“ This realization of oneness involves the highest type of communication and respect. IF your life is realized in this sense…you would see that the whole world supports you. You exist because others; everything supports your life. This totality, this oneness evokes a gratitude and a great joy beyond explanation.” Gyomay Kubose
We live a life immersed in grace; the grace of being supported by all things at all times. We are supported by the solar system, by the sun that continually lights our world and drives the processes that help the earth to give us air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat, that helps us to see, We are supported by the smallest things, to the largest. We are supported by microbes and bees that help create the food we eat, and by all the trees that help us breathe. The bees give us grace every day, the trees give us grace, and there is also the grace given by our ancestors down through long passages of time; so much grace given that is still within in us now. We are all interdependent and existent at this very moment. In the midst of our diversity and interdependence we can come to direct realization of Oneness, and by doing so, we can communicate our respect and gratitude for them, for all of life, for all the gifts which in oneness we have received and which are unmerited.
For me, namu Amida butsu is an expression of this oneness and grace, an expression of Buddha-nature. The oneness that Gyomay Sensei is writing about in the above quote is for me personified as Amida Buddha. Because of Oneness, I exist, and therefore I exist because of namu Amida butsu. This is how I understand the idea among some teachers that the nembutsu is simply an expression of gratitude for all that Amida Buddha has done for us. My practice of chanting the nembutsu is a form of the highest form of communication and respect. Through this practice, I cultivate a recognition/realization of Oneness, and all that Oneness does for me every day, and this brings forth the fruit and joy of gratitude.
This reading has tied into something that I have been thinking about gratitude, gratitude as a form of awakening. A few years ago I had an experience in the midst of great suffering, where something shifted, and I was overwhelmed with intense gratitude for everything I had experienced and everyone I have ever known, even for just a moment. I spent hours going through my email list sending out heartfelt thank yous to everyone on my list. I think even companies whose email list I was part of even got a thank you. I am sure a few who received the emails shook their heads, I called friends, I reached out to as many as I could to share my gratitude for their very existence. In this space of gratitude, I wept, and I laughed. It was confusing at first because of the number of tears that fell. I remember thinking that I am crying so hard, but I am not sad so why am I weeping? I realized that for me that is how deep and profound gratitude expresses itself. I also realized that for many years I had seen “love” as the highest emotion, the goal of religious practice, that love encompassed all. I have had moments have I loved everything, even the street sign that I was standing under, and yet that night I experienced something even more expansive and sublime than “love”; I experience an unbounded gratitude. Writing this and remembering what it was like, a few lines from Gyomay Kubose Sensei’s writing are even more profound “ We should always be ready to die, able to say, “thank you for everything” In some ways, that is what I experienced that night, the “thank you for everything” and remembering it helps me to understand what Gyomay Sensei was teaching.
Before finding the way of the nembutsu, I had no idea that something as simple as gratitude could be a path for practice and awakening. It reminds me of something Jeff Wilson, a Jodo Shin minister has written, “in Shin Buddhism our main focus is the practice of gratitude. We practice simply to give thanks for what we have received. It’s a small shift in one’s perspective, but when pursued, it can be transformative.” This came home to me the other night when I was holding my little boy in my arms. He was cuddled against my chest, and I was just feeling him breathe and thinking how much I loved him, and I just repeated thank you, thank you, thank you, and the love expanded exponentially with the ever-expanding gratitude. I think the cultivation of gratitude is important because it acts as a catalyst that can expand positive states of consciousness. Cultivating gratitude by recognizing and by expressing it, manifests more gratitude, and deepens our awareness of Oneness.
I really appreciate this from Shodo Harada Roshi – Abbot of Sogen-ji, Okayama, Japan
The sun’s light, the moons radiance, the flowers blooming, the song of the bird, the work of all people in society. I receive everything. The heavens and earth are supporting me and all of humankind for me to be alive. This whole world revolves for this. I am so thankful. We have to see it as it is, or else we mistakenly think that we are alive according to our own power while it is all beings who support us and to whom we should be thankful. We will then not be pulled around by our noisy thoughts but see clearly how all beings all of nature are supporting us and then our life becomes truly
Namu amida butsu
Namu amida butsu
Namu amida butsu
May it be so.