“Grief and pain are but the soil from which springs the lovely plant — unselfishness. Be gentle and learn how to suffer. … Whatever you can do to live bravely — without impatience and without complaining — will help you to live some future day in joyful contentment.”
— Helen Keller
In my last four blogs I talked about “The Most Important Things For Humanity,” but actually, it doesn’t have to be said in that way.
What I mean to say is that we shouldn’t do it “some day,” because it’s important and we’ve got to “live it.” If we are not living for the future, not living for others, and not living with god within, then we aren’t human yet.
There’s an expression that says “humans have both good and bad qualities,” but if people don’t bring Ki up, they are not yet fully human with regard to the ten realms in Buddhism. So, when people bring Ki down they are in a lower realm than that of being human.
The Ainu have an interesting culture. They are an indigenous ethnic group in the northern part of Japan. They say that humans’ purpose, why humans were born into this world, is to send the dead to heaven. Not only deceased people, but animals and crops, too. We take the lives of others to live, so it’s natural to appreciate them and think about how to send them to heaven.
Our body is made of what we ingest: animals and crops, meat and vegetables, even water and air, too. If we don’t nurture them and bring their ki up, they will not flourish. Their lives are wasted if we don’t appreciate, respect, and praise them. We need to be responsible to our body, which is made and maintained by them.
If we don’t do this, the opposite occurs. We need to make food to feel as though, if it could talk, it would say: “I’m feeling good being eaten by this person.” It’s called Pūjā in Sanskrit, and one way to describe it in English is “offering,” an expression of “honor, worship, and devotional attention” that is given out of respect and humility.
There is a story about one of the previous lives of Shakyamuni Buddha. He offered his body to save starving baby tigers. Pūjā is a very important teaching in Buddhism.
Based on this point, the question is, how do we bring up the spirit? There is a method for rescuing, praising, and being responsible for these spirits. To achieve this, Flame of Hope Chanting is a practical practice.
The foundation is Ki, so there is no practice if we bring Ki down by eating, drinking, breathing, and living without giving praise. Bring up Ki as we live each moment — this is real practice. Not only in the classroom or in the moments when we chant.
There are two practices to build this foundation: one is “Undertake,” and another is “Elevation of Praise.”
Undertaking is what we eat, drink, and breathe, and it’s also the field in front of us and the people around us. We Undertake everything.
When the Ainu hunt animals and harvest crops, they don’t waste any part of them. They use all parts of those gifts from the world, and send their spirits back to heaven. In this way, everything they eat turns to energy for life. This makes an infinite cycle of praise that keeps increasing and elevating.
We can accept (Undertake) people’s happiness and unhappiness, people’s pleasure and suffering, taking everything into ourselves, as though it were our own.
But you can’t pick only the parts you like; if you do, then the world will go back to the way it was. When you judge people, saying “I like this, but not this,” “this is right, but this is wrong,” then you’ll feel all those around you start to judge you in turn — you’ll feel the whole world is judging you. And this is because you are doing it yourself!
You might think to yourself, “I can’t take on everything, it’s too much!” And yes, it will be if you do it by yourself. That’s why we humbly ask for help from Amida Buddha (or God or something great).
Feel that all the lives you Undertook (accepted responsibility for) are part of the world and that they are Amida Buddha. Undertake them and feel that they are living in you, which means Amida Buddha is living in you. Then, based on this feeling, continue to Undertake people’s happiness and unhappiness, people’s pleasures and suffering: everything. When you do this, Amida Buddha will make it nourishing to your spiritual life.
This is what Helen Keller said: “The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.”
And this is what Tao Sangha’s activities are meant to accomplish.
People making other people happy: this is the most beautiful thing humans can do.
Let’s make the world bloom beautifully!