The radiant light, unhindered and inconceivable, eradicates suffering and brings realization of joy; the excellent Name, perfectly embodying all practices, eliminates obstacles and dispels doubt. This is the teaching and practice for our latter age; devote yourself solely to it. It is eye and limb in this defiled world; do not fail to endeavor in it. Accepting and living the supreme, universal Vow, then, abandon the defiled and aspire for the pure. Reverently embracing the Tathagata's teaching, respond in gratitude to his benevolence and be thankful for his compassion.

~ Shinran Shonin, Passages on the Pure Land Way

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day 2017

Happy New Year to my friends and readers from around the world!

As I reflect on the past year, I am filled with gratitude that I was given the opportunity to strengthen my connections with our Jodo Shinshu tradition through many precious encounters, particularly while living and studying in Japan. I believe that these spiritual friendships will outlast the impermanence of this Saha world, and I look forward to learning more from each one of them in the years to come. As Zuiken Sensei says, "Those who have become your friends with selfish desires will part from you through selfish desires; those who have become your friends through the Buddhist Way will never part from you" (Shinshu Dharma-pada, p. 60).

This morning, I woke early in hopes of seeing the first sunrise of the New Year. Unfortunately, the weather here in northern California was cloudy today, so the rising sun remained invisible. Standing beside the river near my apartment, I listened to the sounds of fish jumping and the calls of birds, and pondered the unfathomable working of Amida's Original Vow, which has enabled me to hear the Dharma in this life. The overcast sky reminded me of the words of Shinran Shōnin that we recite in the "Hymn of True Faith":

The light of compassion that grasps us illumines and protects us always;
The darkness of our ignorance is already broken through;
Still the clouds and mists of greed and desire, anger and hatred,
Cover as always the sky of true and real shinjin.

But though light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,
One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses.

I would like to keep these words in mind as I continue to deepen my personal understanding and appreciation of our Jodo Shinshu teaching this year. I will continue to post occasional reflections on my journey on this blog as time permits. If there is anyone who follows what I write here and (more importantly) derives some benefit from it, I would especially like to wish you a happy and prosperous 2017.

In gassho,

Shaku Kyōkan

January 1, 2017