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The Nembutsu in the Midst of Coronavirus

During this time of uncertainty and fear, we should take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and deepen our reliance on Amida Buddha's Compassionate Vow which is always embracing us.

We often chant the Sanbutsuge (Hymn in Praise of the Buddha) during our services. This sutra is a poem from the Muryojukyo (Larger Sutra) in which Amida Buddha as Bodhisattva Dharmakara praises his teacher and makes his forty-eight vows establishing the Pure Land. These vows promise to create a perfect world where no suffering or evil exists and guides all beings equally without exception to ultimate awakening. Amida Buddha vows to attain supreme enlightenment; to save all who are suffering; and to declare universal salvation through the Name, Namo Amida Butsu.

In a verse from the Sanbutsuge, Amida declares:

I resolve that, when I become a Buddha,

I will fulfill this vow in every possible way,

And to all beings who live in fear

I will give great peace.

During this time of uncertainty and fear, we should take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and deepen our reliance on Amida Buddha's Compassionate Vow which is always embracing us. Shinran believed that when we entrust in the Vow and say the Nembutsu, wisdom and compassion follow us throughout our lives just like our shadows do. This is Amida’s promise to hold us especially in times of loneliness and anxiety.

The Nembutsu is a practice for our whole lives in every moment. We can always touch the heart of reality through Namo Amida Butsu whether at work or at home or wherever we may be. If you have a home altar, take a moment each day to quietly reflect as you light a candle and offer incense while repeating the Buddha’s Name. You can do this even if you don’t have a home altar. Wherever you are, simply take a moment to breathe and to think on the Buddha by saying Namo Amida Butsu. Within the Nembutsu, we can embrace the unknown with confidence and compassion. Within Namo Amida Butsu we realize that we are part of a greater human Sangha that is facing this pandemic together. Namo Amida Butsu takes in our suffering and breaks open our hearts to the suffering of others. The Nembutsu enables us to embrace our full humanness.

This is the promise of the Dharma. The Buddha’s Teachings help us to understand and to manage life with greater kindness, compassion, and equanimity. In the Pure Land Path of Shinran, the Nembutsu is a promise from Amida Buddha to embrace never to abandon. The Nembutsu is a blessing that we constantly receive every single day of our lives. Namo Amida Butsu holds us in both our joys and our sorrows and transforms our ignorance into wisdom, our greed into generosity, and our anger into love. Namo Amida Butsu can help us meet life’s challenges with greater courage, comfort, and peace. Namo Amida Butsu empowers us to realize that we are enough and are worthy of compassion. Living the Nembutsu is our way of actualizing the world of awakening. Within Namo Amida Butsu we can find harmony and balance in our often-chaotic world.

Please take all necessary precautions to keep yourself healthy during this crisis. We should base our responses on good science not conspiracy theories and we should always take refuge in the Buddha’s Teachings. The Dharma guides us never to shy away from honestly facing the pain of the human condition and at the same time, we learn not to shy away from the beauty and value of life in all its forms and experiences.

While in-person services and activities have been suspended, the temple will remain open for personal reflection and contemplation. Should you find yourself in need of spiritual support, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here for you. We will get through this together. May Amida's light of wisdom and compassion give you comfort and peace. Namo Amida Butsu.


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