Between December and February, I had many opportunities to enjoy very expensive and rich food through the many parties I was invited to attend. As a minister, I am so appreciative, but controlling my weight as I am supposed to do is very difficult. Thus, I have to exercise a bit more or walk many miles to burn those calories, which is very hard to do.
By the way, how many of you like to do cooking? How many cookbooks do you have at your home? How many of you watch the cooking show? Then how many of you purchased cooking tools and other items through Television shopping?
Today, cooking shows are one of the most popular programs in America. If I am not wrong, "The Iron Chef," which is one of the first and best Japanese cooking competitions, was the pilot light that generated interest in cooking. The iron Chef was a show where well-known chefs were challenged by other top restaurant chefs in a competition featuring their special dishes. One American producer remessaged this program and created an American version of Iron Chef. This program showed us a real cooking demonstration within a limited time, and several judges tasted the food with great and very interesting comments. Wow, the food looked so delicious! Then the announcer reported the winner of this competition. So, in my mind, this show aroused a very strong interest in cooking. I am one of those who enjoyed the program, and it awakened my interest in cooking.
Here in Hawaii, we have seen several cooking shows, such as Sam Choy and others, and those chefs create very interesting dishes using locally grown items, including fish. Then the cooking show enabled many companies to sell their own special utensils, such as knives, pots, ovens, mixers, non-stick pans, and much more and demonstrated their use on the paid advertisement cooking show. Purchasing these tools made many of us feel that we could cook this well if we had the right tools. The demonstration awakened a desire to purchase these cooking tools. However, utilizing those tools we see on television takes work. How do I know? It’s because I purchased several of those items and found that it was not easy to use them like what we are shown on television. As I mentioned before, these tools might be easy to operate if we read the manual well and understand how to operate them. However, sometimes (maybe most of the time), we don’t read the manual or user’s guide
well --- resulting in complaints about those tools. Then what happens to those tools? People hide those cooking tools in the kitchen drawer or bring those cooking tools to the temple for us to sell at the yard sale. Yes, those people wanted to get rid of it.
When I visited Japan, one of the cooking programs showed a chef’s "Behind the scenes." It was a very interesting show, and I learned more about how the chef is making extra efforts to be a demonstrator. The program was about practicing for his demonstration using some company’s expensive cooking tools. His job is to sell those cooking tools at one of the department stores.
His demonstration was so good, and he controlled the cooking tool so well that it became just like part of his hands. Every act was so smooth and went well with his humorous explanations. Many in the audience watched his demonstration and enjoyed his acrobatic skills. The audience was so impressed by his great presentations. After his presentations, many in the audience rushed to him and purchased that very expensive cooking tool with very satisfied faces. (Everyone felt that they could do what this chef showed them.)
After his demonstration, that evening, one of the reporters went home with a TV camera and interviewed him about his performance. The reporter asked him about his super great performance, and he replied, "I practiced for many weeks and months for the tool to become a part of my hand. Even if the cooking tool is a really good item, I must know how to use it. It will take weeks and months for me to know how to use it as part of my hand. I have much frustration with many cooking tools. It is not easy to operate those items without practice. However, I have to sell the cooking tool regardless of whether people like it. I have a big responsibility to take care of my family. But you must know how to use it and practice for many days."
How about Jodo Shinshu teaching? Yes, it is also very difficult if you doubt the guidance and are only looking for immediate answers. However, by listening to the Buddha Dharma, we can realize and discover many wonderful things.
The Jodo Shinshu way of practice is to participate in temple activities, volunteer work, attend temple services, and listen to the Dharma. Through these practices, we can find the true joy of happiness with others and discover that our lives are interdependent. When
Our daily life is just like we are preparing food; sometimes, the food becomes salty, too sweet, too bitter, too spicy, and so on. In our lives, we also experience sadness, laughter, tears, anger, thinking, disagreement, and much more. However, through these experiences, we are able to learn and be able to make adjustments to our life experiences. So, with it, we are able to see true happiness in our precious lives.
Namo Amida Butsu, this is our spiritual Buddha’s great name, and it’s always coming into our hearts warmly and giving us his great wisdom and compassionate heart. When we recite his holy Name, "Namo Amida Butsu," we are able to feel peace and serenity. Why? Amida Buddha is calling us and telling us that I am with you. You are sharing your wonderful life with me. We are one with the Nembutsu. He is always giving us his infinite and spiritual light in our hearts and showing us the path of the truth in our daily lives.
However, most of the time, our eyes are seen only on the negative aspects of our lives, such as crying, anger, disagreement, sadness, and so on. But if we accept Amida Buddha’s guidance, which is his great wisdom and compassionate heart, those bitter tastes in our lives might become one of spice and can make our lives more meaningful.
Amida Buddha’s great guidance is unlike cooking tools, which we must purchase. Why? It comes from Amida Buddha and shows us the true path of spiritual joy and happiness in our precious life. Life is just like cooking food; to make good food, we must practice with a sincere heart. So, listening to the Buddha Dharma is our true practice for us to be aware of Amida Buddha’s great guidance, and following Amida’s great path is making our precious lives tastier and healthier. Why? We will have his great wisdom and walk Amida Buddha’s spiritual path.
May we all walk Amida Buddha’s great spiritual path with joy and happiness with the great taste of the Nembutsu.