In Buddhism there is a theory of conditioning. All conditioned things are impermanent. Buddhism is a religion that is about transcending impermanence and reaching the Deathless - nirvana. However, by definition, one cannot reach the unconditioned simply by changing conditions.

A fire depends upon a supply of fuel - let’s say firewood - to keep going. Without the firewood the fire could not be. However, the firewood is not dependent on the fire. Without the fire the firewood would continue to be. Most conditional relations are of this one way, non-reciprocal nature.

The firewood instance is very relevant to Buddhist thinking. Fire represents passion. For a person’s passions to keep burning, there has to be a supply of fuel. We feed the fires of passion. If we cease to feed them, either by not having the fuel or by reconstruing what had previously been fuel so as to see it in a new light, then the passion cannot be.

We become Buddhist by taking refuge. Most Western people have only a hazy idea of what taking refuge is. Often they see it as a formality that must be passed in order to get on to the real stuff which they take to be meditation. However, refuge is Buddhism. To go deeper into Buddhism is to go deeper into refuge. Meditation is not Buddhist unless it is itself a deepening of refuge. When we realise the real meaning of refuge, our perception of the world changes. We can say that everything becomes refuge, or, in the style of Pureland, nembutsu. Washing the dishes is nembutsu. Sweeping the floor is nembutsu. Welcoming guests is nembutsu. These things are no longer mundane chores, they have become holy acts. As they have become precious treasures, they are no longer capable of feeding the fires of passion. Thus arises a deep inner peace.

We can note that in this condition of anjin, we are still subject to conditions, but we perceive those conditions in a new way since our faith transcends ordinary human passion. This awakening of anjin is an important step on the Buddhist path. It makes everything else so much easier. We might not have yet entered nirvana; we might still be foolish beings with all kinds of errors and foibles, but we have a faith that is a precious jewel that will keep us going on the path and help us overcome many obstacles.

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