Spirit Gum: Dissecting the nature of spirtual goals and gratitude as a path

Q & A with teacher of Shin Buddhism in Tricycle:

Quotes that got me going:

  1. On the importance of intent: “When we do religious practice with the idea that we can make ourselves better, we underestimate the trap of cloaking egoism in the guise of religious effort.”
  2. On the nature of seeking spiritual goals: “Usually religion is based on the practitioner thinking, ‘What do I get out of it?’ But Shinran said, ‘You have nothing to get — you already have it. It’s already given to you.’ Nembutsu is not about getting enlightened or receiving merit or achieving any other goal.”
  3. On the power of gratitude: “For Shinran, the way to short-circuit the trap of egoism in chanting the nembutsu is to do it out of gratitude. Shinran saw nembutsu as a response to something that is supporting and helping your life, but you don’t create it and you don’t manipulate it. You can’t do something to get it. And so the gratitude that Shinran advocates is a kind of wonder, a kind of awareness of ‘I owe so much.’ Gratitude is a way of undercutting your ego — ”that is, it is a way of being Buddhist. It really goes back to interdependence and those basic Buddhist concepts. There is an awareness that we get now and then about what we owe to others, and Shinran feels that that should become the moving force of one’s life. Then the egoism kind of takes care of itself. That awakening, that awareness, transforms your way of dealing with life, with people, and with all things.”

The purpose of spiritual practice is not to make our lives better, but to obtain understanding?

“Understanding.” Another thing. A thought thing. Something we package around another intention? (I had written “less-enlightened intention” but then wondered about the value-making, measuring and marking inherit in the term “less.”)

“Better.” Another value construction. Black lines on a worn wooden ruler. Ego wrought?

Taking selfish motivation out of contemplation.

Wait, obtain. Get. Take. Own. Seize. Freeze. Remove the flow.

Goals: building stone pillars in an ocean and mistaking an island for the earth.



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