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Monthly Dharma Thoughts

The grandeur of this life of ours


When the Buddha was born, he is said to have taken seven steps and declared,
                            Heavens above me, heavens below,
                            There is only me here alone,
                            In the grandeur of it all! [1]


The Buddha does not speak these words haughtily; he is not saying, ‘I am the only one to be honored.’  Instead, it is a declaration of the grandeur of life, the life into which each and every one of us is born.


This life of ours, then, is what the Buddha is testifying he too was born.


This life of ours is a life story that only we can live out; no one else can do it for us, not even someone close to us like our mother, father, sister, brother, husband, or wife.


This life of ours is thus important as the grandest of all our possessions.  And knowing just how grand this life of ours is, is a point to which we all must awaken.


All of us are different.  We come in all shapes and sizes; even our talents and abilities are different.  However, as far as living that unique experience of this life of ours, all of us are in the same boat.


We might be better or worse than the next person as far as talent or intelligence goes, but that is no reason to get either puffed up or put out by it.

In the Buddha’s eye, we are all in the same boat as far as this life of ours goes.  That is why the Buddha is loath to give up on anyone.  The Buddha thus strives to awaken us to the dignity and grandeur of this life of ours.


It is the Buddha’s wish to save each and every person equally and without miss.  Shinran Shonin said, ‘If I think long and hard on the Vow Amida conceived after five long kalpas of thought, I am forced to conclude that Amida must have made it solely for the sake of this one person named Shinran alone’ (Tannisho).[2]  Such was his understanding. 


This life of ours is one that no one can live for us, now can we live this life of ours for someone else.  It is in the life of Nembutsu that we first receive the wisdom of the Buddha to live in the grandeur of this life of ours.


Editorial notes:  
[1] The Zen reading of the same passage is, ‘Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the  Honored One!’ as presented in Daisetz T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen, Kyoto: The Eastern Buddhist Society, 1934, which compiles an essay that D.T. Suzuki originally published in The New East journal in 1917.
[2] The quotation of Shinran's words is a freely rendered translation.  See our recent work: A record in lament of divergences: a translation of the Tannisho, Hisao Inagaki, gen. ed., 2nd edn. Kyoto: Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, 2005.