My writing ability is bad. I put off telling my conversion to Buddhism, but now respond to
My writing ability is bad. I put off telling my conversion to
Buddhism, but now respond to those who feel my experience will
help others. To minimize rambling, I need a structure. The
structure will be the Five Conditional Steps to Shinjin found in
the Seiten on page 310.
The first step is "The culmination of related past conditions and
circumstances leading one to the Dharma". I was born in South
Carolina, raised on a farm and isolated from the city kids and
social interaction. I learned Southern attitudes and prejudices.
While the South has a long way to go, it has improved greatly.
It still beats Los Angeles hands down. In 1965 I left for college
at the University of Hawaii. When I spoke the first question
people asked was "Where are you from?". I answered, "Sow Care-
oh-line-uh". The next question was "Are you prejudiced?". I was
very far from home.
Though I had many temples available in Hawaii to attend, I never
did. The conditions/circumstances/causes were not ripe. The
seed was sowed when I found a book about Indian Buddhism in the
school library. I had rejected Christianity in high school and
between the lines of Sanskrit in Coomaraswamy's book, I found a
philosophy. The principles (like Four Noble Truths, Eightfold
Noble Path) were more relavent to life as I experienced it. I
soon found frustration in trying to live according to these
ideas. My human failings seemed insurmountable. I knew the way,
but had guilt when I could not walk it. I tried several
disciplines after college, yoga, meditation, Silva Mind Control.
All these things have value and did help me. For instance, after
being dominated by jealousy for many years, I finally overcame
it. Jealousy moved me to violence and contemplating murder
(which my hunting background provided the skills and equipment).
Perhaps I was just worn down and tired of fighting the jealousy,
but one day I realized it was gone. Not like when you vow to go
on a diet, and it lasts for a day. It just didn't happen
anymore. This left a lot of room, time, and energy for further
development. This was one passion out of 108 and took me ten
When I moved to Sacramento, I came to the bazaar to get some
sushi, a desire cultivated in Hawaii. I also was interested in
the cultural events and the explanation of Buddhism. I decided
to attend service. After service one day, a lady came up to me
and said she was Molly Kimura and was glad to see a non-Japanese
at service. She was leaving the next week for her first China
Buddhist Cultural tour. She wondered if I would like to come
over to see the slides of temples, relics, and places when she
returned. I have always wanted to go to China, and of course was
interested in Buddhism, so I said "Yes". As we parted, Molly
turned and said "OH, by the way, I also do some Buddhist
counseling". I now know this "by the way" was the whole purpose
of her talking to me. When asked by yoga students, "How do I
find the teacher right for me?", many masters reply, "Just
continue your search, your teacher will find YOU." Educators say
a person cannot learn until he is ready.
I was now ready and my teacher had just found me. This is the
second step to Shinjin, "A good teacher of the Dharma".
I was skeptical, wondering "How much is this lady going to try
and charge me for this counseling?" Next week I talked to Mieko
and John Kono at adult Dharma class. I told Mieko about Molly
and asked her if she charged. Mieko assured me that Molly was
only concerned about helping people not charging them. (I have
since given up trying to repay all the Dharma friends for their
kindness and support. One lifetime is not enough and one human
does not have the ability).
I went to see the slides and made an appointment for counseling.
Receiving "The light of Amida Buddha" is the third step. The
weight of ones Karma determines the counseling process and
individual reactions. The form of the reaction is not important.
(I was humbled into this realization by Rev William Masuda after
witnessing someone recite Nembutsu for almost 2 hours--he just
asked me why I was impressed by the form instead of the source)
During counseling with Molly one day, I felt the Light of Amida.
I literally felt "light" or "floaty"--you know, like when you
have just met the one person right for you. I realized the
fourth step, "Faith or 'Shinjin'", as a gift from Amida.
The fifth step, "Amidas name" or Na Mu A Mi Da Bu Tsu, often
comes out spontaneously a direct link between you and Amida.
Amida was gentle with me--it was all internal. I left feeling
light. For the rest of the day and until I went to sleep that
night, Na Mu A Mi Da Bu Tsu was in my head. Not like I was
"Thinking " about it, it just came at various times. I would be
watching TV and realize there was no comprehension because my
head was filled with Nembutsu. Over and over, NAMUAMIDABUTSU
could not consciously stop it for any length of time, nor did I
want to because it brought a sense of meditative peace with it.
This Nembutsu was different--it was not of my doing. It can't be
scientifically proven, but I know it came from Amida. It wasn't
"talking to myself" or "remembering" or any other psychological
event. This was the experiential gift of Shinjin from Amida
Buddha. This was the assurance of non-retrogression, the
knowledge that though I must continue to live out my Karma, I am
on the right path to the Pure Land.
Jodoshinshu talks about benefits of Shinjin in this life. The
biggest thing I notice in my life since conversion is the ability
to step aside and see my true self. When I can see my true self,
I don't create as much negative Karma as before. Shinjin doesn't
turn you into a Buddha or Bodhisattva--you are still the same,
yet you see it, and seeing it can stop negative participation in
your Karma. For instance, when I start to get mad, the feeling
still comes, but somewhere between the feeling and the action, I
mentally "step aside" and say "Wow, just look at your human
self--there you go again." In this mental pause, the action does
not come. It is now interesting to watch my Karma unfold, in the
knowledge that things are always as they must be. Things not
only must be as they are, it is right.
So now I continue to nurture my Shinjin at the various
conferences, at Molly's monthly gathering for Dharma discussion
(zadankai), and by reading with new insight.
Most of the above is my experience, but what follows is taken
from Christmas Humphreys and says in a different way what I have
been trying to say:
"Buddhist conversion is the dispersal of an illusion". It "is a
turning"--"towards a light by which the darkness of the
Unconscious is illuminated to a greater awareness. It is
primarily concerned with a revelation of the more True than the
more Good, with greater wisdom rather than with greater morality.
Hence there is much, at the moment of conversion, of 'Now I see,'
or 'Now the way is clear to me'; there is little if anything of
'Now I will abandon the sins of the flesh and develop the nobler
virtues'." "...it is a reorientation of the whole man to a new
purpose from a new point of view. The same things are seen but
henceforth they are seen differently. The cause of the change is
the release of a new force in the mind, and the release only
comes when pressure has been deliberately built up to a point
where something must give way." "'Everyone carries a shadow,
says Dr Jung,..So long as it is repressed and isolated the
'shadow' is liable to burst forth in moments of unawareness, to
the embarassment of the mind concerned and the bewilderment of
his friends." Unaware of his true self, "..the individual
projects the contents of his mind onto outside forces, people,
and things." Awareness is realizing .."all that we are is the
result of what we have thought, and no man is to blame for what
we are, or think, or feel, or do, but we ourselves who made us
so."The moment of conversion may be in truth a series of
movements which are the culmination of a long process of interior
growth. The effect may be sudden, yet the cause may be the
effect of a long period of effort." "The conversion may come at
any age...But whenever it comes it is indeed a second
birth..there is an awareness of expansion, of serenity, of
certainty as to the Goal and the way to it." We must sometime
"choose between bliss and the service of our fellow man. Why?
The answer is clear. 'Now bend thy head and listen well O
Bodhisattva--Compassion speaks and saith: "Can there be bliss
when all that lives must suffer: Shalt thou be saved and hear
the whole world cry?'"
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank