As Summer begins, our thoughts turn to graduation and the celebration of this milestone. This is a time to reflect on how our achievements are not ours alone. We also reflect on how true success is not always based on successful outcomes in life. We succeed only because of the countless causes and conditions that make our lives possible. We are sustained and nurtured by the love of family and friends, we learn from our failures, and we are always embraced by the Buddha’s compassion.
We offer our praise and gratitude for the unfolding of life in all of its complexities. This is why Gassho is a way of life. We live with the spirit of bowing our heads and putting our hands together in reverence and gratitude for all that enables us to live and for everything that we experience.
I wish we could be assured that life will always be easy and that it will always go according to plan. However, the truth is that life will often be difficult and unpredictable. For example, this past year has been challenging to say the least, but we have thrived in the face of adversity because we learned how to skillfully adapt to our rapidly changing world.
Buddhism teaches that suffering occurs when we cling to the notion of wanting life to be fixed and unchanging. However, despite this wish, the world is undergoing constant change and we often have little control over what is happening. The ongoing pandemic has brought us face-to-face with the fundamental truth of change and how truly limited we are.
As we go through life, we discover that true growth and learning happen only when we are pushed to the edge of our comfort. That we learn the most from our struggles and our failures. The Buddha struggled for six years before sitting under the Bodhi Tree to discover the truth within himself. Shinran Shonin the founder of Shin Buddhism, studied and practiced for twenty years before realizing his limitations and how he was ultimately embraced by Amida Buddha’s infinite love and compassion.
When we perceive our challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles, we discover our inner strength and our ability to persevere and thrive. This is fundamental to the Buddhist way of living. That we should always approach life with a sense of joyful wonder and mystery.
The Dharma teaches us how to fully appreciate and experience life in the here and now. That each moment is perfect and unrepeatable. Each new day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and share. When we accept that we do not and cannot know everything, only then do we enter the doorway to true wisdom. Accepting our limitations cultivates humility and a sense of reverence for the gift of learning about ourselves and the world around us.
When we open ourselves up to what life is offering rather than what we want it to offer, a world of opportunity awaits. We grow with every challenge and setback and we are guided to where we are meant to be.
After graduating high school, I thought I had everything planned out. I would attend college on the mainland and then go to graduate school. I never had any intention of living in Hawaii, let alone being back on the Big Island. However, my plans didn’t go exactly as I envisioned. I didn’t get into my desired graduate program and had to adjust my plans. I returned home to Hawaii to work and had planned to reapply the next year. Well, needless to say, I didn’t reapply and my plans changed. I would not be a minister today if my original plans had worked out. Allowing life to unfold in the way it needed to, I learned and grew from my setbacks. My life would not be what it is today if I had gotten exactly what I wanted at the time.
I am grateful for my failures because they open up a world of opportunities that I may not have ever considered before. The Dharma guides us to live fearlessly without hesitation and with realistic optimism and resolve. Entrusting in the Buddha, we can live as true and real human beings who can meet life’s challenges with courage, compassion, and an open heart. What a remarkable way to live indeed.
Namo Amida Butsu.