Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic dialogue

March 12, 2003

Loyola Marymount University

Present: Ven. Karuna Dharma, Lucy Palermino, Fr. Jim Fredericks, Sr. Thomas Bernard, Cynthia Shimazu, Arvin, Leila Kerze, Michael Kerze.

Fr. Fredericks discussed the recent Globalization Forum he hosted and issues of the reaction of fundamentalist groups to the overwhelming presence of Western culture and commercial values. About the relationship of awakening and faith in Buddhism he asked about “jikaku,” “awakening” or self-awakening ... to what?

Ven. Karuna Dharma: To your own Buddha nature. We live a dream we think is real, but to wake up to our own Buddha nature is to experience emptiness. Yet that is only half way to enlightenment for it can be a trap; form is emptiness and emptiness is form – form is the phenomenal, emptiness the absolute. Your moral character changes so that you cannot perform a bad deed. Ven. Thich Tien-An was the closest .I’ve met to a fully enlightened person.

Sr. Thomas Bernard: If a person is enlightened, is that person’s will still operative?

Ven. Karuna Dharma: Does will still exist if a person has no ego? In Mahayana there are 8 consciousnesses, the first 5 are the senses, the 6th organizes data, the 7th is the mind, and that is where the ego is. The 8th is the storehouse consciousness which stores our behavior. For example, if we are angry a seed then resides in the storehouse and it may be easier to be angry thereafter. To cleanse the storehouse – that’s enlightenment. Once enlightened, you cannot fall back. The next step is Nirvana. Rev. Kusala and I disagree for he thinks there is a difference between enlightenment and Nirvana. Why? Bodhisattvas are still attached to “saving all beings,” and therefore are not utterly free of attachments. If one is enlightened, karma does not exist for you. Enlightenment is the same as awakening.

Michael Kerze: What is faith?

Cynthia Shimazu: In Pure Land, we do not deal with awakening. In Jodo Shinshu it is impossible – that’s where faith comes in, to recite the Nembutsu.

Ven. Karuna Dharma: In Zen, one needs great faith to believe in one’s own Buddha nature and there is great doubt and great effort.

Fr. Fredericks: So in Zen what goes on in the mind with faith? “I believe” is cognitive but also more than that in a Christian context. In Graham Greene’s novel, The Power and the Glory, there is a corrupt priest during the Mexican persecution; he drinks and has a mistress but is pulled in unexpected directions. There is a person worse then him who wants to betray him. The priest reaches safety over the border while on the other side that bad person is wounded. “Come, hear my confession,” he calls. The bad priest crosses the border to help him. That is not cognitive, it is practice. Faith is what you do; it not an emotion. Christian love is a question of obedience to God’s command to love, to do something, to cross over the border.

Ven. Karuna Dharma: In Zen every emotion is preceded by a thought, so the priest did have a thought.

Fr. Fredericks: Masao Abe said the Zen doesn’t talk of faith but the word used is pronounced the same, dai shin.

Ven. Karuna Dharma: In Zen the word used is “Great Mind,” “Great Heart.”

Cynthia Shimazu: In Pure Land, Jodo Shinshu and Jodo Shu, two characters are combined for great faith and great heart/mind. It is who a person really is.

Lucy Palermino: In Christianity there is something like the Nembutsu – the Jesus Prayer. It is a prayer: “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner,” that is repeated over and over until it becomes wordless and it is prayed in the heart with the heart beat. It becomes the source of all one’s activities and one advances, becoming closer to God and acting more God-like. You have ‘good heart’ and it shows up in what you do. The basis of that is love.

Sr. Thomas Bernard: There is a growing consciousness that God is not outside of you but that God is within you – and that is love.