Mindfulness in Shin Buddhism – A Report on the 132nd London Eza

Namu Amida-butsu
Following the conclusion of our 19th Shokai Retreat just a few hours previously Three Wheels was delighted to welcome a large number of guests, including a number of new visitors, to the 132nd London Eza. The meeting was both lively and reflective benefiting from a number of fresh comments and insights especially for those visiting Three Wheels for the first time. I was very pleased by the end of the meeting to see such happy expressions on the faces of all the participants who had been enjoying the warm, welcoming atmosphere the service and talks created.

After the service to the Buddha, Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato presented his talk entitled, Mindfulness in Shin Buddhism. For nearly twenty years now Rev. Sato has been teaching us to receive the Buddha’s teaching and encounter one another in mindful stillness and quietness, as well as holding weekly meditation classes at Three Wheels. This was however, the first time Rev. Sato had given a formal talk on Mindfulness and its relationship to Shin Buddhist teaching. With all this in mind, it was indeed exciting to receive this Dharma talk that will continue to live on in our hearts and in our practice both at Three Wheels and our everyday lives. To illustrate the essence of Rev Sato’s talk I would like to share the following quotation,

“If you become mindful of the Buddha it will be enough to help you go forward. It is because you will find the Buddha’s great love and compassion accepting you just as you are in the absolute quietude of mindfulness. And you will take refuge in the Buddha by entrusting yourself absolutely to him. It is your return to the starting point of faith and the foundation that is always there to support you.”

Among those who were inspired to comment on Rev. Sato’s talk was Mr Bill Smyly, a war veteran from the Burma Star Association. With slow and quiet dignity Mr Smyly recounted a harrowing experience from the battlefield in Burma in words that touched our hearts very deeply. Following the death of a comrade by his side he was suddenly exposed to death himself as he became visible to a passing troop of Japanese soldiers. Having seen the tragic event he had just undergone, the commander of the Japanese soldiers ordered them to pass by without shooting him. This, Mr Smyly recounted, was “mercy”, the spirit of Japanese bushido, which allowed him to carry on living. I cannot help thinking that this event must have weighed very heavily on Mr Smyly’s mind since that time and, today, he wanted to express all that he felt, not only to his wife, daughter who sat with him today, but also to Amida Buddha.

Prof. John White, the person who had first encouraged Rev. Sato to hold meditation sessions at Three Wheels, expressed his happiness both at the fact that it was now an established part of Three Wheels calendar and that the subject of mindfulness and meditation was now being actively explored at Three Wheel’s parent temple Shogyoji in Japan through the guidance of Ven. Chimyo Takehara. Encounter, Prof White said, is a two way process that is inward as well as outward. We are strangers to ourselves and meditation is the best way to make friends with that hidden aspect of ourselves.

We next heard a report given by Mr Sam Kelly on the 19th Shokai Retreat the theme of which was, The moment that changed my World. Twenty-four participants joined the retreat that was held from Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime. You can separately read Sam’s detailed report on this event. The energy and enthusiasm of Shokai certainly overflowed into this Eza meeting and we looked forward to the next retreat expected to be held on the 20th October 2017.

Rev. Kenshin Ishii next gave a report on the events of the 16th Spring School an educational and spiritual training session for young Japanese students which takes place annually at Three Wheels. This year twelve children took part together with three young priests from Shogyoji temple who coordinated all the activities and helped look after them. You can read separately Rev. Ishii’s wonderful report on the whole event. All of the participants returned to Japan illumined by the awareness they had been given through their reading of a Buddhist sutra of the depth of the love given by others, not least that of their parents, which surrounds them at all times and in all places. We were also delighted to hear Miss Hitoe Ishii’s own personal account of what she had received participating in the Spring School.
The Eza concluded as always with the chanting of Nembutsu before Amida Buddha, the sound of which arose from, and then returned to, stillness and silence.
With Gassho

Andrew W.