O-higan The Other Shore

This is the time of year that O-higan is celebrated in the Soto-Zen school, as well as other Japanese Buddhist traditions. O-higan marks the equinoxes of Fall or Spring. These are the times of the year wear we have the optimum ability for change through practicing the six paramitas. Paramitas are perfections of practice in Buddhism and they are:

Dana Paramita- generosity of both material and spiritual offerings.

Sila Paramita- following the precepts of the Buddhas

Ksanti Paramita- patience and tolerance for that which we find difficult. 

Virya Paramita-  effort to sustain practice.

Dhyana Paramita- zazen practice

Prajna Paramita- wisdom of the harmony of relative and absolute truth. insight into emptiness. 

O-higan means "the other shore". This is in reference to the other shore of enlightenment as opposed to this shore of delusion. We can cross from the banks of delusion over the river of suffering into the other shore of enlightenment. It is often stated that enlightenment is in birth and death, or nirvana is where we stand right here and now in our everyday life. This concept has always confused me to some degree. Sure, I can believe that my everyday life is no other than my life of Buddhist practice, but surely this shore of suffering is different than the other shore of enlightenment. 

I believed that until I heard the words of Shumyo Kojima Sensei after zazen and morning service. He very plainly stated that this shore is that shore. When we are on THIS shore and cross over to the OTHER shore of enlightenment, Where is the other shore now? It is behind us on the other side. So, we travel across to the OTHER shore, but now where is the other shore? Back on the other side. 

It is a simple concept for me to see now. My grasping at the other shore and all my effort to cross to the shore of enlightenment is the very thing that puts the other shore on the other side. With the desire to cross I will constantly be moving along from shore to shore like a horse following a carrot. Practice and enlightenment are present right here on this shore and practice the expression of awakening. Limitless potential for awakening is on this shore. the more I struggle to reach the other shore, the farther the other shore becomes. It is like struggling against a current. When we are tired, we let it carry us to the ocean. 

That being said, I'm just a dumb novice. I am, however, very grateful to Shumyo Kojima Sensei for his guidance, generosity, and compassionate patience with us practicing at Zenshuji for


 Roku Jizo (6 Jizo) at Zenshuji temple. 

Roku Jizo (6 Jizo) at Zenshuji temple.