Reverend's Message - May 2015
"The Fabric of Our Lives"
Rev. Dean Koyama
I have to admit, I do not place much emphasis on my clothes. My outlook on clothes is that they are just some material to cover certain parts of the anatomy and provide warmth and protection from the elements. I don't go shopping for clothes. However when I do go, it is too depressing. I'll pick out something that I think is my size only to discover that it is too small. All the good clothes, that I have, are gifts from my wife because she hates seeing me wear the same thing over and over again. But there are two reasons why I do wear the same things over and over again. The first reason is that I like to get my money's worth out of things. As long as they fit, I will wear what I have until they wear out. The other reason is that I have trouble coordinating colors and patterns. Too often I have heard from my wife, just as I'm about to go out the door,
"You're not going to wear that are you?"
"What's wrong with it?"
"A sky blue shirt and a red tie don't go together."
"But the tie has some blue in it."
I go into a panic trying to coordinate a colored print shirt with a tie. Adding a sweater or jacket brings a cold sweat to my brow. Now, my wife has gotten very smart and very compassionate. She's been buying me plain white shirts. White shirts go with any tie. So if I come to the temple with a weird combination of clothes on, it's because I got out of the house before my wife inspected me.
There are benefits to being a minister with my handicap of not being able to put the right combinations of clothes together. My robes hide a lot. Being basic black, they go well with just about anything. Before returning to the US as a fully ordained minister, I had to purchase the robes that I wear today. There are a number of different robes that I need as a minister. Usually most people see me wearing a fuho, which is the basic black robe that I wear for Sunday services. There is a more elaborate black robe that is used for funerals. There is also a very fancy white colored robe worn on special occasions. In addition to the robes themselves are the 0-kesa. The o-kesa is worn over the black robes around the neck. They are usually adorned with elaborate patterns and often very colorful.
But interestingly the origins of the Buddhist robes and the robes of today are very different. When the Prince Siddartha set out renouncing his royal life, he gave away his fine clothes and picked up seven scrap pieces of material that had been discarded and sewn them together to make his first robe. Today they are made of the finest of silks. The o-kesa often is woven with threads of gold. All of this results in robes costing over thousands of dollars. While I was a student in Japan, I had to pay installments for my robes and they were more than what my monthly payments were for my car.
There is a story of a young man who decided to take over the family temple. The temple was a small temple and could not really afford much. The mother of this young man was, of course, overjoyed.
To mark the occasion of his final ordination, his mother decided that she would sew him a new robe. The young man laughed at her and said, "Mother, why do you need to works so hard? The next time I'm in Kyoto, I will just go to one of the robe maker shops and buy a cheap one off the rack." Needless to say the young man did just that. However, his mother also continued to make the robe and presented it to her son.
Over twenty years later, after his mother had passed away, this man reflected upon his life as a minister and recalled the incident about his mother wanting to sew a robe for him upon his final ordination. "You know, the first robe that I bought from the robe-makers shop, I no longer have. I seem to recall how I had to be careful when I put the store-bought robe on because I kept snagging the threads and they would break. But the robe my mother made, I still have and still wear. I now realize that it was not made just out of material, fabric and thread. Most of all it was made out of love. It was her love that gave strength to the thread and fabric. She put her love in every stitch and seam that she made. This robe has outlasted that other robe because it was made from a heart of true love."
The fabric of our lives is intertwined with such threads of love, kindness, compassion and wisdom. These threads do not break, fray or wear out because they are made with a pure heart. It is up to us to realize the strength of these threads in our lives today. Thank you to all the Mothers, Wives, Sisters and Daughters who have helped to sew this wonderful fabric we call Life. Happy Mother's Day.
Rev. Dean Koyama