Dharma talk by Ed Parker

Presented by: 
Ed Parker

After pondering: May the wisdom of the All-Compassionate One so shine within our hearts and minds, that the mists of error and the foolish vanity of self be dispelled. So shall we understand the changing nature of existence and reach spiritual peace, (page 17 of Shin Buddhist Service book). And remembering a story shared by Reverend Castro about a tragic accident that left three people dead.

Were I perfect, could I exist in this imperfect world? Were I perfect, would I behave so poorly? I ask rhetorically. From my perspective, there is little question as to the nature of my existence. I have long since proven that I am simply a limited, foolish human being; one decidedly imperfect. Were I perfect, I would doubtless have swirled away in a great flush of guilt long ago from having made so little of my life. I am refering to the guilt that comes from being so much less than you feel you could be, coupled with a compulsive need to take responsibility for the short fall. A ridiculously pretentious concept, yet one many people seem to suffer from.

We all make mistakes. None of us is perfect though we act as if we were at times, or should be. Despite the best planning and good intentions, sometimes things just don’t work out. There are a number of reasons this is so. There is the dependent origination the Buddha spoke of: All things change in relation to causes and conditions, nothing exists independently. This is true of our delusions, our bonno. It is said our blind desires, bonno, are so named because they are easier to see in others than in our selves. Given that these things are so, how could we not be limited, imperfect beings? Of course, we make mistakes. My mistakes fail to surprise me anymore, well those I recognize. I suspect there’s more out there waiting for me to notice them. I live in a state of delusion, from rose hued to, too dark to see. I have colored all that I have known with my opinions, given and taken value, adding to and subtracting from each reality. I have stamped every perception with my presence. Once I thought, I understood truth, and built with it as if it were brick and stone, creating mansions of well considered certainty. Now I ponder my delusions and watch my mansions crumble. I have lost faith in knowing any organic truth: truth I have not tarnished with intent or denial. There is no perfection in this world; there can be no guilt from its lack. There is only arrogance in such guilt. How could I achieve perfection in this life? How I could reach so high? Even my remorse in my failure to overcome my ignorance is vanity. Truthfully, knowledge has overcome me; cast me into a well of questions. How can I know? I pause, scratch and ponder, but know? I know this muddied water I drink is from my standing in the stream. And yet, I continue to stand there, looking into the past, lacking the wit to even turn around.

How can any of us know who we are until we know who we are not? Which of us is perfect? Truthfully, there are only those who seek to know and accept what they are, and those who deny the changing nature of reality. All things change. Buddhism changes, if not the truth of the Dharma, though it has many guises. What can be considered good, or bad, when everything changes? To say, I am a good person is to deny or dismiss as unimportant, all that I am that does not fit an image of good. I am limited enough. If I am not capable of being consistently “good” am I then, an evil person? Or am I simply a limited, foolish person incapable of knowing, good from evil? Each of us lives inside our delusions. How can anyone say with certainty, who they really are, much less what they are? Self-power is the process of seeking perfection in this life. I just never got it, though I frustrated my delusions mightily, straining every mental muscle. Now I have taken refuge in the light of Amida’s wisdom and compassion, which shines through each of us, revealing all that we hidden, all that we deny. We must accept the entirety of our deluded self, the kindness and the spiteful, petty, meanness. Are we not that which makes us uncomfortable, that which we feel obliged to deny, that which we hate and fear, our base desires, as well as our loftier pretensions? Alas, there is no perfection in this life. We can only dream of perfection, to awake alone and empty. Perfection is an absolute, a direction, a model, a gauge by which we measure and evaluate. The perfect rose cannot exist. It lives in the abstract, an ideal that represents our eternal dissatisfaction. An absolute cannot exist, who would allow it? It would mean surrender. It would mean accepting that we are all limited, foolish, imperfect people, each in our own way.

We live inside our delusions of self, the delusions we have created. Our fears create our hatreds, our cravings, attachments, and as for our ego needs, are we not each, the center of the world? How can anyone know anything of importance until they know their own limits? Without a true acceptance of our limits, we only push true understanding away. We all are imperfect. I ask you, were we not, would we behave so poorly? Read the newspaper. We all make mistakes. Some mistakes cannot be undone. We fix what we can fix. We try to know ourselves. We try to know the truth about our deluded self and find only more delusion.

Unexamined delusions are limitless, but with examination, when questioned, delusions fade to doubt, to ill-at-ease uncertainty, then, vanish. We banish our delusions by accepting them as delusions. Often, we fail; usually we fail; and in our failure, there is suffering and sorrow. There is a sense of failure in being less than perfect. Even with the light of Amida Buddha’s wisdom and compassion, self-examination is painful. We live in this passing moment, in an on going stream of acts, and what is done is done. What is said is said. What is broken must remain broken. This must be the most difficult truth to accept. This too, is revealed in the light of Amida’s wisdom and compassion. We are all limited, foolish, imperfect people, doing the best we can in an uncertain world. How can we judge anyone else, we don’t even know ourselves? We are imperfect and in our imperfection, must know sorrow and suffering. Humility sits coarse and uncomfortable on our western egos. How difficult is it to be grateful for sorrow and suffering? How could this not be so? How could we fail to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha? Namu Amida Butsu.

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