The Hand that Amida Deals Us
I often drive past a casino on the way to otera. The casino is also a few blocks from our Japanese Cultural Centre in Winnipeg. It is amazing to see all the cars parked at the Casino---enough to fill three temples or three cultural centres. The question I always ask is this: What kind of hand is being dealt in the casino?

When I get to the temple the first thing I do is bow to the Amida statue. Here a different kind of hand is being dealt. The statue is holding its hands in a way that communicates something to us. These hand positions are called ‘mudras”. They are non-verbal ways of communicating like American Sign Language.

Sometimes when there is a funeral or festival our temple is visited by people who use sign language because they are deaf folk. Then there are interesting discussions with the signer about putting our teachings into the medium of using hand positions to communicate.

Our deaf visitors notice the mudras on the statue right away. These hand positions were not just some small detail to them. The mudras took on the central focus of their understanding of the statue in their eyes. It is one of the reasons they like to visit the temple.

The mudras are communicating fearlessness and grace. By means of Buddha’s wish for the world we live in a kind of fearless grace in the face of our own limitations—in a way, in spite of our limitations. The Buddha’s gift of shinjin gives us licence to live with our human condition in a frank, realistic way. This is the hand that Amida deals us.

The causes and conditions of your life may lead you to the casino. But remember that just one of two trips to the casino can be far more expensive that a year’s membership in the temple. It’s like choosing a bag of chips and a soft drink over a ham sandwich and milk. But humans, being what they are, like the buzz of chips and soft drinks. So the Buddha’s wish for the world is always there with you, offering you a better deal, waiting patiently for as long as it takes.

Let’s awaken together to play the hand Buddha dealt us.

Sensei Ulrich
October 24, 2010