Pine, Bamboo, and Plum

As we turn the page on the truly extraordinary year that was 2020, some of our Sangha members will be adorning their homes with branches of pine, bamboo, and plum (shōchikubai) to welcome the New Year 2021 with these auspicious symbols that embody the virtue of resilience in the face of adversity. 

Pine remains ever green, even in the cold of winter.  It expresses consistency and stability.  Bamboo does not break when bent by winter storms or piling snow.  It shows us that there is great strength in remaining flexible during challenging times.  Plum flowers blossom in the cold months and remind us that winter gives way to springtime.  Just as our pleasurable experiences do not last forever, neither do the times of pain and difficulty.  The beauty of the plum flower blossoms in the season of cold and darkness.

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From Issa’s The Year of My Life

It is a commonplace of life that the greatest pleasure issues ultimately in the greatest grief.  Yet why—why is that this child of mine, who has not tasted half the pleasures that the world has to offer, who ought, by rights, to be as fresh and green as the vigorous young needles on the everlasting pine—why must she lie here on her deathbed, swollen with blisters, caught in the loathsome clutches of the vile god of pox?  Being, as I am, her father, I can scarcely bear to watch her withering away—a little more each day—like some pure, untainted blossom that is ravished by the sudden onslaught of mud and rain.
              After two or three days, however, her blisters dried up and the scabs began to fall away—like a hard crust of dirt that had been softened by the melting snow.  In our joy we made a boat with fresh straw, and pouring hot wine ceremoniously over it, sent it down the river with the god of smallpox on it.  Yet our hopes proved all in vain.  She grew weaker and weaker, and finally on the twenty-first of June, as the morning-glories were just closing their flowers, she closed her eyes forever.  Her mother embraced the cold body and cried bitterly.  For myself—I knew well it was no use to cry, that water once flown past the bridge does not return, and blossoms that are scattered are gone beyond recall.  Yet try as I would, I could not, simply could not cut the binding cord of human love.  

The world of dew
Is the world of dew,
And yet . . .
And yet . . .

(The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa’s Oraga Haru, by Nobuyuki Yuasa, p. 103-104)

Hanging by One Arm

We have a tradition at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple of observing a Pet and Plant Memorial Service each year in early October, during which we gratefully remember the animals who provide us with companionship as our pets. We also show our appreciation for the plants that support our lives, including the cut flowers that adorn the Buddha Shrine and bring us joy through their beauty.  This year 2020, the Pet and Plant Memorial Service will be held online via Zoom Meeting on Sunday, October 4 at 9:30 a.m.

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