A message from Rev. Shinji Kawagoe which appears in the book, “The Taste of the Nembutsu,” published in 2016 by the HHMH State Ministers’ Association. The book is a collection of dharma messages by each of the active ministers.
To extend the reach of the dharma within these messages, we will publish one per week on our website.
Amida is Untiring and Illumines You Always
Rev. Shinji Kawagoe
My eyes being hindered by blind passions, I cannot perceive the light that grasps me; Yet the great compassion, without tiring, illumines me always.
(No. 95 from Hymns of the Pure Land Masters)
As you know, Hawaii has coqui frog. To be honest, I like them because they offer nice voices for me. But on the one hand, I know that some of you really don’t like it. One day, as one lady found a coqui frog at our temple and she said to me “Sensei, smash it! smash it!” I was so surprised and just thought. What? Coqui frog is tiny creature. They do not harm us. No need to smash it. So I caught and threw it on the grass in front.
Why am I beginning my message this way? Because one day, a small girl asked an adult why killing mosquitos is taken for granted but we are told that you must not kill butterflies?
What do you think? If small kids ask you about it, how do you explain to them? As you know, sometimes children tell us the truth. So now I would like to ask you that actually, what is the difference between mosquitoes and butterflies? They are same insects, same creatures, aren’t they?
I studied Electrical Engineering at university in Japan. So I like math and science. One Japanese scientist said that if you can’t create exactly same creatures, you mustn’t kill them. What do you think about his opinion? I think usually adults teach small kids that no matter what your body size, every life, insects, birds or human beings, are equally precious.
But, in fact, for example if mosquitoes come to you, you will slap them with no hesitation, right? I know that some people slap them with Nembutsu “Nan Man Da, Nan Man Da” something like that. But if you find butterflies, I think you will not slap them, right? So what is the difference between mosquitoes and butterflies?
In my case, I don’t care about coqui frog but some people really don’t like it. Coqui frog itself never changes. Just our mindset is different. Depends on your passions, you judge this is good to me but that is not, stuff like that. So in your daily life, depends on the person, even if you see exactly same thing as me, value will be different.
That’s why our founder Shinran Shonin said in his poem that “My eyes being hindered by blind passions, I cannot perceive the light that grasps me.” My mind being hindered by blind passions, desires and thoughts. So I cannot see the truth correctly. I cannot realize Amida’s light that grasp me in my daily life. Yet the great compassion, Amida Buddha’s great compassion without tiring, illumines me always. So even if you can’t notice Amida’s great compassion, no need to worry about that, because Amida Buddha never abandon to save you.
As Homages says that “Hard it is to be born into human life; now we are living in it. Difficult it is to hear the Teachings of the Blessed One; now we hear them.” So, not only we human beings but also for example coqui frog and mosquito embrace their lives. So, you know, coqui frog is not inherently bad. And of course mosquito is also not. Actually, we human beings have no right to smash coqui frog and no right to slap mosquito. Even though, even if we can have an opportunity to hear Buddha Dharma, depends on your situation, your thoughts become bad existence for you.
That’s why you need to make an occasion to hear the Dharma regularly. And even if you forget Amida’s benevolence, when you say the name “Namo Amida Butsu,” you can wake up to it. Part of saying Namo Amida Butsu, is your appreciation and gratitude to Amida who is untiring and illumines you always.