Minister’s Message – September 2022

Hard is it to be born into human life. Now we are living it.

Difficult is it to hear the Teachings of the Blessed One. Now we hear it…

Let us reverently take refuge in the Three Treasures of the Truth…

I take refuge in the Buddha…

I take refuge in the Dharma…

I take refuge in the Sangha…

Even through myriad ages of kalpas hard is to hear such an excellent,

profound and wonderful doctrine. Now, we are able to hear and receive it…

~Excerpts of Three Treasures -1 from the Shin Buddhist Service Book, 1994

Recently on my days off, I was “bingeing” on samurai movies. I watched the movie when Zatoichi meets Yojimbo for the first time. Zatoichi is a blind masseur and swordsman. Yojimbo is a ronin (masterless) samurai. Both are fictional characters that show the characters filled with blind passions of greed, anger, and ignorance, like all human beings. Yet they are depicted with a true “heart” hidden away from others. I like samurai movies because there are subtle lessons.

The movie opens with Zatoichi walking down a path and his remembrances of traveling this path many times. He had not been to his hometown for three years and felt the desire to “go home.” His four other senses were heightened to the sounds and smells of nature.

While walking down the path, he stops and can smell the plum blossoms in bloom, the feel of the refreshing breeze on this skin, he hears the water running in the stream below, and he anxiously waits for his first sip of sake, that his town was famous for. All this time, Zatoichi’s four other senses were always aware of his surroundings, for there were those who were prowling in the grass or bandits. He had a walking stick that had a hidden sword inside. Yet his heart was filled with happiness to return to his hometown.

When he stopped to say hello to the merchants, he was greeted with a sadness in their voices and Zatoichi could “feel” a certain tension in the air. Sadly this town was not the town he left. When he wanted to soak in the hot “sweet waters” of the bathhouse. He was interrupted by the Japanese yakuza (bandits or corrupt organization) that had taken over the town.

Zatoichi’s demeanor and appearance was modest. He appeared thoughtful and gentle, but what lurked inside was a different story. He did not see his blindness as a disability, but as an asset. He was known as a masseur and while doing his job, people talked and he listened. However there were those who knew of his dark side, as a swordsman. He appeared gentle and calm, however like all human beings, he too was filled with the three blind passions. He possessed greed, anger, and ignorance.

His mannerisms and calmness changed when he was asked to remain in town. This change in him was due to a cause that disrupted his quiet hometown into a place of disruption, murder, and greed. He then takes on another role and that role was of a skilled swordsman. Of course, this is just a movie and fictional, yet there are lessons that can be heard and learned.

Zatoichi was known for his listening ability. Yet, there are times even when we do not listen to the Buddha Dharma (teachings), Nembutsu (Namu Amida Butsu), or to others. Sometimes we appear as though we are listening to others, but our thoughts are elsewhere far, far away and we lose some of the relevant conversation. It is only natural to “zone out” and we do it often.

Listening is an active activity. It is being present with the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Yet there are times when we may take catnaps during service or think about what we have to do later. We are only human. We always have Namu Amida Butsu, no matter what we are doing or listening to.

When we “lose” our hearing, we can still rely on Namu Amida Butsu. It is at these times when we must truly listen to what and why we recite the Nembutsu. Do we really listen to our Namu Amida Butsu? Oh, how difficult it is to listen to our Nembutsu!  For without Buddha, there would be no Dharma and without Dharma, there is no Sangha. If there is no Sangha, there is no Dharma and without Sangha and Dharma, there is no Buddha. We must all learn to listen with presence of mind and with a true and real heart and mind.

Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano

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