Light of Wisdom, Mother’s lap
The Name of the Tathagata of unhindered light
And the light that is the embodiment of wisdom
Dispel the darkness of the long night of ignorance
And fulfill the aspirations of sentient beings.
[Hymns of the Pure Land Masters –Master T’an-luan. CWS page 373]
We live our lives hearing many different things and encountering various things in our daily lives. I think our lives are greatly changed by what we hear and what we encounter. When you go to a school, you meet people like teachers and friends; when you go to work, you meet your boss and co-workers. These people must have a great impact on your life. Or I could say that they must give us many opportunities to change our lives.
In my case, if I didn’t talk with my friend who really enjoyed reciting Nembutsu, I might not have had an interest in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. If I didn’t hear Rev. Teramoto my mentor’s words when I was a university student, I might not become a Kaikyoshi minister. If I didn’t meet Bishop Aoki in Japan when I studied Buddhism, I might not have come to Canada.
I’m sure you also have similar experiences as mine that someone changed your life. As you can see, we are influenced by many people. Even so, I believe that the closest thing that changes our lives is our family members, such as parents and siblings. This is because the time we spent with them will remain in our minds much longer than any other memories.
I would like to share one of my family memories with you. When I was a child, my family chanted Shoshinge together every day before we went to sleep. The Shoshinge is a short Gatha with only 62 lines and 120 phrases. However, it seemed like forever to me because when I had to sit seiza style on the floor, which was a bit painful for me. Therefore, after about 15 minutes I stopped sitting seiza and stretched my legs. When my mother saw me, she took me on her lap and chanted Shoshinge.
When I was around 4 years old, I could not read any Japanese letters, so I just listened to my parents’ and siblings’ chanting voices. A few years later, my brother told me that I used to sleep during the chanting on my mother’s lap. When I heard that I thought that her chanting voice was a lullaby to me. But it was interesting because even though I took a nap during the chanting, I was able to chant along with them a few years later. Even now, when I chant Shoshinge, I suddenly remember the memories of that time.
The Shoshinge describes Amida-Buddha’s wisdom and compassion. The Wisdom and Compassion of Amida are expressed as twelve kinds of light in Shoshinge. The Wasan that I wrote at the beginning of this Dharma talk also explains the part of the twelve kinds of light that is called unhindered light.
There is nothing in nature that hates the light. The trees and plants stretch out their branches and leaves toward the light. The birds open their wings and fly away as if enjoying the light. However, the light of Amida-Buddha is not physical or visible light such as the light of the sun, moon, or a flashlight, because physical light is limited by two conditions. First, the physical thing can break down. A second physical thing cannot pass through another object.
If the light of Amida-Buddha is broken or blocked by something, we cannot rely on the light. So, what is the light of the Buddha that we rely on and take refuge in? Shinran Shonin said the light of Amida Buddha is not a visible thing, but we could listen to the light of Amida. He also said that the light of Amida-Buddha is embodied Amida’s Wisdom. The light of Amida’s wisdom will help us reflect on our imperfect selves and guide us to the Pure Land.
In Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, we recite Nembutsu, because the Nembutsu represents Amida’s Light of wisdom, and the wisdom lets us know what we need to listen to and what we need to meet or encounter in our lives. I think most of us are not celebrities or elites who are featured in the newspapers. Our lives may have been insignificant in the eyes of others. But even if it is such a life, for us it is an irreplaceable life that will never come again. My grandfather told me that he had heard what he needed to hear and had encountered what he needed to encounter in his life through the Nembutsu. When I heard that I was sure that he didn’t see Amida’s Light but he listened to the light through the Nembutsu.
In this way, I met many people and heard many things that changed my life so much without my realizing it. And I think chanting Shoshinge with my family when I was a child was also one of them that changed my life.
I believe some of you have had a similar experience to mine when you say Namo Amida Butsu because Amida’s Light of Wisdom is embodied Nembutsu, and Nembutsu reaches us to guide to Amida’s mindfulness.