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Lions Roar : May 2016
I laughed out loud and said, “Dad, don’t be so formal!” He said, “But they might ask, what were his last words?” He was a bit excited because this was his last big stage, and he had it all to himself. Even though he was coming to the completion of his life journey, when I grasped his hand as he lay in the hospi- tal bed, his grip was firm and his hand filled with warmth. As I looked down at his hand, I realized, “This was the hand that held me as a babe, this was the hand that held me as a boy, this was the hand that embraced me in my youth, this was the hand that shook mine as I became an adult.” We were fortunate that he was able to come home before he died, that he was not in pain, and that he was fully present and aware to the end. As he let go of his grasp on this earthly existence, I won- dered, where could he have gone? One year later, as I look back on that moment, there is a realization. As my heart opened up, he had slipped right in, unbeknownst to me. Now I realize that his heart and my heart are com- pletely one, forever, and ever, and ever. Just so, his heart and the hearts of those he touched are completely one, forever, and ever, and ever. And his heart and the hearts of those who touched him, with whom he was fortunate to walk the Bud- dha Way, are completely one, forever, and ever, and ever. As the Buddhist expression states, we are all mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, in the timeless process of birth and death. Illuminated, embraced, and dis- solved into the ocean of limitless light, beyond life and death, in the great flow of the oneness of reality, of boundless compassion. I, this foolish being, entrust myself to the awakening of infinite light. Namu Amida Butsu. ♦ MARK UNNO is an associate professor and a former head of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Oregon. in the embrace of great compassion. We are always and forever fools filled with blind passion, ever embraced by bound- less compassion. When seen in this light, this world of appearances begins to take on a dream- like quality, maya, because of our aware- ness of the fleeting, elusive nature of our lives moment to moment. The Japanese consider that cherry blossoms are most beautiful when they are in full bloom, as flower petals are just beginning to scatter into the wind. In that moment, there is awareness of the intimacy of life and death, almost as if they are in double exposure, and ulti- mately one. Just a few weeks ago, we observed the one-year memorial of the passing of my father, Taitetsu Unno, who passed at the age of eighty-four of congestive heart failure. My father was a scholar and a Buddhist priest in the tradition of Shin Buddhism, a form of Pure Land Bud- dhism and one of the largest sects to come out of Japan. He was a pioneer in the field of Buddhist studies and had the opportunity to work with a number of scholars who would go on to influence the formation of the field. He was also the thirteenth-generation Buddhist priest in his family, and I became the four- teenth. Like him, I decided to follow the scholarly path while continuing to work as a priest with Buddhist temples and communities. When my father went into the hospital for the last time, he kept saying to me, “Mark, thanks for everything,” to which I replied, “Nanimo kamo arigato,” which can be rendered roughly as, “Thanks for everything and everything.” By “everything and everything,” I was expressing my deep thanks for the good times and the hard times—all of it—embraced in great compassion. He sat up a bit in his hospital bed, put his hands together on his lap, bowed, and said in Japanese, “Osewa ni narimashita,” or “Sorry for causing so much trouble; thank you for everything.” santa fe, new mexico 505-986-8518 www.upaya.org