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Monthly Dharma Thoughts

In the process of growing old


These days the theme of growing old is often discussed.


Growing old is one of the fourfold suffering expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha, along with birth, sickness, and death. When the eyes weaken and we become forgetful and start to run out of breath, well, like it or not, we are forced to admit the truth, that man grows old. People may shun you and may even curse you at times. Though wrinkles may line our face, we must strive to make sure they do not crease the heart. Though our bodies grow stiff, we must strive to make sure no such hardness comes to the heart. Though the body grows weary, we must keep a bright outlook at heart. As the body ages, we must maintain the youthful spring at heart. We do not have a second chance to live our lives over again. This day is a once for all affair. Today is now. Moreover, it is through receiving the support of all other things that we are alive now.


One leading figure of the Meiji period was the poet Kujo Takeko 1887–1928. Born to the Otani family of the Nishi Hongwanji, she made a positive effort to deal with social issues and established the Fujinkai*, or Buddhist Women’s Association.


She composed the following poem,


Look yonder, my friend.
Come tomorrow, that flower might be scattered to the winds!
All the same, in this brief passage of time allotted to her
She strives to make her life blossom with all her might!*


Though one may have aged, this day is one we have yet to stroll into. It is important to experience it, it is important to live it. This is something we must not forget. Though the world may shun you, the Buddha still watches over us and protects us. Though we may be all alone in the world, the Buddha calls to us one by one. It is by the grace of the Buddha, who has made a wish for us to live, that we are alive. Some say it is only with the passing years that one gains an insight into that fact. Indeed, when a person understands the true reason they are alive, they quietly rejoice.


It is a truly amazing thing to be born as a person. It is also a truly amazing thing for that person to encounter the Buddha's teaching. It is with gratitude that we experience the mysterious power of the Buddha, as we watch our sadness over being born into this world being transformed into joy for the amazing life this person has been granted.