“Our love and Amida’s compassion”

Etsuko Mikame

When it comes to events in February, the first thing that comes to your mind may be “Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is regarded as a day of “love”.

It is common for girls to give candies to a boy who she loves in Japan. So, when I was still a student, my male classmates tended to nervously fidget if they would get some candies from girls all day long. Nowadays people come to exchange candies with friends or family regardless of gender in order to express their thanks and gratitude.

However, as a Buddhist, I want you to remember that Nirvana day is also a big event in February! Nirvana Day or Nehan-e is the day for remembering the death of Shakyamuni Buddha. That is the following day of Valentine’s Day, on 15th February.  At the age of 29, when he was still a prince of Sakya clan, he left his palace to meet his subjects. And after 6 year’s practice, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or “Awakened one.” He continued to spread the teaching for 45 years since then. The Buddha entered nirvana at the age of 80. Nirvana originally means “blown out”, as in an oil lamp. That is to say, Nirvana is the state of having blown out the fire which comes from our blind passions, which also means the liberation from repeated rebirth in Samsara (cycle of wandering) or enlightenment. When the fire of our worldly desires finally are extinguished, we can be born into the Pure Land as Buddhas.

If I would describe “blind passion” in one word, it would be “self-centeredness”. We tend to see the world to our own advantage, prefer only things that suit ourselves and hate someone or something that would be unfavorable to oneself and sometimes get angry at someone or something. In that kind of meaning, “love something or somebody” can be regarded as attachment which is one of our blind passion. As it is said that “love is blind”, when we have attachment to something or someone, we cannot see the things as they are properly because our blind passion or attachment hinders our eyes. Do you know anything about it? As long as we live, we cannot help having attachment to something and somebody.

Our founder Shinran Shonin told us that Amida Buddha had already found that we human beings are all sentient beings who are filled with blind passion. Although we have attachment to something or something that we prefer, on the other hand, we sometimes turn our back to something or someone that would be unfavorable to us.  That is why Amida Buddha promises not to leave our lives  alone and abandon our lives  fettered by blind passion no matter what anyone says. Amida stays by each of our side and assures us to be free from this bondage by Amida’s own power. Namo Amida Budtsu is the proof that Amida Buddha is now reaching our lives living with us here and now. Even if our heart is always filled with desires, Amida unconditionally assures us and leads each of us to Buddha’s way.  Not only Valentine’s Day, while we live we are always included in the Amida’s compassion.