I'd like to say something about dhyana. Dhyana is a big subject, I'm not sure I can do it in 5 minutes but I'll have a try.
One of the difficulties giving a podcast in 5 minutes is that you have to keep your mind focussed on one thing. Everything you'd mention in Dharma you could go off in a hundred directions but you have to keep your mind on one thing.
Now, keeping your mind focussed on one thing, this is dhyana. So, the word is usually translated as meditation but it could equally have been translated as rapture. When your attention is wrapt, then you're just focussing on one thing. Ok, now, if we're going to focus on one thing, it matters what we focus on. So we say some subjects are wholesome, some subjects are unwholesome.
What is the most wholesome subject? The most wholesome subject is the Buddha. So, if you bring the Buddha to mind, this is the beginning of dhyana. Bringing something to mind is mindfulness. Mindfulness of Buddha is the first dhyana. Mindfulness of Buddha in Japanese is nembutsu. So, nembutsu - practising nembutsu - is the first dhyana, first level of dhyana.
Now, we talk about first dhyana, second dhyana and so on – there are a number of levels: sometimes presented as four levels, sometimes presented as five levels. To keep it simple and within 5 minutes, I'm just going to talk about it in terms of three levels.
First level is: you bring the wholesome object to mind, and in this case it's the Buddha. You bring the Buddha to mind: nembutsu. You bring the Buddha to mind in everything you do. If I'm building a wall, every stone is a nembutsu. If I'm sawing a piece of wood, every time the saw moves backwards and forwards: Namo Amida Bu. This is dhyana, this is the first dhyana. Keeping something focussed and in mind.
When you do that, you get a feeling. The feeling is happiness. You feel joyful and... now, initially you think “What is this nembutsu thing?” and “I'll think about the Buddha” and essentially, it's a thought process. You're thinking about the Buddha. In the first dhyana, you're thinking “What do I know about the Buddha?” and “Who is the Buddha?” and “How do I imagine the Buddha?” and so on, so, it's a thinking process, an active mind process, but as you get into the practice and you're doing nembutsu as part of your everyday life, what arises more is not so much the thinking as the happiness of it: “How wonderful, yes, to have the Buddha with me in everything I do!” It injects a joy into everyday life. That joy is the second (middle) dhyana I'm going to just keep it to three. In fact it can be ecstatic. This is bliss! The Buddha often talks about bliss. If you bring Buddha to mind, you have a blissfulness in your life, in your everyday activity. And sometimes it can be like you think: “There is nothing better than this. This is wonderful. How amazing!” This is the bliss of Buddha.
So, nembutsu, you think that's the best, but actually there is something even better, because when that bliss sinks into your mind deeply it's the background to your life, it's the background to everything that happens. This brings a further level which is that everything is acceptable. You enter into great acceptance, into equanimity, you have a stability in your life, which can cope with all the ups and downs, come coronavirus, come economic collapse, come noisy neighbours, come big troubles, small troubles, whatever, you're in hospital, you're dying, whatever, you have this solid background to your life, which is, we say, equanimity upeksha. This is the third dhyana.
But all of these are simply the expression of nembutsu, of bringing the most wholesome thing to mind. Keep doing it. It saturates your life. It sends you to the Pure Land. It takes you to bliss and it takes you to equanimity.
Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu