Arigatai, what a great word! As Rev. Chijun Yakumo wrote in his wonderful book “Thank You: Namo Amida Butsu,” “I believe arigatai is a term that arises naturally when we sense the intricacy of karma in our life and the profundity of the Buddha’s teachings that embraces it.” (page 13) Arigatai or arigatoo is generally translated into English as “thank you” but literally it has the meaning “difficult to be.”
Only through the pain of loss (for my sons, the loss of their mother to cancer at age 62) did the idea of presenting Linda’s gatha at Ganjin’s home temple arise.
“You have been brought here by profound causes and conditions” were the first words spoken by Patriarch Kosho Ohtani in English at my Tokudo ordination in 1975. Forty years later, in December 2015, even more causes and conditions, some happy, some sad, enabled me to fulfill my commitment to Linda and my sons.
For my sons, presenting the gatha “Ganjin’s Journey” at his home temple and gravesite was both an opportunity to honor their mother and a chance to be introduced to Japan with its ancient and sublime Buddhist culture (not to mention delicious food). My older son remarked after the trip,“When I grew up in the temple, I always saw Buddhism as something small and marginal to American culture. Going to Japan made me realize what a great tradition I grew up in.”
Ganjin, the courageous traveler, is still inspiring journeys. I regard my trips to Japan with my sons in 2014 and 2015 as pilgrimages to Toshodaiji and the Hongwanji. I don’t know if I would have made those two trips if Linda had not passed away and I had not made the promise to her to present her gatha. Looking back, I realize what a precious opportunity my sons and their wives had to spend eleven days together and to share wonderful experiences with memories to last a lifetime. It gave me and my daughters-in-law an opportunity to really get to know each other. So many kind people made the trip possible. Kemi Nakabayashi gave me an improved version of Linda’s gatha so each son was able to present something new. The Hongwanji International Dept. staff accommodated our request for lodging. I could go on and on, “You have been brought here by profound causes and conditions.” Arigatai