As you know, our temple closed its doors in January due to Omicron. It was a difficult decision for us, but I hope you understand. Even though we cannot invite you to the temple on Sunday, we continue the online Buddhist Sunday service over zoom. I hope you enjoy attending our Buddhist service and have an opportunity to place your palms together with others.
Our temple invited Rev. Grant Ikuta to our Ho’onko (報恩講) service as a guest minister on January 16th. Ho’onko service is the most important service for Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Ho’onko literally means “Dharma gathering for acknowledging indebtedness” and the service gives us a great opportunity to show our respectful mind to Shinran Shonin. Rennyo Shonin urged us to reflect deeply on Shinran’s teachings at this time. Rennyo Shonin explained that the significance of Ho’onko is to resolve the problem of Shinjin – the entrusting heart –.” Realizing Shinjin is the most important thing and is the essence of acknowledging our indebtedness to Shinran Shonin.
When I hold and attend Ho’onko services in Canada, it always reminds me of the time I attended Ho’onko services at the Nishi-Hongwanji temple as a Gonshiki student. Nishi-Hongwanji holds the Ho’onko services 7 days in January. They hold service 44 times during the 7 days. During that period, many activities are held. The activities allows us the opportunity to encounter Buddha Dharma through listening to Dharma Talks and looking at Buddhist rituals. For example, there is a Dharma Talk marathon on January 15th from 7 pm to 6 am. 26 Buddhist ministers take turns doing Dharma Talks through the night until early morning. Hongwanji prepares two spaces for them so that Buddhist members can choose whose Dharma Talk they want to listen to. When I attended the Dharma Talk marathon as an audience member, I saw that some people brought their sleeping bags. Even though they must have booked a hotel, they didn’t go back to the hotel, instead, slept in the Dharma Talk room, because they really wanted to listen to the Talks as much as possible. After they listened to over 10 Dharma talks for 6 hours a day, they moved to Hongwanji to attend the Ho’onko rituals.
My friend, who attended the services with me, said that he felt it was like a Nembutsu Tsunami in the Hondo because over a thousand people recited Nembutsu together toward the Shinran Shonin’s statue. Their services were very beautiful and meaningful for us.
By the way, I heard that some people, who read the GL article lliked my last GL article, because I used an example from Ted Talks. Today, I would like to introduce another speaker from the Ted Talk and explain the teachings of Jodo Shinshu through his topic.
The speaker’s name was Dr. Ivan Josef. He was a soccer coach in a University. When he taught soccer, many students and their parents asked him what he looked for when he was scouting new players. He said that the most important thing is self-confidence. Without that self-confidence, they are useless as a soccer player. Because when they lose sight or belief in themselves, they are done for. He also explained the easiest way to build self-confidence. It was repetition, repetition, and repetition.
When I heard that, I was a little bit disappointed with him, because it is the simplest way, but it’s the most difficult way, too, for me. I thought he had a magic button to build self-confidence. After listening to his Ted Talk, I remembered what it was like when I was in high school. When I was a high school student, I belonged to a gymnastic club. When I started gymnastics, it was too late for me because my height was too tall and I didn’t have enough muscle as a gymnast. But I didn’t want to give up and practiced every day. When I started to practice, I was not able to stand on my head. But after 2 years, I was able to do a backflip and use rings, horizontal bar, parallel bars, and pommel horse because of repetition, repetition, and repetition. And this repetition gave me self-confidence.
The more you practice, the more self-confidence you gain. But what about Buddhism? When I was studying Buddhism in Japan, one of my senseis said, “The more you study Buddhism, the more you question confidence in yourself, because Buddhism is a reflection of you. When we listen to the Jodo Shinshu teachings, we learn and realize our true nature.” The true nature has Bonno(煩悩), our base passions or worldly desires. Bonno is often referred to as “Blind Passion,” because although we may often see these passions in others and may think that we understand them, more often than not, we fail to see them in ourselves. Therefore, we believe or assume that we are always right. And we complain or want to say bad things about others, because we think others create suffering for us, even though we don’t realize our Bonno makes this suffering.
But what is the real suffering we have caused with Bonno? It is “not being able to do what you want.” In Buddhism, we say “Not being able to do what we want is the real suffering.” For example, “not having enough money” is not really suffering. It’s the fact that I can’t get what I want because I don’t have money that is suffering. “Difficult relationships” is not really suffering. We are suffering because there are people who don’t listen to our opinions, or they
don’t know what we want them to do. In other words, the real root of suffering is that things don’t go as we want them to. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to realize the root of suffering even though we are our cause of suffering. Therefore, Bonno is referred to as “Blind Passion.”
When we realize that we have Bonno, and when we know the compassion of Amida Buddha, who doesn’t abandon us, we cannot help but place our palms together and recite the Nembutsu. The Nembutsu lets us know that we entrust the Buddha who has immeasurable light as higher wisdom and immeasurable life as great compassion.
Today, I write about self-confidence and explained about the Bonno in Jodo Shinshu. I hope when we listen to the teaching of the Buddha and learn Jodo Shinshu’s teachings, we realize our Bonno and gratitude to Amida Buddha through the Nembutsu, and how this affects our self-confidence. I hope we can recite Nembutsu together in the temple soon in person.