The New York Buddhist Church

November 2, 2020

I often reflect upon Amida Buddha's Infinite Light which guides me through my everyday ups and downs, and through the difficult times such as we are all going through right now.  I am truly thankful for Amida, the Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life, who is always there, and everywhere, encouraging us, and giving us comfort and hope.

In the year 2000, I went back to Kyoto to fulfill the requirements to receive my Kyoshi certification.  After that, there was one person whom I wanted to meet before returning to Hawaii.  That person was Rev. Meitetsu Makifuji, who was the facility manager for the Kaikyoshi (overseas) program.  He had since retired from Honzan, and now resided at his family temple in Shimane Prefrecture.  It was a joyous meeting and we spoke of many things.

The conversation that I most remember involved his comments and interpretation of the Jodo Shinshu Creed, especially the second Creed which reads,  "Mihotoke no hikari wo aogi, tsune ni waga mi wo kaerimite, kansha no uchi ni hagemi masu."  We have two translated in our service book.  The first states "Revering the Light of the Buddha, reflecting upon my imperfect self, I shall strive to live a life of gratitude."  The second translation reads, "I shall look to Amida's Guiding Light.  As I reflect upon my imperfect self, I will live with gratitude for the Perfect Compassion which surrounds me all times."  Sensei emphasized the word aogi which, roughly translated, means to 'revere, admire, look (up) to, or entrust.'  He felt that having some understanding of this word was the key to connecting with Namo Amida Butsu.

In Jodo Shinshu, the Light of Amida Buddha is often referred to as tomoshibi which refers to a Light which guides me and is always there.   This energy of Light represents the fulfillment of all 48 Great Vows being fulfilled and the Buddha's earnest and selfless desire to help us all fulfill all stages necessary to assure our own birth in the Pure Land.  This Light refers to the wisdom and compassion that the Buddha has for a person like me because I feel lost and quite often off the path of life, quietly weighing my purpose for receiving human form.

Buddhism is about finding the balance between myself and everything else in this universe.  Though even a simple pebble may seem unimportant, it is an essential part of the universe that makes everything else discover its own purpose and value.  We may not be able to understand it with our personal limited views, but have we ever considered how many life forms depend on that simple pebble?  This is also true of all things but most importantly as individuals, who have received human form and life, how we each play an important part in the process of life.  The Onembutsu, Amida Buddha's gentle reminder of his vows to embrace us unconditionally, helps me/us to realize that each of us and everything else is important to all. 

As ones who have received this valuable gift of life, we need to look within ourselves to understand the connection.  Too often, we are critical of others and forget to look within our own hearts and minds.  Is there anyone who can honestly state that they are truly good or evil?  I find myself critical and completely opinionated about matters and individuals.  The Buddha's Light goes beyond any human understanding.  This Infinite Light is meant to awaken us and help us to see things from different points of view beginning with myself.  It is enlightenment itself, a gift from the Buddha, which reaches out to us unconditionally to guide each of us, especially a foolish person like myself.

I am not exactly sure what Makifuji Sensei was trying to convey, and I continue to contemplate his thoughts.  Perhaps he was trying to tell me, through the various personal experiences of his own life, that it is not necessarily so important to know, as far as Buddhism is concerned.  What is important is to learn to entrust and revere the Light of the Buddha, and to live the best we can, each and every precious day, and to help and support others to do the same.

Namo Amida Butsu.