Spring Ohigan 2013

Bodhisattva Chuguji

As is tradition here on the blog, I like to give a little sermon around Ohigan holiday, which is a kind of Japanese Buddhist holiday celebrated twice a year at the Spring and Autumnal equinoxes.

Anyhow, this post was inspired while reading a certain manga about the life of Prince Shotoku (mentioned here).

In one scene of the manga, Prince Shotoku is upset by the assassination of Emperor Sushun, and the cycle of violence in Japanese politics at the time (his own father, Emperor Yomei, had been assassinated too). Thinking about the incident, he studies the Buddhist sutras, while thinking about Maitreya Bodhisattva, who was a popular deity during early Japanese Buddhism.1

He thinks to himself (in Japanese):

生あるものはすべて暴力におびえる。
すべての生あるものにとって生命は愛しい。

Sei aru mono wa subete bōryoku ni obieru.
Subete no sei aru mono ni totte seimei wa itoshii.

Which I think translates into:

Living beings all fear violence.
For all living beings, life is precious.

And then, the character of Prince Shotoku thinks to himself over and over:

他人の過失を見るな。
ただ自分の行ったこと行わなかったことだけを見よ。

Do not look at the faults of others.
Only look at the things you have done, or the things you have not done.

I thought this was a really powerful scene. Whoever wrote the scene understood Buddhism very well. The first section is very similar to this verse from the Dhammapada:

130. All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

And the second from the Dhammapada also:

50. Let none find fault with others; let none see the omissions and commissions of others. But let one see one’s own acts, done and undone.

But also the theme of this post is forbearance. This is one of the Six Perfections frequently taught during Ohigan services, and is something the Buddha prized highly (again from the Dhammapada):

184. Enduring patience is the highest austerity. “Nibbana is supreme,” say the Buddhas. He is not a true monk who harms another, nor a true renunciate who oppresses others.

In a Shingon Buddhist book I read recently,2 forbearance is described like so:

In human life we move closer to our goals by having to bear many insults, for surely there is no such thing as an ordinary day that is totally calm and without incident.

In Sanskrit the word is called “saha,” which means the land of forbearance. We are able to live in this difficult floating world only through patient endurance….The Buddhist path lies in self-control. To restrain ourselves and let others live is the practice of the Bodhisattva, and is the human path of being human.

–pg. 95, Shingon Esoteric Handbook

So, as the manga shows, and as the Buddha taught, it’s important to be patient with others, even with those you really, really don’t like. Being patient is not enough though, you must also learn to respect the fact that all beings want to live, and fear violence.

Forbearance is much more effective if you learn to put yourself in other people’s shoes, endure their insults, and remember that all living beings hold life dear.

Seen in this way, it’s hard to believe we do some of the terrible things we do.

On Maitareya Sowaka
Namu Shaku Nyorai

1 Maitreya is still a very prominent figure in Shingon Buddhism, and it is believed that Kukai dwells with him in the Tushita Heaven. Thus, Maitreya and Kukai are often related in Shingon Buddhist services.

2 Thanks to Rev. “E” for the book. 🙂

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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