Traveling to a New America – Reno, Nevada

Reno, Nevada - Traveling to a New AmericaElizabeth and I were in Reno, Nevada, this past weekend, promoting my books and talking to people about their feelings about America.

Reno, Nevada  Traveling to a New AmericaIt was hot, but beautiful along the Truckee River which flows through the middle of town.

“What’s your take on America at this time?” is the question we ask over and over again as we meet people.

We posted one of our interviews with a lovely young couple, Valarie and Adrian, and you can view it on our Facebook Page.

What did others talk about?

They talked about restoring a sense of community and caring, which seems to have been lost to a great extent in America and the world at large, with people and nations isolating themselves, and retreating into smaller, well-worn identities.

The deepest need at this time seems to be for all of us to somehow grow into a more all-embracing state of life, where we recognize ourselves in others, and work to bring out the best in our world.

It’s difficult, as we are now seeing.  How do we really bridge the gaps that are separating us?

Humanity seems at a crossroads.  We can destroy ourselves, as attested to daily by the rise and proliferation of nuclear warheads pointed at nations all around the world; or we can embark upon a totally new phase in our development, a transformation at the very roots of what it means to be a human being.

There is no going back.  That way, inevitably, only lies suffering.

The revolution the world is heading for and pining for can never come to fruition without a corresponding spiritual transformation, one that breaks down the old walls of our limited perception and re-connects all of our lives to the life of all of humanity and to the cosmos itself – a revolution and transformation that creates a real sense of community.

Maybe We Need A New ReligionSometime ago, I came across an article about a ten-year-old boy, who, after continuing to watch reports on television about the wars raging in the Mideast between Jews, Muslims, and Christians, remarked:  “Maybe we need a new religion.”

The truth, to a very great extent, is that our mainline religions, for all their talk of love and brotherhood and peace, are separating us, are killing us – all in allegiance to God.

Where is God in all of this?  Certainly not in people.  If God were in people, we would not go on murdering and slaughtering each other.  To kill God is the deepest sin, so say our religions.  Yet we go on with the wars.  Therefore God is not in people.

We need a new kind of identity.  We need to find God, or the highest spiritual reality, within people, each and every one of us, and protect and nourish that reality.

We need a new kind of religion.

Where is it to be found?  Here and there.  It issues forth from the hearts of people everywhere, but, as yet, is given no widely tangible expression.

In Buddhism, this identity finds its highest expression in the Lotus Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra is a fantastical story.  Near the end of his life, Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, having assembled his disciples upon a mountaintop, proclaims that in all the years that he has been preaching, he has not yet revealed the truth, and is now about to expound it.

At that time, a great Treasure Tower, half as large as the Earth itself, rises from the Earth, resplendent and bedecked with jewels; and from countless lands in the universe, myriads of Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas converge upon the Treasure Tower to hear Shakyamuni expound the Lotus Sutra.

The Buddha explains that, contrary to what people imagined, that he had first attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree when he was about thirty years of age, he had, in fact, become enlightened in the unimaginably remote past, and has ever since been in the world preaching the Law.

We are now in the world of eternity.  The Buddha is revealing the eternity of his own life.

Did this story really happen? Yes, it did; and then, again, it did not.

The significance of the Lotus Sutra is this:  The Treasure Tower, along with this fabulous Ceremony in the Air in all its splendor and magnificence, is a metaphor for the great enlightened emerging state of life of the Buddha, overflowing with life force, wisdom and compassion.  But it is also, without exception, our own life as well.

We are all Buddhas, unawakened to this fact.  We have that kind of magnificence buried within our own lives.  The Buddha’s mission was to awaken all people to this reality.

Amid all of the wreckage we see around us, the division, anger, despair and loss of hope; wars and threats of future catastrophic wars; walls being erected between human hearts; confusion and anxiety and fear – amid all of this, the Buddha is coming to America.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  He has been practicing Buddhism for over forty years with the Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world now, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries around the globe.

This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America”.  To follow his journey, visit his Facebook Page.


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