- Alexander: I dont know when I
first considered the idea that the fates of my three sons were
somehow bound together, I know it terrified me. I was afraid I might
be the connecting link.
I started thinking about it all the
time. Had I made a mistake? Did I misperceive? I needed to know. It
became so clear. As much as I loved them, and I did love them so much
more than I was ever able to communicate, I had fallen far short as a
parent. Life dealt us lousy blows, but I had to own up to the part I
played in it all.
My perceptions failed me, and for a
person like me to have missed so much, to have unknowingly contributed
to my sons confusion and pain and isolation
dont you see? I
participated in the problem, rather than the solution.
I understand now. Someone has to take
responsibility for wreaking havoc on innocent lives. Our fear, our
hatred, our collective ignorancefor Gods sake, I was one of the
voices of denigration. Whats wrong with you? All the other boys are
taking showers. Be a man. Stand up for what is rightfully yours. Dont
act like a girl. Wheres your dishonoring an entire family. Can you
image what it was like for our sons to hear these things?
This is who I am, a person who needs
to know what I did wrong so that the next time Ill manage the
relationship better. The sad thing is that I have no children, no
relationship left to manage.1
- Guy: The sexual urges I had been
feeling for so long as I could remember were getting stronger. As a
kid I did all the things everybody does, except I had a secret: I
wanted to do them with boys.2
I was in conflict. It was very
humiliating for me. God, If there was one thing I could get rid of,
you know, to not to have, it was being gay. I felt it, the threat of
this thing, this gay plague. I saw it there, but the stronger part of
me said, you know, I'd just as soon die.3
I remember the day after my mother
caught Derek and me, my father came in to talk to me. He apologized
for my mother. 'You're not just like Glen,' he said. God, I wanted to
believe him. I wanted to explain about the feelings I was looking for,
for him to assure me that men can feel these things.
But then he said, 'Maybe you arent
gay.' I don't really blame him. He knew I didn't want to be gay. Who
would want that?
He didn't know. I'm gay. Just like Glen.
And I was dying. Just like Glen.4
What you have just read is taken from a
true account of Alexander and Jane Nakatani and their familytheir
sons, Greg, Glen and Guy. The three sons are dead today. Greg was a
victim of a shooting in a confrontation. Glen and Guy died of AIDS.
It has been suggested that the outcome
of our conversation during this 40th Hongwanji State Ministers
Conference on various social issues be made available for editing and
printing in order to share it with the wider community. As I have been
charged with chairing the Propagation Committee for 1997, I respectfully
request the Ministers Associations of all districts to consider this
proposal as a useful and positive one for ourselves and for those we
share and receive the Dharma.
Although the theme for this workshop was
originally "human rights," I have re-titled the theme of this
workshop for our talk-story to "REVERING LIMITLESS LIGHT AND LIFE
IN TODAY'S FAMILY." I did so because I have a difficult time
understanding the term, "human rights." Every culture,
community, and political group speaks of them, but they seem to be
divided on how we should come to practice these themes of love, respect
Revering limitless light and life in
today's family seeks to clarify through conversation the various strands
that weave a complex fabric of limitless life. This talk-story, for
example, hopes to bring about more questions for you and me to deepen
our reflections into the heart of our spiritual tradition of Shin
Buddhism as a daily spiritual practice.
Not one of us can sayeven
professionallythat we are fully trained as clergy to address the
social issues of our times. We are not, for example, scientists,
doctors, physicists, lawyers, psychiatrists, or specialized counselors.
Despite this limitation, the challenge unique to our times is that we
have access to more information and knowledge than ever before. Limited
as our ability to use that information may be, we still must act upon
In a recent Hawaii County Branch Mental
Health Association of Hawaii Survey of Social Indicators, The City and
County of Honolulu (Oahu) makes up 74.2% of the population, Hawaii
County 11.5%, Maui 9.5%, and Kauai 4.7% of the total population. Yet
Hawaii County has the highest proportion of children under 18 of any
county, the highest rate of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect,
and the highest rate of births to mothers ages 15-17. Just in 1993,
there were 2,118 live births of which 40% (849) were non-marital births,
the highest in the state.
Hawaii County also has the lowest per
capita income and alone makes up 22% of the States food stamps
recipients. This county has the highest rate of unemployment and the
lowest medium income for family and non-family households in the state.
The suicide rate in 1995 was up 43% from
the previous year, attempted suicides were up 25% from the previous
year, and of these attempted suicides over 21% were by people under 18.
Hawaii County also has the highest rate of alcohol and drug abuse in the
state. Hawaii County has the highest rate of confirmed cases of abuses
of dependent adults: 31% of the State's total with reports of abuse of a
family or household member at a rate of 7 1/2 per week.
The States death rate is highest in
Hawaii County from all causes including heart disease, stroke, car and
other accidents, and flu and pneumonia. Each individual category is also
the highest found in the state. The highest rate reported in the state
for AIDS also belongs to the County of Hawaii.
How should the religious community
respond to this human equation of suffering? Should we take
responsibility by first asking questions of how we can contribute to
solutions without pointing the finger of blame or fault?
WE, as a community, should not ignore
the problem because we feel that we will never be able to do enough. We
also cannot simply determine that it is those of us who are not
practicing the Buddhist way, that are the ones who will probably fall
victim to such social and economic ills. In other words, "They
deserve what they get! WE are not like them!" is not a valid
In order for each of us to feel a
connection with one another, there must be something in common felt,
understood, and experienced. We must share something. In a very
practical way, this is one way of describing compassion.
What is shared in this framework of
compassion is the uniqueness of individuals, communities, and cultures
that differ in time and space. Although from this description it does
not seem that there is anything in common, what must be remembered is
that different vantage points can be shared from a common ground or
reality. For example, the basic premise of interdependence is common to
all Buddhists. Another way of stating this Dharma of interdependence is,
"We need each other. I cannot exist and live alone!" From this
definition of interdependence, the Sangha as a community must also come
to include as part of our conscious learning animate and inanimate
objects; the connections of the present to the past and the potential of
the future are real consequences of our actions deliberate or otherwise.
The Sangha is not limited to noted human concerns.
Another way in which the Dharma of
interdependence can be restated is as "impermanence",
"non-ego, " "emptiness",
"gratitude," or "Namo Amida Butsu." The role of the
Buddha-Dharma is to open the gate to everyone to attain Buddhahood. By
doing so, it becomes critical that Buddhist educators provide ways to
integrate religious truth with everyday living experiences.
Does Buddhist literature comment on
"homosexuality?" Leonard Zwilling gives an account in his
article, "Homosexuality As Seen In Indian Buddhist Texts." His
article is based on his inquiries into the Vinaya or monastic law and
Abhidharma or metaphysics of both the Pali and Sanskrit traditions. The
term used to characterize a homosexual is "pandaka." It means
"no testicles." Although incorrect, persons identified as
pandaka have also been referred to as "eunuch."
According to the Zwilling article, five
types of pandaka are described: 1) congenitally impotent; 2) as out of
frustration, satisfying sexual desires by watching others engaged in
sexual relations, e.g., voyeurism; 3) one who, owing to the outcome of
non-virtuous conduct becomes impotent, then regaining in accordance with
the lunar cycle; 4) one who satisfies sexual desires by fellating
another to ejaculation; and 5) attaining ejaculation through special
means or device.5
Referring to Buddhaghosa, pandaka are
filled with defiled passions, insatiable lusts, and are dominated by
their libido. The pandakas lust for lovers is likened to a
prostitute or course young woman. From Buddhaghosas point of view,
the pandaka is unable to fulfill the role of a real man and is likened
in behavior and psychological characteristics to a "bad"
Vasubandhu contends that the
psychological makeup of the pandaka has bearing on the ability to
practice religion. Such a person is thought to have no discipline for
spiritual practice. This is because such a person has the defiling
passions of both male and female sexes. Such beings are said to lack the
moral fortitude to counter defiling passions because they lack modesty
and shame. Incapable of showing restraint, such a being is abandoned by
their parents and lacking such ties are unable to hold strong views.7
Zwilling points out that these
particular Indian Buddhist views toward the pandaka as lascivious,
shameless, un-filial, and as capricious points to the social
disabilities a member of a stigmatized and outcasted group must suffer.
This prejudice against the pandaka is in contrast to the hinjras who are
known for their inability or unwillingness to satisfy their parents in
this life or the next life by not bearing offspring or by not performing
funerary and other after death rites.8
Interestingly, at least the Buddhaghosa
Indian Buddhist tradition recognizes the homosexual condition as an
organic disorder with a psychological component. Such a view is also
held by traditional Indian medical thought.
Zwillings assessment is a negative
evaluation of homosexuals and their behavior by Buddhists. When
examining the moral and legal consequences of this behavior, clearly,
sexual misconduct is to be avoided by pious laity as well as the clergy.
Early Buddhist traditions conceive sexual misconduct in terms of sexual
relations with various types of prohibited women and the performance of
non-procreative sexual acts. However, only Buddhaghosa and an anonymous
author include men among forbidden sexual objects.
The Vinaya points to the consequences of
intentional sexual misconduct by clergy. Varying offenses require
varying punishments. Penetration with emission results in expulsion
(castration to decapitation is cited in the Agamas) regardless of the
gender, species or the partner or the orifice penetrated. Other types of
sexual contact, such as masturbation of one monk by another are
considered a serious offense, but does not require expulsion. A
non-orgasmic contact such as touching the genitals of another person is
a relatively minor offense. Interestingly, as a rule, offenses committed
with a pandaka require less punishment than those involving a woman do.
The punishment becomes more severe if they are committed with a socially
acceptable man. Mutual masturbation among nuns is considered a minor
offense; there are fewer explicit references to homosexuality in the
monastic rules for nuns than for monks.
A number of rules were laid down to
minimize homosexual encounter in a same-gender-closed community. For
example, it became forbidden for two nuns to share the same bed covers
or two novices to serve the same monk after it was discovered that the
two novices committed a sexual offense with each other. It is of no
surprise therefore, to find that ordination is denied to such persons (pandaka)
and that such a denial has solid scriptural authority.9
Asanga like Vasubandhu goes further than
the prohibition of ordination. They refuse to recognize the pandaka as a
layperson based upon their assessment that such beings are unfit to
associate with or serve the Sangha. However, although they were not
allowed to receive and social or religious recognition as such, Asanga
does not go so far as to disallow them to practice the path of
Although there are no specific
references to homosexuality found in the Nikayas, the collection of
Buddha's discourses in the Pali tradition, Zwilling points to the
Anguttaranikaya. Therein is found a warning to monks against erotic
feelings for each other. The Buddha warns that a monk who is devoted to
another may think, "This person is dear and pleasing to me,"
and will be adversely affected if such a companion is expelled by
the order, leaves, becomes ill or dies.10
Buddhaghosa, commenting on a passage
from the Digha Nikaya, describes the progressive degeneration in the
life span of human beings with increasing corporeality and sinfulness
and takes the expression "wrong conduct," as the "sexual
desire of men for men and women for women."11
In the sutra literature of Sanskrit
Buddhism is described the hellish torment awaiting those men who indulge
in sexual relations with other men. "The one who commits misconduct
with boys sees boys being swept away in the Acid River who cry out to
him and owing to the suffering and pain born of his deep affection for
them, plunges in after them."12
Although Indian Buddhism does not
altogether ignore homosexual behavior, its writings assess its behavior
much to the same degree as comparable heterosexual behavior. Zwilling
also proposes, however, that not recognizing a socially stigmatized
class such as the pandaka as possible members of the Buddhist order can
be interpreted as a socially expedient and practical concession to the
prevailing sentiment and convention of Indian society. Dealing with the
pandaka in this way would prevent any suspicion or charge of ill conduct
from being leveled at the order as a whole.
Clearly, however, we find that the
institution of Buddhism, as a religious entity intent on maintaining
Sakyamunis teachings, have come to reinforce a caste system: a system
bound to the Brahmanic tradition. How is that possible? When a community
of believers no longer has its leader or founder, its collective
sentiment can be easily swayed by conventional religious and social
norms. Even early Buddhism during the lifetime of Sakyamuni was
ambivalent, for instance, regarding the issue of allowing women into the
A religious communitys survival
depends upon it ability to communicate and advocate the founders true
spirit and intent of the teaching. When a community is unable to do so,
it will make all the necessary decisions to maintain the outward
appearance of true intent but will inwardly betray the spirit of the
teaching. A religious community such as the Hongwanji is no exception.
It must struggle to renew its vitality in the spirit of its founder
Shinran Shonin. In order to do this, however, it must continually
immerse itself in the muck and mire of daily encounter, unafraid of the
struggle for clarity and reflection that must come about, even when
points of view diverge.
Furthermore, a spiritual community
should realize that social issues affect how the religious and the pious
are seen by those outside the tradition whether a spiritual community
provides spiritual and social leadership or not.
The following four disciplines are
prescribed in the 14th Chapter of the Saddharmapundarikasutra (Volume
5), or more commonly known in the English speaking world as the Lotus
Sutra. These four religious practices (shianrakugyo, Jpz.) are performed
to make peace. Here the term "peace" refers to Buddhahood.
The four disciplines are: 1. Engage in
conduct leading to peace. This includes not to growing intimate with (a)
men of rank; (b) heretics and heretical doctrines; (c) sports; (d)
scavengers; (e) the followers of the Hinayana; (f) women; (g) eunuch (pandaka);
(h) places of danger; (i) suspicion; and (j) handsome youths. You
should only cultivate your mind in a quiet place. (Underline added).
2. Engage in speech conducive to peace,
including (a) not to speak of defects in the sutras or criticize other's
faults; (b) not to despise those of the Hinayana but to teach them the
Mahayana doctrine; (c) not to rail at others; and (d) not to use angry
words against others.
3. Engage in thoughts conducive to
peace, including (a) not to be envious; (b) not to consider others as
mean and worthless; (c) not to dispute with others; (d) not to
disappoint others with nonsensical words, but look upon the Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas as your parents and teachers, and having pity upon all
4. Make vows for peace with a deep
compassion for all sentient beings, liberating them from their miseries.
The Shianrakugyo or Four groups or
Religious Practices necessary for attaining Buddhahood provide a
condensed code of purity of thoughts, words, deeds, and vows for the
Its earlier counterpart is found in the
Majjhima Nikaya, the Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha, in the 9th
chapter or section referred to as the Sammaditthisutta in the passages
on Right View:
When, friends, a noble disciple
understands the unwholesome and the root of the unwholesome, the
wholesome and the root of the wholesome, in that way is one with the
right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in
the Dharma and has arrived at this true Dhamma.
And what, friends, is the
unwholesome, what is the root of the unwholesome. What is the
wholesome, what is the root of the wholesome; taking what is not
given is unwholesome; misconduct is sensual pleasure is unwholesome;
false speech is unwholesome; malicious speech is unwholesome; harsh
speech is unwholesome; gossip is unwholesome; covetousness is
unwholesome; ill will is unwholesome; wrong view is unwholesome.
This is called the unwholesome.
And what is the root of the
unwholesome? Greed is the root of the unwholesome; hate is the root
of the unwholesome; delusion is the root of the unwholesome. This is
called the root of the unwholesome.
And what is the wholesome?
Abstention from killing living beings is wholesome; abstention from
taking what is not given is wholesome; abstention from misconduct in
sensual pleasures is wholesome; abstention from false speech is
wholesome; abstention from malicious speech is wholesome; abstention
from harsh speech is wholesome; abstention from gossip is wholesome;
uncovetousness is wholesome; non-ill will is wholesome; right view
is wholesome. This is called wholesome.
And what is the root of the
wholesome? Non-greed is the root of the wholesome; non-hate is the
root of the wholesome; non-delusion is the root of the wholesome.
This is called the root of the wholesome.
When a noble disciple has thus
understood the unwholesome and the root of the unwholesome, the
wholesome and the root of wholesome, he entirely abandons the
underlying tendency to lust, he abolishes the underlying tendency to
aversion; he extirpates the underlying tendency to the view and
conceit 'I am,' and by abandoning ignorance and arousing true
knowledge he here and now makes an end to suffering. In that way too
a noble disciple is one with right view, whose view is straight, who
has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true
Before we go into the next segment of
our talk-story, it is significant to point out what has been considered
up to the present. The kind of problems we dont like to face like
child neglect and abuse, suicide, drug abuse, family member abuse,
abortion, AIDS, etc., are at our door step. In fact for Hongwanji
members and Buddhists, a significant number of those individuals
suffering from these profound issues are members of our family.
For a community that has essentially
"taken care of its own" and "kept their noses
clean," the times in which we live today demand the individual, the
family, and the religious community to take a real hard look at what we
are and who we are as part of limitless life. What we become, we become
together. As we look at the world around us, it seems to be getting
smaller and smaller; people are living closer in that the strands we
weave in the fabric of life is getting tighter and tighter. We know so
many things about each other that we didn't before. Our effect upon one
another and the environment is more profound and intimate. With this
closeness, however, we know that there are many isolated and desolate
people falling through the cracks.
No matter what information we have or
what we think we know, we should realize that it is our purpose to grow,
to develop, and reach out to others around us. We do this not because we
think we are more fortunate than others or more worthy of loving or
caring for others; we do so because we need each other. We do so because
that is the only way that we can best love and care for ourselves as
Through the contribution of scholarship
we know that past Buddhists have provided discourse and sutra materials
that provided insight into the religious response to
"homosexuality." It is significant to point out that a
"caste" of individuals, e.g., pandaka, and hinjra which
included "homosexuals" were stigmatized by Indian Buddhists
after the decease of its founder Sakyamuni Buddha and that this
reflected the cultural and social norms of Indian society and religion.
We also have found evidence that the Sangha can indeed be affected by
the sway of popular opinion despite the founders intent for a more
inclusive and tolerant religious community, or at least idealized by the
Another significant point, which is
clear, is that the notion of "caste" although seemingly part
of another culture or society of antiquity has modern meaning in
America. We have created the caste of the homeless and poor; the cast of
the indigenous peoples of the Polynesias, the North American peoples,
peoples brought in as slaves, and the caste of women.
Even Sakyamuni Buddha may not have been
exempt from this bias toward women. Alan Sponberg in his article,
"Attitudes Toward Women and the Feminine in Early Buddhism"
cites Mahapajapati, the foster mother to Sakyamuni who raised him after
the death of his mother. Mahapajapati suggests that it would be good if
women were allowed to become nuns by taking up the homeless life as
full-time disciples rather than limited to lay followers.
The Buddha is weary of her request and
denies her three times and she is turned away. Distraught, she
approaches Ananda, Sakyamunis chief disciple, to ask for his
intercession on behalf of women. The Buddha finally conditionally
consents and agrees to ordination only if eight specific rules be added
to the already established monastic code. Although we do not have real
proof that the Buddha responded in the following manner, the account
indicates that the Buddha then prophesied that this compromise will
result in the Dharma enduring for only 500 years instead of 1000.14
Although we truly do not know if this
actually happened, the fact that scriptural authority is found is
significant. Based on this, at least two problematic issues present
themselves to Buddhists of today.
The first is the Indian, Chinese and
Japanese notions of the place and role of women in society, i.e.,
marriage. Specifically, this is the problem of the Three Obediences or
Humilities of: 1) she should obey her parents when young; 2) she should
obey her husband when married; and, 3) she should obey her children when
Accordingly, scholars have concluded
that in Buddhism, "A woman cannot hope for any fortunate position
even in this perishable and defectiable world of birth and death, how
much less must be her hope of attaining Buddhahood! No matter what Sutra
or Sastra you look at, she is always spoken of in terms of scorn and
Sponberg contends that the notion of
early Buddhism being equalitarian is misleading despite being popularly
presented in that light. It is possible that the Buddhas personal
view was more spiritually equalitarian, but doctrinal material which
have survived today presents a restricted view of a woman's ability for
spiritual liberation and nothing whatsoever is asserted regarding their
social rights within the society.16
Sponberg therefore cites a powerful
theme or attitude which he terms, "institutional
androcentrism: the view that woman indeed may pursue a full-time
religious career, but only within a carefully regulated institutional
structure that preserves and reinforces the conventionally social
standards of male authority and female subordination."17
Karen Lang, in the same edition, points
out that such an attitude is not limited to eastern or Asian society. It
is more universal and can be found in Christianity as well:
"Both the Buddhist and Gnostic
account of the fall have in common the following sequences of events: a
deliberate act of eating brings about the transformation of originally
luminous, incorporeal, and asexual nature into one that is now dark,
material and sexual. This transformation, in turn, brings about
awakening of sexual desire and the subsequent satisfaction of this
desire through sexual intercourse. These scriptures imply, that since
sexuality was involved in the fall, abstention from sexual pleasures
will weaken the ties that bind humanity to the lower material world and
thus enable seekers after enlightenment to ascend the luminous state of
perfection forfeited by their ancestors."18
This attitude which blames women for the
trouble and the destruction of the world is both hostile and
dehumanizing: "Women are ever the root of ruin, and the loss of
substance; when men are to be controlled by women how can they gain
happiness? A woman is the destruction of this world and the next, hence,
one must ever avoid women if he desires happiness for himself."19
Why have I taken so much effort to
talk-story on the issue of the "caste of women?" A universal
attitude toward women by a male dominated culturephysically,
politically, physiologically, religiously, economicallywill no doubt
bring about a necessary abuse of that power and domination. This
attitude against women in the Buddhist order is truly not disconnected
from the issues of spousal abuse and the issue of abortion and even the
very notion that a marriage consists simply and is limited to a man and
Bardwell Smith in his article,
"Buddhism and Abortion in Contemporary Japan" suggest that:
"...women who become pregnant
against their wishes and who may also feel guilty over having to
abort are a prime candidate for a type of inner conflict that
includes not only diffused resentment but self-reproach as well.
This combination of repressed anger, guilt, and diminished
self-esteem has many ramifications in the lives of women. This is
not to imply that they are caused mainly by the problems of birth
control and abortion. If anything, it is the reverse, namely, that
problems arising there are attributable to less than satisfying
relationships between men and women in so many areas of Japanese
social life. Although the absence of realistic procreative choices
discussed earlier, often leading to the necessity of abortion, is
sufficient cause for frustration, the deeper causes are rooted
within the whole social structure in which women have little
opportunity to participate in the decision-making that affects
important areas in their lives. Japan is hardly alone in
We are all bound together in samsara. We
are bound in the Net of Indra! However, we are also bound together in
the incomprehensible Vow that liberates us! Even if we ignore this truth
we are still subject to its working.
Don't Forget Shin Buddhism...
For those of us who have not lost
interest in this obviously long talk-story, it seems necessary to
"come about" and address attention to the particular
significance of Shin Buddhism and its application henceforth.
The Brabmajala Sutra (Brahmacarya Sutta,
Pali) can be cited as a very important Code or Path of Purification.
Tendai Buddhism condenses the 250 precepts and 348 precepts of monks and
nuns, respectively, into 10 cardinal and 48 subordinate precepts.
Violation of any one of the 10 was punishable by expulsion from the
Sangha, while penitent confession was necessary for those who broke with
any of the 48 lesser precepts.
As in the Majjhima Nikaya, the
Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha, the Sammaditthi Sutta on Right
View tells us that the purity of thoughts, words, and deeds is
wholesome; the impurity of thoughts, words, and deeds is unwholesome.
The Sammaditthi Sutta reveals through specific rules in the Brabmajala
Sutra the Code of Purity through thoughts, words, and deeds and how when
these are purified manifest the practice of an enlightened being.
Shinran Shonin as a doso or hall monk on
Mount Hiei was certainly subject to the rigors of the Tendai 10 cardinal
and 48 lesser precepts. Although we Jodo Shinshu Buddhists are far
removed from the rigors of Mount Hiei, we have as the closest equivalent
a very popular Childrens Reading, "the Golden Chain of
I am a link in Amida Buddha's Golden
Chain of Love that stretches around the world. I will try to be kind
and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than
myself. I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts, to say pure
and beautiful words, and to do pure and beautiful deeds, knowing
that on what I do now depends not only my happiness or unhappiness,
but also those of others. May every link in Amida Buddha's Golden
Chain of Love become bright and strong, and may we all attain
This significant theme of pure thoughts,
words, and actions that we say we try to address is not really within
our abilities because it is very difficult to make the jump to purity.
Our inability to practice pure thoughts, pure words, and pure deeds
tells us of our inadequacies and we are reminded to simply entrust in
What significance might this have on the
issue of legalizing same-gender marriage? A very important hint is cited
in the Sammaditthi Sutra on Right View:
And what is the root of the
unwholesome? Greed is the root of the unwholesome; hate is the root
of the unwholesome; delusion is the root of the unwholesome. This is
called the root of the unwholesome.21
Shinran Shonin confesses that he is
unable to uproot the unwholesome, or greed, hate, and delusion in his
Notes on Once-Calling and Many-Calling:
Ordinary people...we are full of
ignorance and blind passion. Our desires are countless, and anger,
wrath, jealousy, and envy are over-whelming, arising without pause;
to the very last moment of life they do not cease or disappear, or
Again, in the Kyogyoshinsho, Shinran
At every moment, in all of us who
are foolish and ignorant, greed and desire constantly defile any
goodness of heart, and anger and hatred incessantly consume the
Dharma-treasure. Though we rush to act, rush to perform practices as
though driving fire from our heads, all our deeds must be termed
good acts poisoned and irresolute, acts empty, transitory and false;
they cannot be called true and real and sincere. Aspire though one
may to attain birth in the Land of Immeasurable Light through such
empty, transitory, and poisoned good acts, it is altogether
By this time, there are many who may
feel, on some level, that I have concluded that our Shin teachings do
not concern themselves with doing "good" acts because they
become obstacles in attaining faith or Shinjin. This is succinctly
revealed in the Notes on 'Essentials of Shin(jin) Alone' (Shin
Translation Series) which states,
"We should not express outwardly
signs of wisdom, goodness or diligence - People who aspire for the Pure
Land must not behave outwardly as though wise or good, nor should they
act as though diligent. The reason is stated, FOR INWARDLY WE POSSESS
THAT WHICH IS EMPTY AND TRANSITORY.. REFLECT ON THIS..."23
At the same time however, Shinran Shonin
In people who have long heard the
Buddha's Name and said the nembutsu, surely there are signs of
rejecting the evil in this world and signs of their desire to cast
off the evil in themselves. When people first begin to hear the
Buddha's Vow, they wonder, having become thoroughly aware of the
karmic evil in their hearts and minds, how they will ever attain
birth as they are. To such people we teach that since we are
possessed of blind passions, the Buddha receives us without judging
whether our hearts are good or bad.
When, upon hearing this, a person's
trust in the Buddha has grown deep, he comes to abhor such a self
and to lament his continued existence in birth-and-death; and he
then joyfully says the Name of Amida Buddha deeply entrusting
himself to the Vow. That he seeks to stop doing wrong as his heart
moves him, although earlier he would have thought to do such things
and committed them as his mind dictated, is surely a sign of his
rejecting this world.24
A person of Shinjin whose life is
celebrated in the compassion of Amida Buddha's Vow begins to see
"good" and "evil" from a very different vantage
view. Perhaps one of the best ways I can express this is through a
reading shared at the Governors Kilohana Awards--a gathering that
celebrates excellence in volunteerism:
I shall contribute each day with this
person without demanding perfection from others or myself. I shall
struggle each day with my thoughts, my words and my deeds in ways that
my behavior will not be self-defeating. I shall wonder in gladness and
sadness of limitless light and life for teaching me this gift of Faith.
By this gift as my debt of gratitude to limitless light and life, I
shall realize my potential as well as my limits. I shall realize my
clarity as well as my confusion. I shall be taught what needs to be
done, as well as what I am incapable of doing. By this gift of Faith am
I seized by a wondrous joy of having been so lovingly cared for by a
perfection which realizes in me, the gratitude of my own imperfections.
Namo Amida Butsu.
Shin Buddhism for the individual, as a
family member, a member of a community and society begins to see him or
herself from a radically different point of reference. He or she can no
longer use himself as a standard of "good" or "bad"
because every thing based upon that standard lack real clarity of truth,
sincerity, and genuineness.
At the same time, however, I can no
longer blame or fault others for my three poisons of greed, hate, and
ignorance. When my wife or child do something, they are simply growing
and developing as imperfect, frail human beings just as I am. However,
as if instinctually, if they do something that is not in line with the
way I want it to be, I get angry. This is done without even thinking
If I don' t realize that this is a part
of limitless life in which I live in the compassion of Amida Buddha, I
might continue to behave instinctively and angry words will come out of
my mouth. If I continue in this way, I will physically abuse a family
member. But, if I really apply Shinshu in my daily living, I realize
that I am the only person causing me to get angry, greedy, and deluded.
In other words, although I cannot always see myself accurately, I need
to know that I am responsible for my thoughts, words and deeds. There is
no one else I can hold responsible for me except me. Unless we remain
children all our lives, we cannot even blame our parents or those who
have provided the causes or conditions for us to be as we are in the
Though each of us searches for
happiness, we must come to realize that true happiness is not getting
what we want. There is a certain happiness, a sense of gratitude in
knowing what you have and who you are. Such a happiness is not the
absence of problems, but the grateful courage to grow by them. In life,
there are no unimportant or inferior or subordinate or queer persons.
There are no unimportant tasks or vocations. There are no unimportant
acts of kindness. Each human being is, after all, as happy or as
miserable as he or she makes his or her mind up to be. Know yourself,
accept yourself. This is the Buddha's love and wisdom in you. Changing,
learning, growing and sharing. It is all about you. It is all about me.
It is no one elses responsibility.
There is the saying, that "love and
marriage go together." We must remember that love doesn't just
happen by itself. Just because you're married doesn't mean you love each
other. It doesnt suggest that as a husband and wife, or a
husband and husband, or a wife and wife that you love each other. I
think love is like baking bread. You need to work at it and watch it
grow. It has to go into the fire if its going be anything worthwhile.
And you've got to share it if its going to taste any good. Let me
share the exhortation in the weddings that I have officiated over up to
"On this most wonderful
celebration of your lives together, you, (name), and you, (name),
shall hereby publicly declare your resolve to wed. You do so of your
own accord in the sanctuary of limitless light and life and all who
love and support you.
(name )and (name), your karmic
threads are run from unique cloths. From this, however, you will
fashion a new design of hopes and visions onto that amazing tapestry
of limitless light and life.
Remember always that each of you
occupies a sacred and irreplaceable place in this universe. This
place cannot be duplicated or even owned by the other in matrimony.
This means that each of you shall come to fully honor, respect and
love your own person so that you, in turn, may do so for the other.
Delight in that rare and unique place each of you holds in this
world of ebb and flow. Each of you today has been solemnly called to
relation--this means that you must, in turn, honor, respect, and
delight in each other as you do so preciously with your own person.
In short, you have invited each other to share the most loving,
beautiful and grateful persons you can be with all whom touch your
There will be happy moments; there
will be sad moments. By the rhythm of these life experiences
together, you shall discover the amazement of growing and learning
together. Each of you are unique and distinct; yet, you are always
building bridges towards each other. Build upon your loving hands
and hearts to the everyday tasks that move you in sadness as well as
Amidst this flurry of life, may you
celebrate that most precious state of being human: being touched by
Amida Buddha's Compassionate Heart. This is the essence of our life
and, thus, our Shin Buddhist teaching in the joyous gratitude of 'Namo
- Guy: Whose fault was it? For years, I
thought it was mine. I was accountable for my actions. It never
occurred to me that anyone else was involved.
Everyones involved. Me, you, every
living human being. Do we really know what were doing to each
other? We call each other names. And we push and shove each other out
of the way, because were so hateful and afraid.
Okay, I've taken responsibility. What
about the rest of you? Why do you hate us so? Do you think we can make
your son or daughter gay? Are you afraid we'll rub off on them? On
You don't get it. Its not contagious.
Its who I am. Maybe it's who you are...25