Living in a “Burning House”

The call came at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, as such calls always do.

“We just received an Emergency Alert, ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii…”

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. Anger. Complacency.

Will our only son and family, our precious granddaughter, be alright?

This can’t be real, can it?

This has to be a mistake.

Someone should get fired!

Well, gotta get back to real life.

Indeed, the emergency alert was a false alarm, human error, somebody made a mistake.

In my mind, however, this is a wake-up call from Amida Buddha’s great compassion and wisdom that has always embraced me, never abandoned me.

What’s really important in this life?

Awakening to the ephemeral nature of human existence.

Appreciating today the love of family, friends, and community.

Realizing that it is our self-centered Ego that causes suffering, even though we would like to believe it’s somebody else’s fault.

Fear drives anger.

Anger causes delusion.

Delusion makes us go on living “lives of quiet desperation.”

In our heart of hearts, we know these truths to be real but our egocentric attachment to ‘self’, the delusion that we are the exception, blinds us to seeing the world-as-it-is.

Someday, our lives will reach the inevitable end of our time in this world. There are no exceptions to this truth.

Thus, Shinran Shōnin urges us to awaken to the truth that this world is fleeting—that we live in a burning house—everything we cling to is an illusion, and only the Nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu, the Great Compassion and Wisdom of Amida is true and real.

Profoundly grateful for yet another wake-up call in the time I have left in this un-repeatable life, I bow my head, put my hands together in gassho, and say Namo Amida Butsu, entrusting in all-inclusive Compassion and all-embracing Wisdom.

Namo Amida Butsu

“I know nothing at all of good or evil. For if I could know thoroughly, as Amida Tathagata knows, that an act was good, then I would know good. If I could know thoroughly, as the Tathagata knows, that an act was evil, then I would know evil. But with a foolish being full of blind passions, in this fleeting world—this burning house—all matters without exception are empty and false, totally without truth and sincerity. The nembutsu alone is true and real.”

Shinran Shōnin (1173-1263 C.E.), quoted in Tannisho, Postscript, The Collected Works of Shinran, Vol. I, p679

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