Hoist the Dharma-banner!

Beating the Dharma-drum, blowing the Dharma-conch, wielding the Dharma-sword, hoisting the Dharma-banner, rolling the Dharma-thunder, flashing the Dharma-lightning, pouring down the Dharma-rain, and extolling the Dharma-gift, he continuously awakened the people of the world with the sounds of the Dharma. (The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, pp. 6-7)

‘Leap and dance with joy and say it even once’: ‘joy’ is to rejoice beforehand at being assured of attaining what one shall attain.

‘Leap and dance (yuyaku)’ means to dance in the air (yu) and to dance on the ground (yaku); it is the form of boundless joy and manifests the state of gladness and delight. ‘Gladness’ is to rejoice upon what one shall attain and ‘delight’ is happiness. Attaining the stage of the truly settled expresses itself in this form.  (CWS, p. 480-1)

‘I truly felt that the repayment of the Buddha’s blessing is to believe the teaching for oneself and then teach others to believe, as in the saying, “To believe the teaching oneself and make others believe (ji-shin-kyo-nin-shin) this is the most difficult of all difficulties.” ‘   (Shinran Shonin, The Life of Eshinni, Wife of Shinran Shonin, by Yoshiko Ohtani, p.p. 95-6)

I adore the first quote, which comes from The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, because it tells us that every time someone attains enlightenment, becomes a Buddha and—motivated by irrepressible joy—decides to launch out on a career of teaching the Dharma to others, there is much music and dancing. The joyous sound of drums, streaming lights, the celebration of life-giving rain, the giving of gifts and a constant stream of those who newly join the festive throng, reminds us that the bodhisattva vehicle is the way of joy—the all singing, all-dancing way of Buddha Dharma!

Of course, the sutra is describing the joy of enlightenment. But for us foolish beings, as Shinran Shonin reminds us, the awakening of shinjin is no less a joyful moment, and it’s no less worthy of riotous exuberance and celebration. But, in the case of shinjin, it is to rejoice at attaining enlightenment in the future and becoming a Buddha; endowed with the priceless gift of being able to return to this world of delusion and freely relieve suffering.

But note: the jollity and dancing has a cause! It is the determination to bring the Dharma to the broad universe. It is something we all long to do.

But some will say that they do not have the courage, or the talent, or the opportunity to bring the Dharma of Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow–the Name, Namo Amida Butsu—to others. Can that be true?

There are always ways that we can set before others the wonderful Dharma of the Vow. Yet, we must be careful, and keep in mind the things that Rennyo Shonin and the Emperor Ashoka warn us about—the dangers that are inherent in the pose of piety, or self-importance, or intolerance and lack of respect in regard to the beliefs of others.

So, what can we do?

I think that the celebrations, the sound of dancing and music and the fullness of joy is very likely to become evident without any verbal expression, except, perhaps the nembutsu when so moved. Or, maybe an uncanny understanding and insight into oneself—one that makes us reticent about criticising others or exalting ourselves—may come into play.

And when the time comes, we will know we must stand up and walk back into the market place—the hustle and bustle of our boisterous world. Then we will know what to do; and we will find the words we need.