Welcome to Mokurai's Temple!

Essential Dharma

Life of the Buddha
The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path
Brief Explanation

The Ten Bulls

Buddhist Glossary

The Navayana Sutra

Japanese Gardens and Aesthetics

Portraying a Japanese Buddhist Monk in the SCA

Japanese Films


The Clan of Matsuyama

SCA Resources
(The Chatelaine's Box)



The Dharma Hall is the traditional place of ceremony, study and meditation (aside from the meditation hall). Here is housed the temple's main shrines and altars to the Buddha, Bodhisattvas, gods, etc. It is where many treasures may be found. Chief among these treasures is the dharma itself; "the teaching" The dharma is one part of the three elements of Buddhism - the dharma, the sangha (monastic community) and the Buddha.


The Life of Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama was born in the sixth century B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people and Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince. According to custom, he married at the young age of sixteen to a girl named Yasodhara. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the reality of the inevitable suffering of life. The next day, at the age of twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and new-born son to lead an ascetic life and determine a way to relieve universal suffering. For six years, Siddhartha submitted himself to rigorous ascetic practices, studying and following different methods of meditation with various religious teachers. But he was never fully satisfied. One day, however, he was offered a bowl of rice from a young girl and he accepted it. In that moment, he realized that physical austerities were not the means to achieve liberation. From then on, he encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism. He called this The Middle Way. That night Siddhartha sat under the bodhi tree, and meditated until dawn. He purified his mind of all defilements and attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or "Enlightened One." For the remainder of his eighty years, the Buddha preached the dharma in an effort to help other sentient beings reach enlightenment.


The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path

The Four Noble Truths are considered the most important and basic teachings in Buddhism. The discovery of the Four Noble Truths by the Buddha, is considered by nearly all traditions, to have constituted his enlightenment. The Four Noble Truths were also the first teachings of the Buddha after his Enlightenment.

First. All existence is characterized by pain and suffering. We all experience birth, old age, sickness and death -- even the Buddha.

Second. Our pain and suffering is caused by our attachments and by our ignorance of not seeing the world as it really is.

Third. There is a solution to the cessation of pain and suffering. This solution is available to everyone.

Fourth. The solution is the Eightfold path:

Right views

Right thought

Right speech

Right action

Right livelihood

Right effort

Right mindfulness

Right concentration

A Brief Explanation of Buddhism

(from Tricycle magazine)

Perhaps this question can be considered the ultimate koan in that Buddhism emphasizes transcendence of the constraining definitions that limit the mind and encourage dualistic thought. At the same time, however, Buddhism recognizes that we must live our lives in the practical reality of this world rather than the ultimate reality of interdependence in which things cannot be defined as discrete entities. And in order to do so, we need definitions. Buddhism has alternately been called a religion, a philosophy, and an ideology. There is much misunderstanding concerning who or what the Buddha was. Buddha literally means "awakened one," one who has awakened to his or her own true inner nature and therefore the true nature of reality. While Eastern traditions recognize that there have been many buddhas in the past and will be many buddhas in the future, there was a historical figure named Siddhartha Gautama who has become known as the Buddha of this age. The Buddha himself was an ordinary man with no claims to divine origin. Belief in a creator God has no part in Buddhism. Instead, Buddhism emphasizes experiencing the truth for oneself. Therefore, it ultimately does not matter whether or not a historical Buddha ever existed. The Buddha's life is simply an example that encapsulates the teachings of Buddhism in allegorical form. Therefore, Buddhists have a history of trusting their own wisdom rather than trying to interpret what might have been meant in old texts. The early stories and teachings of the Buddha were not written down until several centuries after his death at a meeting called the First Council. For this reason, they are not considered to be inerrant teachings directly from the mouth of the Buddha. The Buddha strongly encouraged his followers to "be a lamp unto themselves" and put his teachings to the test. Buddhism, like most other world religions, has split into innumerable sects. These can largely be divided into three major groups or "vehicles." The Hinayana school is pejoratively termed the "Lesser Vehicle" due to its emphasis on personal rather than collective liberation. It is also called the Theravada school, or "School of the Elders," and is widely practiced in the countries of Southeast Asia. Its teachings focus on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Mahayana school, or "Great Vehicle," developed in India during the first century C.E. It is called the "Great Vehicle" because of its all-inclusive approach to liberation as embodied in the bodhisattva ideal and the desire to liberate all beings. In China, Mahayana Buddhism flourished and took on many forms. In particular, the devotional Pure Land schools advocated surrender to a bodhisattva as a means to be reborn in his Pure Land (a realm free from suffering) from which it is easier to attain liberation. Mahayana Buddhism entered Japan around the sixth century C.E. with the rapid assimilation of Chinese culture in general. Zen Buddhism, which had rapidly grown in China where it was known as "Chan," became the most popular of these newly transplanted forms of Mahayana Buddhism. Vajrayana Buddhism, also commonly called Tantric Buddhism, is the "Diamond Vehicle." It developed out of the Mahayana teachings in northwest India around 500 C.E. and spread to Tibet, China and Japan. Today it is practiced mainly in the Himalayan regions and involves esoteric visualizations, rituals, and mantras which can only be learned by study with a master. In the Vajrayana path, all situations can be used as a spiritual path. It teaches not to suppress energy, but rather to transform it. There is no external "good" reference point. For this reason, the role of the teacher is especially important in the Vajrayana. Without a clear motive to help others and a strong grounding in meditation, practicing tantra is dangerous and ultimately self-destructive. This necessary practice of complete devotion to the teacher is known as "guru yoga." It is not known whether or not the Buddha taught all three vehicles. All three, however, share a common foundation that is true to the spirit of the Buddha's message. This is encapsulated in his first teaching, called the Discourse on the Four Noble Truths, delivered at the Deer Park in Sarnath. In it, he outlined the central idea that suffering is inevitable in this world of samsara; liberation is possible, however, by eliminating the cause of suffering, which is the craving that results from attempting to satisfy the ego's desires. In order to be free, one must realize that the notion of a fixed self is an illusion. Buddhism teaches that all phenomena are impermanent and interdependent; the world is continually in flux, coming into existence and passing away, conditioned from one moment to the next by interrelated phenomena. This emphasis on suffering and the non-existence of a self has led many to wrongly confuse Buddhism with nihilism and pessimism. But Buddhism focuses on suffering because only by addressing the problem can a solution be found. The more we cling to a belief in a self, the more pain and alienation we feel. All of the Buddha's teachings are a means to experiencing liberation from a self-centered existence in which suffering is inevitable. The foundation of Buddhist practice is meditation. In meditation, one learns to simply be in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or fantasizing about the future. Most of us are always engaged in some activity, and if we are not active then we are talking to ourselves. This constant mental activity is not only draining but also maintains the illusion of a self. To study the way of the Buddha is to study oneself. To study oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to be enlightened by everything.

For further reading on Buddhism, Tricycle recommends the following titles. Buddhist Basics Entering the Stream. Compiled and edited by Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chodzin Kohn. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993. Introducing Buddha.Jane Hope and Borin Van Loon. New York: Totem Books, 1994. Mindfulness in Plain English. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1994. What the Buddha Taught. Walpola Rahula. New York: Grove Press, 1974. Buddhism in the West How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America. Rick Fields. Boston: Shambhala Publiocations, 1992. Zen Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Shunryu Suzuki. New York: Weatherhill,1970. Vajrayana Buddhism An Introduction To Tantra. Lama Yeshe. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1987. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Chogyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1987.



The Navayana Sutra

(also known as The Navamala Hinaprajna Sutra)

It happened that there was a certain man who existed at one time as a warrior, at another as a stallholder in the marketplace, at another as a healer, and at yet another time as a teacher, a carrier of the lamp the Buddha lit.

Whilst in his most recent samsara (incarnation) as a Ch'an painter and scholar in the teachings of the Mahayana, he arrived at a city far distant from his home, to give a discourse on the compassionate teachings of the Buddha. According to an oracle he had consulted, his own suffering was due to come to an end during his stay in that city, or soon after.

This prediction, and the invitation to address the gathering, had given him a renewed good heart, for he had been much abused in this incarnation, and of late had become very weary. Therefore, on his arrival at the home of the healer who had invited him, the teacher was in good spirit. But he was quickly saddened to see the sorrow upon the faces of many of those who had come to hear him speak.

He spoke with them first to ask the cause of their suffering. Each replied in kind, that their sorrow was caused by others who had lied to them, been deceitful, or otherwise acted towards them dishonestly.

Discarding the text he had prepared, the teacher sat down and spoke to them from his heart, drawing upon his own experiences, and upon the teachings he had received a quarter of a century before, from his first teacher. These teachings were that if we believe that others lie to us, or abuse us, it is because we have listened only with our ears, and not with our intellect or intuition, and that if we use these faculties, rather than the mere sense organs of hearing, our suffering is alleviated.

As he spoke to the gathering, he realised that the people he addressed had presented him with reflections of what had happened to him, and as he found words to comfort them, so he heard the words he spoke, and was himself comforted.

Remaining in the city for a few more days, he found himself being warmly and openly greeted by people he had never previously met. He knew that his manner of dress made his easily distinguishable from the inhabitants of that city, but thought it strange that they should recognise him, and greet him with such affection. Many of the people who thus greeted him had heard his speak at the home of the healer, but he was greeted in this way by three and four times their number, for word of what he had said had spread around the city, and had given consolation to many more than had attended the meeting he had addressed.

He became aware that he was in a state of grace, and this was made clear to him when two mercenary warriors who ridiculed and threatened him, retreated in embarrassment when Kashin, the Spirit of Blossoming, told them who he was. Two other auspicious omens were then presented to him, which told him that by the time he left the city, he would have outgrown his suffering. He was pleased, for he believed the omens might mean he was preparing to leave his earthly existence, and perhaps enter Nirvana, most often described as the state of perfect bliss, which is beyond rebirth and beyond death. As he journeyed home, he began to make such arrangements as were required for him to depart from his earthly life with the minimum of inconvience to others.

Upon his arrival home, a further three omens awaited him. The first was a message from a Tibetan Buddhist nun, telling him she would call next day to ask him to let her have a statue which was in his possession, so that she might give it to the abbot of her monastery. The statue was of Tara, the protector of those who travel spiritually on the path to enlightenment.

That night the second omen appeared, for he was visited by the 'protector of wolves', known as a devourer of men. To his surprise, he was unafraid, and he was right not to have feared her, for although he did not know it, she is also the protector of children. She asked him what had happened in the distant city, and he told her of how he had addressed the people, and received the two omens there. She then asked him if he thought this meant that he would soon enter Nirvana, and he told her that he hoped this might be so. She then told him he was wrong, and that he would not depart.

He asked did she mean he was not yet ready. When she replied that she did not mean this, he shook his head and told he she must be wrong, since those who are ready to enter Nirvana and do not do so are the Bodhisattvas (those who postpone their entry to the state of perfect bliss in order to save others from their suffering). He pointed out to the protector of wolves and children that he had been unable to save himself. She replied by telling him that he had done so, and without realising it, was now ready to become a Bodhisattva if only he would accept the responsibility. He told her that he did not wish to do so, and was looking forward to the perfect bliss of Nirvana.

The next day he awaited the arrival of the nun, but she did not appear. However, a beautiful but frail girl came to visit him, and when he asked her name, to her amazement she told him it was Tara. He spoke with her, and realized that in the form she now appeared to him, there was no way by which she could know of the Buddhist legend. He asked her the reason why she had come. Huge tears welled up in her eyes as she replied that she had come to him because she was suffering and needed his help.

The teacher knew the the protector of wolves and children had been right in what she had said. But even more than this, he recalled one of the omens he had received when in the distant city where he had taught only a few days previously, and how, with an 'unspoken truth' he had then been asked for help, and had given it without his even knowing it at the time. The person he had helped, of noble class, had remarked upon his spirituality, but he had denied being of spiritual kind.

Memories of what he had been taught many years before about the legend of Tara began to return to him. Then he recalled the legend in detail. It was that when the great bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was preparing to enter Nirvana, having attained his own enlightenment, he had heard a cry. Turning to investigate its origin, he recognised it as an awesome cry for help. Retracing his footsteps he realised that it issued forth from the whole of suffering humankind. He was unable to leave until he could take them, all those who suffered, with him, safely to that other shore, the shore of enlightenment, where pain and suffering are no more. A miracle had then occured, in which a tear of compassion fell from his eye. Where it landed, it formed a lake, and from out of the water of the lake there appeared a lotus, which upon its opening, revealed the immortal Tara, whose compassion is without end. Together, the two bodhisattvas work to relieve human suffering.

Full of shame at his lack of compassion, and lack of regard for the suffering of others, the teacher vowed to stay with her, and to help her until her suffering was gone, so that she had no further need of him. She came to him each day, and by helping her, the teacher realised he had no right to deny the strength of the spirituality within him. With this acceptance, his spirituality increased, as did the skills which are needed in helping others.

He remembered the words of the Buddha, who had said that by acceptance of the true teaching, enlightenment could come, and our lives begin again in days, rather than in months or years. Thus, when the nun returned a few weeks later to ask would he part with the statue of Tara, he knew that his work with the manifestation of that bodhisattva had come to an end. And so it was that the next day when she arrived at his home, she was able to say that she had been able to resolve her problem the previous night, and would not be returning to ask for his help.

By this time the teacher had accepted his responsibilty, and in order that others might benefit from what he had learnt, and thus be saved from their suffering, he had already began to write of what what he had learned through his study and through his experience, calling his text the Navamala Hinaprajna Sutra.