Twenty five centuries ago in India, Siddhārtha Gautama searched for a way to transcend the human condition of duhkha, which means difficulty, frustration, or suffering. He awakened to the underlying truths of existence:
- All things are impermanent
- We are all interconnected
- Duhkha arises from our denial of these truths
- Liberation means to become one with these truths
With this realization he became Śākyamuni Buddha, an awakened human being. His teachings spread throughout Asia in three great streams called Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna. Japanese Buddhism includes various traditions within the Mahāyāna stream, one of which is Jōdo Shinshū, the tradition followed at Orange Country Buddhist Church.
The Japanese word for Buddhism is Bukkyō, literally Buddha-teachings. Bukkyō has two aspects:
- Teaching given by the Buddha
- Teaching of how to become Buddha
Our life’s task is learning what it means to become Buddha. To walk the Jōdo Shinshū path is to ask “what am I?” through listening to the teachings. In doing so, we come to doubt the ego self, and to realize the self that is impermanent and is interconnected with all life forms.