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Shingon Buddhism in Everyday Life

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Living with Wisdom and Compassion

At the Shingon Japanese Esoteric Buddhism web site


The goal of Shingon Buddhist practice is to achieve enlightenment, "in this very existence." But in Shingon teachings, this is no distant goal, difficult to attain. Enlightenment is, in fact, the true nature of human existence. It is innate in the mind. What is difficult is to come to a true experience of this reality, "To see your mind as it truly is."

Even though it may be difficult to see your true mind this way, it is easy to live in conformance with the true nature of the mind. Shingon gives us rules regarding how to live, how to keep our words, thoughts, and actions in tune with our enlightened nature. The rules are often stated in the form a vow:

From this day forward, to the end of the future, I will observe The Ten Precepts;

            The Ten Precepts

        I will not kill.

        I will not steal.

        I will not commit adultery.

        I will not tell a lie.

        I will not exaggerate.

        I will not slander.

        I will not equivocate.

        I will not be greedy.

        I will not be hateful.

        I will not be biased.

By observing these ten precepts, you will act in a way that conforms to your true, enlightened nature. This conformance between inner nature and outer actions is the essence of Shingon practice. It's referred to as the Three Secrets, the practice of bringing the actions of your Body, Speech, and Mind in conformity with your true nature. It is, in fact, the way to achieve enlightenment, "in this very existence."

In addition to the negative injunctions of the Precepts, Shingon gives many positive indications of how to live in conformance with your true Buddha nature. Among these are The Four Obligations:

            The Four Obligations

        The obligation to our parents

        The obligation to the nation

        The obligation to living beings

        The obligation to the Three Treasures

            The Buddha

            The Sangha (the Buddhist community)

            The Dharma (Buddhist law)

The obligation to living beings is of special importance when we consider how to live in the world. In line with the precept not to be greedy, it is important to act in a way that sponsors social harmony and good human relations. We must act towards others in a way that further's their interests, not our own. This is fostered by following what Kobo Daishi called “The Four Methods of Including Others:”
The Four Methods of Including Others

The Method Of Sharing
    You share with others by making offerings, both of material goods and of spiritual support.
The Method of Kind Words
    When you maintain a gentle demeanor when speaking with others, and use kinds words filled with love, you are expressing the kindness and compassion of the Buddha.
The Method of Beneficial Action
    When you give of your time and energy through thoughtful action to benefit others, you live the life of the Buddha.
The Method of Equal Treatment
    In dealing with others, don't take the position that you are somehow better than they are. It is much better if to take the position of servant, treating the other as equal to the Buddha, and serving the Buddha by serving others with loving kindness.