Reverend's Message - August 2015

"A Lost Wallet and Phone"

Rev. Dean Koyama

If you travel westward from here, passing a hundred thousand kotis (millions) of Buddha-lands, you come to the land called "Utmost Bliss" where there is a Buddha named Amida. He is living there now, teaching the Dharma.
The Amida-Sutra

The Buddha replied to Ananda, "The Bodhisattva, Dharmakara has already attained Buddhahood and is now dwelling in a western Buddha-land called "Peace and Bliss" a hundred thousand kotis of lands away from here…. In that Buddha-land the earth is composed of 7 jewels, which have spontaneously, appeared. The land itself is so vast, spreading boundlessly to the farthest extent, that it is impossible to know its limit.
The Larger Sutra

Then the World Honored One said to Vaidehi, "Do you know that Amida is not far away?"
The Contemplation Sutra

A couple of weeks ago, on July 3rd, our youngest son, Tommy, went back to Boston for school. Prior to this, he had been spending his school break with us for over a month. The day before he was scheduled to leave, he decided to have his last hurrah by spending it with friends at the beach in Santa Cruz. We were to meet later in the evening, to go out to dinner for his last meal with the family.

At the restaurant, Tommy told us that he lost his wallet somewhere in Santa Cruz. Of all the days to lose his wallet: his student ID, Driver's license, credit cards, ATM cards, everything. He was scheduled for a flight out at 8:30 the next morning, Friday, July 3rd. It was also a holiday so many business and government offices were closed. And even if they were open, there was no way we could get him to the DMV to get a replacement ID or drivers license to use so that he could board his flight. Luckily he had his passport since he had just completed a semester abroad in Germany. But he had to cancel all the credit cards and debit cards. We had to give him cash so that he could get around once he landed in Boston. Again, we thought this was the worst time for him to lose his wallet.

The following day, July 4th, the day after he arrived in Boston without his wallet, we got a strange call at home from a lady saying that she found a cell phone and was calling to try to return it. It turned out that Tommy had lost his cell phone in Boston!

When we first heard the news that Tommy lost his wallet and then his phone, we were naturally upset. But I couldn't say too much because at one time, I lost my wallet on a bus in Japan when I was a student and another time I lost my cell phone on a ferry to Victoria Island in British Columbia, Canada many years ago. But so far I have not lost my wallet and phone at the same time.

Luckily he had a "find your phone app" on his phone and was able to connect with this lady who called us earlier and was able to retrieve his phone. We felt so grateful that he was able to get his phone back. But more importantly we felt extremely appreciative that there are still good people in this world who want to do the right thing. It restored our faith in humanity. And we were relieved that we didn't have to buy another cell phone especially since we are not eligible for another upgrade for another year and a half.

A few days later on Monday evening July 6th, we received a package in the mail and in the package was Tommy's wallet. Apparently, according to the note, Tommy must have dropped his wallet in a parking lot in Santa Cruz and someone found it. They took the wallet home and immediately dropped it in the mailbox for Priority delivery.

So even more, were we deeply appreciative. We were the recipients of 2 random stranger's acts of kindness and compassion. We had given up on ever retrieving the phone and wallet and yet we received them. Isn't that just amazing? How inconceivable is that? To lose a wallet and phone in a matter of days and then to be able to get them back…what are the odds for that to happen?

According to the sutras, the Pure Land of Amida Buddha is extremely far off in the distance and infinitely board and vast. Yet at the same time it is so close. In the midst of our troubles, we may feel so distant and alone. Yet in an instant, something could happen that transforms that negativity into something positive. If you think about it, the circle of influence, the lives of these two different good Samaritans and our lives are completely different. They were complete strangers to us. We don't know anything about them. Most likely we have different life styles, occupation, different circle of friends, interest, different reasons for being where we are. So in a sense we could say that the lives we were living was infinitely broad and vast from them. And yet there came a point where our lives intersected and what brought us to that point of intersection was compassion. Through the compassion of another our lives for an instant become infinitely close.

The Pure Land of Amida Buddha is said to be a hundred thousand of millions of Buddha lands away in the western direction. The sutras also describe the Pure Land as the most ideal environment where Wisdom and Compassion is perfected. And because this land is said to be infinitely vast and extensive, there is nowhere that this Wisdom and Compassion does not reach. In the same way, although physically we may live tens, hundreds and even thousands of miles from each other, somehow we received the benefit of these virtual strangers, people who we never had any contact with before, and yet we were touched by their heart of wisdom and compassion in a short period of time. To me this is truly inconceivable, unfathomable, and indescribable. This is how I understand that although Amida Buddha and his Pure Land are infinitely far away, yet they are also so very close.


Rev. Dean Koyama