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Dharma Talk – July/August 2023

“Bussho” Buddha Nature

Today I would like to talk about “仏性-Bussho” “仏-Bu” means Buddha and a fully Awakened Person. “性-Sho” means Nature. Bussho means Buddha-Nature or the Nature of a fully Awakened Person.

It’s said that all sentient beings have the Buddha Nature to achieve supreme wisdom and compassion.

Rev. Kenryu Tsuji said, “Buddha-Nature is the innate capacity to look upon all beings with great compassion. … Buddha-Nature makes people a Buddha. The ultimate message of the Buddha was, “Awaken the Buddha-nature in yourself.” It is this message that we must clearly hear.”

Buddha-Nature is not restricted solely to human beings. Nehan-kyo-涅槃経: Nirvana sutra says “San Sen So Moku Shitsu U Bussho 山川草木悉有仏性.” That means mountains, rivers, grass, trees and all living things have Buddha-Nature.

This means not only human beings but also sentient beings in the universe possess the capacity to become a Buddha. A notable point of the sutra is that a human cannot make Bussho by their own efforts.

In other words, Buddha-Nature is not something we create. Buddha created it for all living things, like our shinjin – entrusting heart.

When we realized this, we place our palms together and say “Namo Amida Butsu” to express our appreciation.

“Buddha-Nature” is sometimes translated as “Buddha Seed” in English, because if there is no seed, no flower can bloom. The Buddha seed blooms the Buddha flower in our heart to make us a Buddha.

Shinran Shonin wrote about the Buddhist flower in Shoshinge. Shinran Shonin said,

“一切善悪凡夫人 Issai Zenmaku Bonbunin
聞信如来弘誓願 Monshin Nyorai Guzeigan
仏言広大勝解者 Butsugon Koudai Shogesha
是人名分陀利華 Zennimyo Fundarike.”

“All Bonbu – foolish being, whether good or evil,
Who listen to the Dharma and trust in universal deliverance,
Receive Buddha’s praises as people of great understanding;
Such people are called “Fundarike”

“Fundarike” comes from the Sanskrit language. It’s originally pronounced “Pundarika”. Pundanrika means a white lotus flower. Why did Shinran Shonin use this word in Shoshinge? Because the white lotus flower is called the Buddhist flower.

Moreover, the flower represents a Buddha seed and Buddha’s pure land. A lotus flower blooms from the mud. The mud represents our deep desire and attachment. If we are in the mud, we would never be able to see the sky.

Therefore, Buddha gave us Buddha’s seed so that we have the opportunity and cause to bloom a flower to see the sky.

However, we have Bonno. It’s difficult to become a Buddha through our own power.

Thus, Shinran Shonin said when someone who has Bonno, listens to the Dharma, they receive Buddha’s praises as people of great understanding.

Amida Buddha’s great Wisdom guides the flower to bloom from the mud, or I could say that Buddha’s wisdom guides us to bloom as a Buddha’s white lotus flower from our Bonno.

The light of Amida Buddha’s great wisdom and compassion shine on all living things and it’s working for them all the time.

So to Amida Buddha, whether you have experienced happiness, sadness, good time or difficult time, you are still able to receive Buddha Nature.

In Gassho
Rev. Yoshimichi Ouchi