The Best Value: The Nembutsu
Are you familiar with the saying, “We know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” It was made by Oscar Wilde, a famous writer of an earlier generation.

Have you noticed that at diamond can have both a high value and a high price? It has such social and emotional value that many people would feel cheated if they got married or engaged without diamonds. But it is not rings that keep a relationship together over the years. My wife and I bought new look-alike wedding rings for our 35 anniversary. It was important and made us feel closer. We got a good deal and a discount so that lowered the price, but not the value.

Some people love cars and pick-up trucks. They are willing to go deeply in debt to harvest the social and personal values in owning a vehicle that is ‘them.’

This same idea can be carried over to toys and gadgets. It has been shown that people actually love their cars and computers. Computers are often accepted as more important in life than family members. Even when people get divorced they hang onto their gadgets.

But there are some things in life that are so valuable they can have no price. Someone will dispute that though. At one time the price of a human body in terms of chemicals was about 200 dollars. Most of us feel more valuable than that. Now there is the idea that everything has a price and is a commodity for someone’s profit motives. But is this true?

Shinran declared that in the world of self-power the Nembutsu was useless. It could not be bought or sold, in other words it was not a commodity. The power of Buddha’s Promise (hongwan riki) could not be stymied or capped off. Its value was priceless. The same is true for our shrine in the otera. It is so valuable that it is very hard to put an insurance value on it. Our ojuzu are only a few dollars in price, but of great value in our lives.

Our loved ones too are of great value. If we men paid our wives minimum wage for their care and housework, we could not afford to be married! What if children had to pay minimum wage to their parents from the time they are born to the time they leave home? They simply could not afford to have parents! In fact our whole economy is based on millions of hours of free labour we gift each other with in the course of our friendships and family commitments. If we had to price everything and pay for it, society would come to a stand-still. Our lives would come to a stand-still.

The Nembutsu is free, even though we support the temple with our sweat and money and time. What we are doing is very valuable beyond price. We sit in the hondo and hear and speak true words. There is Sangha and fellowship with ethical and moral guidelines within an atmosphere of freedom. These are priceless, but valuable beyond imagination.

This kind of situation too is becoming harder to find. Imagine if we could package truth and peace of mind, then sell it in cute packages for cheap prices. It would lose its value. What we have now is something so valuable it has no fixed price. The Bodhi Mind (bodai shin) is the Diamond Mind. It is waiting for us like a rare gem deep in the mine of our interior lives. Come to the otera. We will do some digging together, then enjoy the sparkling truth of Shinran’s teachings.

Sensei Ulrich

February 26, 2012