A Volcano and Power beyond Self

By Rev. Marcos Sawada

In Hawaii at the Halemaumau crater, lava is flowing and there are explosions and lots of earthquakes. Every one of these occurrences is a manifestation of Mother Nature. Are they good or bad? Is reality good or bad?

From a Buddhist perspective, we cannot answer from a human point of view because we really don’t know what true reality means. However, we can’t escape the panic and the loss of homes, property and money. Emotional distress impacts our lives. We suffer from it.

I’m from Brazil and I came five years ago to the island of Hawaii, also called “the Big Island.” Before I had friends from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. Over the years, I lost contact with some of these friends.

Recently because of this natural disaster, those friends have called me, sent emails and used social media to ask about my safety. Before, I couldn’t imagine reconnecting with them, but somehow I did. How this situation suddenly happened gave me an appreciation for the words, “the joy of living.”

In being here on this island, the reality of our suffering cannot be changed. We cannot by our human efforts stop volcanoes from erupting. However, there’s something universal in our individual suffering that’s common to all people living on this planet.

I can’t help but feel we are connected—not by culture, skin color, country or other differences—but by a sense of shared compassion for one another. This is the universal language that connects all sentient beings in the universe.

This great compassion embraces all of us. It tells us: “Sorry, I cannot do anything about impermanence in the world, but I understand how difficult it is to accept change. I can hug and support you, and encourage you to go forward.”

This will not change the reality of the situation, but rather, this warm and tender compassion is meant to give us strength to say, “I shall continue to walk my path in life, despite my selfish desires and dislikes.”

There’s a power beyond self that gives me the joy of living. This is Amida Buddha working to make me awaken to something bigger than our individual desires and dislikes. This is the working of “Hongan,” the path to awaken to the harmonious perspective, in other words to see reality “as it is.” Rain, earthquakes and lava are neither good nor bad. Lava flows; it’s OK! Death comes; it’s OK too! Awakening to true reality means living the Nembutsu.

Namu Amida Butsu.

Rev. Sawada is minister of Hilo Higashi Honganji temple.

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