I often find myself at a restaurant for the first time and not knowing what to order.

What do you do in such a situation? I think it is possible to ask for just what you want. But why don’t you ask for the restaurant staff or chef’s recommendations? It is better to leave it to the recommendation of a person who knows the restaurant’s menu much better than you do when you come to the restaurant for the first time.

Japanese restaurants have a system called “omakase.” I believe that various Japanese words are becoming accepted as they are in Japanese, and omakase is one of them. The phrase omakase, literally “I leave it up to you,” is most commonly used when dining at Japanese restaurants where the customer leaves it up to the chef to select and serve seasonal specialties. Of course, you can order whatever you like, but if you leave it to the chef’s own choice, you will be served the most delicious dish at that time and will be able to savor delicious food that you would never have tasted if you had ordered it yourself. It is a good idea to remember the Japanese phrase “Omakase “or “leave it up to you” when you go to Japanese restaurants. Omakase is the manifestation of the chef’s confidence that his, her, or their cuisine would never disappoint you.

The term, Omakase is often used when we talk about the Amida’s wisdom and compassion in Japanese, too.  We can paraphrase “Namo” with “Omakase.” It is a manifestation of Amida’s confidence that Amida will never let you live an empty life.

The meaning of Namu Amida Buddha that we are reciting is Namo; “I entrust myself to someone”. Amida Butsu is the Buddha of infinite and perfect enlightenment.  So in reciting Namu Amidabutsu in our own voice, we are saying “I leave myself to Amida Buddha.” It seems that I am saying Namo-Amida-Butsu on my own, but this actually started from a calling from the Buddha’s side. 

It started with Amida first from the beginingless past, just like when we said Namo Amida Butsu with a call and response during our service. Amida saw our suffering and distress and wanted to do something about it. Interpreting Namo Amida Butsu from the Buddha’s perspective, Namo: Leave it to me. Amitabha: I have definitely become the Buddha to liberate you. So we can understand that it is a command from Amida to leave ourselves to Amida and to let Amida guide our life. This is the name of the Buddha, which is the manifestation of Amida’s confidence as a Buddha with perfect enlightenment to guide me to the right path whatever happens to me in this life.  This deepest wish for us is now reaching to us in its resonance. When we hear this, the one thing we do is to simply respond to Amida Buddha’s intent and say “I will leave it to you” by Namo Amida Butsu with gratitude.”

In Buddhist perspective, Omakase or “leave it to you” from our side means to listen to the teachings of the Buddha and to rely on Amida’s guidance in our lives. Frankly, however, nothing in your life is going to change dramatically if you entrust yourself to Amida. 

What does “entrust and rely on” mean? According to the dictionary, it means “depend on with full trust or confidence.” In order words, it means to put aside one’s way of thinking and rely on the other person’s sense of values. You will gradually shift from the self-centered values that you have been relying on until now to the Buddha’s enlightened gaze. Amida’s inconceivable and outstanding merits light up our minds and guide our way. 

Then, the way you perceive things that happen in the world or the meaning of what you experienced in the past will be different from what it was before. It makes me appreciate the brightness of life that I could not find with my biased values. That is the beauty of Omakase in this Nembutsu teaching.

When you join your hands in front of Amida Buddha, I want you to savor this as you recite the Nembutsu, you are comforted by Amida’s compassion saying “No matter what happens in your life, I will never leave you alone. So, Omakase, leave it to me.” And I just simply respond to the heart with Namo Amida Butsu with gratitude saying, “I will leave it to you.”

In a life of entrusting or Omakase oneself to Amida Buddha, a truly rich path will open up to you and you will awaken to the immeasurable value of you life.