Idle Distraction

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G Sakamoto

She stood quietly beside him now. He would go on this trip, this time alone. He held the furoshiki wrapped bundle in one hand. His mother had put together some things she thought heÕd enjoy on the trip. A tablet, his toy car, a musubi and snacks. He was excited thinking about traveling on his own. He look up at his mother who was gazing at him. She smiled.

The train pulled slowly up to the platform. It hummed deeply. Impossibly quiet for something so huge. The doors slid open. People stepped out as train staff prepared to take on passengers. His mother hugged him and he turned to board.

He found his seat. The seat next to him was empty so he put the bundle there. Two boys had found the row in front of him. They busily stuffed things into the bin above them. Across the aisle a man slept. He looked like heÕd been there awhile. Maybe a business man on his way home. His white long sleeve shirt was rolled up and his coat was folded neatly on the rack above him. A small bottle of tea and a rewrapped lunch box was on the window sill. The curtain had been pulled down blocking out the sunlight and the view of the buildings of the small town outside.

He turned to the view of his window as the train lurched into motion. He could see his mother waving. He stood and waved back. The platform slipped away. His motherÕs image grew small as the forest began to fill his view. Kukui trees formed most of the canopy. An occasional koa broke through the cover, its crown and dark branches rising above the green of the kukui leaves. Beneath grew waivi shrubs and lilikoi vines, an abandoned grove of coffee trees with bright red berries.

The conductor came through the car door. His punch clicked as he came down the aisle. When he came to the boy he asked if he was ok. The boy replied yes. Do you know when to get off. Mom said donÕt worry. The conductor stood for a moment then moved on. He decided he would check on the boy. He had a grandson who was about his age. Very curious. Very independent.

With the sound of the tracks beneath him the train moved from forests to pastures, passing through towns, stopping at stations along the way. People exchanged places. The sleepy man picked up his things and put on his coat then stepped down to the platform. As the train lurched forward again the conductor came to see if he was ok. The boy seemed unconcerned about where he would have to get off. When the conductor had asked him again if he knew what his stop was, the boy replied that his mother had told him not to worry. He seemed ok. Unconcerned about when to he would need to exit. Playing with the toys he brought with him, munching on what his mother had packed for him. He was happy. Enjoying his time on the train.

As the train slowed for its next stop the conductor went to check on the boy. As he approached he could hear a ringtone as the boy pulled out a cellphone from his pocket. The boy saw the conductor. He pointed to the phone. Its mom, he said. GPS. After a brief conversation with his mom. He gathered up his things and got ready to exit the train. As the train glided to a stop he thanked the conductor and stepped down.

Where does this train ride take place?

In Jodo Shinshu, we trust in AmidaÕs assurance. What is AmidaÕs assurance like in this story?

The conductor is concerned about the boy. What does he not know?

Who does the boy represent?

5. Would the boy have reason to say Namu Amidabutsu?