G Sakamoto and Family
Another year is opening up before us. A time of renewal. A time of reflection. What will we do with these new days before us? We hope that we will be safe and well. That our family and friends will be happy in the days to come. These wishes and hopes are shared by many. They are not empty but filled with the deepest aspiration for things to be well.
There is a well known phrase in the Metta sutta: “May all beings be happy”. The Metta sutta was taught to monks who were having difficulties with tree dwelling deities. The monks had entered a forest to meditate. At first the deities welcomed the monks. As the monks continued to practice in the forest the deities became tired of their presence. Eventually they wanted the monks to leave and began to harass the monks. When the monks came to the Buddha for advice, the Buddha taught the monks verses to recite that became known as the Metta Sutta.
If you google origins of Metta Sutta you will find many references. I particularly like the description at the Access to Insight site. After reading several versions of the story that lead to the Buddha’s instructions you’ll have a broad view of the circumstances of the sutta’s origins.
The wish for all beings to be happy is not a wish for just me and those close to me to be happy, it is a wish for all beings.
The promise of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara is this same wish. The plaque above our onaijin reads, “Kai Ho Zo” to open up the Dharma storehouse so everyone might enjoy the benefits within. Fulfilling this promise Dharmakara became Amida Buddha. Our trust in the fulfillment of that vow allows us to look more openly at how we engage the world. To acknowledge and soften contrasts with which I view the world. Understanding the separation I see between me and the other is shaped by me. To be happy is not about getting what I want. This could take something from someone. Not just things but dignity or hope. Amida’s wish too is for all beings to be happy.
When Shakyamuni stood up from beneath the Bodhi Tree, this too was an expression of “may all beings be happy”. I think of that moment as the most important moment in the history of Buddhism. If Shakyamuni had not moved into the world we would not have the opportunity to hear and think about how the value I place on my view shapes the way in which I see and engage the world. My prejudices, my preferences divides the world into my categories. Into these categories I put things and ideas and people. This is what the Buddha intended to correct. To have me acknowledge my prejudices that result in difficulties for myself and others. So that I could begin to see things and engage the world free of prejudice.
To wish each other a happy new year is more than a sentiment. It reflects not just our hope but the hope of Shakyamuni and intent of Amida that all beings be free of difficulties and truly be happy.