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Monthly Dharma Thoughts

What Buddhism wants to put in our ear


One thing we have a hard time noticing about ourselves is what we are like. It is hard to see our own makeup. We never find out what we are like until someone points it out to us. We can see other people’s bad points readily enough. What is extremely difficult for us to do is to turn around and see our own. This ‘blind spot’ in the middle of our mind, if we can call it that, is the source of our worries and delusions.


After all, who wants to see how poorly they look. It is the last thing any of us want. That must be why we never notice what we are really like when we are lost in the midst of delusion. It is hardly a happy occasion when you have to see your own faults. Even if your best friend were to point them out to you, it would be a hard pill to take.


It is the same with Buddhism. It is extremely difficult for us to pick up on what it is trying to put in our ear. We go to the temple to listen to a sermon. The Buddhist teachings are trying to tell us something, but it is hard to pick up on what it is. We have such a high esteem of ourselves that its message cannot get past the barrier we have set up around ourselves. In our smug attitude we always think that Buddhism must be talking about someone else, not us.


Jodo Shinshu puts emphasis on listening to the Dharma as Truth. Through listening to the Dharma we become aware of our miserable side, and at the same time we become aware of the fact that Amida Buddha has promised not to sit still until all those like ourselves are the recipients of his Compassion.


It takes a lifetime of listening to the Dharma to make sure that our hardened ego mind is broken through. This happens through the direct impact of the Buddha’s words. Moreover, this is a process that has to be repeated over and over by listening to the teaching.


One day we wake up and realize we have been living in the bosom of Amida Tathagata’s Great Compassion all along. At that moment we find ourselves saying, Namu Amida Butsu, without being prompted.


In our busy lives it is hard to find the time to listen to the Buddha Dharma. It is possible for us to come into contact with the Buddhist teachings through doing morning services and setting aside time to reflect on the content of our lives.