I was contacted the other day by a fellow Shinshu blogger who lives… oh, let’s say, “out East.” Because of the history of Shin Buddhism in this country, there aren’t a lot of Shin Buddhist centers out his way. We’re pretty concentrated here on the West coast, with a smattering of pockets in the Rockies and the mid-west, thanks to internment and relocation during and after the War. Anyway, he contacted me looking for resources, tips, ideas, and expressed his frustration at being sort of on his own out there, no community readily available. I gave him what advice I could offer, and made some off-hand remark about how much I take for granted the fact that I am immersed in a Shinshu (and general Buddhist) world. It’s all around me.
Years and years ago, when I was first just starting out on my own particular Buddhist quest, I bounced around a lot, dabbling in different types of Buddhism both individually and with others. Nothing really stuck, of course, and I often felt alone, even if I wasn’t. I often had this weird sensation that my particular experiences, opinions, thoughts, whatever, were somehow so different from the “normative Buddhist experience,” that I would wonder if I was even supposed to be a Buddhist at all.
Through my email exchange with this fellow Buddhist blogger, though, I have a different perspective on all that now. I may have been flailing about, not sure where to settle, not sure of my own beliefs or practice, but I had that choice. I had those options. I was fortunate enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a Buddhist. In that sense, I am incredibly fortunate.
Which is, of course, what Shinshu’s all about; recognizing our limitations and being grateful for the opportunity to hear the Dharma at all. Namuamidabutsu.
But I think it’s important to recognize, too, that just because I had difficulty in finding my place, settling in on a practice or whatnot, it was all around me. Even in places I didn’t expect to find it, even in decidedly un-Buddhist ways. There’s a great metaphor in Shin Buddhism (I don’t remember where I picked it up and I’m sure to butcher it) about self- and other-power and sailing a boat. It says something along the line of, if you want to take your boat out, you need to catch the wind the in sails to get moving. But before you can even get the thing out of the dock, you have to do all this prep work; you need to learn about sailing, you need to check the weather and tide conditions, you need to buy the freakin’ boat! There’s all this stuff to be done so you can eventually get out on the open waters and hope that the wind catches the sails at just the right moment to keep you going. The idea is that self-power is all that prep work. Self-power is all the stuff we have to do to put ourselves in the right position in the hopes that the compassion of the Buddhas catches us at just right time.
I’m not entirely sure how these things are all related. Maybe they’re not. Maybe they are all disconnected bits of memory and emotion that are swirling in my head that need to be let out while I’m waiting for my computer to encode video. It’s possible. It all means something to be sure. And I’ll just let it out there and see where it goes.