I and my Buddhist sangha (community), Shinnyo-en of the Nirvana teachings based in Japan, are engaged in promoting religious friendship and harmony. We want to encourage exchange among all seekers so we can attempt to be in one heart with each other.
It goes without saying that we, all seekers, have total allegiance and devotion to our individual gurus, masters and teachers, our own precious practices and philosophies, and that we take only one medicine to cure all our ills (we receive only one teaching), but we are also all involved in training to be better or perfect compassion human beings (in Buddhism Bodhisattvas). Our goal is to live in a compassionate non-judgmental way in our daily lives, and this is our common bond as those seeking complete inner and outer peace and harmony (‘Nirvana,’ ‘Enlightenment,’ the extinguishing of all cravings and suffering’ as this state is described in Buddhism). There is no question of conversion or engendering doubt because we are each firmly following our faith instincts (‘karmic imprints’ in Buddhism).
When we can find an equanimous way to relate to each other, our powers as a huge group of seekers of spiritual excellence, will be intensified to make even greater transformations in the human world of suffering (samsara in Buddhism), and to bring all beings to a state of enduring happiness. When we can learn to understand each other in a non-judgmental and loving way, we will activate Shouju ( 症状じゅ) – embracement beyond all barriers of religion, culture, language and borders. When we can embrace each other, trust each other completely, then the bridge between the visible and the invisible worlds will be reinforced so that all beings can cross to the shore of Nirvana and beyond.
In this secular world of pluralism and diversity pitched at an overwhelming level, surely we can deepen our global friendship and understanding. We can share our current struggles and challenges in some way, and so learn about all the rivers of faith which flow into the huge ocean of all divinity (Nirvana in Buddhism).
We would love to hear your feelings on reading this proposition.
In gassho (namaste), with the greatest of loving kindness
I have been following the flare up of human rights contravention of Dorje Shugden practitioners recently. There is great outrage and emotional discontent aimed at the Dalai Lama as a result of his ‘ban’ on the practice of Dorje Shugden (an ancient Tibetan Dharma Protector) prayers, which is detrimental for many Tibetan devotees, and also in the world Tibetan Buddhist community. In summary, these devotees are being persecuted by their communities through the denial of basic human rights such as medical care, education for their children, exclusion from employment opportunities, monks excluded from their monasteries, etc. The Dalai Lama as spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people is being blamed for this removal of human rights, and Buddhist communities everywhere are protesting on their behalf.
There is a great deal of concern for this situation and especially from those who continue to practise Dorje Shugden in spite of the so-called ban. Of course, sympathy is overwhelming, especially for the victims of persecution and vicious physical attacks from the Dalai Lama’s cohorts, and for those gurus who lead the determined Dorje Shugden communities who have seemingly been threatened by the Dalai Lama faction.
For the purposes of this reflective article, I would like to offer my thoughts on the anger and potential for revenge, which this situation is stimulating. I too was once a Dorje Shugden practitioner and consider myself to be a cousin of the New Kadampa Tradition, and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso as one of my esteemed teachers. Though nowadays I am serving as a Nirvana Buddhist practicing in Japan with the MahaParinirvana Sutra, the last teachings of the Buddha Shyakyamuni, as my main pillar.
These Nirvana teachings are heart teachings with little analysis and scant instruction or explication, unlike teachings designed for western practitioners, which necessarily offer a way into the heart through the head or intellectual mind. Our practice here relies on the three practices- Generosity, Service, Sharing the Dharma- (a condensing of the 6 paramitas or perfections), and we are mostly encouraged not to think or analyse but to act, putting the principles of the Nirvana teachings into actual practice. Therefore, I know many who have come to this teaching out of a kind of blind faith, or through family connections, who ask few questions, but instead actually steadily practice, an approach very common in Asia in general.
I would like to put the ongoing struggles between the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden devotees into my current framework, and examine the anger and the scars it leaves, along with possible motives for revenge which I observe welling up amongst those courageous enough to go against the Dalai Lama’s ‘ban.’ I realize that they are sticking their necks out for Dorje Shugden practitioners in India and Tibet itself, who seem to have little or no voice, or no desire to protest.
I was deeply moved recently by re-watching the film, ‘In the Name of the Father,’ (1993, director Jim Sheridan) an account of the wrongful long-term imprisonment of the ‘Guildford 4’ for their supposed part, as provisional members of the IRA, in the Guildford Bombings (1974) in which 6 died and many were seriously injured.
To sumarise the plot, in a rapid reaction to this unprecedented and random bombing of innocent people enjoying an evening in their local public house, the British government enacted a new law (Prevention of Terrorism Act, 1974), which conferred emergency powers on the British police when they suspected terrorism. Gerard Conlon and Paul Hill, two young northern Irish emigres to England known as activists in Belfast against British rule there, were searching for work in London at the time of the bombing. They were immediately arrested two days after the law was enacted, brutally interrogated and tormented until they confessed to instigating the bombing, and so were tried and sent down for sentences varying from 25-30 years. They were innocent, and there was evidence to prove their whereabouts at the time of the bombing, but it was suppressed out of an eagerness to rid society of these villains.
So, the kind of anger that mutates into the desire for revenge is highly dangerous for karmic reasons, and in terms of the arising of mindless reactive behavior. At base, anger is a projection because it cannot remain inside the person who is manifesting this delusional state, exactly because it is so destructive. The Buddha said,
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else: you are the one who gets burned.(The Buddha)
The human mind, unable to contain such a force, off-loads it and projects it on to something or someone else. Exaggerated anger is a kind of aversion and this is where revenge appears. ‘Aversion’ means that it is impossible to bear the object of anger, so it should be destroyed or removed. Of course, we can see such willful removal of objects or people in the behavior of young children, who are not yet in control of their minds. If a child decides to dislike someone or something, it effectively ceases to exist for them because they have not yet developed object permanence. As Shantideva (8th Century Buddhist monk) says:
It is natural for the immature to harm others. Getting angry with them is like resenting a fire for burning.
But as we learn to process emotions, both positive and negative, and become mature, we can usually learn tolerance and calm our aversions. The British government projected its anger and frustration on to innocent victims in a hasty action to remove the objects of their anger, ie. the entire Irish warring nation, by incarcerating them for 30 years, and suppressing evidence so that they could take action immediately. Such hatred combined with high pride had developed inside state leaders of that time, that they resorted to satisfying their aversion.
Full blow anger or irritation are dangerous negative emotional states of mind which all seekers in every religion and spiritual way of life train to truly eradicate, like the root of a poisonous plant. Any tiny root fibre left behind could start to grow anew. Anger leaves karmic scars, which will never disappear, and pushed on to the next stage of revenge, it inflicts pain, punishment and perhaps death (Gerry Conlon’s father, Guiseppe Conlon, died while in wrongfully imprisoned). As we Buddhist seekers know, anger is immature and completely lacking in objectivity and wisdom.
I have recently felt the anger among those ostracized by the Dorje Shugden embargo, both on the internet and in person, and I am concerned about the scarring it will inevitably leave. This reaction has seemed mostly to be lacking in compassion and mindfulness, and has crossed the line that such practitioners are often drawing, which we are advised not to cross, ie. that samsara is a crazed dream, and reality is awakening from such a dream.
This does not mean that we should never act when it is needed, but we train to be able to act from a place of calm and compassion, so that our actions will be dignified and dynamic in a positive way.
Patience is often sited as a way of dealing with anger. I detected a strong presence of impatience billowing up from reactions to the recent bout of the Dalai Lama affair. Impatience comes from hot negative emotions devoid of clarity, while patience emanates from objectivity and wisdom. Allan Wallace (Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up, 1993) says:
…….there are three ways to get rid of anger: kill the opponent; kill yourself; or kill the anger.
In my current practice and in Shingon Buddhism in general, great emphasis is placed on the spiritual background of every situation and every person in a situation. This refers to both their present karmic condition, and the state of their ancestors and related spirits in the spiritual world. For us, the invisible and visible worlds are one because all beings are connected in a matrix, so we work with special prayers and requests for spiritual consolation and purification of our ancestors. This combination of all worlds, all dimensions, many of which we cannot see or hear due to our limited human minds, gives ‘big picture’ perspective. We can divine that the DL’s strange irrational behavior during the last 18 years or so must be part of a huge spiritual picture, which we cannot yet decipher.
Perhaps he is deliberately committing karmic suicide to provide a spiritual test for us all – will we give in to anger and over-protective tendencies, and resort to hatred and what some Tibetans have cited as disrespectful attitudes to their revered Dalai Lama, their patriarch? Perhaps he has taken the wrong pathway in his spiritual progress due to political pressure from the occupying Chinese forces.? I believe that if we practice patience and unconditional love, the bigger picture will be revealed to our wisdom mind. But if we act strongly with aversion, wanting to remove the source of our anger and outrage, we will be blinded by the hot fire of negative emotions.
As I read various accounts and protests on the internet, and heard first-hand from Tibetan practitioners who have been ostracized, I wanted to stand up and ring the sweet bell of mindfulness to call everyone back to their true home. I wanted to become that bell radiating bodhicitta to lift everyone into the realm of wisdom and calm so that their hooded eyes could open wide. As engaged seekers, our greatest asset is the mystical power locked into the Buddhist teachings, the Dharmakaya, so to change this unacceptable situation we need to practice even harder within the heart; to strive to open the heart wide and to keep it open with unwavering compassion; to deepen our bodily peace so that all our thoughts, words and deeds will also be peaceful. Such anger, call it ‘wrath’ if you will, occludes our native joy and enduring happiness known as Buddha Nature; the seeds of revenge produced by anger may sprout outside our control.
It is for each of us to go inside and examine our anger, for as Sylvanus, an early Christian Saint (2nd century) advises,
Knock upon yourself as upon a door, and walk upon yourself as on a straight road. For if you walk on that path, you cannot go astray; and when you knock on that door, what you open for yourself will open.
Our practice must be continuous, without interruption. If I can maintain this adamantine state I have everything inside me to deal with any conflict, even one depriving people of their human rights. If we interrupt this sacred process with negative emotions, we will be breaking off from what we must do today in the unbroken line towards enlightenment, towards Nirvana.
In the last teachings of the Buddha, he instructs his disciples on various ways to cultivate their Buddhahood:
- They should be like candles, burning away with each passing moment to dispel darkness for others.
- When reading aloud, perhaps the meaning of the text cannot be understood completely at first; understanding is a gradual process, which proceeds from basic stages to intermediate, and then advanced. With time, we can grasp all aspects of a piece and be transformed by it.
- A goldsmith needs devotion in order to accumulate practice of his art, which takes time.
- Chanting the sutras and conducting rituals and rites requires great effort and practice, which takes time.
Such spiritual practice constantly puts us at a distance to negative emotions arising in the ordinary mind, and we must devote ourselves to this ardently if e are to go beyond enlightenment or Nirvana and take all sentient beings with us.
‘If we find a viper in our room, we should drive it away immediately.’ (the Buddha, Mahaparinirvana Sutra)
Finally, the intrinsic laws of Dharma observed in Nature demonstrate that seeds sprout, grow, flower and then fruit without any intervention from humans. The Buddha recommended that mastering the middle way is the same as this. No-one teaches a newborn calf how to suckle milk. In the same way, consistent practice over a long period of time can destroy all delusions. It is unnatural to become angry when we are basically beings of compassion and light, wisdom which can overcome any negative emotion and bring universal peace and harmony into the world.
There is a meaningful story of anonymous origin about anger, which touches my unconscious mind deeply.
Once there was a young boy with a bad temper. One day his father gave him a bag of nails and told him to hammer a nail into the fence every time he became angry. The first day the boy hammered 37 nails into the fence, but as the days went on, the number reduced. He quickly learned that it was easier to hold his anger back than hammer nails into the fence. Finally, one day he hammered no nails into the fence, which delighted his father. However, now the father asked him to pull out one nail for each of the days he was able to control his anger completely. Quite quickly, he was able to report that all the nails had been removed. Then, the father looked at the fence with his son and told him that the fence would never be the same again because of all the holes in it.
‘When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, but no matter how many times you do that, the wounds will still be there.’
Angry thoughts lead to angry words (whether written or spoken), and then on to angry actions. Anger is a public or private projection away from mindfulness. The British government acted rashly when trying to destroy representatives of the Irish nation because it had attacked the English nation. This is surely a samsaric nightmare par excellence. Wrongful imprisonment and even execution is common here in Japan because of the hatred of the police who intimidate suspects into confession, and this is supposedly a Buddhist country!
The only way we seekers can make real changes in distressing and unjust situations is at the unconscious level though mindfulness and meditation, repentance and devotion, and patience will enhance our wisdom so we can see with our spiritual eyes. This is surely the most effective and meaningful way to reach the Dalai Lama. I also feel, having read opinions of Tibetan nationals, that the way non-Tibetan Buddhists are behaving towards H.H. the Dalai Lama is disrespectful and unacceptable. Perhaps it is not up to us to interfere in Tibetan cultural national matters, especially at the cost of our own merit and positive karma.
Any comments or questions on this humble article will be most welcome. I apologise in advance for any terminological clashes which may occur as a result of my ignorance or misunderstanding, or simply a difference in spiritual level. I write from my position as an ordained Nirvana Buddhist and in an attempt to make interfaith connections and spread the Dharma in a clear unprejudiced way.
Wisdom has the muscles to raise us above taking sides I believe.
Under the twin sala trees, among all the dignitaries and enlightened monks gathered to say farewell to the Buddha Shyakyamuni, there was a deeply devoted lay follower named Chunda. He was the son of a blacksmith from the nearby area of Kushinagara castle who came to pay his respects to the Buddha bringing with him 15 of his friends. To show his devotion, he discarded his daily clothes and put on a simple robe, bearing his right shoulder in the traditional way of monastics, kneeling on his right knee and bowing at the feet of the Buddha. He then made a speech confidently and sincerely, which was to change the future course of Buddhism.
In essence, he begged the Buddha to accept the simple offerings of homemade food he and his friends had brought. All the distinguished members of the congregation had already offered luxurious gifts of precious commodities like livestock and gold, but the Buddha had refused to accept everything until this point. Then to everyone’s surprise, Chunda’s modest offerings were accepted. Chunda eloquently expressed his deep sadness at the prospect of losing the Buddha, and begged him to accept the offerings from himself and his 15 friends before he entered Parinirvana, so that all sentient beings would not suffer from spiritual poverty.
In ancient India,(and to a certain extent there today), the rigid caste system rejected people such as Chunda because he did not fit into any of the four main castes: He was not a clergy man or scholar, not of the nobility or a warrior, not a merchant or farmer, or a general labourer or servant. But he had confidence that all humans, despite their caste imposed at birth, were equal, and that when the Buddha left them, they would all be spiritually destitute in the same way. He said:
O World Honoured One! My situation is like that of anyone among the four castes who, because of poverty, has to leave his country to find work and then buy domesticated cattle and fertile fields. After removing the stones and weeds and tilling his land, he has only to wait for the rain to fall from the sky.’ (Chapter 2, Mahaparinirvana Sutra)
His words displayed great wisdom despite his lack of formal education or spiritual training. He knew that all living beings needed simply the rain of the Dharma (see my previous article: http://wp.me/p3O6mn-64) to make them spiritually fertile, and that the Buddha, the truly awakened one, the Tathagata, could bring such rain into the human world of suffering (samsara). The Buddha was delighted and immediately conferred eternal life and connected him to the ever-presence. In other words, he was enlightened on the spot.
The Buddha during his ministry had insisted that his disciples should leave their ordinary life and become monastic practitioners, learning strict moral discipline and upholding monastic rules. The assembled disciples who had reached the pinnacle of all spiritual training were looking on as Chunda, a lay person and an ‘untouchable’ – a person outside the caste system, became immediately enlightened with no training, and therefore supposedly little virtue. This was a crucial part of the Buddha’s last will and testament as he moved back to the spiritual source.
There were two ways in which this moment in the history of Buddhism brought fundamental changes to the aspirations of Buddhists. Firstly, this unprecedented enlightening of Chunda, a lay person and householder (someone who had not given up ordinary life or entered a monastery), was to open the path for all beings, no matter what their caste, whether lay or clerical, to aspire to reach Nirvana (or enlightenment). It is easy to imagine just how radically this changed the course of Mahayana Buddhism because now anyone could become enlightened, and hence the emergence of many lay Buddhist orders later. Secondly, Chunda became enlightened within his lifetime as a relatively young man, and did not have to work hard to accrue merit and virtue in order to become enlightened in a future lifetime, which was the prevailing Brahmin belief at the time.
The Buddha’s acceptance of humble Chunda’s offerings was symbolic of the fact that we all are endowed with Buddha Nature (see my previous article: http://wp.me/p3O6mn-bx) and that when the rain of Dharma waters the seeds of Buddha Nature, they will ripen and all negative karma and human suffering will be cut away. By bringing so many of his friends in a sincere gesture of reverence to the Buddha, and by having the confidence to make his offering in front of all the dignitaries and esteemed disciples, he had exhibited the spirit of a Buddha, without either training or privilege.
In appreciation of the Buddha’s acceptance Chunda said,
It is hard to be born a human being, and harder still to encounter a Buddha. It would be like a blind sea turtle encountering a floating log with a hole in it and poking its head through.’
This comment moved the Buddha to leave his final instructions before shifting into Parinirvana, the special Nirvana a Buddha enters. His final teachings on impermanence and detachment followed, known as the Dharmakaya (see my previous article: http://wp.me/p3O6mn-4P), which he left in place of his physical body, to be eternal and indestructible.
Chunda is especially significant to my own spiritual journey. During my lengthy Buddhist career, I can trace the beginnings of my Buddhist faith to the sea turtle that Chunda mentions (my article: my path so far – )http://wp.me/P3O6mn-i). As a young child in urban Britain, I heard this maxim on a radio program, and retained it as I searched for a way in to Buddhism without any leads. I was a quite devout Christian through my family’s influence, but the Buddha, even though at that time I had no idea what or who it was, somehow penetrated into my unconscious mind and I began to yearn to receive the teachings and become a disciple. I had no Buddhist friends or any contact with the religion in northern working class Britain in the sixties, and yet, I was certain that I would be like the turtle, and that one day I would find the Buddha.
Chunda is also reputed to have said in the Sala grove, to express the rareness of meeting a Buddha,
‘An udambara (a flower said to bloom once every 3000 years) can rarely be seen, and so is it to encounter a Buddha…..who can nurture the faith of all sentient beings and …extinguish the suffering of death and rebirth.’
The Buddha’s revelation that even lay people could train spiritually and so enter enlightenment is also pertinent to my case. As a Tibetan Buddhist in the Kagyu lineage, I was intent on taking vows and becoming a Lama, but at the final stage I had a tiny doubt about committing myself to monastic life because I felt the best training ground to learn how to love unconditionally, was in ordinary human life. I searched to find a lay order so I could fully devote myself to humanity. Finally, the Nirvana teachings have found me, and I am fulfilled and engaged in normal human life while serving as a priest at the Temple.
In Japan, for historical reasons, Buddhism has been and continues to be perceived as for the elite or monastics only, so my order is working hard to make Mahayana Buddhist practice accessible to all Japanese people and people of the world. It is a challenge to guide truly humble people to have the confidence to practice rituals that were once only available to the Imperial family. Kobo Daishi was responsible for single-handedly bringing Buddhism to Japan from China in 9th century, but at that time the national popular religion was Shinto. In modern times, Buddhism has become the main means of conducting funeral rites within society, but the main emphasis on Buddhism still lies in monastic practices at a distance from general society.
Chunda then, is a seminal figure in my Dharma stream. We aspire to do as he did: to bring as many people as possible to the other shore of Nirvana. A recent sculpture of Chunda in the Sala Grove with his 15 friends executed by a modern Japanese sculptor is one of our objects of devotion. It is truly inspirational. As Mahayana Buddhists, the welling up of or generating of Bhodicitta (see my article: http://wp.me/p3O6mn-6K) – the wish to take all sentient beings with us to enlightenment – is made all the more possible by knowing that every being is capable of polishing their Buddha Nature and reaching Nirvana. That just as Chunda’s Buddhhood was identified by the Buddha because of his sincere heart and wish for all his friends unconditionally to have the opportunity to experience the presence of the Buddha so rare in the world, we can each experience the ever-presence of the Buddha through the Nirvana teachings, and our sincerity will be recognised.
The Buddha’s acceptance of the final offerings of a lay householder and untouchable signaled the very final instructions, which could not be revealed before that moment. The essence of them is that we must each learn to control our own minds; our minds determine our behaviours in the world, either as a self-serving beast or a magnanimous and compassionate Buddha. We must rid ourselves of human passions, driving them out of our rooms as if they were a poisonous viper. He then reassures everyone that his death is only of the flesh – as it was born and nurtured by parents, so it must deteriorate and perish – and that Buddhahood is not of the flesh, but of the spirit. The final teachings were to become the body of the Buddha –the Dharmakaya – and he begs all his disciples to preserve them just as they had followed and cherished him in life. In doing so, the Dharma Body of the Tataghatas will be ever-present and so never disappear.
Chunda’s deep humility and sincere heart radiated out beyond that of the advanced practitioners and enlightened who had perhaps become arrogant or complacent. So we can learn from this that practicing as a true Buddhist of the heart is not about worldly success and reputation, but about humility and sincerity, and simple but total belief in the power of loving goodness and pure faith in the world. I believe we are all Chunda. Even if we have low status and are poor in materialist terms, even though we might have shortcomings and little knowledge, everyone has the capacity to love all beings unconditionally and indefinitely, and this is our principle mission in human life – to become a Bodhisattva (see my article: .http://wp.me/p3O6mn-6r)
The self. Buddhism in general teaches that we should dissolve the ego so that we can be sincerely altruistic and unconditionally loving of all beings. Accordingly, if we cease to be attached to our ‘self,’ which incidentally exists only in our minds, then we can be liberated from all suffering.
We all have ideals for ourselves, our image, our happiness and love, and most human beings naturally want to be popular and loved by those around them. But such an ideal can create conditions for unhappiness or disappointment if we become attached to it and manipulate those around us to believe we are something or someone that actually in all honesty we are not. We may exaggerate, or tell fascinating stories which are not wholly true, or worse, lie, in order to make people think well of us, respect us, like us. A common way of describing this is ‘to reinvent’ ourselves, building a new identity for ourselves, which we want to take all the credit for.
There are common misconceptions about aspiring to spiritual pathways or a spiritual life. The notion of ‘path’ tends to create the impression that we have to go somewhere moving steadily along an unknown path until we reach the end and are transformed. The idea of arriving at an unknown destination fraught with problems along the route, the travel time unknown, the certainty of arriving also unknown, appeals to the ordinary mind, which tends to become fixed and lacking in stimulation from outside. But if we accept that rather we are unique spirits traveling eternally and internally through a timeless space-less continuum until we reach the realms of the Buddhas or Gods, having learned all the lessons we need to, then it is easy to see that being born a human is difficult, and is just one small part of a process.
Our spirits manifest as flesh so that we can learn particular lessons, especially those concerning unconditional love, and so it is not a spiritual pathway we are seeking, but a human one. We are aspiring to become better, even perfect, humans, or Bodhisattvas (see previous article – https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/bodhisattva/) as Buddhists refer to them. The Nirvana Sutra teaches us that we do not have to search very far to find a perfect training ground to hone our humanity among our nearest and dearest, our professional contacts, the public at large, and in our own minds.
In the final teachings, the Buddha introduced a new goal for our training as humans: to attain ‘permanence, true self, bliss and purity.’ Three of these aspirations – permanence, bliss and purity – are fairly obvious, but ’true self’ might be more difficult to grasp. We become so attached to our likes and dislikes, our desires, even our character traits which other people take delight in pointing out to us, that our ‘self’ becomes concrete, fixed, and perhaps we are proud or ashamed of it. But this self is synthetic, and we and our close ones, families and communities, are responsible for synthesizing it. Our true self is our spiritual self. It belongs to no-one and is eternal and of the universe. It is the self, which is faultless, permanent, and intrinsically good. The self that is wise and all-knowing. Therefore, part of our lesson to be learned in pursuit of being an excellent human, is to resist proliferating this synthetic self; the self that strays from the truth and has distorted views of reality.
The human mind is a marvelous tool, but in this era of deterioration, when we have become distanced from the divine, needing intermediaries to connect us to them, we tend to use it to create in our own right dictated by our egos, instead of in line with the divine and the universe. Creativity is a gift when it comes to human creations, but it is the sacred dimensions which possess the ultimate power, superior compared with our tiny flickering minds. This tool of the intellect is adept at making concepts, ideas, formulae, etc., and all manner of mental images and contraptions, which sadly put us always at a distance to reality. The synthesized human self is a similar contraption, which we cling to, making it more and more fixed throughout our adult lives and which becomes a source of suffering.
This self we construct, supplying it amply with our chosen cultural, social and linguistic morays, is, as mentioned above, often flawed and distorted, and to make matters worse, it is a vehicle, the most recent model in the linear range, for the negative and positive karma (or actions) of all our ancestors and related spirits. Everything and everyone is connected, so what an ancestor did 300 years ago will affect you today in your life in some way. These laws of karma demand that we atone for our ancestral karma and perhaps national karma, so that all is purified and we are then in the position to help others to purify their negative karma. Some people have less negative karma and less fixed ‘selves’ than others, so this would account for why some of us do enjoy happiness, and our lives seem smooth and blessed, or ‘lucky.’
What if there was a way to know your past and your future, to step outside the human concepts of space and time? What if it was indicated in religious meditation with a spiritually evolved being that your ancestors were certain beings with certain karma: healers, cruel dictators, priests and nuns, beautiful children who died in infancy, explorers and settlers of new lands, missionaries, the devout, etc…spirits who had struggled along the human pathway, made effort to be Bodhisattvas, some of whom had succeeded, some failed. Then you could feel reassured that the human lessons had been learned by predecessors, and that in retrospect, it is easy to see that it was their unique spirit and its determination to survive unimaginable hardships and conditions which made them great. If they had not survived, then we would not be here. I am very fortunate that I can experience such unique meditation developed by my masters, Shinjo and Tomoji Ito, and so can eliminate negative karma relatively rapidly.
The Buddha’s earlier wisdom sutras, or Heart sutra as it is known, taught that we should eliminate this self, getting rid of our ego and all our self-serving desires. But then the Buddha on his deathbed taught that we should build up the self. This confused everyone assembled to say farewell, especially the enlightened disciples who had become complacent. This self is the one that recognizes its shortcomings and inadequacies, and is willing to make the effort to be a better human being. In addition, this self can learn to identify and then accept the shortcomings in others exactly for what they are – a projection of the false or worldly self, and so generate unconditional compassion and universal Bodhicitta (see previous article: https://lindenthorp.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/bodhi-mind-and-mindfulness/) for all beings.
These final teachings also proclaim that anyone, regardless of their level of negative karma produced by their ancestors or by their own actions during their lives, can be liberated and purified, and eventually find their true self. At the time approximately 2,600 years ago, the spiritually evolved gathered in the Sala Grove, Buddha’s final resting place, were shocked at hearing this because earlier in his ministry the Buddha had insisted that only the ordained monastics could reach full enlightenment, and that they must live by strict rules and give up their ordinary life to do so. But finally, in the Great Parinirvana sutra, the sutra of all sutras, universal compassion for all living beings surfaced on the lips of the Buddha. He said,
“Those who study other sutras will never be at the end of their quest. They will keep looking for something that can help them more, something that works more for them. Once they discover the wisdom of Mahaparinirvana, their search will cease, and they will realize they have come to the end of their aim. Mahaparinirvana enables all beings to free themselves of all delusions and illusions.”
So, as a result of this final teaching, lay practitioners were able to strive towards enlightenment without giving up their daily life. Today there are many lay orders, their practices designed for busy working people with families. My own sect is such, but we may be ordained and elevate spiritually while taking the fundamental principles of the final teachings of the Buddha out into our communities and families. I believe such a training in daily life is the most difficult with all its temptations and choices. Daily life is the best training of all for developing unconditional love. It is tested at every turn!
The final teachings also decreed that the lessons learned in any faith were compatible with the teachings of Great Parinirvana. All pathways of faith flow into the great Ocean of Nirvana and coalesce to create world harmony and universal peace. This collection of true selves, beings of faith, no matter which faith, must come together in one heart to rebalance the earth and its peoples.
Finally, it is interesting that few Buddhist denominations today have the final teachings of the Buddha as their core. In Japan, the Shinnyo teaching is the only one. Now is the time for these final teachings to be activated globally.