K. Ken Fujimoto
I had mentioned in a previous article that I often re-read books because I find things I had forgotten and/or discover things I had overlooked. Since then a number of people have mentioned that they do the same thing and that they, too, find things that they had forgotten or had overlooked in previous readings. To have such input is encouraging since it shows that a connection is being made.
Most of the books I have been re-reading are books read for pleasure, but I have found out recently that this can be even truer for texts. I have read portions and bits and pieces of different texts, sutras and other works frequently and have found things I had not realized before throughout the years, but I have been reading a text I had not read for many years recently in preparation for a class and a whole new world seemed to reveal itself to me.
Since the book had not changed any while sitting on the bookshelf, it was my comprehension and ability to make connections that had changed. What had seemed like academic gibberish at one time had become transformed into something alive and vital. Not only did it make more sense than before, it also gave me insight into many points in Shinran Shonin’s thought. I was able to see that much of what many refer to Shinran’s unique thinking was really an evolution or development from thinking that was at the core of his earlier education and experience. Seeing what had led to Shinran’s thinking gave me a better understanding of those concepts and a deeper appreciation for what he was trying to communicate.
This is not only true with re-reading books and texts. Revisiting episodes in our lives, interaction with different people, living and deceased, can give us similar insights. We can be reminded of actions and lessons. We can come to a deeper appreciation of what a person has done for us. We can see much more of what took place in an interaction. Our relationship with a person can come to have a much deeper and greater meaning each and every time we revisit that person’s life and our interaction with that person.
This is one of the reasons that the system of annual memorial services that we have can be meaningful and important. We are not having these observances to do anything for the deceased. To even think that we can do anything for those that have gone before us is pretentious and ego-centric. In the course of life, we should know well, that we cannot do what we would want to help a person, especially when they are ill or dying. If we cannot do that in life, what can we expect to do for them after they are gone?
The services are opportunities given to us by the deceased to reflect on our lives together and, as a result, come to better understand and appreciate our own lives. The services are a manifestation of their love and compassion being extended to us so that we have the opportunity to revisit the interactions during the course of life and the life experiences and wisdom and knowledge that we have gained in the interim will give us a greater and deeper appreciation for what has been given to us.
Just as re-reading a book many times may seem to be a waste of time, memorial services may seem to be a waste, but, in both cases, there can be so much gained and revealed to us. Both can be opportunities to learn and grow.
© October 21, 2014