‘How Wonderful!’ – The 143rd London Eza, February 2019
The 143rd London Eza was held on 24th February. Everything went smoothly in spite of the fact that Rev. Sato and Mrs Hiroko Sato were both absent from the Eza for the first time. Dharma friends, not only at Three Wheels but also in Japan, conveyed their warmest wishes and support to Rev. and Mrs Ishii on holding this London Eza.
Rev. Kenshin Ishii gave a Dharma talk entitled The Working of Amida Shown Through People Around Me. First of all, Rev Ishii introduced “The omnipresence of the Tathagata (Buddha)” which is one of the most important teachings of Ven. Chimyo Takehara, the head priest of Shogyoji temple. Rev. Ishii then told us about a conversation between Rev. Sato and a lady who attended a meeting at Three Wheels. “How and when can we feel Amida Buddha’s working, especially if we do not have a background in Buddhism?”, the lady had asked. Rev. Sato immediately answered, “ Whenever you feel wonderful, that is the time that you are embraced by Amida’s working.” This dialogue struck a deep chord with Rev. Ishii who felt that his answer to the question would be that, “I experience Amida’s working as radical changes in my own perspective”. Focusing on this theme, Rev. Ishii talked about one of his own past changes of perspective, and also shared some recent notable experiences of Dharma-friends which Rev. Ishii felt were similarly, “Wonderful”.
Rev. Ishii shared a letter written by Mr Chris Dodd to Ven. Chimyo Takehara, in which he related his spiritual encounter with the late Mrs Hiroko Sato (Hiroko-san) who passed away only a few months ago. In this letter Mr Dodd wrote:
“Because of my blindness, I could not see Amida Buddha’s compassion embracing me, but when I think of Hiroko-san, it is easy to see it working through her. When I visited Shogyoji, Ven. Takehara told us Buddhism can only transmitted through people and to be honest I really didn’t understand. But through coming to know Hiroko-san I think I know do now. I think that Hiroko-san has taught me more than anybody. Through her kindness I am finally starting to be able to say the nenbutsu with gratitude for all has been done for me. When I saw her in hospital, She told me that we would meet again in the Pure Land and I believe her. Now I really do have the incentive to want to be born there.”
Rev. Ishii expressed how impressed he was by Mr. Dodd’s state of mind and explained how Hiroko-san’s words, uttered with sincerity, joy and gratitude, turned Mr. Dodd’s suffering loss into gratitude. The awareness and change in perspective which was given to Mr Dodd was surely a manifestation of the illuminating working of Amida Buddha.
Rev.Ishii also shared a part of a letter from Ms Kei Suzuki’s in which she wrote:
“Mrs. Sato always welcomed me with a wonderful smile and warmth, She taught me a lot of things. I learned the importance of looking into myself especially in the time of suffering in life. Thanks to her, I gradually began to realise how ignorant I was. She accepted my whole existence like my own mother and she was like a bodhisattva of wisdom and compassion. I am sure that she will be alive within me and I will continue to learn from her.
Rev. Ishii commented how Ms Suzuki was illumined by Amida Buddha’s wisdom and compassion which she received through her encounter with Mrs. Sato. The awareness Ms Suzuki expressed of Amida Buddha’s love and compassion and the reality of her own karmic existence is itself a wonderful gift from Amida Buddha, Rev. Ishii added.
Rev. Ishii concluded his talk by emphasising that what we felt through our experience of the immense loss of Mrs. Sato was a gift from the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. We felt Amida’s working through the changes we witnessed in our Dharma-friends at Three Wheels. If we try to listen to others, the wonderful words of gratitude we receive can shift our perspective from a self-centred one to non-attached one, from a hating one to a loving one. When our spiritual eyes are opened in this way, the words of gratitude we hear become words of wisdom to us. If we become full of gratitude we feel at that moment that everything has been inconceivably given to us, far beyond our self-centred way of thinking and we cannot help but saying, “How wonderful.”
Responding to Rev. Ishii’s talk, Mr Sam Kelly reflected on his own encounter with Rev. Sato in which he found himself unable to fully accept the spiritual advice Rev. Sato gave to him because of his own doubt. Hearing Rev. Ishii’s talk, Mr Kelly felt that through receiving Rev. Sato’s advice he had been illuminated by Amida Buddha’s working. This had shown him the direction to take in solving a particularly difficult problem in his life.
We welcomed Mr. Kyota Takada to the London Eza for the first time. He had come to stay at Three Wheels for two months to organise the upcoming Spring School for young Japanese students. After Mr Takada expressed his determination to do his best for the Spring School preparations, he was strongly applauded by the audience.
To conclude this report I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Three Wheels for the light that has been given to me through the Sangha. The loss of Mrs Hiroko Sato made me realise how little responsibility I took in the Sangha and how much I depended on her. Now I can see how Rev. Sato and Rev. and Mrs. Ishii have became one working harder than ever after Mrs Sato’s departure. Having witnessed this, I feel I am given a new and stronger incentive to listen to the Buddha Dharma and go forward together with all my Dharma-friends.