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In a letter that Shinran Shonin wrote, he states: Those who feel uncertain of birth should say the Nembutsu, aspiring first for their own birth. Those who feel that their own birth is completely settled should, mindful of the Buddha's benevolence, hold the Nembutsu in their heart and say it to respond in gratitude to that benevolence, with the wish, "May there be peace in the world, and may the Buddha's teaching spread!" (Collected Works of Shinran, p50)
Sometimes, in our struggles, we wonder "Why me?" "What is my place?" To help us from reaching the wrong conclusion, Amida Buddha constantly calls to us saying, "My Enlightenment is meaningless without yours." When we hear this in the name Namo Amida Butsu, we discover that our lives are completely affirmed. We are reminded that our lives have meaning. From this discovery, the desire to live a meaningful life is born. How do we do this?
In the passage quoted above, Shinran Shonin suggests that a meaningful life is one that promotes peace in the world. It is a life that wants to share the peace that comes from knowing my life has meaning, and value. When, through the Buddha's benevolence, we understand that my life has meaning, we discover that it has always been a part of the immeasurable life we hear as Amida Butsu. At the same time, we discover that my life also has meaning and value because of all the lives which became a part of it; like the lives of my parents, my grandparents, and all those who have helped me to have this very special day we call "today." We discover that it is not just my life that has meaning and value, but all life has meaning and value. We discover the immeasurability of life.
In living our lives, however, we can create a world filled with hate and violence. We can create a world that negates and destroys all life in an instant, through things like an atomic bomb. Or, we can learn to appreciate this very special day we call today, as a continuous moment filled with immeasurable life. We can live in the light of Namo Amida Butsu and discover a world that affirms and nurtures all life.
The desire to share this appreciation of life is why Shinran Shonin wrote his letter more than 750 years ago, it is the reason why the Hongwanji in Kyoto was built more than 400 years ago, it is also the reason why we celebrate our meeting with the Nembutsu whenever we put our hands together in Gassho, and when we repeat Namo Amida Butsu. Through all these things we learn to receive and share, and with the confidence of being completely affirmed in the life of the Nembutsu we have the courage to declare, "May there be peace in the world, and may the Buddha's teaching spread!".
Reprinted from Annon- Peace & Tranquility, which is available in our Online Store. Rev. Iwohara is the resident minister at Gardena Buddhist Church.