Today I choose to live with gratitude
For the love that fills my heart, the peace
That rest within my spirit and the voice
Of hope that says all things are possible.
It has been 5 months since the bell echoed outside in the air. The bell was rung on August 6th (Japan time) and on August 9th. San Jose Betsuin asked if the temples in coast district would ring their bells in moratorium of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
While I rang the bell, it felt as though all activities were suspended for a few moments. I no longer felt the cool morning air or heard the laughter and talking from the Bob Jones trail. All sounds went silent.
The sound of the bell flooded my thoughts with reminiscence of happier times, but it also brought my Namu Amida Butsu in respect and sympathy to all who died on those blackened days.
The bombing of Hiroshima took the lives of approximately 180,000 people and Nagasaki lost 80,000 people, mostly civilians. Nearly half of those who died were on August 7th and August 9th. Following months after, there continued a large number of people who died from complications from burns, radiation poisoning, sickness, and other ailments including malnutrition. To this day, ancestors of the bombing are tested yearly for residual symptoms from radiation. We share our Namu Amida Butsu in memory of those who passed from the bombing and share our honor and respects to their family and to the survivors.
After the bombing, life changed for all people around the world. For those directly affected, many remained homeless, confused, malnourished, thirsty, and scared. World War I was supposed to be the “war to end all wars”, but it merely set the groundwork for the 2nd world war. Any war is devastating, causing disaster, pain, and uncertainty. We share our Nembutsu with a heavy heart and share Nembutsu in hopes for better times.
Today, we are battling a different kind of war and it is called Covid-19. It is invisible, tasteless odorless and conditions and symptoms are constantly changing. This war is different, yet it is still affecting people worldwide. Researchers and scientists are working frantically to develop a vaccine, but we must wait patiently, thoughtfully and with courage. We do what we are requested by taking precautions and following the guidelines.
A friend reminded me of a Buddhist lesson. She reminded me of the little things we can do to lend support to others. We are all feeling the stress of isolation and the lack of social interactions. We all must have some type of socialization, unless we live alone in a cave. My friend reminded me to continue smiling, even when behind the mask. She reminded me to look others in the eye and to step out of our comfort zone and offer a friendly “hello.”
I noticed that when I go to the mailbox, there are some who treat me as though I am invisible. I could be offended, but they are so engrossed on their phones that sometimes they miss the Bob Jones trail. They have walked half way up the church’s driveway before they realize it’s the wrong path. They look around and have a bewildered look on their face and I just yell to them that they missed the trail. I smile, point in the direction of the trail and wave them goodbye.
Yet, there are those who are complete strangers who make it a point to say, “Hi, how are you?” My response is always with a response of thanks and a smile, it is these small gestures that can make an ordinary day into a good day.
We do many things to share comfort and warmth to friends and family. I have another friend who is making candles with the scent of the great outdoors. It will be given away to those not ready to venture out of the house. It will bring a somewhat piece of nature inside and hopefully spread smiles of their faces. We try our best to spread some sanity during this chaotic time.
We can share the Buddha Dharma through our small actions of compassion, kindness, gratitude, or courtesy. There are so many more actions we can share and these are just a few to mention. Whatever the action, it can be passed on to others who pass it to another and down the line. It is a time to step out of our comfort zone and to take the first step in teaching others what courage and strength are.
It is also a good time in taking that first step into understanding and strengthening our Namu Amida Butsu. Whatever the action may be; we are taking that first step. We are sharing encouragement and lending support. We are teaching the Buddha dharma through our actions.
It is a time of remembrance of past events, whether good or bad. It is also a time of discovering who we truly are. It is also a time of examination and discovery of our true self. What we thought was the self can be a surprise and this surprise may come to us, as a complete different notion of what we thought was our true self. We have to think and look outside the box and take the time to discover how to free ourselves from our blind passions of greed, anger, ignorance, and ego.
However while we search for our true self, it is always with Namu Amida Butsu. It is our gratitude and thankfulness that we have the ability to face difficulty and uncertainty. We can overcome our fears and choose a course of action that fits our path. We have many paths to take; we only have to take the first step with Namu Amida Butsu.
We all on our individual boats sailing on this vast ocean of wisdom and it is how we navigate in the rough waters. But with wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, we will endure and find our strength to continue our journey of discovery of our true self and our understanding of Namu Amida Butsu.
As always be safe, stay healthy and take care. It is always Namu Amida Butsu. We will see each other soon. Happy and Prosperous 2021 New Year!
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano