“Our Pledge” from the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha

Message on ‘Our Pledge’
by OHTANI Kojun, Monshu
Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha

“Thank you for attending the perpetual memorial and autumn service at Hongwanji today. This annual service is in remembrance of all the Jodo Shinshu followers who passed away during the year. Let us take this opportunity to appreciate the Dharma with a feeling of respect to our deceased predecessors.

Society today is facing concerns including the depopulation of rural areas, declining birth rate, rapidly aging population and diversification of values, and such issues have greatly transformed the close ties created for a long time between Buddhist temples and their members in Japan. This social trend makes difficult the long established Japanese custom that religious tradition is handed down within the household from generation to generation to remain intact, and consequently, has led to the weakening connection between the people and temple.

Resulting from this social trend, however, with conventional ties between the temple and its members changing, quite a few people have begun seeking spiritual comfort in teachings like Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu. To be able to address the individual’s spiritual quest and for the sake of coming generations, it obliges us to follow in the footsteps of our forebears to pass the Nembutsu teaching on correctly and in a way that is easy to understand.

On the first day of the Commemoration on the Accession of the Jodo Shinshu Tradition, I delivered a message entitled “A Way of Living as a Nembutsu Follower,” expressing how we should live in the real world as one who encounters the great wisdom and compassion of Amida Tathagata. Although Sakyamuni Buddha expounds the truth of this world in the principle of impermanence or dependent origination and other teachings, we are unable to accept reality as it is and have a tendency to view things through our own egocentric point of view. As a result, we ourselves become disheartened and become embroiled in quarrels with others. Saddened by our ignorance, Amida Tathagata has vowed to continue working to save us just as we are.

In truly appreciating the Buddha’s compassionate aspiration directed to each of us, we naturally become enabled to aspire to act and speak in accordance with the Buddha’s wish and feel the joy and sadness of others as our own. It is totally apart from the self-destructive attitude that takes advantage of our selfish human nature as an excuse for giving up any good-deeds and doing nothing, or thinking “we can do whatever we want because we are foolish beings.” Thus, our efforts of trying to be in accord with the Buddha’s wish is the first step toward realization of a society in which everyone can live life spiritually fulfilled.

On this occasion, with the hope of presenting it in a more familiar and understandable way, I have summarized the essence of the message into the following four verses of “Our Pledge.”

Our Pledge

Breaking out of my shell
I will share a warm smile and speak gentle words
Just like the kind Buddha.

Not becoming lost in my greed, anger, and ignorance
I shall think and act with an open-mind
Just like the calm and peaceful Buddha

Not putting myself first
I will share in the joy and sadness of others
Just like the compassionate Buddha

Realizing the gift of life I have received
I shall strive to live each day to its fullest
Like the Buddha who tirelessly works to liberate all.

In today’s day and age, where it is said that the younger generations are distancing themselves from religion, it is my hope that these verses will be used during various engagements and gatherings. Let us continue on the path of the Nembutsu, as we have engraved in our hearts, that we must pass on to the coming generations far and wide, the Jodo Shinshu teaching that was carefully transmitted to us by our forebears.”

November 23, 2018

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