25th, 2019. If you are looking to take refuge before then, exceptions can be made on a case by case basis.
For considerations, please contact Kakuyo Sensei at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to thank all the contributors to this edition and thank each of you for your practice and support.
For any questions check out saltlakebuddhist.org or please contact us at email@example.com