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February 8, 2023

Giving thanks

There is a unique term in Japanese that is used by Buddhists as they sit down to partake of a meal. The term in itadakimasu 頂きます. Before someone begins to eat they place their palms together and say the words itadakimasu. In a simple translation it would say we gratefully receive this meal. It has become a part of everyday Japanese language and the ritual is performed by Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike. The term itadakimasu is an expression of humbleness and gratitude for what we receive. The literal meaning is to bow our heads in appreciation.

Simply saying the words before a meal can be empty or hollow if it is just a habitual saying before we eat. A deeper understanding behind the words should be taken into consideration. The moment we sit down and take a moment to contemplate the meal is an opportunity to become aware of the innumerable causes and conditions that we depend upon to live this life. 

As we contemplate this we become aware of our dependency on others for our existence and our own effects on other lives. It is not about me, it is not about you and I, but it is about becoming aware of others that make our lives possible. As we continue to contemplate, we wish to share the benefits of this meal with others.

Sacrifices have been made by plant and animal, energy has been expended to create the meal. As we meditate on this truth, we realize that we are not just living our life alone as solitary human beings, but we are living the lives of countless others who have sacrificed so that we can live.  We are receiving energy and sustenance allowing us to live. 

What we do with our lives then is of utmost importance so that those sacrifices, that energy expelled is not wasted, but is in turn producing good and kind results. The basis of a healthy and happy life is to be concerned with the welfare of all sentient beings. To share in the bounty that life brings and to be aware and thankful for what we are given.   

Our life is filled with warmth in sharing life with others, it is a simple truth to learn, but a difficult practice to fully realize. It begins with a realization, an awakening to what we receive and what allows us to live this life.

In gratitude let us celebrate life by living a life of gratitude.

Gassho.

Rev. Hosei Shinseki leads the Watsonville Buddhist Temple. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of The Pajaronian.

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