“Do not grieve. If I were to live in the world a whole kalpa, our association would still have to end. You cannot find any association which does not end…Therefore, you must know the world is all transient, and meeting certainly implies separation.”
~Last Dharma Words of Shakyamuni Buddha
This month is a time of romance and love. After all, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. We cannot miss it because the stores are filled with red heart-shaped balloons, cards filled with sentimental sayings, candy, and flowers; we cannot avoid it. However, it is also according to the western calendar, the day that Shakyamuni Buddha entered Parinirvana on February 15th. The Buddha lived for 80 years – 45 years spreading the Buddha Dharma. We continue to listen and hear the teachings after 2,500 years. The Buddha passed from this earthly realm with compassion and wisdom, which continues to exist for us to hear and live by.
The Buddha understood the principle of impermanence. Nothing remains the same and we are in a constant flux of change. As he lay between twin sala trees, his head to the north and his body toward the west, the Buddha turned the Wheel of Dharma for the last time. The Buddha would be released of all his blind passions of greed, anger, ignorance, and ego.
A narrative is said that Cunda, the blacksmith, offered food to the Buddha. Unknowing that it was tainted food; the Buddha accepted it with gratitude. After eating the food, the Buddha fell ill. However in a whispered voice to the Sangha that gathered, the Buddha proclaimed,”Cunda is not to be blamed. O-Bhikhus (monks), great is the virtue of an offering of food to the Buddha and greater the offering of the last nourishment and Cunda offered it. Virtuous is Cunda and great is his merit.” Shakyamuni Buddha remained compassionate even when faced with his impermanence.
February is also a month of remembrance and a particularly sad time for me. My father had a small statue of Lincoln that was always seen from his desk. My father passed away on Lincoln’s birthday, February 12th some 55 years ago. He was an admirer of Abraham Lincoln for he was the president who helped to establish the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery. My father believed that no person should “own” another person. I share my Namu Amida Butsu with gratitude for his lessons and allowing me to find my path.
On a happier note, I had a former college mate whose birthday is on Valentine’s Day. I got to know her because of my father and his birthplace. This family was from Wakayama. We became fast friends and shared many adventures together; some not so good to mention. Although we do not see each other very often, when we do meet it is as though no time has passed.
There are so many journeys that have occurred in February that it is difficult to remember. I know I performed a marriage for my sister on the last leap year in February, but I think I may have done others. No matter, February is a month of fond memories and of the Buddha Dharma. We continue trying to live the principles of the Buddha in our own way. We put our palms together in gratitude and thankfulness that we have teachings to help give directions and guide us. Happy Valentine’s Day and may it be filled with love, flowers, and candy and our Namu Amida Butsu.
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakan