Nurtured In My Old Days With My Grandmother

Reverend Etsuko Mikame

November 13th is the first Hoonko service in my family temple in Shimane, Japan since my grandmother passed away. She passed away this March and it was a sudden parting for me. She taught me many important things as a minister through her life.

Since my family temple in Japan is small, my parents worked at school as teachers on weekdays in addition to managing the temple. Both of them have already retired and now stay at home. Since they were always busy for their work and came home late on weekdays, my grandmother, who lived together with us, always took care of us until our parents came home. Especially me, I was my grandma’s daughter. After coming back from school, I always visited her room and spent many hours with her watching TV, drawing pictures and having snacks. My grandmother always fed me a lot of things like mochi, potato chips, chocolate and baked rice ball which was made of the rice offered to the alter. Since I always had these snacks before dinner, I was chubby when I was a child.

Grandma and I had a daily routine. After watching TV until 5:55pm, we always went to strike the big bell outside the temple together at 6pm, whether in rained, snow or shine, every single day. Grandma and I struck the bell 6 times at 6:00pm one after another. When she struck, it was a big sound, when I struck, it was a small sound. The big and small sounds resonated one after another through the small village at 6:00 pm. I really love the sunset and the view from the big bell tower.

After striking the bell, we always sat next to each other in the Gejin or outer altar of my temple and chanted sutra. That was our daily routine.

Even when we got into a fight and I didn’t want to see her and visit her room, she came to call me as usual “Hey, Ettchan! It’s time to strike the bell. Come on!” I had no choice but follow her. Although I have 3 other siblings, she always called me. I didn’t know why but we naturally made up with each other after chanting together. Looking back at my old days with my grandma, I realized that my grandma taught me an important attitude toward chanting and hearing the Dharma as Buddhist through sitting next to me and chanting together.

Although she was sometimes too strict, I really appreciate her devoted attitude. When I became a minister, she was happier that anyone else. And when I gave a Dharma talk at my family temple, she always listened to me while sitting it the front row.

According to my mother, her daily routine was as usual by even the day before her death. She got up and chanted in front of the statue of Amida Buddha in the Hondo, struck the bell at 6:00 pm and chanted sutra at the Hondo, ate dinner with family and went to bed. Her death was an extension of her daily life. We tend to take it for granted, but we can easily forget about it in our busy daily lives. The teaching of Dharma illuminates each moment we live in our lives.

I cannot sit and chant sutra with her anymore. But even if she is not here, I am fortunate to be able to sit in front of the statue of Amida Buddha and hear the Dharma with everyone every Sunday. And I am sure she is always with me as a Buddha every time I recite Namo Amida Butsu. All I can do to give back to her is just to cherish this moment and live in the Dharma with Nembutsu just like she taught me though her own life.