QUESTION: Dear Dharmavidya, I've just read your writing on Contrition. As usual,you always know how to get right into my heart! Contrition is indeed born from honesty. Admitting our Bombu reality is so freeing. However, I'm caught in the Self-power/ Other-power quandry. If we accept our Bombu state, how do we proceed? Do we still strive while knowing we can never do it "perfectly"? To some the Bombu paradigm doesn't gel with our bootstrapping indoctrination.How have you navigated our perennial tightrope walk?
Namo Amida Bu, Steve
SHORT ANSWER: When we really accept our bombu state we know what to do.
LONG ANSWER: As a bombu, i do not ask "What can i do for the universe?", even less, "What is the universe going to do for me?" but rather, "What is reality asking of me today?" This is no different to Zen Master Dogen saying that the enlightened life is dictated by the miscellaneous circumstances of daily life. Real acceptance of non-self-power means (1) giving up self-aggrandising ideas about what one is going to become or the spiritual achievements that one is going to accomplish, (2) knowing that the Buddhas will give one all the realisations and awakenings that one actually needs if one will just get out of the way and give them half a chance, and (3) in the meantime acting on whatever faith or insight one already has.
This last step seems simple, but actually takes great courage. Accepting one's bombu nature is a big climb down, a big relief, and also a letting go of excuses. "Just as you are" means that the Buddhas are already with you. Whether what i have to do today is counsel a dying person, wash the laundry, travel to Peru, or dig the garden, this is all holy work. All Namo Amida Bu. It is holy work and therefore I am unworthy to do it, yet I must in order to be sincere (true to what i know so far) and i can because the Buddhas are with me and they lend me their power. In the process i gain no merit, I make nothing of myself, but the work of Buddha goes on. "The life of Buddha is increasing. Do not kill Buddha" (- Keizan Zanji). We kill Buddha when we aggrandise ourselves so that our little light, being so close to our face, prevents us from seeing the much greater light beyond.
When we ask for a formula about how to proceed in a general sense, are we not asking to be programmed, like a machine? And is a machine not a dead thing? Being alive, we actually proceed day by day, step by step. Each of the "miscellaneous circumstances" comes along and we respond. We respond as best we can. Responding as bombu beings we do not use the circumstance as a device for hiding. We are just what we are.
Sometimes our response is such that we feel contrition afterwards. Sometimes joy. All manner of things. Yet each of these happenings is Namo Amida Bu, and Namo Amida Bu is both "please" and "thank you"... please show me the way, thank you for holding my hand. When one has this kind of faith, then one is not looking for "a means to achieve" - we meet in our religious gathering to celebrate the dharma that is already in our midst, the vows that have already been made, the Buddhas who already love us and all sentient beings, just as they are. I am so happy. Namo Amida Bu.