Dharma Glimpse by Gretchen Seiyo Sensei
Given the title of this Dharma Glimpse, you may think I’ve gone completely off the rails. But, stay with me. I’m going to tell you about something people do that I really don’t like, and something I also don’t like about myself.
Here’s what gripes me; have you ever noticed on television that when something good happens – like a sports team win or a reality competition – someone will say; “Thank you Jesus!” or “Thank you God”? To me, that really doesn’t make sense. I hear it as if they’re saying “Jesus likes me a whole lot more than you, because I won!” Do people really think about what they’re saying? You don’t ever hear “Thank you Jesus” when someone loses, do you?
It also – at least to me – feels like they’re buddies with a God who somehow cares which team or person actually wins! And if he does, I’m not sure how that works.
My partner John would tell you, that in the context of winning and losing; just about every time I hear this, I’ll at least be rolling my eyes or saying something snarky. Because I just. don’t. get it! And this bugs me! I haven’t been a Christian for about 33 years and even when I was, I certainly didn’t assume God was letting me win at anything! Also in the last few years, I’ve privately shared quite a few memes that were funny – but at the same time – very critical of Christianity.
Why do I care so much about this one thing? When I look deeper at these responses of mine, I think, perhaps I’m being reactionary. My young life had too many years of forced belief – without logic – that included a lot of fear. I also saw the routine disrespect some Christians exhibit even towards other Christians. Altogether there were plenty of Christian ideas that I didn’t agree with, which led to me changing my religion.
But a short time ago, I experienced one of those Ah Ha! Dharma moments; being reactionary and quite negative, I’m the one being unkind. As Sharon very synchronously brought to mind in her Dharma Talk last Sunday; this attitude of mine is neither Right Speech nor Right Understanding. I admit to not grasping that “Thank you Jesus” response, but I just need to let it go.
Maybe the people I hear saying this, aren’t assuming their God loves them better than he loves the opponent. How would I know for sure what they really think? Best case, maybe I’m hearing a gut response of gratitude. Or a life-long inclusion of some form of deity in their happiness. I don’t know. After all, I still unthinkingly say “Thank God” without meaning to address any specific divinity!
The Dharma I’ve learned here, in the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship, is gratitude. Saying Namu Amida Butsu is – among other things – expressing gratitude for the Great Compassion of Amida. I should be able to see this basic concept in non-Buddhists as well. I think I need to do my own work, and bring greater awareness to even those common expressions from others, that have bothered me so much.
For decades, I’ve always tried to teach tolerance and respect toward other philosophies and religions. I didn’t grow up that way, but I want to live in a better world. I could do better. I want to be a person capable of caring for others, even if I don’t always understand them. Amida Buddha shows me the path. As we recite every Sunday;
there is no respect
and no disrespect,
In compassion, we do not keep others
from what they are doing
or what they are thinking.[i]
So I’m working on it. Maybe John will have to tell you if I actually succeed.
Namu Amida Butsu.
[i] Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship Practice Manual; The Same Work As The Buddha’s