The New York Buddhist Church

October 1, 2020

Is there anyone who has not been perplexed in making decisions? Sometimes the choices are simple, sometimes they are difficult.  What goes into making our decisions?  We rely on a number of things-- personal perceptions, experiences, and beliefs, what weve been taught and what is familiar. Or sometimes we want to go with something that is entirely new and different.  Whatever and however we choose, we need to keep in mind that there are consequences in our decisions that will have an impact on the future, our own and those of others.

 Were in the middle of a devastating global pandemic.  Should I continue wearing a mask?  Should I continue practicing social distancing?  Should I continue to wash my hands frequently?  Is it okay to travel?  Theres a presidential election coming up.  Which candidate should I choose?  To make decisions  that lead to fewer regrets, its important to understand the issues from various points of view, to be open to hearing the perspective of others and not to be judgmental.  Better decisions often come through expanding ones thoughts.  Even though we seem to be living in a so-called me world where people are focusing on themselves, we need wisdom which can be a guide as we consider the impact of our thoughts, words, actions and decisions on others, and on ourselves.

Id like to tell a story about corned beef hash.  A man has a craving for some, but doesnt have any on his pantry shelf, so he goes to the local supermarket to buy some.  When he gets there, he realizes there are many different varieties as well as many different brands.  How should he decide which one to pick?  Does he go with the one he usually gets?  Does he go with the one someone else has recommended?  Does he go with the one with the appealing label?  Does he go with the one thats most advertised?  Even choosing a can of corned beef raises a number of considerations!

Decisions, decisions, were constantly faced with them.  When it comes right down to it, making decisions is a very private and personal thing, and even though some decisions might even be a matter of life and death, its not always immediately clear which one would lead to a better result. 

In Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha ended his years of asceticism when, undeterred by the precept of taking anything from a woman, he made the decision to accept a bowl of kheer, a milk-rice pudding, from Sujata, a village girl.  That decision and eating and drinking the kheer gave him the strength and nourishment he needed to enter into 49 days of meditation which led to his enlightenment.  His followers thought that he had broken the rules, yet wondered why he looked so different.   What they didnt realize was that in accepting Sujatas compassion, which transcends gender, he experienced a deep sense of serenity and calm that now flowed from Shakyamuni and transformed his appearance.  He looked deep within, touched the ground, and was able to awaken to the oneness of all things.  With this deep sense of awakening, he became conscious of everything that makes life possible and recognized that there was no separation between himself and everything else in the world.  His life, expressed in his teachings, is a means by which we can see a bigger picture of our own existence and responsibilities.  How grateful I am.

We recently observed the Japanese Buddhist holiday Ohigan during Sunday services at NYBC and Seabrook.  Ohigan, celebrated twice a year during the autumn and spring equinoxes, means to reach the other shore.  It always reminds me of the parable of the Two Rivers and the White Path.  Its one of my favorites because the traveler, pursued by bandits and wild beasts, in order to escape them must navigate between two different types of rivers, one with high waves and one with high flames.  Dividing the two rivers is a narrow white path which the traveler chooses to follow, stepping forward slowly and carefully, as he listens to the voices of both Amida Buddha calling him to come to the other shore, and Shakyamuni Buddha encouraging him to go.  With each step the path gets wider and wider, allowing him to entrust in the voice that is calling him, and also in the voice that is telling him not to be afraid. 

When we make decisions of our own, it is everyones responsibility as living beings on this Earth to open our hearts and minds to what is true and real, to awaken to different things, deeper thoughts, and to listen to the voice that is calling.  Namo Amida Butsu.