Reverend's Message - September 2013
"Everything that has a beginning has an end"
Rev. Dean Koyama
In my first article that I wrote for the July Sangha Guide, I told the story of Sariputra who had asked the Buddha to explain the essence of his teaching. The Buddha responded by saying, "Everything that has a beginning has an end." This is one of the fundamental realizations that the historical Sakyamuni Buddha came to understand as a truth of human life. It is a reality that at times, we seem to forget or put in the back of our minds.
We have just finished our Obon and I would like to thank all of you for making it a very memorable one. Not only was it the first for my family and I, but also we were able to meet many of the members and friends of the temple, help in the preparation, cooking and clean up for the weekend event. But because this Obon is one of the last for the season and because school has resumed already, it seems as if we had no real summer vacation since our Dharma School will begin in a few weeks.
One of my favorite summer childhood memories is going to the State Fair. I was fortunate in that I grew up and lived in Sacramento where the fair was located. I remember the old State Fair grounds and a stand that served a frozen orange or lemonade slush that would quench the thirst in the hot summer days. I also remember when the fair moved to the Cal Expo grounds.
I loved the fair. Not only did I enjoy the rides, the carnival games and food, but I also enjoyed the exhibition halls. The exhibition Hall that I enjoyed the most was the one were many merchants had set up their booths and were selling their products. But what I enjoyed the most was watching them demonstrate their goods. There would be the man selling super sharp knives. He would bang the knife on a steel pipe and then take a big red juicy tomato and with that same knife show how it would still cut the tomato into thin slices. There was also the man who would show how easy the wax would go on and off of the finish of a car. And then he would crack an egg on top of the car hood and put a heat lamp cooking the egg. And with just a damp cloth, he would wipe off the egg, leaving the car finish shiny and undamaged. But you can't just buy one, because they make a special "Fair" deal where if you buy 2 bottles they will give one for free. And I would always cave in and I would spend every weekend waxing my car because I had so much.
One year, I was wandering around in this Exhibition hall wondering if there would be something new on the scene. As I walked around, I noticed one booth that was extremely crowded and busy. When I approached, I noticed some of the people were carrying away a single stemmed rose. At first, I thought to myself, "How clever! Someone had set up a flower shop in the midst of all these gadgets, cleaning products, encyclopedias, and massage chairs." But I soon discovered that it was not a simple flower shop.
The sign over the booth said, "Everlasting Roses". This raised y curiosity so I approached the man of the booth. He saw that I was interested and he asked me to pick up the rose. I picked it up and it felt like a real rose. It looked like a real rose. And it smelled like a real rose. The man proceeded to explain that the rose flower was actually made from razor-shaved pieces of wood. The stem was actually made from paper. And the scent was from rose scented perfume. But he went on to explain that the rose in my hand, made from wood, paper and perfume was actually better than a rose I would find in my backyard garden because it would last forever.
That got me to wonder, what is the difference between the rose from my yard and one made of paper, wood and perfume? Why are the roses that are grown so expensive especially at Valentines Day?
It is because a rose grown in the yard is living. It will not last forever. If I were to take that rose made of paper, wood and perfume and put it into a nice vase, place the vase on a table that I would walk by every time I go in and out of the house, I am pretty sure that after awhile, I will end up walking by the flower without giving it a second thought. Most likely it would end up gathering dust. Why? Because in the back of my mind I would know that it will always be there. However, if I were to place a living rose into the same vase, on the same table, I would hope that I would take a glance at it every now and then. Why? Because I would wonder if the bud had opened yet, whether the petals have fallen and then I would have to clean it up. In the back of my mind I know that it will not last forever. And that is what makes a living rose so valuable and precious.
All too often we get caught up in thinking that we will last forever. However as the Buddha explained, "Everything that has a beginning has an end." But this in no way means that we should wallow with the "Woe is me. Why bother doing anything if everything is going to end" attitude. Rather, it is coming to see how truly special and wonderful our lives are each time we are able to gather together as family, friends and a Sangha.
Looking forward to seeing all of you as we get back together for our Dharma School year.In Gassho,
Rev. Dean Koyama