Sunday, February 6, 2011

Four Immeasurable Minds (God's Love)

The following lecture was given at the One Day Truth Realization Seminar on January 29, 2011.

Today, we will discuss about the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha. This is originally described in The Amitayurdhyana Sutra, Kan Muryoju Kyo in Japanese ("Sutra of the Contemplation of Immeasurable Life"). The most important thing in Buddhism is to realize the supreme truth by the Buddha's enlightenment. In order to have the Buddha's enlightenment, we need to practice many things. One of the practices is the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha. Founder of Seicho-No-Ie, Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi, referred this as God's love. God's love is impartial and unconditional. Therefore, the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha are also impartial and unconditional.

In the September 2010 Truth of Life magazine the "Prayer to Complete the Four Immeasurable Minds of Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Non-Attachment (Equanimity)" is introduced. I would like to read this prayer first, so please listen to it. (read)

In the first paragraph it is stated, "The Four Immeasurable Minds refer to the four virtues of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and non-attachment (equanimity). It is the mind of the Buddha that is caused by the relationship with an immeasurable number of living things. And the merits are also immeasurable" (p. 18).

Founder said that you would be able to receive immeasurable merits when you practiced the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha. Then, what kind of practices are they? The prayer continues, "The Chinese character for loving-kindness that is read, ji, can also be read as megumu which means 'to give' or 'to bless,' and is the mind of the Buddha that wishes to give blessings to those whose virtues are scarce and are suffering hardships of poverty and illness, etc. and to relieve them of those hardships. The Chinese character for 'compassion,' hi, is a character that can also be read, kanashimu, which means 'to be sad.' It is the mind of the Buddha that sees the sorrowful sight of those who are grieving and lamenting at having experienced wretched misfortune and wants to grieve along with them, help them free themselves of this sorrow, and help them live in a state of contentment" (p. 18).

Basically, loving-kindness and compassion is the similar action. The third Chinese character, ki, is a character that can also be read, yorokobi, which means joy. Even if we experience an unfortunate and miserable life, we should be joyful for other's happiness and should not be jealous if they are so fortunate in their lives. In addition we need to find anything to be grateful. Rev. Seicho Taniguchi talked about gratitude in his lecture. I listened to his lecture and was surprised by it. He said, "When you find that your neighbor has bought a new car, be delighted and grateful as if you have bought a new car. If you can do this, a new car already belongs to you." When I listened to this lecture, I had a question why the neighbor's new car would belong to me if I was delighted and grateful to it. This doesn't mean that the neighbor's car actually becomes mine, but if I can be delighted with my neighbor's happiness as if it were mine, then I have already formulated joy in my mind. Mind creates everything. If we experience an unfortunate and miserable life, it means that we did not accumulate enough virtues in the past. Founder Masaharu Taniguchi explained this in the prayer by introducing the teaching of Shakamuni.

"It is taught that Shakamuni said, 'In years of famine, beg from the farmers.' For famine to occur in the land which the farmers own means that in times of fertility and abundant crops, the farmer did not memorialize to give thanks to the harvest or make offerings and only monopolized the gifts from heaven, and just as he wasted those blessings on his own selfish enjoyment, the past karma has come around and has brought a condition of famine on that farmer. So, in order for that farmer and his family to be helped, that farmer needs to change completely and become of a mindset of loving-kindness and compassion that 'gives unto a monk in ascetic practice.'

"That is why, in order to draw out that mind of blessing and giving to a poor priest who has extended his bowl seeking food, even if it is only with a handful of rice and barley, even in times when the farmer himself is living from hand to mouth, Shakamuni said, 'In years of famine, beg from the farmers.' When the poor, destitute farmer spares what little food he has to stave off his own hunger and gives it to the begging monk, that farmer will be able to hear from the depths of his soul the sound of a voice come welling up from within, praising him, saying, 'You have done well.' And when he hears that voice of praise, it will give birth to a mind of joy" (Truth of Life, Sep. 2010).

The current financial situation is a reflection of one's own past karma; in other words, it is a result of the accumulation of one's actions and a manifestation of one's own mind. We will harvest the result of our own current thoughts, words and actions. Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi taught us the joy of giving by quoting a teaching of the Buddha to beg from farmers who suffered from famine. And at the same time, Rev. Taniguchi taught us to be grateful to everything in heaven and earth. Therefore, it is important to be delighted for our neighbor's happiness as if it were ours.

However, only loving-kindness, compassion and joy cannot be impartial and unconditional, Rev. Taniguchi continues its prayers as follows:

"In this way, stern actions of loving-kindness and compassion will not give way to a mind of expecting or depending on others, but will call forth a mind of joy. When the farmer has a mind of joy, according to the law of like attracts like, joyful things shall come to that farmer. The following year, all the fields of rice and other crops the farmer owns will yield an abundant harvest. Moreover, the farmer will not think that the abundant harvest is something that he achieved alone, but he will accept it as a blessing from heaven and earth. And while he may be able to keep this shared possession for now, depending on the public need, he will share it without reserve. He will own all wealth beyond any selfish attachment to it, and because he does not get caught up in anything in this world, he will never lose the eternal bliss of a mind of joy, will release all things, and complete the virtue of non-attachment (equanimity) that gains complete and total freedom" (p. 19).

It is not enough to release other's pain or misfortune. It is not enough to give joy to others and be delighted for other's happiness. We have to release these attachments to save others or make others happy. If we can practice the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha, our deeds of love become the same as God's impartial and unconditional love. These actions are not attached; therefore, they are much more valuable than the brilliance of a diamond or a ruby or any material things.

There is story that a famous empress in japan, Komyo Kogo (701-760 A.D.), wished her heart's desire to wash one thousand people who suffered an illness. So, she built a bathroom and finished washing 999 people. The last person who appeared in the bathroom was suffering leprosy. He said, "My Majesty, if you could touch the putrid on my back with your lips and suck in my pus, my illness would be able to be healed." As soon as Komyo Kogo absorbed his pus with her lips, the body of the leper transformed into a brilliant light of aura through the entire body and he became Akshobhya Buddha (Toho Ashuku Nyorai in Japanese). This is folkore and its interpretation is depending on each individual; however, Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi interpreted it as Kyomo Kogo's direct visualization of the True Image through her perfection of love. Therefore, the sick person's perfect and harmonious true nature appeared as a Tathagata.

In other words, impartial and unconditional love will manifest the True Image. No matter what we are given, we only have spiritual contentment when we give the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha and God's love. We need a strong will to perform them and practice them as much as possible until they become our habit.

Oscar Wilde who wrote a famous book, De Profundis, said, "Within sorrow there is a sacred ground for the soul." In the Bible, a prodigal son lamented that the actual life was not the true life because it was not real. So, he left this life and returned to his Father. Then, the son found the sacred ground beyond the sorrow. We who now live in the United States have almost everything that we need. However, we cannot see many happy people. Oscar Wilde who pursued only physical pleasures in his extravagant life was not really happy because he forgot to return himself to his Father, our Parent God. While he had a high status as an aristocrat, physical beauty, plenty of wealth and bountiful talent as a writer, Wilde was deeply enraptured by matter. He pursued physical pleasures, but once he lost everything and was imprisoned, he was in profound sorrow and found the sacred ground beyond his sorrow. He read the Greek Bible in the prison and developed his thoughts toward Christ.

Wilde said, "Failure is to form habits." He wrote a letter to his lover from the prison, "I had always thought that my giving in to you [his lover] in small things meant nothing: that when a great moment arrived I could myself re-assert my will power in its natural superiority. It was not so. At the great moment my will ower completely failed me. In life there is really no great or small thing. All things are of equal value and of equal size. My habit--due to indifference chiefly at first--of giving in to you in everything had become insensibly a real part of my nature. Without my knowing it, it had stereotyped my temperament to one permanent and fatal mood" (De Profundis, pages 22-23).

Similar expressions were found on page 78, "I became the spendthrift of my own genius, and to waste an eternal youth gave me a curious joy. Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search for a new sensation. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. Desire, at the end, was a malady, or a madness, or both...I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace. There is only one thing for me now, absolute humility."

In Daihatsu Nehangyo Kaishaku (Commentary of the Nirvana Sutra) by Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi, Shakamuni Buddha explained many ways to realize the supreme truth. He explained the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha, three ways (knowledge, action and meditation) to reach enlightenment, the way to practice 7 good deeds, the way how to visualize the nothingness of physical body in order to realize the True Image, etc. Do you think why the Buddha explained these? I believe we need to train ourselves. If we do not train ourselves and just let ourselves do what our physical body wants, we won't be able to become enlightened because it is the same as if a sword leaves in the air as is without any care. Then, the sword will be soon rusted. There are many ways to train ourselves, but to practice the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha or God's love is very important because by practicing these we are able to change our lives. Please do not think that we are all children of God so we can perform the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha or God's love without practice. We have to practice until they are our second nature. Wilde believed that he could assert his will when the great moment arrived; but he couldn't because he practiced the opposite way.

When he lost everything, Wilde found Christ and how Christ loved God and humanity in prison. Wilde wrote, "Christ's whole conception of humanity sprang right out of the imagination and can only be realized by it...There is still something to me almost incredible in the idea of a young Galilean peasant imagining that he could bear on his own shoulders the burden of the entire world: all that had already been done and suffered, and all that was yet to be done and suffered: the sins of Nero, ...factory children, thieves, people in prison, outcasts, those who are dumb under oppression and whose silence is heard only by God; and not merely imagining this but actually achieving it, so that at the present moment all who come in contact with his [Christ] personality, even though they may neither bow to his altar nor kneel before his priest, in some way find that the ugliness of their sin is taken away and the beauty of their sorrow revealed to them" (Ibid. pages 94-95). I believe Wilde found the love of Jesus Christ.

Oscar Wilde led a difficult life, but what he had left for humanity was of great value. One way or another, Wilde could reach the great love of God. Like him, we can also do the same because we are also children of God. We do not believe our bad destinies but believe that we are all children of God and can demonstrate impartial and unconditional love by practicing the Four Immeasurable Minds of Buddha. Thank you very much.