To take refuge is to play
in the quiet of the 10,000 things.
Among the falling raindrops,
small, white-crested birds, fly!
Jerry Bolick, July 2, 2010
Canggu, Bali, Indonesia
In his book, Zen Wave, a study of haiku poet, Basho, Robert Aitken Roshi writes: “NamuAmidaButsu…is the cord that will draw the dying person to ease of heart.” I like the image he presents here, particularly the phrase ease of heart, because it emphasizes the assurance given in traditional Pure Land teachings, assurance of the future, assurance of lasting peace after death, but does so with a telling image of movement in the present.
We are assured that the future holds the transition from human life into the embrace of the eternal, from turmoil into lasting peace, which is to say, we are assured that it will all be OK, then.
But these teachings are not just about death, but also about life. Assurance is something we experience here and now. The NamuAmidaButsu that is pulling us to ease of heart is pulling us now. Given to us by Buddha, by eternal, timeless reality, NamuAmidaButsu emerges into time on our lips; on our lips, the movement of the eternal, continually assuring us, continually drawing us closer to fuller realization, in the present moment.
And neither is the unburdened heart restricted to those on their deathbed, because as living beings, we are all, by definition, dying. When I see clearly that I am, not that I will be, but that I am the dying person, then I see Buddha’s message is directed to me, Buddha’s assurances are for my benefit. Then I begin to hear the teaching in a different way.
Within the life of NamuAmidaButsu, the anxieties we experience due to the myriad changes that occur as we live and age, the fears, small and large, of what the future holds, our resistance to the inevitable, all become infused with the assuring movement of eternal care and concern, extended to us in and through NamuAmidaButsu. And in this we can know the ease of heart that is the content of our liberation and the certainty of eternal refuge—it will be OK then, and it is all OK now.