May I ever…

VajraMudra

Informed by wisdom and impelled by compassion,

May I ever heal the sick, nurture the young,

Protect the weak, love the beautiful,

Serve the good, honor the wise, and align with the highest.

Bless me to benefit all beings, spontaneously and constantly!

Ritual and Superstition

Great Middle Way

imagesIn some religions, ritual is believed to be efficacious ‘from its own side’ ―that is, the words and actions that constitute the ritual are considered effective, independently of other causes and conditions, and even in situations in which causes and conditions are unfavorable.

In some, the careful pronunciation of mantras and the elaborate observance of certain practices (ritual exactitude) are believed to produce results. In others, rituals are operative if the forms are respected, independently of the purity of the performer. In still others, ‘accepting the Lord in the heart’ through the utterance of a formula is considered sufficient for salvation. Spells and incantations are often considered efficacious (à la Harry Potter) if the correct substances are employed and the directions are followed without deviation. And in yet others, if you can visualize it, declare it, and affirm it, it will happen…

Buddhist rituals have very little in common with…

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But There Is

There is an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned.

If there were no unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned,

no escape would be discerned from what is born, become, made, conditioned.

But because there is an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned,

therefore an escape is discerned from what is born, become, made, conditioned.

— Buddha Shakyamuni

The least and all*

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ … ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  — Matthew, 25:40, 45.

All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.  All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.  — Dhammapada, 10:129-130.

* Mahayana amendment.  We understand “the least of these brothers and sisters” to include all sentient beings — seen and unseen, known, unknown, and unknowable.

Hōkyōintō, Yasakaji Temple, Matsuyama, Japan. Jul 1, 2012.  The Hōkyōin Darani Sutra gathers relics of "all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future."

Hōkyōintō, Yasakaji Temple, Matsuyama, Japan.     July 1, 2012. The Hōkyōin Darani Sutra gathers relics of “all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.”

Fools

A timely quotation every Dharma Fool will want to read

— shared from Ven. Tashi Nyima and The Great Middle Way

Iwamotoji, Kochi Prefecture, Japan. Ceiling detail.  February, 2012.

Ceiling, Iwamotoji, Kochi Prefecture, Japan.  February, 2012.

(The ceiling at Iwamotoji features 575 panels by local artists.                                          Click on image to view this section in greater detail.)

Fools

The foolish proclaim their qualifications;

the wise keep them secret within.

A straw floats on the surface of water,

but a precious gem sinks to the depths.

Those with little learning show great pride.

Grown wise, they are quiet.

Torrents always make much noise,

but the ocean seldom roars.

— Sakya Pandita, A Precious Treasury

Beyond all comings and goings

Mahaparanirvana, Shōzan-ji, Tokushima. January, 2011.

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

Are the Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas “out there” or “in here”?  Are they external beings or are they “us” (or we them)? A bit of both — sometimes without and sometimes within? Neither wholly without or within?  This is dizzying to contemplate, and it remains a fruitless line of thought until we realize it is a trap concocted by our own minds.

Because language is a function of conventional reality, we speak of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as if they are separate and distinct from ourselves — and so we must speak in order to communicate with a measure of ease and efficiency.  With mantra practice, however, we evoke qualities already present in the heart and mind: the True Self of our Buddha Nature.  When we align our minds with those of the Buddhas through mantra recitation, subject-object & self-other divisions fall away, at least temporarily.  We are not separate from the Buddhas because there is no “out there” out there and there is no “in here” in here.

The Tathāgata is the One thus gone, thus come, and beyond all comings and goings.