No.11 November 2003
Awakening and the Miraculous
Jodoshinshu is, as most schools of Buddhism go, the most doggedly lackluster Given its peasant-based origins. or perhaps because of it, it has remained remarkably free of the cultural baggage that has accumulated during Buddhism's long journey to Japan and the U.S Astrology, the reading of hands, bumps on the head, Tarot cards, protective amutets; arid, on a different level, acupuncture, Ch'i -flow healing, Feng Shuci, pyrmid power, copper bracelets, etc, etc. have little to do with religious experience or the essential point of Buddhism. Yet such things are taken to be proof of the efficacy of religion.
For Buddhists, the ability to levitate off the ground should have no more significance as relates to Bodhi-Awakening than the ability to lick your elbow - two things that very few people can do. And yet. levitating, curing peopte in as yet unorthodox ways, and the like are given a religious significance. Americans love the occult, always have. Go to any bookstore and the section on occult "sciences,' will be at least 3 or 4 times the size of the religion section Americans have redefined Buddhist rebirth to mean reincarnation, the journey of a soul from the beginningless past to the endless future, with a deep-seated feeling that they have been Egyptian royalty in past lives. All the above modes of thinking have a certain pizzaz, a certain all-inclusive answer, a certain fireworks quality about them, and are for Americans in particular, irresistibly attractive.
Jodoshinshu has been extremely diligent in making sure that such modes of thought do not interfere with the central encounter with our imagined self. We are constantly reminded that we place no value in omamori amulets, protective charms and the like - or that Bon Odori is not for the pacification or our ancestors' "souls", that Senshin's lighting of oil lamps at Obon is not to contact the dead, etc., etc. As the late Rev Russell Hamada used to say 'Jodoshinshu has no flash, trash, or cash" and that's its value. It's about being made to see my imagined self as precisely that, "imagined", and no longer centering my life around that delusion. That's called Namoamidabutsu.