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Dharma Talk – March 2023

Nirvana Day “Giving and Receiving”

Nirvana Day was held at the Toronto Buddhist Church in February. Over 2500 years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha passed away in India. In Buddhism, we say this is when he entered Nirvana. Nirvana literally means Blowing Out in Sanskrit.

When we say Nirvana is “blowing out,’ it represents the blowing out of the fire that represents our Bonno, blind passions or ignorance.

Even though we learn this life is impermanent thorough the teachings of the Buddha, our Bonno makes it hard to accept the truth from the bottom of our heart-mind, and this life becomes suffering. Because if we cannot control this impermanent life, we will feel sad, annoyed, and we sometimes get angry.

Death is uncontrollable. I don’t have any particular reasons, but I wish to live until 80 years old at least. If I have a child, that wish might be changed. I may wish to live as long as possible to stay with my child forever. But this is impossible, because we cannot control our death.

Therefore, I could say that the death of Shakyamuni Buddha underscores the teaching of impermanence, the idea that we and all other beings and things in this world are subject to constant change.

It was the Buddha’s intent that through his teachings we would understand the transitory nature of our existence and ultimately experience Truth.

When he was lying down between the twin sala trees, he gave his final Dharma talk to his disciples. He said “After I leave this world, make the Dharma your place of refuge. Make of yourself a light. All things in this world are impermanent. Follow the Dharma diligently”

I’m now going to talk about something seemingly different from Buddhism. But please remember the words which Shakyamuni Buddha said when he was entering Nirvana: “After I leave this world, make the Dharma your place of refuge. Make of yourself a light. All things in this world are impermanent. Follow the Dharma diligently”

Last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day. I went Downtown because of my day-off. When I went to a café to read a book, I saw some couples on a date and they exchanged gifts to show their love.

When we receive something from others, we feel happy. That is why many people like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, I think.

At the café, I was reading a book of “The Art of Loving” written by Erich Fromm who was a social psychologist and humanistic philosopher in 20th century.

In that Book, he wrote about LOVE. He said that many people see the issue of love as a matter of being loved, not a matter of loving. In other words, people these days think it’s more important to be loved, and to receive love than to give love.

He wrote the reason why many people misunderstand love is because in the Victorian era, love was not a personal experience, but something that came out of marriage and the home created by the couple. Therefore, it was believed that love could only come about after marriage.

However, since the 20th century, the concept of romantic love has spread. Most people are now looking for love as a personal experience that leads to marriage.

This makes them believe that it’s more important to raise their social status or improve their physical appearance so that they attract someone, rather than working on their own ability to love someone.

He wrote that it was more important to love than to be loved. I believe that he wanted to tell us that it’s more important to give something to others than to receive something from others.

When I talked about something similar to this topic to high school students who visited our temple on a fieldtrip, a student called me after the workshop and he said “I understand that giving is more important than receiving. But unfortunately, it’s difficult for me, because my family is poor and we don’t have anything to share with others.”

I felt sorry to hear this, but I was not worried about him because during my lecture, he raised his hand to ask many questions.

I remember him well because his questions were honest and interesting but not too serious – some of his questions made us laugh. There was humor in his questions.

Even though he didn’t have anything material to give me, I enjoyed talking with him, so I feel I received something from him.

We sometimes think that in order to give something, we must have something to give. And we mistakenly believe that having something to give is what makes us wealthy.

Buddhism does not call having material things wealth. A truly wealthy person is one who can give something to others, even if they don’t have anything. Erich Fromm may call this “LOVE.”

You may have heard “Dana” in the temple. Dana literally means “Giving” in Sanskrit. There are 7 teachings from Dana.

The first is Wagense, Treat people with a friendly face
The second is Shinse, Concern for others.
The third is Gonjise, Use words carefully and communicate with others.
The fourth is Gense, Giving a warm look
The fifth is Shinse, Serve and do good for others
The sixth is Shozase, Passing-on a place, a seat, a position.
The seventh is Boshase, Give them a place to escape the wind and rain.

Therefore, even though we don’t have any actual things to give someone, we can give our seat on the bus, we can give our smile and we can show/express concern for others always. These are included in Dana in Buddhism.

I should never forget that Shakyamuni Buddha didn’t give us anything expect his teachings. We cannot see or hold the teachings, because they are invisible things, but we know that the teachings give us great relief.

Therefore, Shakyamuni Buddha said when he entered the Nirvana “After I leave this world, make the Dharma your place of refuge. Make of yourself a light. All things in this world are impermanent. Follow the Dharma diligently

In Gassho

Rev. Yoshimichi OUCHI