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​​​Autumn Higan

By Rev. Ben Mayeda

I realize that you have all heard time and time again that "Higan" refers to the "Other Shore" which is Nirvana or Enlightenment.  But when we refer to the "Other Shore," it is thus logical to assume that there must be another shore in contrast.  This shore is called "Shigan" which denotes this world we presently live in- the world of delusion and illusion.

In order to reach the "Other Shore," Buddhists were expected to cultivate and practice the Six Paramitas:  Offering, Morality, Patience, Endeavoring, Concentration, and Wisdom, the gates through which one enters and crosses over to the "Other Shore."

​It is easy to state the Six Paramitas, but it is the most difficult practice for a sentient being to accomplish.  Regardless of which Paramita one selects, it cannot be fulfilled with the intent that the Buddha had in mind.  Our greedy, indignant and glory-seeking hearts cannot truly comprehend or realize the Absolute Truth.  We place our own selfish desires as a criteria and think that this is the Absolute Truth.

​Amida Buddha, realizing this fault of all sentient beings, called upon us from the "Other Shore" to have complete Trust and Faith in His Original Vow that He will place us upon this promised ship to take us safely across to the "Other Shore."  What more can we say than to express our gratitude and appreciation by uttering the Nembutsu with Sincere Mind, Sincere Faith, and Sincere Desire to be born in His Pure Land when our time on this earth comes to an end.

​There was once a young Prince that lived in this small kingdom in India.  He was extremely puzzled and curious about a rumor that was spreading among the people of his kingdom that the sole utterance of the Nembutsu was a seed to the birth in the Pure Land of Amida Buddha.  He called upon his most learned monk and questioned him critically.  The Monk, standing in the beautiful garden of the palace, said nothing.  He just picked up a pebble and tossed it into the pond.  With each critical question he would pick up another pebble and toss it into the pond.

​The Prince became impatient and directed the Monk to stop playing around and answer him.  The Monk looked up at the Prince and replied: "My dear Prince, what do you think happened to those pebbles I've thrown into the pond?"

​"They sunk, of course!" was the angry reply

​Then the Monk continued, "What if I took this large rock from this garden and tossed it into the pod, what do you think will happen?"

​"Any foolish child would know that," was the angry reply.

​"Yes, any foolish child would know that, but can you tell me how I can prevent it from sinking?"  "If you can understand that, then you will understand the workings of the Nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu," was the Monk's answer.

​Our personal efforts to reach the "Other Shore" are long and difficult.  We are like that pebble and will sink to the bottom.  But through the Compassion and Wisdom of Amida Buddha, we are accorded an Easy Path by which we are able to cross over from this shore to the Pure Land of Amida Buddha.  As much as the large rock from the garden will not sink when placed on a ship, our promised ship of Amida Buddha will prevent us from sinking.

​We who are able to listen and accept the teachings of Shinran Shonin should take this opportunity during this Autumn Ohigan to reflect upon our life of Nembutsu.  In our busy human existence, we have a tendency to forget the feeling of kansha, gratitude.  Let us take a moment to express this gratitude by calling his name, Namo Amida Butsu.

This Dharma Message was reprinted from Dharma Talks of the Four Seasons which is available for purchase from Hongwanji Place.  The late Rev. Mayeda was resident minister at Gardena Buddhist Church.

Dharma Message- August 2018