Light of Joy ＆ Ganges River
Our temple reopened its doors for Sunday service in March. I knew it was difficult to chant a sutra with a mask, but wearing a mask and keeping social distance was required in the Hondo to protect each other.
Even though we held in-person service on Sunday, we continued online service over zoom, because we knew some people attended our service from other cities and locations. However, the most enjoyable part was meeting with everyone face to face to recite the Nembutsu together. Above all, I was very happy to be able to see members’ faces when I gave Dharma talks.
I recently participated as a panellist in a forum discussion hosted by Nishi-Hongwanji Temple last month. What we talked about was what we did to share the Buddha Dharma during the pandemic? And how will we spread Dharma after the pandemic?
In that discussion, the other Senseis also said that the most difficult thing for us was that we could not see the members’ faces when we gave the Dharma talk. This is because without seeing the other person’s face, I was not sure whether what I was trying to say was being understood correctly, clearly, and properly. After all, it was difficult to speak about Buddhism to a laptop’s camera during the pandemic.
In the last Guiding Light of March, I wrote about the unhindered light that is one of the twelve kinds of light of the Amida Buddha. In this month of April, I would like to write about the Light of Joy. The light of compassion illumines us from afar;
Those beings it reaches, it is taught,
Attain the joy of dharma,
So take refuge in Amida, the great consolation.
(Hymns Based on Gathas in Praise of Amida Buddha. CSW page-325)
This Wasan praises one of the lights of Amida Buddha which is called “Light of Joy,” because it gives us the joy of Shinjin (entrusting heart). Shinran Shonin said that Buddha of the Light of Joy is the joy of dharma. It’s the light, which acts to cure the darkness of greed, anger and ignorance. We don’t create the joy of knowing we will be reborn in the Pure Land. This joy also comes from Amida Buddha.
This light has the function of reducing the bonno of anger. My Bonno of anger is the mind that is unable to see things correctly. I become annoyed by things that do not go my way.
I don’t have a child, but I can imagine. even if I loved the child, I could become angry with the child if he or she does not do as I say. I might say, “Why don’t you understand me?” This feeling is the same as the Bonno of anger.
When we advise others, we often say, “I’m saying this for your benefit.” But really we are saying it for our benefit because we believe we are right. Without our realizing it, we are self-centered in our thoughts and actions.
We can become angry if they don’t follow our advice. At such times, it is the light of joy of Amida Buddha that suddenly makes us aware of our selfish, ugly, and ignorant ways. In other words, this light is also a light that makes us humble and reflective of our self-centredness.
And we must not forget that it is because of the SHINJIN that Amida Buddha gave us that we are able to reflect on the fact that our anger is painful.
In addition, there is another kind of Amida’s light that is called “Light that Surpasses the Sun and the Moon.” These photos were taken on the Ganges River in India when I was a University student.
Some people washed their clothes and their bodies in the Ganges River but I also saw someone throwing ashes of dead person into the river. Others, like me, were moved by the sunrise, while others meditated quietly beside them. Every person was different in what they were doing and feeling on that Ganges. But to all of us, the Ganges showed the same river flow, as if it was not rejecting us, as if it was accepting everything.
But even more impressive was the sunrise on the Ganges River. That sunrise was a warm light equally illuminating those who were washing clothes, playing in the water, performing rituals, and meditating. I still remember how the gentle light warmed my body in the early morning while it was still chilly.
The Amida’s light refers to the activity that is beyond the light of the sun and the moon. Therefore, it may be wrong to compare the light of the sun I saw in the Ganges River with the light of the Amida Buddha. But the warmth of the sun I felt at that time was like something big enveloping me.
When I see myself illuminated by the light of the Amida Buddha as clearly as I see the moon illuminated by the light of the sun, I cannot help but put my hands together and recite the Nembutsu.