Each of us, in outward bearing,
Makes a show of being wise, good and dedicated;
But so great are our greed, anger, perversity, and deceit,
That we are filled with all forms of malice and cunning.
~Shinran Shonin, Hymns of Lament, Verse 95
The holiday season supposedly brings out the best in all of us. We tend to be kinder,
more compassionate and our spirits are high. We anticipate the arrival of the little jolly
person wearing the red suit, with the “pot belly”, sporting a white beard and a twinkle in
the eye. Yes, I still believe in Santa Claus, just in case there is one.
I know the holiday is just around the corner when I see Santa Claus at the end of the
parade. Each year, Santa looks different, and I have seen many of them. Yet this
season can also bring out the “Godzilla” in us. When there is a bargain or good sale,
beware. The people we know who are normally so kind and sweet, show their other
side. There is pushing, shoving, elbows poking into the ribs and sometimes being
stepped on. At times there may be harsh words spoken, but always followed by a
I have been pushed aside by people who use both elbows or stepped on, just so I
would move. When I turned around to say something to that person, I realized I knew
that person. They also knew me and with a smile would say. “Oh Sensei, excuse me”.
Sometimes they would be very formal and say “okagesamade” then watch out,
because it was full steam ahead, without hesitation or regret.
Amazingly, some of these people would change from pure sweetness to sumo
wrestlers. It is an eye-opener to see how the power of sales or bargains can change so
many people. They would only start to talk with me when they had the item(s) in their
Yet the usage of the word, “okagesamade”, which roughly translates as “because of
you” or “thanks to you” makes the situation less harmful. It is an expression of gratitude
or appreciation towards someone who has helped or supported them. It also means,
“whatever I am today, it is because of you”, but of course in a positive way.
Before the “wrestling match”, they try to be kind and gentle and protect those weaker
than ourselves. They continue to do good deeds by getting the sale item(s) for others
as well. It is not always just for themselves, for their intentions can be beneficial to
friends and neighbors.
For humans, a bargain or sale is a big deal. At times like these, we tend to forget the
teachings. Afterwards, it is back to being kind, gentle, and thoughtful. We share our
Nembutsu/Namu Amida Butsu in thankfulness for the constant compassion and
wisdom of Buddha, we are grateful for the teachings, guidance and direction. But most
of all, we come to appreciate that it is merely a short period of time when they go back
to their “old self”.
Who does not like a bargain or sale? It is our blind passions of greed, anger and
ignorance that can turn the “sweet, gentle and kind person” into an “All-Star Wrestler”.
It is our Nembutsu that will remind us to “watch the elbows” and not “step on others”,
just for a bargain. It is Namu Amida Butsu, while we dive into the crowd.
Happy Holiday, be safe and always Namu Amida Butsu.
Gassho Rev. Seijo Naomi Nakano