Seat a little worn
Perhaps another season
Folded one last time
Pants don’t care if we thank them or not. Pants are indifferent to words, thoughts and actions. We wear them. Wash them. Throw them in the recycling when we’re done with them. Maybe we pass them down or on to someone else. Who might wear them, wash them, throw them in the recycling. Recently, I’ve noticed myself folding and thanking clothes going into the recycling pile. I should not say this too loudly. It is a bit odd. But what I can no longer wear has been important. In the most basic relation between me and pants, I would only very reluctantly leave the house without pants. I could go out in a kilt or sarong or toga, but the idea would be the same.
You might find yourself doing the same thing. Maybe not thanking pants but other things. Things that you have a connection with. Perhaps a printer or a broken cup. Things that have been a part of your life. They are objects that are not alive and yet have shared a deep relationship with you. Recognizing and acknowledging a relationship can express itself in gratitude. No matter how we might be told to say, thank you, gratitude is the result of understanding the need fulfilled by a relationship.
It is not a matter of value or importance. I can value or recognize something as important but not experience any gratitude. I may recognize the importance of gravity. It influences how I do things in the world. I may not be mindful of gravity but without it I would float away. But even before I floated away, how I was born, conceived, evolved, what I breathe, sunrises and sunsets have been influenced by gravity. Even with all the influences of gravity, I’m not sure I can be grateful for gravity. Its just there. Why should I be grateful for somethingÕs that just there. The relationship I share with gravity is important and extensive but gravity doesn’t care.
If we expand the relationships of anything it extends infinitely in time and space. I think we can understand a little of what Shakyamuni may have experienced when he described how he moved backwards and forwards through infinite lives. Awareness of causal relationship, links between things and events, expands our understanding of the deep connections we share.
A pair of pants is something we buy at a store. If we consider the relationships connected to the pants they extend infinitely. I purchased the pants with money I received from you; that’s a whole line of connections. The pants were in a store. How did it get there, who produced it, where did the materials used to produce it come from? The cotton portions came from seeds, that grew in the ground, that were cultivated by farmers. The cotton may have come from India, Egypt or perhaps California’s Central Valley. Were they migrant workers sending money home to support family members living far away? There are factories where the cotton was cleaned and baled. There is a history there that connects back to the first modern cotton gin and on well before that through trade and expansionism, through slavery and war, and even further to the ancient Indus Valley cultures, one point of cotton’s origins. Following any one of these threads will lead to expanses of connections, influences, relations.
Thanking my pants is not about all of these relationships. To know the relationships of a thing may help to appreciate it more. Finally, however, it is just that the pants has helped me for a long time, thank you. Namo Amida Butsu is like thanking pants. The analysis of the Buddhadharma can give greater context but it is the benefit of Amida’s vow, to resolve the difficulties I experience, for which I am grateful. My behavior does not change the pants or Amida’s intent, it can change how I experience the world.