Friday, April 24, 2009

Remembering Shinobu's choices

  • Apr. 24th, 2009 at 9:45 PM
Friday, the weather is overcast, cool and breezy.

I went to dinner with DareKun and Dan again, this time we tried Vietnamese.  It was fun.

Lilo is glad to see me back.  She was fighting with my slipper.

I'm still working on the blue lace shawlette.

This shows the pattern better.

I had a massage today, so I'm real mellow.  I try to see Wendy at at least once a month.  I feel so great afterward and the feeling lasts a week or so.  Someday I will be rich and I'll see her once a week.

Wendy and I were telling tales from the past, and it reminded me of one I'd like to tell here.  It's about how to live a life of no regrets by making conscious choices.

The person who introduced me to Buddhism was a charming Japanese lady named Shinobu.  One day I asked her to tell me about how she ended up in San Diego.  She said after the war she was living on her parents' farm in her hometown village, a small farming community high in the mountains of the northern island of Hokkaido.  Life was filled with hard work on the farm and while it was rewarding, there was not much in the way of entertainment.  It was very cold there in the winter and they were often snowed in, with snow up to the second story of the farmhouse.  They had to dig tunnels in the snow to get out.   In the winter the family would sit around a low square table, with a band of quilt attached to the edge.  In the middle was a well in the floor and there was a charcoal brazier in the well with live coals in it.  The family brought their work (schoolwork, crafts, newspaper, vegetables to slice, whatever they were doing) to this table, put the quilt tight around themselves to seal in the heat, and all worked together there, enjoying the only really warm spot in the house. Beds were covered in thick fluffy quilts.  

After the war, only 2 young men returned to the village from the front, and they were already engaged, marrying soon after returning.  Shinobu complained to her mother, asking how would she ever marry in this village?  Her mother told her that there was no point in complaining.  People who complain need to make a choice and take action to change their circumstances.  So, Shinobu needed to make a choice.  She could choose to stay on the farm, enjoy the farm life, inherit the farm, become rich (she had a great head for business/numbers) and having chosen this of her own free will, never complain again about the lack of marriage prospects.  If she wanted to stay on the farm, she should know that she was choosing to remain single, so no point in complaining about not having children.  If she choose the second option, marriage, she should understand that meant moving to town, where there were more young men, so no complaints about giving up the farm life, which she loved.  Make a conscious choice and then no complaints, after all, you choose it.

Shinobu decided she wanted to marry.  So they discussed where she should go to find more men.  She and her mother decided she should move to Tokyo and get an office job in the hope of meeting more men.  Shinobu moved to Tokyo and found work in an accounting firm, not a small matter in the aftermath of the war, with much of the city bombed out.  She returned home to visit her mother and her mother asked her how it was going, specifically had she met any nice young men. 

Shinobu responded that in Tokyo, too, not so many had returned and they were choosing somewhat younger girls, as they had lots of choice.  Shinobu complained that she did not stand a chance against the young, pretty, sophisticated city girls.  The young men all just laughed at her countrified Hokkaido accent.  Her mother responded that complaining means you need to make a choice.  So, if this plan was not working, how could they expand the pool of possible men. Older, no, they also died in the war. Younger, no, not good. So what kind of men was she seeing in Tokyo?  Shinobu said, mostly American ones.  Her mother asked her if she wanted to marry an American?   Shinobu thought that would be all right.  Her mother said she should be aware that if she choose to marry an American, he would eventually be posted back to he States and she would end her life with him in the US.  Never mind what the nice young man might promise her when he urgently  wanted to marry.   Since it was so expensive to travel back to Japan, she might not see her mother again. So if she choose that, she should understand what she was choosing up front.  If she did not want that, she could choose a challenging accounting career in Tokyo, stay single, get rich and never look back at marriage.  Shinobu wanted children, so she decided to marry an American. 

So her mother asked her where Shinobu could work where she would meet lots of them?  Shinobu changed jobs and went to work for less money as a cashier at the PX on base, where she met many nice young men.  Bob Thomas proposed.  He was a few years younger, but very sweet. He said he would never leave Japan, but she knew the Navy might have other ideas.  She took him to see her mother and they agreed that he was a nice young man who would try his best to make her happy.  Bob didn't speak much Japanese, and she did not speak much English until later, but she said they communicated in a way that made language unnecessary.  She married Bob, the Navy sent them to San Diego, and she was happy, knowing that she had made clear choices, so no need to regret anything.  She did manage to visit her mother with the grandchildren, but only twice.  

She and Bob were very happy together, he adored her.  They had 4 children and lived in the outskirts of San Diego, where she had a huge (maybe acre) garden and happily tended her Japanese vegetables to her heart's content.   I would visit her to chant together and after the meeting she would ask us if perhaps anyone felt like a little tempura? Yes, yes, we all said.  She would take her basket and go out into her garden and return with super fresh vegetables.  Depending on the season,  yard long beans, Japanese eggplants, pumpkin or some unique Japanese vegetables I did not recognize.  Then she would dip them in batter and fry them up nice and crispy and we would all sit around dipping tempura in sauce, drinking green tea, talking and laughing and having a great time.  This was the life she chose, so no regrets.

Her mother was an interesting lady....

Have a great night,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Memory of my friend, Sheila B.

Today I went to a Buddhist memorial service for my friend, Sheila B.  She was a wonderful woman, a professional modern dancer, and artist, a poet, a patron of the arts and a wonderful kindergarten teacher.  She was my friend and fellow SGI Buddhist member and I will miss her.   

The Buddhist service was uplifting and lovely, just like Sheila.  The SGI Community Center was packed full, so many people were touched by her life.  This quote from Daisaku Ikeda fits Sheila, "Live with a dancing Spirit.  The stars in the heavens are dancing through space, the earth never ceases to spin.  All life is dancing: the trees in the wind, the waves on the sea, the birds, the fish, all are performing their own dance of life.  Every living thing is dancing, and you must keep dancing too, for the rest of your life." (Buddhism Day by Day, p. 394)  I am reminded that in the Lotus Sutra, we, the Boddhisattvas of the Earth, emerged dancing from the earth to join the ceremony in the air, and that the ceremony in the air is not ended.   

Sheila was the perfect example of someone who learns to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and extends her life.  In her case by 20 years.  She started chanting because she was having chronic heart trouble, had just had a serious heart attack and was in pretty scary physical shape.  After she began chanting her health was restored.  Over the years she raised her daughters and launched them off into their own lives.   She supported lots of live classical music and live dance, painted many paintings, taught children, taught dance and generally lived a very full life.  In the last couple of years she was fighting the progressive heart failure again and it finally took her peacefully in her sleep on the 20th of April.  Sheila loved to read the Daily Guidance and this was the one for the 20th of April, "From the time that I was born until today, I have never known a moment's ease; I have thought only of propagating the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.  I do not know how long I or anyone else may live, but without fail, I will be with you at the time of your death and guide you from this life to the next." (the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 965). 

Bon Voyage, Sheila. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Setting out on a new voyage

  • Apr. 19th, 2009 at 9:32 PM
I just returned from a very enjoyable dinner with DareKun and Dan.  I only get to see Dare maybe once a week, so it was nice to be together again.  We had talked about my setting up this blog, so here it goes.

This morning I attended a couple of Buddhist activities.  I do my best to encourage the members.  That always raises my life condition and makes me happy and peaceful. 

My amaryllis bulbs are blooming.  They tried to bloom the first time at the usual season, around Christmas, but the snails ate them to nothing.  So, they tried again this spring, and this time I was ready with the sail bait.  I have a deep red one, a white one with red stripes and a pink one.  I love my amaryllis.

Today I'm knitting on a small, blue lace shawl.  The stitch pattern is taken from Wendy's Victorian Neck Cozy, but the shaping is different.  It is made from knobby-spun 100% Swiss cotton (Isis mercerise) in a softly cloudy French blue.  I think it will be perfect to keep the air-conditioning off my shoulders this summer in San Diego.  Pictures to follow. 
See ya,