Inside This Issue

Nirvana day Service with special guests                1-2

Dharma message from Rev Paraskevopoulos                      3

8th Year commemoration service                                           4

Clean up Australia, Cowra Festival in March                          4

We welcomed special guests from Japan on

Nirvana day / Nehan-e

10 February 2019

On 10 February, we held our annual Nirvana Day service. On this special day, we welcomed special guest, Ms Tsuna Hisada, Executive Director of the Hansho-An (tea house) cultural foundation in Kyoto, and her daughter, Miss Nao Hisada who is studying in Melbourne, so her mother came to visit her daughter. Then, they came to see Ms Ayako Mitsui, Tsuna-san’s aunt on that weekend and together they came to attend the HBMA service.

We commemorated the passing of Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism on this occasion of our Nirvana Day service.

After chanting the sutra, we all offered incense. Then I shared a Dharma message about the last moments of Shakyamuni Buddha.

At the moment of his death, Shakyamuni was lying down between the twin Sala (or Pippala) trees in Kushinagar surrounded by his disciples and many animals.

 

Buddha entered parinirvana on the fifteenth day of February some 2500 years ago in Kushinagar, in the northern part of India.

I would like to share Buddha’s last moments by introducing the story from ‘The Teaching of Buddha’.

 

“My disciples, my end is approaching, our parting is near, but do not lament. Life is ever changing; nothing can escape the dissolution of the body. This I am now to show by my own death, my body falling apart like a dilapidated cart.”

“My disciples, my last moment has come, but do not forget that death is only the end of the physical body. The body was born from parents and was nourished by food; just as inevitable are sickness and death.”

“But the true Buddha is not a human body: – it is Enlightenment. A human body must die, but the Wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truth of the Dharma, and in the practice of the Dharma. He who sees merely my body does not truly see me. Only he who accepts my teaching truly sees me.”

“After my death, the Dharma shall be your teacher. Follow the Dharma and you will be true to me.”

“During the last forty-five years of my life, I have withheld nothing from my teachings. There is no secret teaching, no hidden meaning; everything has been taught openly and clearly. My dear disciples, this is the end. In a moment, I shall be passing into Nirvana. This is my instruction.”

 

Sakyamuni Buddha was 80 years of age but still kept preaching to the people until his last moment. Ananda was usually only a disciple who was looking after Sakyamuni during His journey.

Sakyamuni said “I never thought that I am leading the whole group of Sangha, or all the Sangha members depend on me. Sakyamuni Buddha told his disciples to treasure his words, which is Dharma, and Buddha was always talking from same point of view as an ordinary Sangha member. This attitude is exactly the same as Shinran Shonin who said that;

 

“It appears that disputes have arisen among followers of the sole practice of the nembutsu, who argue that “these are my disciples” or “those are someone else’s disciples.” This is utterly senseless.

 

For myself, I do not have even a single disciple. For if I brought people to say the nembutsu through my own efforts, then they might be my disciples. But it is indeed preposterous to call persons “my disciples” when they say the nembutsu having received the working of Amida.”

(“Tannisho”-Chapter 6)

 

For forty-five years, the Buddha went about the country preaching and persuading people to follow his teaching. Sakyamuni Buddha’s final journey was at Vaisali. On his way from Rajagriha to Shravasti, he became ill and predicted that after three months he would enter Nirvana. Still he journeyed on until he reached Pava where he fell seriously ill from some food offered by Chunda, a blacksmith. Eventually, in spite of great pain and weakness, he reached the forest that bordered Kushinagar.

 

Lying between two large sala trees, he continued teaching his disciples until his final moment. Thus he entered into perfect tranquility after he had completed his work as the world’s greatest teacher.

 

 

Sakyamuni Buddha passed away a long time ago, but his teaching still lives in the hearts and minds of all Buddhists, and it continues to spread all over the world.

As a follower of Jodo Shinshu (the true essence of the Pure Land teachings), we always express our gratitude and respect to Sakyamuni Buddha to remind us that we share his noble teachings, and that we follow the way he laid down for us to walk.

Without Sakyamuni Buddha’s teaching, Buddhism would not be here with us today. We have to deeply appreciate His work, and spread His teachings. Shinran Shonin said that Sakyamuni Buddha is the manifestation of Amida Buddha on this earth. In the Shoshinge, Shonin wrote as follows:

 

“The reason for Tathagata (Sakyamuni Buddha)’s appearance in this world is solely to preach the ocean-like Original Vow of Amida. The ocean of multitudinous beings in the evil age with five defilements should believe in the Tathagata’s true words.”

 

Let us reflect upon Sakyamuni Buddha’s noble teachings, paying our tribute and following the way that he laid down for us.

 

Thank you Ms Tsuna Hisada and Nao for attending this service. Your presence made this commemorative day so special!

We all hope to see you again in near future.

 

In Gassho

Rev Shigenobu Watanabe

 

In the Embrace of Amida Buddha

Shinran, the founder of the Jodo Shin school of Pure Land Buddhism, was acutely aware of the pitfalls and perils that the untamed ego poses for each individual. In his Hymns on the Dharma-Ages, he writes:

Ignorance and blind passions abound,

Pervading everywhere like innumerable particles of dust

Desire and hatred arising out of conflict and accord

Are like high peaks and mountain ridges

Sentient beings’ wrong views grow rampant,

Becoming like thickets and forests, brambles and thorns;

Filled with suspicion, they slander those who follow the nembutsu,

While the use of violence and poison of anger spread widely.

We need not look very far in our world to see countless examples of humanity’s ever-darkening descent into madness, cruelty, greed and despair. Just watching half an hour of news every night suffices to convince us of the depths of depravity to which our lives can sink when they remain unilluminated by the Buddha’s wisdom. When confronted by so much unhappiness, fear and uncertainty, one may very well ask: “Can I be certain of anything in the world? On what can one truly depend in this life of endless vicissitudes?”

 

Shinran’s answer was to exhort people to seek refuge in Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light, in whom true liberation is to be found. In his Hymns on the Pure Land, he says:

The light of purity is without compare

When a person encounters this light

All bonds of karma fall away

So take refuge in Amida, the ultimate shelter.

The radiance of enlightenment, in its brilliance, transcends all limits;

Thus Amida is called ‘Buddha of the Light of Purity’.

Once illumined by this light,

We are free of karmic defilements and attain emancipation.

Amida Buddha is the source of our ultimate happiness and His Land of Utmost Bliss is the true home to which we long to return after we leave this world. Being none other than Nirvana, the Buddha’s realm is one of peace, joy and unutterable bliss. It transcends this world of grief yet also permeates it—through to its very core—grasping it and all its imperfections in an embrace that is unconditional. All we need do is to open ourselves to the ever-present working of Amida in our hearts and accept the liberation he offers from the nightmares created by our ego-centric drives and appetites which are never satisfied, however hard we may try to fulfill them. Shinran’s message may seem stern and uncompromising at first but he is merely describing the world as he sees it; with wisdom and full objectivity.

In the end, His message is one of great joy which accompanies the certain knowledge that the Buddha, with inconceivable compassion, accepts us as we are and assures us of His transforming illumination and grace throughout our voyage into Eternal Life.

In Gassho,

Rev. John Paraskevopoulos