Lessons Learned in the Philippines (Part 2)

(Read previous part HERE)

The people of the Philippines know how to smile, without a shadow of doubt. They smile with ease and it enhances their loveliness. Again I am reminded of the Buddhist teachings, and the value of smiling, as it is one of the seven good deeds taught by Sakyamuni Buddha that can be done without having anything. Like many things in life, we learn from the environment we are raised in, and I believe the Filipino people smile because they learn how to smile from those around them, their family, their friends, their neighbors, who have had the tradition of smiling passed down from generation to generation. They have learned to smile as part of their life. How great it would be if such traditions were passed around the world. Thinking about it, this is what Buddhism is doing, spreading the very understandable teachings from person to person until it becomes part of their lives, and then part of generations of lives. This is how anything takes seed. How long that will take, can anyone really know. Regardless a seed must be planted to initiate the process. In order for a country to smile, someone had to start it off with a warm friendly smile, and then continue to do it. People saw that it was a good thing, they picked it up and shared it with those around them. In the same way the goodness of the Buddhist teaching can move through this country, being recognized as something important and then passed around just like a smile.

From what I saw many live in what we in the West would consider poverty. From knowing Merasol, from talking to her on Skype, seeing her picture I would never in a million years have imagined the life that surrounds her. Even though one might have little compared to some, in the way of home comforts and such, one can still have inner wealth. And Buddhism for sure is all about inner wealth. It is not denying the outside luxuries of life, but it is an inner enrichment journey. And in this sense is the most difficult of journeys.

But that which is most difficult to gain, is that which is worth most. It is taught “The harder the task, the more glorious the triumph” (story #65 of Something You Forgot). I think about Master Shinran and his travails in the harsh land of Echigo where he was exiled, and sleeping in the snow outside Hinozaemon’s home. The inner wealth is one that cannot be stolen or lost; we take it wherever we go, and hold it regardless of what conditions we are in. The home that prioritizes an upstanding moral education cannot be far from Buddhism. Buddhism is very close to this family. How many more families in the Philippines is it also close to, I wonder? One person there told me that Catholicism, although it’s the people’s religion, does not become part of their daily lives. Buddhism is not taught, yet people are living it unwittingly I feel. Now they need to be told of it, and be told how close they are to such a teaching. I remember after the first lecture of Buddhism I attended I asked the teacher why I had not heard of this teaching before, and why more people are not listening to it. I hope people of the Philippines will have such a reaction when they encounter it for the first time, too.

In conclusion, there is sincerity in the Philippine people and a desire to listen when there is a sincere message being conveyed. There is warmth, and there is tenderness. One day when I tried to bargain a few pesos for fruit I was buying at the market in order not to break a larger note, I quickly got a stern look of rebuke from Merasol. The message I got was, you have so much compared to these people. Do not try to bargain with them. Give them what they ask for. Buddhism is everywhere, even in places where it is not being taught. The ceremony for Daren Arroyo in my eyes is a not just a one off event but rather something that is part of Amida Buddha’s grand design here and everywhere.

I went to the Philippines, in part, with the hope of sharing Buddhism. I came away from the Philippines having learned Buddhism more than anything else. I am grateful to my teachers there. Gassho.

Frank Costelloe, Los Angeles

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #40 | 2014, Lessons Learned in the Philippines

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