SDDSTL Hongwanji Place- Welcome!!!

​​​​Autumn Ohigan 1980

by Rev. John Y. Doami

Another autumnal equinox has arrived and, as usual, here in Southern California it is almost impossible to tell.  It is still as hot as summer, and there is very little color change in the foliage.  There is little to indicate the coming of autumn.  Only the calendar.

​This is very like the human condition called aging, growing old.  As much as it may feel like it, we do not get old all of a sudden.  It is simply that, like the changes of seasons in Southern California, there are not many sharp contrasts or clear-cut differences to indicate the changes.  There is little more than the calendar. 

​In Japan, on the other hand, it is very easy to tell when Ohigan has arrived.  In the spring, whether it is warm or still cold, everyone all of a sudden switches from heavy overcoats to light raincoats or light overcoats.  When I was in Japan, the first couple of times this happened, I did not realize what was happening.  One day people were wearing heavy overcoats; the next, they were all wearing lightweight coats.  It finally dawned on me what was happening the third Higan I was there.  I asked Obachan, our dorm mother, about it and she confirmed it.  Higan was the day you changed into either lighter or heavier clothing depending on whether or not it was spring or autumn.  The strange thing is- or maybe it is not so strange- the weather usually warranted the change in clothing.

​However, even in Japan, people do not have sharp delineations as they grow older.  It is extremely unlikely that any country or any people has.  Growing old is something only the young seem to look forward to, which is somewhat ironic.  They look forward with bated breath (unless they already know what their present is) to their birthdays.  Once the quantity or quality (as measured by price) of presents drops, they, too, lose interest in their birthdays.  They have become too old for birthday parties.  We are very fickle, which is to say very selfish.

​As autumn moves on to become winter, even Southern California trees lose their leaves, albeit not with the quantity or color of other areas.  Still, they can put one into a pensive mood, unless you are too busy to listen to yourself.

​What do you think about as you grow older?  how much you have or have not accomplished so far?  The quality of your relationships with your wife or husband, or with your family and friends?  Your coming retirement?  Your ability to pay all your bills?  Your success or lack of same?  Your mortality?  What really happens after you die?  Nothing?  Everything?

Perhaps your questions are more along these lines:  How is it that I am fortunate enough to be loved?  How can I even begin to repay all that I owe to all who have enabled me to come this far?  If so, count yourself among the fortunate few.

Namu Amida Butsu.

This Dharma Message was reprinted from Dharma Talks of the Four Seasons, which is available through Hongwanji Place.  The late Rev. Doami was affiliated with Orange County Buddhist Church for many years. 

Dharma Message- September 2017