The Plus Side of Aging

The Taste of the Nembutsu cover image

A message from Rev. Kojun Hashimoto which appears in the book, “The Taste of the Nembutsu,” published in 2016 by the HHMH State Ministers Association. The book is a collection of dharma messages by each of the active ministers.

To extend the reach of the dharma within these messages, we will publish one per week on our website.

The Plus Side of Aging

Rev. Kojun Hashimoto

When you celebrated my birthday last Sunday, I really appreciated it. A birthday is a very good occasion for all of us, even though we are getting old. As we get older, many times we hear the expression “Toshi wo toruto tsumaran.” Here in Hawaii, I hear the expressions “It’s age” or “It’s a senior moment!”

By the way, there are two ways to express our birthdays in Japanese: “Toshi wo toru” or “toshi wo kasaneru.” “Toru” means to take or to get, as though something has a limit or an end. “Kasaneru” means to pile or to lap, as though it has no limit. So, “toshi wo kasaneru” means we are standing on many of our experiences and continue to add experiences as we age. We sometimes do not understand things if we do not feel old. For example, I do not understand the thoughts of people who are 100 years old because I am not 100 years old. But a 100 year- old man can understand my thoughts because he has experienced my age.

I would like to share this poem by Eiichi Enomoto:

My body is getting older
But my eyes to my heart open.
It is very interesting late in life,
And since I could live until now,
I can understand this precious life.

I think we have to experience sadness to experience fun and happiness. It is through sad experiences that we can realize many precious things. Experience is not only our own experiences but also those of our loved ones. We see other people’s sickness, sadness and death which we can experience. When we realize that we are standing on such experiences, we know how precious our lives are and the lives of others, too. Each person has a life just as precious as my life. Therefore, please do not say “Toshi wo toruto tsumaran.” Instead, say “Toshi wo Kasaneru.” When we understand this, then we can put our hands together in gratitude.