Minister’s January 2017 Message
How peaceful I am…
To repress the wrath
In my heart,
The Buddha accepts me
Just as I am!
From the book, The Hands and Feet of the Heart by Hisako Nakamura
Happy New Year! I thought I would make a list of resolutions but I broke one of them already. Each year I think of making promises and on the first day of the New Year I have broken a few. My greed gets the better of me. While sitting and composing this article, I am eating a gift of chocolates. I know that it is not good for me and I should be choosing a better choice of foods, but my blind passions are still with me. I indulged on my greed and get angry with myself, after licking my fingers.
I did say “Itadakimasu” before that first bite and recited Nembutsu for stopping me from eating that extra piece of candy. We make promises to improve our mental and physical health, but how often do we hear and listen to these words? As an imperfect being, I continue to try each new year, each day, every minute to live a life of a good Buddhist. Yet, no matter how hard I try it is my ego that stands in the way.
There is a feral cat that lives on the SLO church grounds. Someone named her “Hanachan.” She has a job of keeping the rodent population down and chasing away pests. She does not allow anyone to pet or touch her. Every morning she comes on the front porch for breakfast. We have a ritual of her smelling the food I hold in my hand and then I put it down. Before she grabs her first crunch, I say Namu Amida Butsu and Itakakimasu. It is the same each evening for her snack.
Harahan is not my cat. Although she belongs to the church, I take responsible for her water and food. Lately because of the cold evenings, I decided to make her a small sleeping bed. I did not think she would use it; however, when I went to feed her, she was resting in it.
This bed was a last minute decision and was made from a fleece material bag that a set of sheets came in. I had some batting in the closet and made her a makeshift bed. This small token was warm and cushiony. Hanachan seemed happy and warm. She never complains about her conditions and seems appreciative of her accommodations.
Unlike Hanachan, we have so much to be grateful for, yet we want more. We have a warm bed to sleep in, friends and family who care about our health and welfare. We have the ability to socialize, have a roof over our heads and food to share. But how often do we stop to thank friends and family and to offer our Nembutsu in thankfulness and gratitude to the Buddha for accepting us “just as we are,” filled with greed, anger, ignorance, and so much ego? We are so filled with blind passions and tend to ignore them, yet we can see these blind passion in others. We are such selfish beings.
This new year may be a time to begin focusing our thoughts on our true selves. I know that I have improvements to be made and the doing is the most difficult part. However in all these struggles and suffering, I have the Compassion and Wisdom of the Buddha to guide and direct me. It is my turn to think, hear, feel, and see the truth of myself.
This small gesture of putting our hands together in Gassho is for the sharing of Compassion and Wisdom. It is not difficult and does not take a long time to recite Namu Amida Butsu. As a resolution of the New Year, we can begin to deepen our understanding, being less selfish and awakening to the teachings of generosity, patience, effort, and deep hearing. I hope the New Year brings you peace, deepened realization, and awakening. Let us not be strangers in 2017!
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano