“A Lotus blossoms from my mind” – Report on the 164th London Eza –

The 164th London Eza was held on Sunday the 25th of June, on a very warm and sunny afternoon. Luckily inside Three Wheels it was nice and cool, with a fresh breeze blowing through.
During the Service to the Buddha, there was also a memorial Service where incense was offered in memory to the late Ms. Mika Aoki, who had passed away one year earlier. She had been a much loved resident of Three Wheels who had brought so much to the Sangha. Those who had known her were able to pay their respects and to remember her in their own way with gratitude.
After the service Mr Andrew Webb, who was the meeting chair, warmly welcomed everyone to the Eza. He then began by thanking everyone who had been involved in the recent garden open days, and also those who had helped with the latest edition of the Three Wheels newsletter. He especially thanked Dr. Lucien Chocron who undertook the very difficult task of producing the newsletter itself, and who had been doing so since January 2001.
He then introduced Rev. Kenshin Ishii who gave a very illuminating talk entitled “A Lotus blossoms from my mind”.
Rev. Ishii began by talking about the beauty and purity of the lotus blossom, and how it is a symbol of Buddha’s supreme enlightenment. He also said that although the lotus is so pure and beautiful, it can only grow in mud. In Buddhism, the lotus blossom represents enlightenment, whereas mud represents our blind passions.
Rev. Ishii then talked about the Vimalakirti Sutra, and how it teaches that two opposing things do not exist separately. Birth and death, dirt and purity, goodness and badness, virtue and vice, self and no self, birth and death and nirvana, blind passions and bodhi are all opposing concepts, but they do not exist separately. In a similar manner the lotus (enlightenment) and mud (our blind passions) are two opposing concepts that exist relatedly.
He then went on to explain “What is necessary for the lotus to blossom?”.
Firstly he talked about Mud; Importance of looking into oneself for repentance. He said that the cause of our suffering is the mud itself, our blind passions, and we suffer as a result of them. He said that Shinran Shonin took into deep consideration the Buddha’s teaching that we should become aware of our own state of mind, and he therefore examined himself thoroughly and completely. After twenty years of Buddhist practice on Mt. Hiei, he became discouraged by the impossibility of removing his own blind passions by self-power and came to describe himself as “an ignorant foolish being” and “an unsavable person full of blind passions”. Shinran Shonin’s awakening to himself was the realisation that he was mud, just as Shakyamuni Buddha said “Life is suffering”. But we must not forget the Buddhist teaching that the beautiful, pure lotus flower will bloom in this mud.
Next he talked about Water; Importance of continuous practice in day to day life.
He spoke of the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and that Dharma is sometimes described as water, which is known as Dharma water. The Buddha Dharma is the only thing that can truly purify our blind passions.
He said that our minds and hearts, like mud, without water can become dry and hard. Once our minds become dehydrated, it becomes very difficult for us to absorb the Dharma water.
Next he talked about Light; Importance of spiritual encounters.
He compared light to the Buddha’s working, which can illuminate the mud of our minds. This light can be experienced through individuals who are as pure, beautiful, and wonderful as a lotus flower, and that the Buddha’s light always shines gently on us, through people and phenomena around us.
Then Rev. Ishii talked about Seed; The cause of lotus blossom.
He told us how the lotus seed embodies Amida Buddha’s great compassion, Buddha Nature. That his seeds have been planted in each of our muddy minds. Rev. Ishii said that for him, the seed germinated on the day when he was first illuminated and became aware of the compassion through his spiritual encounter with his master, Goinge-Sama. That a lotus seed planted in each of our muddy minds awakens and becomes activated to grow for us for the first time through an encounter with a Good Teacher.
He then gave another example of an encounter between Mrs Hiroko Sato and Mr Chris Dodd. Hiroko San was terminally ill with cancer and in hospital. When Chris went to visit her she had said to him “We will be able to meet again in the Pure Land”. With these words of pure compassion, Hiroko San had germinated the lotus seed in the mud of Chris’ mind and awakened his “Aspiration for Birth”. He was able to see the pure lotus blooming within Hiroko San. Amida’s light, which was shining on Hiroko San, illuminated a seed in Chris’ mind.
Rev. Ishii concluded his talk by saying that everything given to our muddy mind is a gift that comes from Amida’s great compassion. A lotus seed, the Dharma water, and the light are all the working of the Other Power of Amida Buddha. Shinran Shonin teaches that those who are as impure as mud have already been given a path to have a lotus bloom in their own mud. This path is Nembutsu that emerges from our awakening to Amida’s love and compassion. Let us entrust ourselves to Amida because everything  is being done for us within the great embrace of Amida in complete naturalness.
After Rev. Ishii’s wonderful talk Mr Andrew Webb thanked him and said how much he had enjoyed it. He said it made him more aware of how much he receives from his Dharma Friends, and how it is a gift from Amida. He said he was now able to understand the oneness of opposites much more clearly.
Mr Sam Kelly then said that the talk had reminded him of the importance of continual practice of listening to the Dharma, and he thanked his wife for all that she does to help him in this regard. He said he was in no doubt that he would meet Hiroko San again and thanked Rev. Sato and Rev. Ishii for their guidance.
Mr Christopher Duxbury said that through Rev. Ishii’s talk he was starting to see that everything comes from Other Power. He said that it was his own suffering that had led him to start coming to Three Wheels. He thought that seeing the way Christianity, who his parents had embraced in later life, had changed their way of living, had planted the seed of his own interest in spirituality.
Mr Andy Barritt then thanked Rev. Ishii for such an extremely clear and practical talk, and for bringing to life the lotus flower. He said that when he visited Shogyoji, his dried up mind was able to receive light and water. He said that Mika San was like a lotus blossom and like a shooting star that had passed by too quickly. He then quoted a poem of hers.

The Forest that leads to you.

Whenever I hear anything from the outside
I can weave affection from the yarn
That is light that freely illuminates my mind

From the “life” that started in the ancient period
It has evolved many number of times
It has inherited many kinds of seeds
Then I live now
Then I meet you here
How can I tell you about this pleasure?

Ms. Sally Hayden, who just the week before had visited Three Wheels for six days, said how she had felt the kindness and compassion of everyone she had met there. She had come away feeling so positive for all the love and support she had received.
Mr Sean Simms said that he felt so lucky to have found Three Wheels. He had originally attended a Buddhist temple in Chicago as a child and that experience had germinated his lotus seed at a young age. He quoted from a booklet he had received at that time.
“Although growing in a muddy pond, the lotus remains pure, not defiled by its environment”.

Rev. Kemmyo Sato, head priest of Three Wheels, then thanked Rev. Ishii for his wonderful talk, comparing it to a cool breeze on such a hot day. He explained how it was so important to realise that our blind passions are connected to the Dharmakaya of the Buddha, formless truth beyond words. To further explain he went on to quote a “note” that D.T. Suzuki had made during his translation of The Kyogyoshinsho.

“The very fact of klesa’s (blind passions) actuality makes us long for a something beyond ourselves, which is however really in us.
This longing is the work of Primary Body, which fact is given us in the form of myth, in the story of (Bodhisattva) Dharmakara. This longing is the prayer.
The prayer is directed to nobody outside.
The prayer is the desire to come home, to get back to himself”.

Rev. Sato said that all beings burdened with blind passions are within the Buddha’s wisdom.

After everyone had given their thoughts and comments on Rev. Ishii’s talk, Ms. Hitoe Ishii, who is in fact the daughter of Rev. Ishii, and has been living at Three Wheels since the age of four, gave a greeting of thanks. She said that she will shortly be leaving for a new job in Japan, and that although she was very excited, she was also nervous and sad to be leaving. She felt so lucky to have grown up in a temple, and felt that Three Wheels was such a treasure and would always be her home. She said she was so grateful to her parents, Kemmyo San and Hiroko San, and to all her Dharma Friends who she had grown up with. She said she felt so lucky to be a part of the Sangha.
Mr Andrew Webb thanked her and said that she had been a gift to the Sangha and was Three Wheels lotus flower.
He then concluded the meeting by announcing the upcoming events at Three Wheels. Then it was time to relax and enjoy each other’s company in the warm summer sunshine.

Chris Dodd