May 2018 Message
Mustang Mach 1
In his commentary on the treatise of Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, Donran (the 3rd Master of the Pure Land tradition) shows that the cause and result of birth in the fulfilled land lie in the Vow.
Our going and returning, directed to us by Amida, come about through Other Power;
The truly decisive cause is shinjin.
I know that this is a bit early as I write this article in April but looking forward we have only a few months left of Dharma School. With the end of school comes summer vacations, Obon and of course graduation. It seems funny in that I barely remember my High School graduation, but I do remember my older brother’s. Probably it was because I remember what he got for his graduation present.
When my oldest brother graduated from high school in 1972, my father bought him a used 1969 Mustang Mach 1 as a graduation gift. I remember vividly that it was candy-apple red with a flat black hood air scoop, 4 on the floor, front bucket seats, and 390 cubic inches of sheer muscle. I was so envious.
My brother would commute during the weekends back home to Sacramento from UC Davis. Then, in 1973 we had the energy crisis where gasoline prices skyrocketed from 39 cent to over a dollar per gallon. My brother has always been a practical person so instead of riding around in this beautiful red sports car, he bought a blue Datsun 1200. I couldn’t believe that he would rather drive a small putt-putt, 4-cylinder engine with a maximum cruising speed of 45 mph on the freeway. The only good thing about this car was that it got over 35 or 40 miles per gallon instead of the 12-15 of the mustang.
The interesting thing was that when my brother decided to buy his dream “Datsun 1200” car, he didn’t trade in the Mach 1. So it sat on the front drive way and there it stayed for about two years or so until I could finally get my driver’s license. During those two years, I distinctly remember being so happy just sitting in the car after school pretending to be driving on a winding country road. I was so happy when my father said I could run the engine for a few minutes or move the car to the sidewalk so he could get the family car out of the garage. Then the day finally came when I got my driver’s permit. My father would ask if I wanted to drive him around to do errands in the Mustang and believe me, there was no hesitation no matter what I was doing to just drop everything and get in the drivers seat of the car. When I finally turned 16 and had my driver’s license it was understood that I would get to drive the Mach 1 if I kept my grades up and took care of all the expenses that went along with the car.
In short my brother gave me a car, but it took almost two years before I was able to “drive” it. In Buddhism, there is the teaching of Inga or cause and effect. This is the teaching that every cause (in) will have a result or an effect (ka or ga). The law of cause and effect is a fundamental concept within Buddhism governing all situations. However, the effect of the cause may not be immediate. My brother’s action of giving me the car (in) resulted in my being able to drive the car (ka). However there was a two years lapse from the time of the action to the result.
In the same way our birth in the Pure Land has been assured through the completion of Amida’s vow eons ago, however we may not have attained the joyful bliss of the awareness of Shinjin yet. For every action there will be a result or effect, sometimes we just have to be a little patient in witnessing and experiencing the fruit of a particular cause. And there are times that we may not be able to even identify or trace back to one specific cause. Perhaps there may be many causes or a series of causes.
Accompanying the teaching of Inga is In-nen. In refers to the direct cause while en refers to the conditions. We could have the seeds of a tomato plant, but without the proper conditions of sun, water and soil, we may not produce any tomatoes. Thus Shinran says, “If the karmic cause (and conditions) so prompts us, we will commit any kind of act.” Understanding the laws of Inga and in-nen, we can come to appreciate the life we have received and thus far have lived. The causes and conditions leading up to this moment are vast and unfathomable and although we may not be able to directly be aware of all of them, we must acknowledge that they exist. I think in life there are many unanswerable questions. We are only humans with a limited capacity of understanding. And in spite of this, just as we are, we can still experience the joys of life. Recognizing this is the first step in living a Life of Nembutsu.
Have a great summer and Happy graduation to all the graduating seniors.
Mustang Mach 1