Live Submerged

“Sensei, I come to the temple and listen to the teachings, however, as soon as I leave I seem to forget what I have heard. How can I carry the teachings with me?”

More than five hundred years ago this question was asked of Rennyo Shonin, a renowned teacher in the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. His answer drew upon an object common to the time, a bamboo basket. He replied, “You are like a bamboo basket and the teachings are like water. If you try to fill the basket with water, no matter how tightly woven, the water will run out. The only way to keep the basket filled with water is to keep it submerged in the water. Likewise, to keep yourself filled with the teachings you must remain submerged in them.” This answer applies to all people of faith, not just Buddhists. What does it mean to be “submerged” in the teachings?

All religions have teachings on how one should live their life. As we sit in the church, temple or mosque we think to ourselves, “This is how I will live my life.” Yet, too often, when faced with the problems and temptations of everyday life we act contrary to these teachings. We too are a “bamboo basket” not yet submerged in the teachings. To be submerged in the teachings one must constantly be aware of the teachings. Base all decisions on your fundamental beliefs. There are numerous examples of people who have lived their life this way.

Mother Theresa followed a path of charity. Her religious beliefs showed her that to be a true servant of God she must serve the neediest of His children. She could have taken a different path, one with far less hardship. She submerged herself in the teachings and they filled her life.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., followed a path of equality and nonviolence. As an educated person and a minister he could have led a life of relative comfort. With violence brought upon him he could have struck back in anger. Yet, he stayed true to the teachings, he lived submerged.

The Dalai Lama has spent fifty years spreading the Buddhist teaching of compassion. Although driven from his country by the Chinese he holds no hatred for them. He realizes the futility of hatred. Often, he refers to the Chinese as his “teachers.” By examining their actions he can better understand how to help people overcome their self centered desires. He remains submerged in the teachings.

Most of us will never lead such exemplary lives. However, we can shape our decisions on our beliefs. When we stray from these beliefs, rather than justify our actions we can examine why we strayed. Every day we can spend time thinking about the teachings on which we base our lives. We can become a bamboo basket submerged in the water of the teachings.

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