In August of 1993, Rev. Tsuge visited the Newport Beach Buddhist Temple to be the keynote speaker at one of the Higashi Honganji sect's joint-temple retreats. This was Rev. Tsuge's first time in the U.S., and the first thing he noticed was the "river of cars" on the freeway during the drive in from the airport. The sight of everyone seemingly rushing around made him feel, as he put it, "a certain sadness." Rev. Tsuge asked the question, "Where are all these cars headed?" It made him also wonder "Where is the world headed?" In all the rushing around, he observed, we forget the most important thing: asking ourselves "where are we headed."
It is easy to find ourselves preoccupied with trying to provide for our families. We may even feel as though we are controlled by other powers, or by the need to make money. Life can then quickly begin to seem dark and without meaning. Providing necessities is, of course, important, but if that is all there is, said Rev. Tsuge, "there is no real living." Furthermore, caught up in our busy lives, we normally "look outward" at the world. From this outward-looking stance, we find it quite easy to make judgments about people, and to blame others for our problems. This, said Rev. Tsuge, is both the reason why we suffer in our lives, and why there are so many problems in human relationships in our world today. There is however, an alternative, said Rev. Tsuge. It is to develop "the eyes that look inward."
Rev. Tsuge however, often hears people say, "I can't relate to Buddhism because I personally don't have any problems, I am not suffering." To illustrate the problem with this kind of sentiment, Rev. Tsuge related the well known story of the Four Gates. On its surface, the story tells of how Siddhartha (Buddha before his enlightenment - Ed.) left his palace, eventually becoming a monk. He passed through a different gate to the royal garden on three occasions and, in the everyday world outside the palace walls, saw for the first time, examples of old age, illness and death. Then, in striking comparison, on the fourth day he saw the radiant face of a monk, a seeker. Siddhartha realized that his life, in comparison to the monk's, was shallow and meaningless. He saw that even with all his riches, he had nothing compared to that monk with the "shining face." This was a turning point in his life, for his travels in the world outside the palace had awakened him to the truth of impermanence. He immediately made a vow to seek the truth above everything else.
Rev. Tsuge reminded us that the realities the Buddha awakened to - old age, illness and death - are also elements of our lives. They in turn lead to loneliness, anxiety and fear. But we try to run away from these realities, which Rev. Tsuge termed the "back side" of life. We strive to remain on the "front side" of life: our busy, everyday life. Sooner or later however, we all must confront the back side. Thus, the comment, "my life is O.K.," actually comes from loneliness, anxiety and fear. It is the expression of a person's unwillingness to face reality. A comment like that shows that there is, in fact, a problem. Rev. Tsuge put it even more bluntly when he said: "That comment is the problem." We must strive to face the back side, and awaken to impermanence, like the Buddha did. As Rev. Tsuge said, "Leave the comfort of your daily life and awaken to the truth."
The central teaching of Buddhism -impermanence - is all inclusive. Thus, Buddhism as a religion or way of life is also all inclusive. It is for all times, all people. It is a teaching for everyone. By turning the eyes inward, anyone can discover how to live as a true human being.
The point however, said Rev. Tsuge, is not to "get rid of the pain." That is impossible. Rather, it is to live with the pain, but to turn the focus inward. To achieve this, is to attain a kind of rebirth. This is the true teaching of Buddhism. As Rev. Tsuge said, "Kill the ignorance and be reborn in the truth. Then live with the truth."
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