Supporting One Another: An Interesting Statement

The Taste of the Nembutsu cover image

A message from Rev. David Nakamoto 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.

Supporting One Another: An Interesting Statement

Rev. David Nakamoto

We show our deep respect to Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, on his glorious birth. May we all realize the meaning and purpose of his appearance in this world, so that we may understand and believe in his teachings. Namo Amida Butsu

Good morning. Happy Hanamatsuri … Happy Buddha Day! It is wonderful that we all come together at the temple especially at this special time when we pay tribute to the founder of Buddhism on his birthday. We have much to be grateful for being able to share in the learning and practice of his teachings. Coming together at the temple to learn and support one another in our learning is the wonder of it all. I say this because there is something very special about supporting one another. Supporting one another as we participate in activities of the temple, we are addressing the idea of interdependence, an important part of the Buddhist Teachings.

A couple of months ago, the Living Treasures awards, an annual Hongwanji Kyodan sponsored event occurred, which honors distinguished men and women who serve their community in outstanding ways. What was interesting about this year’s event was that all of the awardees shared a common principle…. That supporting one another or the concept of collaboration was often used in their stories. Their stories shared the common theme that I could not have done the work that I did without the support of others. They all acknowledged how important supporting one another was in the accomplishment of goals that worked for the betterment of the community. Emphasis on one’s own effort was not made in terms of bringing success to the goal accomplished.

A story I would like to share is about the pilot who successfully made an emergency landing in the Hudson River. Miraculously not one person was injured in the event, and this pilot was seen as an outstanding hero. The pilot was later presented with a distinguished award, the key to the city award, by the mayor of New York City. This event became quite a news story. On television, the pilot and his wife were interviewed by a popular newscaster. The interviewer asked the pilot’s wife how she felt about her husband being a big hero in the eyes of the public. The pilot’s wife answered by saying that she felt uncomfortable about her husband being called a hero and said her husband feels the same way. She explained that her husband was just doing his job. There was no one other than him at the time that could do it, and he needed to do his job. For me, however, and many others, this was a tremendous undertaking for him to have endured, being responsible for so many people’s lives. But the pilot’s wife spoke in such a sincere manner, that I began to reflect on what was being said here.

Thoughts that came to my mind were about the importance of doing one’s job and that many lives depend on one doing his or her job. It does not matter what the job is. There are tremendous ramifications for one doing one’s job. In effect, things go well all down the line when one job is done as should be. At the opposite end, things may not go well down the line should the job not be done as should be.

The interdependent nature of all things, I thought. All things change in relation to conditions. So here the thought of interdependence arises, as we relate this truth of life, to real life happenings. During the daily normal course of our lives, it is difficult to comprehend the thought of interdependence as most of the time we merely see it from an intellectual understanding rather than a true awakening. This pilot’s story sets to me a real illustration as to how interdependence unfolds in people’s lives.

The pilot went on to share that he was doing the part of the job that required landing the plane safely, but the rest of the crew performed their jobs by assisting passengers to adhere to safety procedures and assuring passengers, allowing them to safely be rescued.

The pilot emphasized the importance of the team working together to allow all to come through this episode that could have easily resulted in disaster. He emphasized that without the working together of the crew, the results would have surely been different.

I began thinking about how life would work if we all did our jobs, and I began to relate this to our own families and our own communities. How would this affect our lives?

Being more in touch with our families and community situations, being sensitive to how others are doing. How might this impact our lives differently? Knowing that conditions bring forth fruitful or unfruitful conditions, what could result if we just did our jobs so to speak. To put this on another level, what would it feel like to be listening to each other again about what disturbs and troubles us? About what gives us energy and hope? About our yearnings, our fears, our deep wishes, our children? This might be an interesting question for many of us. In one sense, could we become all true heroes in life?

Interdependence and its true acceptance into our daily lives is quite difficult and as I said earlier, seen as more in an intellectual understanding rather than actualized in our lives.

One story I can relate here is a story I recall told by a minister I know. He told me about this place in Monterey, California. On a rocky cliff side by the ocean is a large rock appearing to be on its own, and on the rock grows a beautiful cypress tree. This tree has weathered all kinds of storms and hurricanes and is admired by many visitors throughout the years. It is considered to be one of the most photographed spots in America.

The interesting part of this story, however, is that upon looking at this scene, there are things that cannot be seen. You see, this beautiful cypress tree appearing to be standing alone by itself, has in reality much support. What is not seen from our eyes is the strong system of roots that go deep down into the rock. It is this large support, one that is not easily seen, that is at the foundation of the tree and, therefore, allows the tree to remain strong and able to withstand all kinds of conditions. Something not visible and yet so real provides the support. This tree was since named the Ohana Tree as it represents the family and its strong foundation. Having been told the story, I have visited Monterey and now have a framed picture that an artist drew to remind me of this story.

Supporting one another, an interesting statement. The stories such as the heroic experience of the team working together to prevent a disaster and the Ohana Tree remind me that there is something going on beyond my narrow sense of self. It reminds me that there is more than just me, that we are part of a larger and purpose-filled place. Much support is also behind me, whether I see it or not.

Do I truly appreciate what this all means? That is a good question.

My wife happened to share with me an article she received from an organization she belongs to that captured the story of Flight 1549, the actual plane that landed in the Hudson River. The article tells of an actual passenger on the flight who shares four lessons he gained from the experience. He lists them as follows: 1) cherish your families as never before and go to great lengths to keep your promises. 2) Be thankful and grateful for everything you have and don’t worry about the things you don’t have. 3) Keep in shape. You never know when you’ll be called upon to save your own life or help someone else save theirs. 4) When you fly, wear practical clothing. You never know when you’ll end up in an emergency or on an icy wing in flip- flops and pajamas and be of absolutely no use to yourself or anyone else.

When one is in a life threatening situation, one begins to truly appreciate the value of life. We may tend to pay less attention to this in the normal course of our lives and tend to take things for granted however.

Shinran, I believe understood our humanness, our self-centered nature (as well as his) and turned to the Nembutsu Teachings for guidance.

From a poem from Dharma Treasures, Iwaichi Nakamura brings perspective to our attempts to grasp the teachings. He says:

It is a downright lie that I have listened.
That I have understood is also a downright lie.
When the skin is peeled off, only the true nature is left.
My true nature is to fall into hell.
But, true compassion saves me just as I am, as I fall into hell.
Namu Amida Butsu Namu Amida Butsu
In the timeless process of birth and death,
For the first time I was made to realize
The Other Power of Amida Buddha.
My understanding resulted from listening,
But listening is nothing but a little scratch on a precious gem.
I trusted my understanding instead of trusting Amida.
Until now I was satisfied with my understanding.
But, my understanding does not save me;
It is Amida who saves me. The true reality of Wisdom and Compassion.

Our Nembutsu Teachings brings this question of awakening to the interdependent nature of life for me. Trying to understand may be one thing but awakening is another. Clinging to one’s self-centered view is at the forefront.

But from what I understand, Shinran, in becoming aware of his self-centered nature was able to then perceive things from a refreshing, creative newness to life and able to live life fully. Gratitude to the Nembutsu Teachings arises.

In conclusion as I search for this understanding of the interdependent nature of life, it becomes important that listening is critical and that the compassion of the Buddha is always there supporting me.

Supporting one another, an interesting statement. Here I am reminded that life is not just me, but that we are part of a larger and purpose filled place…… and much support is behind me…. whether I see it or not.

So on this Buddha Day celebration, may we acknowledge the wonderful teachings of the Buddha in gratitude and may we practice these teachings through the opportunities we have in supporting one another in our daily lives. Namo Amida Butsu.