Rev. Naomi Seijo Nakano

Minister’s Message – October 2020

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(For those not able to access internet, this is an edited transcript of the third presentation on YouTube, given on July 19, 2020) 

“The adventure of life is to learn

The purpose of life is to grow.

The nature of life is to change.”

~William Arthur Ward – American writer/poet

During the week, a friend and I went out to lunch, and then another friend and her mom met us. As normal, we bought takeout. It was such a nice day, sun shining with a slight breeze in the air, but we did not know where to sit. Across the driveway from the store is a greenbelt, I fortunately had a blanket in the car and we had an impromptu picnic. Of course while having lunch, we did not wear masks, but we did put them on after finishing and the amazing thing is we remembered Itadakimasu.

 However just when we thought we could relax a little, the virus has once again shown its ugly head. With the virus mutating constantly, our thinking and actions has also have to change. We must take a more diligent approach to these asking precautions. It is for our health, family’s health, and everyone else’s health that we try to protect. 

Many are asking when this will all end. The answer is, “we do not know.” However, a question we should be asking is, “how or what can I do?” It has always been to be mindful of others and to deep think of our actions and behaviors. It is more so now. 

I see many people who do not wear masks. There is a deadly virus out there and it is not only afflicting those 65 years or older or those with underlying ailments, but the CDC is saying that it is affecting the 18 to 40 years old now. Even young children can contract the virus with questionable and unknown future damage to their developing systems. 

We think this suffering is new and to some it is. It is not only in the state of California or this county, but this virus is worldwide. But we are so focused on ourselves and our prejudices that it is making us seem very selfish and careless. There are many out there not taking precautions. 

 Yet, there are lessons to be learned from this terrible virus. Even before the Buddha to now, there has been suffering. We have been taught in the Four Noble Truths, that life is suffering. 

Before the Buddha attained Enlightenment, he witnessed the suffering of humankind. He saw through his own experiences the old, the sick, the poor, and the dying. During his practice he suffered from doubt and starvation, yet his compassion was deep and it was his search for answers to this suffering.

Shinran Shonin lived during a time of famine, disasters, disease, and war and its casualties of war. At the age of 9 years old, he lost his parents and family. He went to study in a monastery. He lost his childhood and his young life was dedicated to only study and practice. Although he studied and practiced, he became disillusioned. He was fortunate to find a teacher who taught him the Nembutsu way, yet he still felt and saw suffering. He was exiled to an island where culture and language was different. 

It was his fortune that he married a woman from this place who helped him to focus on what was important to him. He understood and relied on Nembutsu study to help those suffering. He took his experiences of suffering and continued turning a negative into a positive. 

Through our deep entrusting in Nembutsu, Shinran and Buddha, we are able to endure our hardships. We have lived through these struggles with the strength of Namu Amida Butsu. It has made us strong and wiser. But we do have to take the extra precautions so that we can stay and face this virus with strength and courage. However, we have to think and utilize the information with compassion for others and to share our wisdom.

Unfortunately, the wearing of masks, limiting our contact with others, washing of hands, and sanitizing is becoming a norm. Doctors have advised us to get the flu, pneumonia and shingle shots, we take care of ourselves, eat healthy, so in reality it is what we regularly do. If we think about it, we have always washed our hands, avoided illnesses, and cleaned. With the exception of wearing masks and social distancing, we have always taken precautions. We are only being asked to be more cautious and mindful.

I continue to hear monkuing/complaining of wearing masks. But there is a specific reason for this. The masks help to prevent spreading germs and getting germs from others. I understand there are those who simply cannot wear masks and they have to be even more careful. Yet, by complying with these small precautions, we are now a part of the solution in preventing an increase of infection.

Our responsibility is to protect those who are weaker than ourselves, to share a good deed by giving others space or just saying a kind and gentle word. We must learn and think of others, rather than the “me”. The dharma is teaching us to release this selfishness and to free ourselves from the bondage of greed, anger, and ignorance. 

A good lesson to learn is to try and to think of others first. We should put ourselves in the shoes of those who are suffering and to experience the pain they may be feeling. This lesson may break the self-centered ego we all possess. 

We should listen to all the monkuing/complaining we do and what we complain about and we do love to complain. But with all the complaints, we should also have alternative answers. Those who comply with these precautions have chosen to be part of a solution in an ocean of chaos and confusion. They are trying to live the teachings of Nembutsu.

It is our Namu Amida Butsu that can guide and direct us to positive results. It is our Nembutsu that can soothe the fears and settle the nerves. This is not a time for panic, but a time of mindfulness, kindness, and gentleness towards others and thoughtfulness of others, rather than the “I.” 

It is our sharing of Namu Amida Butsu in gratitude and thankfulness to the many people trying to do their very best to help us in this scary time. Instead of monkuing/complaining, we can do our share and take that extra precaution of wearing masks in public, watching the social distancing, washing our hands and being aware. If one is feeling unsafe, it is okay to stay inside. We can come out when we feel we can cope. 

Let us become a first responder by thinking of our fellow human beings, take those small measures, so that we can become part of the solution and not the problem. We rely and entrust in Namu Amida Butsu to help take away the fear and to help release us from this egocentric self. We continue to discover who our true self is.

Take care, stay safe, stay well and it is always Namu Amida Butsu. 

Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano