No Make Hard

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No make hard
G Sakamoto

I have thought of the Three Poisons of hatred, greed and ignorance as drivers that push us along through the six realms of existence, through samsara, through the rounds of birth-and-death. The samsara mandala depicts this as a wheel with six spokes. The spokes separate the realms of hells, hungry ghosts, fighting spirits, heavenly beings, humans and animals. On the outer rim of the mandala is the twelve chain of causation. At the hub, around which the wheel turns, are the three poisons.

The three poisons are not the cause that keeps us moving through samsara. The three poisons are the characteristics of samsara. The cause of hatred, greed and ignorance is our inability to see things as they are. We see the world through our likes and dislikes, our prejudices, what I want and don’t want. Seeing the world in this way separates the world up into likes and dislikes. Providing opportunities for differences and conflict. I want this, I don’t want this. I like you, I don’t like you. Hatred, greed and ignorance are expressions, characteristics of seeing the world in this way. They are expressions of samsaric life.

We live in samsara. As unenlightened people we cause difficulties for ourselves and others. This is not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad, it is simply a condition of unenlightenment, not seeing things as they are, seeing things through our likes and dislikes. Buddhism addresses the difficulties we experience that result from not seeing things clearly. Its not about how to not be angry or not be greedy or not be ignorant. It addresses the cause from which these experiences arise.

In Jodo Shinshu we too understand that as unenlightened beings we cause and experience difficulties. We know that difficulties arise from our limitations; the narrowness of my thinking and perception. But we also recognize how difficult it is to change that. I may be successful at curbing anger and greed at times, I may even cut through ignorance sometimes, but to be consistent and thoroughgoing is impossible. Shinran understood, and what I understand now, is that regardless of my lack abilities and skills, regardless of the difficulties that result from my foolishness, I am moved toward the resolution of difficulties.

The Buddhadharma is not about making things more difficult. It is not about complexity or definitions. Buddhism is not about Buddhism. The Buddhadharma addresses the difficulties we experience as human beings. Recognizing that difficulties result from my inability to see things as they are. The only separation between my experience of the difficulties of samsara and the absence of difficulties of nirvana is my inability to see things as they are; my tendency to see the world through my likes and dislikes.

Recognizing, acknowledging my foolishness as the cause of difficulties, I am grateful that the difficulties I cause and experience will be resolved. The assurance of the resolution of difficulties allows me to look more openly at my limitations. Knowing how foolish I am deepens my gratitude for the life that supports and sustains me. Life that moves me toward the resolution of difficulties. Circumstances do not change. How I experience and engage the world is changed.

“When a foolish being of delusion and defilement awakens shinjin,
He realizes that birth-and-death is itself nirvana;
Without fail he reaches the land of immeasurable light
And universally guides sentient beings to enlightenment”
– Shinran, Shoshinge, Service Book, p43