The temple’s word for the year is faith.
Reflecting on life at the temple recently I had the sense that our community members, residents and otherwise, are all deepening their relationship with their own personal koan. I use koan here in the sense of the koan that arises in daily life, rather than the universal cases that are studied in Rinzai.
A more Pureland way of saying this might be something like, ‘People are deepening their relationship both with their bonbu nature and with the Buddha.’
We all have our own bonbu nature. Greed, hate and delusion are universal, but they manifest in each of us in unique ways. Getting to know our own personal bonbu nature has two benefits, the first is that we might be able to do something to smooth off the rough edges. This might be being more mindful, or putting ourselves in better conditions. The second is more profound: we are shown how deeply intractable our karma is, how heavily conditioned we are, and how we are loved by the Buddha in this foolish state. Any changes we manage to make are held in this greater context of a deep appreciation of our foolishness, and more often than not, when we try to change, we fail, and this brings us back to this second realisation again.
It is faith in Amida which allows this process to begin, and to begin to see our foolish nature clearly, and the more clearly we see our foolish nature, and see that we are loved anyway, the more faith we are given.
As we encounter ourselves and the Buddha in this way, a tender heart appears.
This tender heart might feel deep sadness at the things we do to each other and our world, but it also feels kindness as we recognise that we are all in the same boat, and all loved just as we are.
If we do change for the better in this lifetime, it is because of the dharmic gifts we have received from our friends, teachers, and from the Buddhas. When we examine ourselves in this spirit, rather than reaching for the next stage in self-improvement, we can feel gratitude for what we have already received, and make an offering of what we already are and have to the Buddhas.
When others encounter our community as we each engage in our practice in this way, they are entering into a Pure Land. Pure Land is a translation of a word which literally means ‘Buddha-field’: when we dwell in faith, the Buddha appears, not just for us, but for those around us too.
It is not a perfect Pure Land, like Amida’s, sometimes the lower realms do manifest here, but there is a very real opportunity for people joining our community to encounter the Buddha.
The more we engage with our koans, and the more deeply we dwell in faith, the more clearly this Pureland appears in our midst.