1. The tapestry of Life
Nohmen: ……….You see Kokoro, our life in human form is the best and only chance we have to learn how to love. How to first love ourselves and then others. In the boundless and eternal invisible world which each spirit inhabits before becoming visible, it may blend with others, or suffer in isolation depending on its inheritance. But when the spirit becomes flesh, and we are born into this world to become visible, we are each unique and yet the same, each here to do the same thing and yet something different.
Kokoro: It too advanced for beginners Nohmen. You are different level. You still need be in their position. They not understand real love, and real mission. They hearts sleeping.
Nohmen: Well Kokoro, I’ve told you about this before, but instead of this idea of the invisible becoming visible, instead of learning to love ourselves first and then others, perhaps it would be easier for others to understand this. That each human spirit is a different sized or coloured stitch in the huge tapestry of living beings and organisms.
Kokoro: What is ‘Tapestry?’
Nohmen: It’s a thick cloth, textile, woven with different designs or pictures, or embroidered with a pattern or flowers. There is no Japanese word for this I regret. In Europe tapestries are often of historical importance, portraying battles or important events, and they survive for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. I suppose in Japan the equivalent is the painted screen, byoubu, which shows us many important moments in Japanese history.
Kokoro: Gomen, gomen! Sorry, sorry. Go on.
Nohmen: So, this huge tapestry, woven with elements and energies from the universe, this amazing creation of the diverse threads of human and sentient beings and natures, unites us all together, together with the whole universe Kokoro. Each being, each human, or animal, plant or rock, different.
Kokoro: Unique Nohmen! It true identical twins not truly identical – and science not seem to explain this well, or perhaps incapable to do.
Nohmen: Kokoro, this tapestry of life is our reason to be! It is the culmination of all of our sacred missions combined in one, and that ‘one’ is the Universe. And everyone and every being has an important, vital, place in this tapestry. So, if their place remains empty, then the entire picture will be distorted. Each participant is essential: Each mission different.
Kokoro: Sugoy!! Wonderful. Wakarimashita. Honto wakarimashita! I understand really! Nohmen san, universe give us everything we need. So, we must stand in our place in ta-pe-sty to show gratitude. We come from universe, from earth! We must show respect and pay back as if parents, no?
Nohmen: Yes, Kokoro, that’s it. It’s simple I think. All beings and elements fit together, like the threads woven together, the vertical, the horizontal. Each thread is a slightly different colour, maybe slightly different thickness, but everything can be blended together by the energy of the Universe. Now, all we have to do is to get people to listen to this idea.
Nohmen: ……Just look at the glory of this sunrise, Kokoro! How is it possible that so many of us human beings manage to make this glory mundane, to reduce it, or even to make it invisible by sleeping obliviously through it? Amazing! ……And how on earth can so many of us have allowed ourselves to be so totally distracted from the pure beauty of such a reality?
‘And look at the incredible creation of this magnificent butsudan (home altar), which we are blessed with! Most homes have a butsudan in Japan, but how many people are aware of it, apart from on special holidays when it’s opened up, and six months of dust blown away?’
Kokoro: …..Con-se-cra-tion. Consecration! It mean to make something sacred. In Japanese language, sogon.
Nohmen: …….Kokoro, do you know that for Christians, food and wine is consecrated as the body and blood of Christ? The food becomes the body, the wine becomes the blood. This is a beautiful idea. So, many Christians take daily communion, a special ceremony in which they receive a small wafer in their mouths which represents the flesh of Christ, and a sip of wine which is his blood, from a priest. We have the same idea here on the butsudan don’t we? Each stick of incense representing first the Buddha, then the Dharma or truth of the Buddha’s teachings, and then the Sangha, our spiritual community.
The slim brown or purple sticks become Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, when we offer and light them, in the same way that the host wafer on the tongue is the body of Christ, and the sip of red wine is his blood for Christians. The incense smoke purifies us and links us to them.
Kokoro: ……. Bread and wine – it beautiful idea Nohmen. But maybe it’s strange to eat and drink God for me during ceremony. But it sogon, consecration, so ne!
Nohmen: ….. Hmmm. You will agree my darling, that as humans we are equally capable of acts of great destruction, usually created by ignorance, hatred, and greed, and of stunning acts of creation, often brought about by awareness, great love, and generosity, like this Christian idea of communion. But no matter what our tendencies and our perceived destinies are, it is characteristic of humans to keep something, or even someone, sacred.
It is natural for us to worship, beyond human cravings and complaints, something greater than we small humans. I mean, in other words, to be dedicated or devoted in an intense way to an entity or object, to a sunset or sunrise for instance, or a butsudan like this one handed down through generations of a family, or, and for me, the ultimate devotion, to be devoted to the Universe, which is our common origin.’
Murderers might be dedicated to their gun which is sacred to them. While for the parent it might be their newborn infant’s plastic hospital identity wristband. For the immigrant, it might be the seeds of plants special to their homeland, which they will preserve at all costs, while for the scientist, it might be some brilliant world-changing formula. For the monarch, it might be the Stone of Scone on which generations of kings were crowned, while for the makers of religion, it might be a lost scripture or relic.
The magpie bird venerates all things blue, while for the Australian aborigine, the thing most sacred of all is the earth and Alcheringa, commonly know as the Dreamtime.
Kokoro: ….Nohmen-san consecrate beautiful tapestry. This wonderful picture for me, and everyone. Thank you. Arigato.’
Nohmen: … Devoutness is usually associated with religious practice and political or national allegiance, for example, the consecration of a cathedral or temple as in our case, or of a mosque or bishop, of a mullah or high priest. The crowning of a monarch or emperor, or the investiture of a president, are also good examples. But this is surely a reflection of how our densely populated world, rushing impatiently towards progress and perfection, has made this basic human need of the sacred separate from ordinary life and from each member of that community. This concerns worldly power, I think, as communities and populations throughout history became larger and strongly competitive.
But Kokoro, there is no scrap of worldly power to be gained from real and natural consecration, as we can see in our own consecration of our new temple. I also observed this with aboriginal peoples out in the Australian desert, whose daily lives constantly consecrate the Great Mother Nature and Father Earth.
Kokoro: .. Nohmen, tell me about Aboriginal, minzoku. We not know them in Japan.
Nohmen: …They are remarkable consecrators, like most primitive or indigenous peoples…like the Ainu in Japan once were. They live as devotees to the Great Mother Nature and all her creations. They are constantly filled with gratitude for their existence, and care for their environment with all their energy. I will tell you a lot more about them as we talk about consecration because to me they are the experts.
I believe that every human has a need to consecrate! We each need to recognize, to actually for a second, focus our distracted eyes on what is sacred. Not just make a gleaming idea about what is sacred somewhere on the horizon, and then file it away. We each need something sacred in our lives, Kokoro. It’s simple.
Kokoro: It simple to you and me Nohmen, but many people got so far away from their hearts. They not connected except to money and status, so they not see and not hear. And maybe they ashamed of sacred thing so keep it a secret from other people, or they join big group and try to be top. Having real sacred thing, like aborigines, means they weak.
Nohmen: Yes, so the entirely sincere and honourable impulse to express sheer respect for an element of life, and perhaps even to live that life demonstrating reverence for it, is mocked and pushed aside. Instead, people favour insincere belief in little. They are only concerned with their own fragile world, and a kind of grand theorizing about human existence. As a consequence, it is not suprizing that people have no concern fundamental respect at all, and that gradually, steadily, they lose all contact with their own hearts.