Reverend's Message - August 2013

Because of Stones and Shadows...


Rev. Dean Koyama

A monk and his disciple were traveling through the country. They came upon a village and decided to spend the night. However they discovered that the people in this village were not friendly at all. In fact many of them disappeared into their homes as they saw the monks approach.

The monks discovered that this village encountered many difficulties. They suffered the tragedies of famine, floods, drought, and wars. Many of the villagers worked hard but only worked for the benefit of themselves. As a result, they grew more and more suspicious of each other as well as any stranger that came along.

The wise monk knew that these villagers were unhappy. The young disciple asked his master what they could do to help this village. The wise monk told his young apprentice, gather some wood and let's make a fire.

"Why?" asked the young disciple. "To make stone soup," replied the master. "I have never heard of such a thing. How will this help this village?" The wise old monk answered, "You'll see."

After gathering some twigs and having started the fire, the master filled a small tin pot with water and placed it on top.

Just then a brave little girl who had been cautiously watching came over and asked the monks what they were doing. "We are making stone soup for dinner," the kind master answered, "but we need to find just the right kind of stones so it will have a delicious taste. These stones have to be smooth and round." "I'll help look for them," the girl enthusiastically volunteered.

They searched all over the village town square until they found the right kind of stones. They then put them into the pot of hot water.

"Hmm," thought the wise old master, "by putting these stones in this very small pot, I'm afraid we really won't be making much soup." "My mother has a bigger pot. I will go and ask her if we can borrow it." And off she ran.

When her mother asked what she was doing, the young girl explained that the monks were making stone soup and needed a bigger pot. The mother thought, "Stone Soup? I have never heard of such a thing. I wonder how it is made," and she followed her daughter carrying the biggest pot she could find. As the monks tended the fire, refilled the bigger pot with water and the stones, the smoke drifted upward. One by one, the villagers became more and more curious. They too came out to see what was going on.

The wise monk remarked, "This stone soup is almost done, but it would be better if we could season it with salt and pepper." "I have some at home, I will go and get them," one of the villagers said and dashed off. "I remember the last time I had stone soup. It was so good because of the carrots that were in it," the wise monk reminisced. "I just harvested some carrot from my garden this morning," another villager offered. I can let you borrow a few. When the villager came back he was carrying a big basketful of carrots and put them in the pot." "Oh the carrots will add a lot of flavor, but so would some onions," coaxed the wise old monk. Another village went and brought back some onions and put them in the pot. And now the aroma of the soup filled the air and all the villagers had gathered all around the pot. As each one of them found out what the monks were making, they all volunteered to add something to the pot. A woman brought some mushrooms. Another brought some cabbages. Someone added more spices. And as the air filled with this delicious smell, the villagers began to think of other things that would accompany the soup like steamed dumplings, noodles, tofu, tea, and cakes for dessert. It soon grew to be a big feast and all the villagers were having a great time. They sang, danced, and told jokes but most of all, they talked to one another. Many of the villagers remarked that it had been too long since they enjoyed themselves with each other. And it all happened because they made stone soup together.

Hopefully, it is with this same feeling of community that we will be able to work together during our upcoming Obon Festival and Odori Dance. I am looking forward in joining with you at my first Palo Alto Buddhist Temple Obon.

I know it will be hard work and long hours. But we have much to be proud of in our members and their accomplishments in helping to make this event a memorable one. Often, we are faced with difficult situations. When we face these tasks as individuals they may seem insurmountable. However, if we are able to each take a portion as all the villages brought in their own ingredients for the stone soup, these tasks are do-able.

In Japanese, there is a wonderful expression, okage-sama de. O is an honorific meaning your. Kage means shadow or shade. De means because of. So the meaning of okage-sama de is "Because of your shadow, (I can rest from the hot sun)." In other words, it is an expression that acknowledges all the help and support that is given by others so that we can live and accomplish whatever our life's tasks are. It is the recognition of one of the fundamental principles that the Buddha emphasized as "All life is interconnected." Because of the Stone Soup, all the villagers were able to enjoy a delicious soup together. Because of all of you, we will be able to gather in a grand and memorable fashion truly expressing a heart of gratitude and Nembutsu in honor and memory of all of our loved ones for Obon.

In Gassho,
Rev. Dean Koyama

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