The New York Buddhist Church

July 28, 2020

Hey, get real.  Why do some people often say one thing but do another?  As the Buddha taught, To utter pleasant words without practicing them is like being a fine flower without fragrance.  That saying reminds me of the need to walk the talk, of our need to awaken to the responsibilities we have to ourselves, and for others.

But how can we do that?  With everything thats going on outside right now, not only with the pandemic, but economically, socially, and politically as well, how can we conduct ourselves in such a way that others will trust us to practice what we preach?  How can we ensure that our actions are in accord with our speech and our thoughts?

From a Buddhist perspective, we learn to look inside ourselves for guidance.  My father used to say hollow can make big noise.  He was referring to the barrels filled with oil that our business in Hawaii needed for the burners.  The barrels came in 55-gallon drums and he would frequently check to see how much oil was in each barrel by hitting the sides with a metal rod.  When full, the sound was soft and flat, not loud at all.  When empty, it would make a loud noise.  Once the barrel was empty, it was time for the oil company to come and fill it up again. 

I am reminded that when we feel empty inside, its time to step back, to find the balance between whats going on outside to whats going on inside, and hopefully harmoniously set the rhythm in our hearts and minds back in motion.  When were content with ourselves, when were filled with an understanding of who and what we are, we dont need to make loud noises to make ourselves heard or to prove ourselves.  Its enough to just be me.  When we can achieve that, by being mindful, by recognizing our attachments, by believing in ourselves, then what we say and do has an authenticity to it that will sound true to others.

Although most of us are physically apart, we can still reach out and interact with each other.  We can still have empathy, and share our feelings and experiences.  The Sangha is so important!  The greater community is so important!  WE ARE ALL STILL CONNECTED!  The main thing is to come as you are even though we cant do it in person right now.  We need to wake up to the time and reality of the situation and then make a sincere effort to join together, however we can, to continue to lead meaningful lives despite the current disruptions and uncertainties.  We need to never forget that we are in this together.  Being completely honest with oneself is key to awakening to reality as it truly is, and can have a powerful and positive impact on others.   When we are honest with ourselves, we cant help but be honest with others, building a sense of mutual respect, trust, and understanding.  While it is important to be true to ourselves, it is equally important to be true to others, by our actions, our speech, and our thoughts.

It doesnt happen overnight!  It is a journey!  We need to educate ourselves and be aware of whats going on around us, and especially within us.  In Buddhism, the Dharma is meant to help us to truly see ourselves as we are, not to control us.  If were going to genuinely and responsibly walk the talk, we also need to walk the path, the path toward liberation from our sufferings, becoming an example for others.  As Shakyamuni had suggested, Im no different from you, if I can, so can you.  The good news is that were not walking it alone!  Amida Buddha is walking the path with us, with a promise to embrace us and never forsake us.  The inconceivable power of the Nembutsu connects us with past, present, and future, and helps our inner lives to awaken to ourselves and to the reality of the situation in each moment of our lives.  We just need to gratefully and patiently listen to Amidas voice that is ceaselessly calling us, broadening our perceptions that we can honestly and joyfully share with everyone else.   Not only do we need to be open to hearing it, we need to first awaken, and then accept it.  It is a process, and it is real!

 Namo Amida Butsu.