When I finished eating an apple and was about to throw away the core, I realized something important. Although we don’t eat these when we bite an apple, these seeds, though very tiny, have the power within them to mature into a tree. This is hard to believe, but we know it is true, don’t we?
But, you see, the seed does not grow by itself. For the seed to sprout and grow, for the tree to grow and eventually bear apples, other conditions are necessary. Not only the natural elements of soil, water, sun, wind, and pollen-carrying insects, but also the time and effort humans put into caring for the trees and fruit to bring forth apples. It is said that it takes 4-5 years for a sprout to become a tree and bear fruit, and it can continue to harvest fruit for more than 10 years if it is well cared for.
In the meantime, if you mistreat the tree for even one year, it will take several years to get back to normal. The yearly accumulation of cultivation is important for apple cultivation. The apples we are receiving are not only the product of nature, but also the invisible hard work and time of all the people involved in the production of these apples.
In the same way, deep inside of us is the compassion of Amida Buddha always embracing us as we are so that we can eventually be a Buddha ourselves. However, since Amida’s enlightenment has neither form nor color, is beyond our words, and there is no way for us to reach the enlightenment alone, it is not possible for that seed to bloom joyfully in my heart by itself.
So, how did it blossom? There is always someone before us who was grateful for the teachings, and who has passed on to us the places and opportunities to hear the Dharma. And if we follow the footsteps of the spread of the nembutsu teaching from where we are, we will find the joy of Shinran Shonin, who was truly grateful to be embraced by Amida Buddha and shared this with his Dharma friends.
The countless contributions and efforts made by our ancestors from countless kalpas are displayed before us to be able to hear the nembutsu.
Shinran Shonin himself, looking back on the countless causal factors that led to the nembutsu, expressed his gratitude and said, “ rejoice at the conditions from the distant past that have brought it about” in the preface of his main writing, Kyogyoshinsho.(“The True Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment of the Pure Land” )
Therefore, this nembutsu that is coming out of my mouth and this heart that is rejoicing in the teachings are all the fruit of the seeds of enlightenment that Amida Buddha completed and Shinran Shonin and all our predecessors have carefully protected and nurtured over my life.
2023 is the special anniversary year to mark 850 years since Shinran Shonin was born and 800 years since he established the Jodo Shinshu tradition. The special joint celebration service is going to be held at Hongwanji which is the mother temple in Kyoto from this March to May. I am fortunate to be visiting Hongwanji with some members of San Jose Betsuin in May.
In this commemorative year, in this beautiful month of May, when flowers are in full bloom, it is truly a joy to be able to offer my gratitude to Shinran Shonin and all predecessors who led me to the teaching and made the joy of nembutsu grow in my heart.