Even if I should be subjected to
All kinds of suffering and torment.
Continuing my practice undeterred,
I would endure it and never have any regrets.
Verse from the sutra, Sanbutsuge
San Luis Obispo Buddhist Temple
6996 Ontario Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Resident Minister: Rev. Naomi Seijo Nakano
I was talking with a person one day and they were so surprised that we observe holidays. I was born in the United States to a first generation father (Issei, born in Japan) and a second-generation mother (Nisei, born in the United States to first generation parents). I told them as an American born I believe in the “spirit” of Christmas. My parents always had a tree, presents and decorations, and a gathering of family and friends. My “Santa Claus” was not the little fat man in a red suit that would come down the chimney on the eve but the thoughtfulness shared by loving family and friends. They also had this “spirit” of giving and showing compassion to others.
I was born into a “foodie” family. My parents owned a café and during all the holiday eves and holidays, my father was at the café. He kept the café open for those who did not have family and shared his kindness and time with them, so they were not forgotten and had a family. We were at home, awaiting my father’s return. It would be late but we always anticipated his arrival. I sometimes wondered if this little fat man in red suit was actually my father.
For a Buddhist, December is not a religious observance but a time of sharing, mindfulness and thankfulness. We may not be “Rockefellers” with riches and such but we can still share our attributes. We are conscious of what others may be going through during this time of year. We extend our hand of warmth and comfort to them. It is our Namu Amida Butsu, which can bring a small ray of light.
We observe this holiday with glee but also giving thought of the turmoil and hardships Shakyamuni Buddha went through to attain Enlightenment. We refer to this as Bodhi Day or Jodo-.E. At the age of 35 years old Prince Siddhartha found his home in the Truth. Growing up he had all riches and wealth but he also witnessed the suffering of others. He left all this behind and practiced ascetic disciplines, which included nearly starving himself to death in order to gain control over his body. He realized that no one could think clearly without a healthy body and mind, therefore he ate enough to sustain his well being. He took to the middle way of mediation.
According to the lunar calendar, it was in the early dawn of December 8th that Prince Siddhartha attained Enlightenment. He became a Buddha, the Awakened One, a fully enlightened person. Shakyamuni Buddha showed us that we all have Buddha-nature or the potential to become an enlightened being.
He continues to teach, that as sentient beings we will still have blind passions and it is a natural instinct. However it is when we recognize and work to finding our own Truth and to entrust in Amida Buddha’s compassion and wisdom that we can also become enlightened. We entrust in Nembutsu to guide and direct us.
Our Nembutsu is to awaken ourselves to what is. We share our gratitude for opening our hearts and minds. Even if the Truth is not readily at hand or difficult to realize, we are grateful to be able to hear and decide on our own. How wonderful to be given choices and the time to find our way. Nembutsu is being mindful of the wisdom that is shared and how compassion forgives us of our unwholesome acts and thoughts. This Bodhi Day and all the 364 days of the year are our days of thanks and gratitude. We try to reach toward awakening, liberation, realization or entrusting in Namu Amida Butsu.
May you all have a safe and enjoyable season. May the “little jolly fat man in the red suit” find his way to your home, bringing lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh. We share our cookies and milk with the jolly fat man, but share Nembutsu in gratitude with everyone and everyone a good night.
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano
Southern District Temples