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Seeking the Path

Motivating others to take the path is not an easy endeavor. Shinran Shonin lamented that we are fully entrenched in the world of our creation; a world filled with the Three Poisons. It is especially difficult for us to consider a different way of living life when there is no living example readily available to us. Instead, we worry that if we don’t keep trying we will just get further behind.

...inexpressible, inexplicable, and inconceivable.

Given how busy we have made our lives in our world, it may seem that there is no time to focus on how life could be lived differently. This obstacle existed during Sakyamuni Buddha’s time as well. This story that Sakyamuni Buddha hesitated for 49 days before getting up from his meditation to expound the Dharma underscores the difficulty of transmitting the Dharma. Doctrine is the systematized understanding of the Truth of a particular tradition. However, Truth frequently is beyond description. For this reason the Buddha hesitated to teach.

From the perspective of the person who receives the truth, Shinran Shonin described the Dharma as "inexpressible, inexplicable, and inconceivable." He used the same terms to describe the heart through which the Dharma is transmitted.

Despite these limitations, we discover that the Dharma, the truth can still be transmitted. However, it is very difficult. The following story is an example of this difficulty. It is from the Vinaya or the Rules of Conduct for monks and nuns.

Upaka and Buddha

…the World-Honored One met Upaka, a follower of a false path that espoused an evil way of life. Upaka was struck by the serenity of the World-Honored One’s appearance and said, "Your appearance is truly serene, pure, and lucid. As a mendicant, whom did you take as your teacher and what kind of teaching did he impart?

The World-Honored One answered this question in verse: "I am victorious in battle; my wisdom is superior; I am unstained by all things; I am free of all sufferings; the thirst of lust has been emptied in me; I am perfectly enlightened. This is entirely due to my wisdom; whom shall I regard as my teacher? In heaven and on earth, there is no one who is my equal. I am the Enlightened One of this world; I am the supreme teacher. I alone dwell in pure quiescence. From now on, I shall turn the Wheel of the Dharma in this blind world; here I shall beat the drum of immortality. To accomplish this, I now direct myself to the city of Kasi."
Upaka said, "World-Honored One, do you, of your own accord, call yourself ‘the Enlightened One’ and ‘the Victorious One’?" The World-Honored One replied, "He who has extinguished all defilements and has restrained evil—is not that man ‘the Victorious One’?" Upaka said, "perhaps that is so," and nodding his head, he departed, taking a different path.

It is difficult to hear the Buddha-Dharma.

This narrative informs us that even if we meet a Buddha, we still need the heart to receive a Buddha. For this reason the Three Refuges states, "It is difficult to hear the Buddha-Dharma." Like the passer by, we live in a world where the Buddha-Dharma has already been transmitted. This necessary condition that enables us to hear the Dharma has already been established, and only after overcoming the difficulties of transcending languages, cultures, space, and time. But simply meeting with or being in the presence of the Dharma may not be enough; that is clear from the anecdote above. We need to hear and also receive. The Sangha was established to help us do so. Sangha is the reason temples are founded and supported.