By Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, Resident Minister
8 FOLD PATH OF NEMBUTSU
The significance of the initial meeting of the Parliament of The World’s Religions in 1893 is that Dr.
D.T. Suzuki introduced Buddhism to the Western world. I am grateful for the causes, conditions, and
the efforts of many people for making my attendance possible to this year’s event. A couple of
dozen ministers and staff of BCA, IBS, BEC, and IMOP attended to support the Buddhist
representation. We provided information at the BCA and IBS booths and conducted services at
the “Buddhist Sacred Spaces” and the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple. Bishop Umezu of BCA, Bishop
this year’s event were women’s human rights, income equality, “war, violence and hate speech,”
climate change, indigenous communities, and the work of inter-faith activities. Although the Dalai
Lama had to cancel as a recommendation to improve his health, there was an impressive list of
renown presenters from many spiritual disciplines.
Having assisted at the booths and services, I was not able to hear many of the speakers. But
my participation at the parliament left me with several impressions. Religion and spiritual groups
have a major responsibility to address the core themes listed above. As the minister of this temple,
with a visibility and influence beyond our membership, I feel an obligation to inform our sangha
and others of these issues. These are not other people’s problems. These issues directly affect our
lives. Shinran tells us that our bonbu, foolish mentality, disguises these real issues with the illusion that
it is beyond our concern. We may think that the work to resolve these issues is far beyond our
individual capacity. Yet, the many speakers were echoing the words of the Buddha. These
problems were created by each one of us, as our desire for individual comfort, has contributed to
a global imbalance of sustainability. And so, the Buddha’s words to resolve these issues become
These issues discussed at the Parliament are not distractions from our usual temple activities.
They affect our daily lives and are critical because they affect our children in greater dimension
than they will ever affect us. Consumerism, discrimination, pollution, and nationalism are the result
of our life style in the last half-century. Honest self-reflection discloses that it has been the ME, who
has succumbed to the short-sighted fulfillment of my desires. How can I (ME) shift to the larger
reality of WE (future life of our children)? Our immediate concern may focus on the individual
education and security of our children. However, we may be missing the invisible threat caused
by sustaining our present level of consumer consumption. The distant sound of a fire siren doesn’t
concern us, until it approaches and stops at our door. The Buddha urges us to react to life’s
concerns, as if our hair is on fire. If we really hear the reality of life’s gifts and threats, we are inspired
to do something. Our thoughts and actions would reflect a sustainable future for many, not just
our personal concerns.
It was interesting to note that many religions are now conversing in the mind-set that we
Buddhists have done for centuries. There is minimal talk of deities causing havoc due to the sins of
man. There is more use of the language of “interdependence” and “compassion.” As Buddhists,
we should feel affirmed that the Teachings of the Buddha are not only accurate, but a path
toward a holistic solution. Our duhkha or discontent is our invitation to growth and resolution.
Becoming aware of the larger issues of life can direct our efforts to shifting our present mind-set of
personal pleasure toward one that values the welfare of all.
Reciting the Nembutsu is not a petition or prayer to be in a better place. It is an expression of
gratitude that awakens us to the gifts that Others have provided for us. It affirms our inclusion in
the Oneness of Interdependent Compassion. This awakening process inspires me to do my part for
the welfare of others. The 8 Fold Path is the Buddha’s guide toward this conscious conduct of
interdependence. As we travel this path, the depth, meaning, and compassion of the Nembutsu
becomes more clear.
We will be using the 8 Fold Path as a guide for us to deepen our experience of the Nembutsu.
This is not a process to achieve something we don’t have. It is a practice to awaken to the gifts
that have made our life possible. We have talked about a meditation on gratitude. It takes
mindfulness to bring this attitude into the flow of everyday life. With this effort, our livelihood is
affected. This sense of gratitude and compassion may be expressed in our conduct and speech.
Of course our speech will include the voicing of “thank you” and the recitation of Namo Amida
Butsu. This process affects our thoughts and thus our view or perspective on everything that we
encounter. The 8 Fold Path of the 4th Noble Truths is our guide to accept the Nembutsu as a living
presence in daily life. It should not be reserved just for the rituals of Shin services. The conscious
practice of the 8 Fold Path may incorporate this sacred recitation and experience as a natural
expression and attitude of life. Thus we can enjoy the Nembutsu attitude that our Shin
predecessors presented to us.
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