Let us cease from wrath, and refrain from angry looks.
Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us.
For all beings have hearts, and each heart has it own leaning.
Their right is our wrong, and our right is their wrong.
…We are both simply ordinary beings…for we are all, one with another, wise and foolish, like a ring, which has no end.
~Excerpts of Shotoku Taishi – prince/politician who brought Buddhism to Japan
The Japanese has words that are somewhat difficult to express in English. The translations are often to loose in its meaning. For a non-speaking Japanese, I know the feeling the words are trying to convey. During this ghastly time, I am reminded of two words that are used in times of change and uncertainty. Those words are gaman and gambatte.
Gaman in translation means to endure, be patient, or be tolerant in any situation. It is with a level head and thinking if it is the right thing to do. Whatever the path that is taken, there are going to be consequences. We cannot change what the situation is, however we endure because we take the responsibility to follow the precautions asked of us and we listen to the teachings shared with us.
During the time of Shinran Shonin, one can only imagine what he had to endure. History showed famine, disease, isolation, natural disaster, and poverty. Yet his strength and courage and true entrusting in the Dharma and Nembutsu encouraged Shinran to endure the harsh treatment of the times.
The other word gambatte is more of an active word. It means to do the best one can do during any situation. It is to persevere with determination. We can follow the example of the Buddha and Shinran. They fought their own demons, doubts and relinquished their trust to the Dharma and Nembutsu. They taught the dharma without prejudice and discrimination. They saw the sufferings of all beings and wanted to find answers to this suffering.
In our teachings, we are taught the Six Paramitas or some call it the Six Perfections. They are simple lessons that allow us to better ourselves as well as to benefit others. Shinran and Buddha took their experiences and were able to relate their experiences to the Dharma or teachings. They found meaning and a deep understanding.
We are fortunate to have the teachings of guidance through the Six Paramitas or Perfections. The first Paramita is Dana. Dana is to be generous and helpful, without asking or expecting anything in exchange. It is a sharing without greed or the ego. The second Paramita is guidance. We listen and are given direction through the Buddha’s principle of right conduct in behavior and thought. The third Paramita is tolerance/patience. It is to view the mistakes of others with sympathy. It is difficult for us to see our imperfections and we judge others with clouded eyes. The fourth Paramita is perseverance/endeavor/effort. We do our best in all things. The fifth Paramita is meditation. This is deep reflection on our lives through the teachings of the Buddha. Lastly is the sixth Paramita. It is insight or wisdom of finding our meaning of Namu Amida Butsu. It is also our thankfulness and gratitude that we are shared principles to make our lives as best as can be.
These teachings are not followed in any particular order and we probably use them all the time, without giving thought about them. They are merely guidelines for our sake of investigating who we truly are, what we want to be and how to better ourselves.
During this time we must be creative in our time and thinking. We find ways to wait out this disturbing time. Shinran and Buddha found their ways of communicating and teaching the Dharma. Not everyone agreed with their teachings, yet with patience and tolerance they endured. People heard, questioned, and wanted more. The people made their own decisions and what they wanted to hear.
We are now faced with how to spread the dharma. We are isolated from the church and each other. How are we reaching those who are not tech-savvy? We use our newsletter and of course, we have the Internet. Yet there is something about physically attending services. Being together, chanting together, and all of that have changed. Yet our Namu Amida Butsu has never abandoned us and we can still share our Nembutsu. With patience and tolerance, we will endure this uncertain time. We continue reciting Namu Amida Butsu and we are given the space to truly think and find who and what we truly are.
I was stuck on this dharma message, so I called my mentor Yamaoka Sensei. He was able to explain gaman and gambatte in terms that made it relevant to this message. He also explained how we take our experiences and how the dharma relates to our lives. With this difficult thinking, we can figure out what the Dharma truly means to us, as individuals.
We must sometimes think outside the box and deeply give thought. We are the only ones whose experiences and journeys can know how the teachings have affected our lives. We continue to rely on our Namu Amida Butsu to settle our stress, give peace and for guidance.
It is easy to recite Nembutsu, but the most difficult is to embrace it and find its meaning to us. During this time, we can use our creative thinking and search for the true self. This is just one of the teachings of Shinran and Buddha, to find and question what the truth is of the true heart and mind of Nembutsu.
It is always stay safe, stay healthy and Namu Amida Butsu. Happy Holiday and a better New Year!!
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano