When I was still a child, my mother occasionally took me to the field that was five minutes’ drive away from our house for stargazing. Especially when she watched the news of the meteor showers or full moon on television, she woke her kids up at around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and gave us chances to gaze up the night sky and shooting stars. Since I was born and raised in the countryside of western Japan, we fortunately were able to see the stars clearly even from our house. That was so fun whether we were actually able to observe the meteor showers or not. I still remember how beautiful the night sky and shooting stars were and how joyful it was when I could share something beautiful with someone.
Now I am grown up. It is sad, but I hardly look up at the sky, maybe because I seldom go out at night and maybe I am having a busier daily life than that I did in my childhood. Probably, I might forget the joy of gazing the night sky. I happened to be able to see a big clear full moon in the night sky the other day while driving. It reminded me of the stargazing memories when I was still a child. That made me feel so happy and I suddenly had a strong desire to tell my mother in Japan that I saw a big full moon. After going home, I instantly called her and told her about it. Although she couldn’t see the moon at the same time and place with me, she was as happy hearing it from me as if she and I had seen the moon together. She said that she was observing the moon from her place the night before, and we got so impressed that we were able to view the same moon even though we were far apart. I would never have been able to see the moon if I had never gazed up to the sky.
Here, I would like to share a famous poem written by Honen Shonin who is a master of Shinran Shonin and a founder of Jodo Shu.
There is no place where the moonlight
Casts not its cheering ray;
With he who has the seeing eye
Alone that light will stay.
This poem showed us that moonlight casts everywhere and we take it for granted, but when we are able to see the light with our own eyes, the light reaches our hearts. We notice how beautiful it is and it will stay in our hearts. Here, they say that the moon here is a metaphor of Amida Buddha’s virtues.
As Honen Shonin says in his poem, our perspectives tend to be fixed or narrow when we live in our daily lives. We have many things to do in front of us and our hearts and minds may be busy and full of something related to work, parenting, relationships, studying and many things. Troubles and things we have to do sometimes make it difficult to take our eyes off them and see the world as it is.
Even if there is a beautiful moon or rainbows in the sky, unless we go outside and try to see it, we would never be able to know how beautiful it is. We are able to live through our days and it doesn’t matter if we live without this. But I believe we can live differently. I was fortunate that I was able to see it and I thought this added a beautiful color to my normal day.
I thought this is something my mother might have tried to tell us, to show us its beauty by stargazing together when I was a child.
I believe that teaching of Buddha also gives us a similar experience in our lives and encourages us to see the world in a different way and realize its beauty.
I would say that joining “Buddhist services” and hearing “the teaching of Buddha” are also acts linked to this realization. Buddhist services give us the special time and space to turn our hearts to things that we don’t normally notice, think about, or feel in our daily lives. It’s an opportunity to think about one’s life, to think about death, and a relationship with people surrounding us and a deceased person or a loved one.
Professor and Rev. Tesshu Shaku says, “Religious rituals are devices that extend the time that shrinks due to the busyness of everyday life.” I agree with him. We live busy daily lives and feel like literally time flies by. On the other hand, our average life span is getting longer and is now expected to be around 100 years. However, as Rev. Shaku mentioned, Buddhist teaching and services make us realize that the connection of each life will never end in such a short-term connection but have been continuing in endless connection and it’s here, we are living the endless life.
I believe we definitely need the time to stop and to be mindful of our lives in this worldly life and look at the world from a different perspective. By doing so, I think this will make us start noticing the “true beauty” of our lives just like when we look up at the moon in the sky. It may be a tiny thing, but it is a special thing for you.
I believe that joining the services and hearing Dharma is a special act to see and experience its beauty on our own and share it with others.