A Bittersweet Obon

Posted by:

K. Ken Fujimoto

With the help of many volunteers, this past Obon bazaar was a successful one, but it was also a sad one with the passing of Mum Arii, who had been an integral part of the Obon, especially the odori, the street dancing portion, for so many years. Many people wondered why I did not say anything at the closing on Sunday. I thought about it for quite a while, but decided not to do so because of all the other things that Mum had done for the temple.
In the eyes of many his being closely associated with the Obon is understandable, but it is only a portion of what he did for the temple. To have his memory tied so closely to the Obon seemed to overlook, even trivialize his contributions in the other areas. These may not seem as important to some people, but in the long term, they affect and will continue to affect even greater numbers than the Obon.
One of the reasons that I decided to ring the kansho, the temple gong before the temple tour on Sunday was because of the mallets he made for us. It was like his voice calling people to the temple once again.
He had seen that the wooden mallets we had were starting to chip and fall apart so he started working on making replacements in his typical fashion. He first thought harder wood would last longer and prevent the splitting that he saw happen to our original mallets. We explained to him that, if the wood was too hard, the bell would produce a tinny sound. From this, he figured that old wooden bats might be best.
Despite the difficulty in finding wooden bats today, he found a number of them and crafted a few mallets. He shaped the heads and tried to use the handles as they were, after cutting them and attaching them in mallet fashion. These worked well enough, but they would twist in your hands during the ringing of the bell, so he flattened the sides of the handles so that they avoid that twisting. Seeing that these worked well, he made about a dozen of them so that we should have enough to last for decades.
From now on, every time you hear the kansho, you will be recipients of Mum’s efforts. Not only will he be there in the tolling of the bell, but he will also be there at every funeral and memorial service since he was the one who made the stands to hold the homyo, Buddhist name, cards. If there is a photo at the service, he will be there as well since he made the photo stands. He did this to accommodate the different sizes of photos we get and to reduce the glare during services.
Again, compared to the Obon, these may seem like minor things, but when one considers the number of funerals and memorial services and regular services each year, his efforts are reaching many more people. This is the way it is in the course of life as well. It is the little things, the daily events that affect more people deeply than those big events we may have in life. To focus on the big events can often cloud the truly important things in life that occur on a daily basis. They may not be as impressive as some of the big events or even memorable, but they are the things that truly make our lives possible.
This is what our Nembutsu teaching is telling us. We need to come to appreciate the little things that people do for us or that happen in the world around us; those things that we often take for granted, but make our lives possible. The big events may be memorable in their own way, but it is all of those little things that make a difference in our lives. It is those little things we experience in life that often move us to say, Namo Amida Butsu.
© July 20, 2013