G Sakamoto and Family

We’ve managed through another year of the pandemic. Some of us have adjusted to the changes others have not done as well. We have experienced death and the decline of health of friends and family. We have celebrated weddings and births. Some of us have managed to find time for renewal others of us have not found our way through the heaviness of daily life. The pandemic and isolation seems to amplify our experiences, the joy of being together and loneliness of our virtual worlds.

It is remarkable how similar Shinran’s world was to our times. The Gempei war raged through the streets of Kyoto eventually drawing in other parts of Japan. Forces were made up of conscripts that fed the battlefields. Then in the midst of this chaos a famine emerged so deep that the war was brought to a halt. There were not enough people to fuel the war so the fighting stopped only to be resumed in 1183. The end of the war in 1185 transformed the governing power, established the Bakufu and ushered in the Kamakura era.

We don’t know what our world will look like or when we’ll know our world has changed. There will be no clear demarcation that will mark before and after. Historians may one day make that determination but that will be well after we’re gone. Maybe in a generation or maybe two generations from now children will study about what happened in our time. Or perhaps it will be forgotten or rewritten and disappear. 

However, our times will be remembered for how we are living now. We make decisions and choices based on our circumstances. We know so little about Shinran. We have his writings and the letters of Eshinni that confirmed his existence. We know some of the big decisions he made but little about what he wore or ate. What he did when he wasn’t reading or writing. We can only guess at what his life was like how he interacted with and engaged his world. Was he happy? Did he enjoy his life?

As we begin this new year, like Shinran in his time, we continue to face uncertainties. Like Shinran, in the midst of uncertainties, we may be able to experience a settledness in our life. Shinran described this world as “like a burning house” in which only the nembutsu was true, real and sincere. The nembutsu is both the absolute assurance of Amida and our gratitude for that assurance. Whatever may come in this new year the nembutsu will not change. As our appreciation for Amida’s assurance deepens our lives are transformed into a life of gratitude. 

Thank you for your kindness and support throughout the years. May we realize in this new year the deep connection we share with all life.