Sunday, March 7, 2010

Essay - Why I Want to Attain My Tokudo

When I came to Hawaii five years ago, I had many goals in mind for my time here. One of them was to pursue Buddhism and, possibly, become a Buddhist. Because I was new to the island and knew nothing about Buddhism, I opened up the phone book to the Buddhist Temples section and chose a listing at random. The listing that I chose was the Wahiawa Hongwanji. Needless to say, at that time the term Jodo Shinshu meant nothing to me. Words like “dharma”, “sangha”, and “karma” were very unfamiliar to me, therefore, words like “nenju”, and “motoshikisho” were as yet unheard of. But the welcome I received at the Temple was exactly what I was looking for at that time. I was greeted, guided, listened to, and invited back. After having attended many services and visiting the temple on my own many times, I concluded that this religion, and this church, was for me.

My understanding of Jodo Shinshu has only just begun. While I feel like I’ve come a long way since that first day, I know that I have only scratched the surface. At this point in my religious journey, I interpret Jodo Shinshu as the most realistic way to practice a religion in today’s day-in-age. As human beings, we cannot escape our own human nature, some would say especially in modern times. But instead of insisting we resist our hurtful human nature, Jodo Shinshu endures it as a tool that we can use to see the path to Shinjin. Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is able to take my flaws as a human being and hold them in the same hand with the vow of The Pure Land. Using concepts like gratitude, community, self-less giving, and interdependence, Jodo Shinshu Buddhism doesn’t so much teach me as it allows me to see the Eight Fold Path in front of me.

Looking back on my life before I encountered Shin Buddhism, I can see that I was lacking something very important. My parents taught me to be a “good” person and to do the “right” thing, but what those things were, and why I had to do them were questions left unanswered. My own religious curiosity led me to Jodo Shinshu, but since then, it has required very little of my own effort to continue to come back to temple or to sit and listen to a dharma talk. When I’m at temple, in gassho in front of the altar, I feel like I’ve found what I was lacking. Since joining the temple, my wife, two sons, and myself have all been confirmed Buddhists. We have an altar set up in our house and we give offerings before meals. We say thanksgiving and we try to teach our boys why it’s important to swish out a bug instead of killing it. The teachings and traditions of Jodo Shinshu have begun to permeate my life and that of my family’s, and I feel we are better people for it.

For many millions of years, the sun has set in the west every single day. And every time this happens, a beautiful sunset occurs. It is probably one of the most beautiful sights we can witness, and it is so common! Why is it then that even to this day, people still paint sunsets and take pictures of sunsets? I would say that it is because when you see something that beautiful, you want to share it with those who weren’t there. When you’re fortunate enough to witness something of this magnitude, it doesn’t matter how easily accessible it is, you want to share it! This is why I want to attain my Tokudo. I feel like an extraordinary chain of events occurred that led me to being a member at the Wahiawa Hongwanji Buddhist Mission, and now that I’ve discovered something this beautiful, I want to share it in the most efficient and accurate way as possible.

The past five years of my life have been the most influential I’ve ever lived through, mostly due to my experience with and exposure to Shin Buddhism. Jodo Shinshu Buddhism has changed my life, and with a little luck, and a lot of hard work, will also change my career. We all look for ways to leave a mark on this world and we hope that when our time here is done, we will be remembered for what we accomplished. This is, perhaps, just our ego talking, but what better way is there to truly feel like you have given something back to your brothers and sisters on this planet than to help spread the dharma? To be a humble teacher of the most profound wisdom… what more can one ask for in life?

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