When was the last time you invited a friend to a Sunday morning service at the temple? Have you ever invited a friend? Most likely the last time was when you were in grade school. Ever wonder why that is.
We should feel comfortable with our religious life. Things have changed over the years. Although some may still see Buddhism as an exotic Oriental tradition, many people, and probably your friends are interested in learning more about Buddhism.
“… Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.” (Pew Research, 2008)
There are people who are interested in Buddhism but sharing the Dharma should not be about gaining membership. Our temples are not supported by patrons and so we need members to survive. Without members the current form of the temple would disappear. But the survival of the temple is not what essential. This may sound extreme but the temple should facilitate more than just its own survival.
When Shakyamuni set out to share his experience it was not to gain members or build temples. It was simply to help others begin to see things in a way that would resolve that difficulties we all experience. He was not teaching a secret. He was doing quite the opposite. He shared with an open hand everything he understood. Shinran was the same. There was nothing other than the nembutsu. It was not his intent to share his appreciation of the Dharma to gain members. His statement was, “I have no disciples.”
Share the Dharma because you enjoy the Dharma.
The Dharma is simple. Complexity has been added to the Dharma over time. We value and remember what teacher’s have said. We add to the body of knowledge ideas and views that have meaning for us. Over time we add patterns, rituals that express subtleties of understanding. Tradition and practice become deeply embedded. These practices become essential for understanding. But what is being expressed is simply the resolution of difficulties through seeing things as they are.
For me the Dharma can be appreciated with three basic ideas:
The Four Noble Truths
Deep faith – Shinjin
The Four Noble Truths describe (1) I experience difficulties, (2) difficulties result from my inability to see clearly, (3) I don’t have to continue to experience difficulties, (4) there is a way to correct how I see things.
Deep faith – Shinjin is the bridge between Shakyamuni’s practice and Amida’s Promise. For those of us who cannot prefect the practice of the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, Amida’s promise assures us of the eventual resolution of difficulties. This assurance allows us to look more clearly at my expectations and assumptions, likes and dislikes, that cause difficulties for myself and others.
The Nembutsu is gratitude that acknowledges the limitations of my abilities and at the same time recognition of Amida’s promise resolve the difficulties of all beings.
When you bring your friend to temple, be confident and share your appreciation of the Buddhadharma.