Eye on the Prize

“We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”

Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan

I stumbled upon this great quotation by Oscar Wilde and somehow it reminded of a much, much older poem but a Japanese-Buddhist monk named Hōnen (法然, 1133 – 1212). The poem is titled “Moonlight” which I covered here.

What Oscar Wilde says here is very profound.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the Parable of Burning House from the Lotus Sutra famously describes a similar state of affairs, and in that parable the Buddha is calling people to escape the flames to safety. Like the Moonlight poem, the Buddha calls all of us and leads us to refuge if we listen. You can also see this in the Parable of the Two Rivers.

In the Jodo Shinshu sect of Pure Land Buddhism, this moment of listening to the Buddha is called shinjin (信心, “true entrusting”). I like to think of it as a “come to Jesus Amida” moment: we become starkly aware of our plight, we recall Amida Buddha’s promise to rescue all beings, and respond with the nembutsu.

All of us are in the gutter in some sense or another, but we don’t have to be. As the Third Noble Truth of Buddhism states: there is a way out.

Namu Amida Butsu

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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