Dharma Message- February 2018

SDDSTL Hongwanji Place- Welcome!!!

​​​​Me First

by Rev. Lee Rosenthal


The role model of Mahayana Buddhism is the Bodhisattva Ideal- an ardent practitioner of the Way who defers one's own full Enlightenment until all sentient beings transmigrating in the ocean of birth and death can also unfold spiritual awakening.  This would be like a physician, for instance, who although afflicted with a dreaded disease, has discovered the cure to treat his affliction.  Yet realizing that innumerable individuals are also experiencing great trepidation and stess by also having contracted this "incurable" disease, the physician makes a pledge to all patients everywhere (including himself or herself) to not partake of the medicinal cure until it has been partitioned and requisitioned to all suffering people.  Once the multitudes of afflicted pationes everywhere have taken their medication and are on the way to well-being, only then will this doctor partake of the cure for sole benefit as well.

​In another instance, it is as if two people were standing outside a crowded elevator that had just arrived at the floor on which they were waiting.  Both being "good BUddhists," they each turn to one another and say, "After you, please." In response: "Oh, no.  Please, you go first."  This continues back and forth for several long seconds, until such a time that the elevator doors close in front of them; leaving both prospective passengers stranded with perplexed looks on their face as the elevator moves on without them!

​Someone most go first in order to help others.  Not in an arrogant, self-centered way of merely gaining advancement for oneself, but with the recognition that the goal one wishes to achieve is only fully possible upon its true completion.  This fulfillment is achieved only upon "paying forward" the benefit of one's efforts to all humankind.

​This happens every time we rely upon our doctors.  Isn't all the virtue of their many years of dedicated study and sacrifice transferred to us freely each time we seek their counsel and assistance for a remedy to our ailment?  Although we ourselves do not become physicians just by consulting one, aren't we the full and equal recipient of the merit gained, and hasn't it been compassionately transferred onto us?  Enlightenment is always a round-trip ticket.  Indeed, the Buddha (Tathagata) is one "thus gone" but also one "thus returned."

​The next time you are traveling on a commercial airline, please listen carefully to the "Dharma Message" presented by the flight attendant as the plane is proceeding down the runway on its approach for take-off.  Should there be a sudden decrease in cabin pressure, they explain, oxygen masks will automatically drop down from the overhead compartment.  Should you be seated next to a child, listen carefully to the instructions.  Upon whose face are you asked to first place the oxygen mask- your or the child's?  Why is this so?

​For the rest of your flight, please continue to reflect upon the Wisdom and Compassion of the Buddha.


This Dharma Message was reprinted from Annon, Peace and Tranquility, which is available for purchase from Hongwanji Place.  Rev. Rosenthal was a former resident minister at the LA Hompa Hongwanji, Pasadena Buddhist Temple and Vista Buddhist Temple.