A message from Rev. Kazunori Takahashi 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.
Rev. Kazunori Takahashi
Every Sunday morning, a Japanese Dharma message on the radio is broadcast on “Hongwanji Hour.” I had the precious opportunity to serve as an editor while I was at Hilo Betsuin. Thanks to this program, I had a lot of opportunities to hear responses from listeners.
One day, some person asked me, “Sensei, I couldn’t listen to the radio program this morning. It was not broadcast. What happened?” I got similar comments from others. When I asked the radio station, I discovered the reason. They temporarily broadcast the program on FM radio instead of AM radio because they were under construction to extend their service area. Therefore, some people missed the radio program.
Another day, another person asked me same question. She said to me, “Sensei, I couldn’t listen to the radio program. I tried to tune in to both AM and FM, but I couldn’t get it. Did you hear something about the program?” Then, I thought that they may be doing construction work again, so I should make sure. However, other people didn’t say anything about the problem. They said, “I could listen without any problem”. Later, that first person apologized to me as follows. “Sensei, I figured out why I couldn’t listen to the program. It was because my radio was broken.” A few weeks later, she told me that she bought a new radio.
After these incidents, I thought of how we can compare the radio wave with Amida Buddha’s working power. We can listen to the radio without any cable because of various frequency radio waves sent from radio stations around us. A radio catches the sound waves and converts the waves into sound, so we can listen to the radio. Therefore, if a radio station doesn’t send a wave, or if a radio doesn’t work, we cannot listen to the radio program.
About Amida Buddha’s working, I often hear questions such as: “It is difficult to understand what it is”, or “It is difficult to entrust my heart to Amida Buddha because we cannot see Amida Buddha and cannot listen to his voice in reality.” How similar this is to the radio wave. Although we cannot see the radio wave with our own eyes, the radio wave exists. When we turn on the radio and tune in the station properly, we can catch the radio wave. Likewise, although we cannot see Amida Buddha, he exists. His compassionate power is certainly working. However, if our switch is not on, we cannot perceive him, like not having the radio turned on.
In Jodo Shin Buddhism, we emphasize the importance of listening to the Dharma. It is not easy for us to always tune in the station of Amida Buddha’s guidance. On the contrary, we tend to tune in different kinds of stations, so we sometimes have suffering in our lives. Listening to Dharma enables us to know that Amida Buddha is always working for each of us. When we tune in to his guidance, Amida Buddha’s vow is certainly brought to our hearts. He is telling us that he will save us. He will make us Buddhas without fail.
Shinran Shonin talked about this as follows.
When sentient beings in the various forms of existence throughout the ten quarters,
On hearing Amida’s Name of transcendent virtues,
Come to attain true and real shinjin,
They greatly rejoice at what they have heard.
(Shinran Shonin, Hymns of the Pure Land)
According to Shinran Shonin, we can live and rejoice at Amida’s working through hearing Amida’s Name. Turning on a switch of the radio, anyone can listen to a broadcast at anytime. Likewise, tuning in to Amida Buddha’s name always brings us his wisdom and compassion.
However, there are some differences too. Amida Buddha’s working is for the ten quarters; in other words, for all of us in this world and not for a limited area. To listen to the radio, we need a radio which converts the wave into sound. When we listen to Amida Buddha’s guidance, we don’t need to prepare anything. Amida Buddha’s working is converted through our voice saying, “Namo Amida Butsu” as we are embraced by his vow, his wisdom and compassion. “Namo Amida Butsu” works both ways — sending and responding. Therefore, through saying “Namo Amida Butsu”, we can live everyday with Amida Buddha’s firm guidance and rejoice at his wisdom and compassion. Through the experience of being an editor for a radio broadcast, I was reminded of the working of Amida Buddha’s Compassionate Vow.