PASSAGE OF TIME
There are only two months left of this year. Some of you may feel that time has passed
so quickly. Some of you may feel that it has been a long time because of all the new things that
The other day, I found an interesting article on an Internet site about the passage of time.
The article was about Janet’s Law. It is a law made by Paul Janet, a 19th century French
It states that as one gets older, the proportion of “one year” in one’s life becomes smaller,
so that one feels that the year is shorter and time passes more quickly. In other words, a year is
one-tenth of a year for a 10-year-old, but for a 50-year-old, it is one-fiftieth of a year. Thus, even though everyone spends the same 365 days a year, the sense of time passing is very different.
However, it seems that the sense of time passing quickly cannot be expressed only by such numbers. For example, to a young child, the outside world is like Disney World. For them, everything in the world is new and unusual. They are busy touching, smelling, and tasting new things. In other words, they are constantly given new and exciting things to do.
It’s said that these new things to learn and challenge themselves make the day seem longer. In my case, my first year in Canada as a Buddhist minister was very long I felt, because many things were new including the English language, Canadian culture, and temple’s events. But after 2 years in Canada, I learned and get used to how to live in Canada. Then I felt like the days went by so quickly. However, for the young children, their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th years are felt long, because their lifestyles are changed so much, going to kindergarten, school, meeting new friends, their parents and teachers.
Last month I returned to Japan for the first time in 5 years and met my brother’s son (my first nephew) for the first time. He was 3 years old, so he could walk and run by himself. He held up various items and asked me, “What is this? It is easy for me to answer something I can hold in my hand. For example, “This is a pencil. You can write on a piece of paper with it and take notes. But when he asked me, “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why are insects small?”, I had a hard time how to explain it to him.
His questions and concerns were beyond my imagination. And what he made me realize is that for me, the sky being blue and insects being small were things that I could only take for granted. I didn’t wonder about them anymore.
When I looked at things from his perspective, I felt that I was allowed to live in a world that was filled with wonder. And I felt that each day was longer and more fulfilling than I had expected.
What I am trying to say here is that time does not pass faster just because we are older. Then I remembered something that a temple member said to me.
He said, “Every morning when I wake up, I thank Buddha that I have woken up safely again today.” Until I heard that, waking up in the morning was something I took for granted. Or, when I couldn’t get enough sleep, because I had to work late at night and, I often wish I could sleep as long as possible without waking up. However, through his words, I was informed that “waking up in the morning” was not really a matter of course.
Rennyo Shonin wrote in the Gobunsho (Chapter on White Ashes),
“When the winds of impermanence blow, our eyes are closed forever; and when the last breath leaves us, our face loses its colour. Though loved ones gather and lament, everything is of no avail. The body is then sent into an open field and vanishes from this world with the smoke of cremation, leaving only the white ashes. There is nothing more real than this truth of life.”
When I studied Rennyo’s words, I understood the meaning of this sentence in my head, but when asked if I really understood it from the heart, it was difficult for me to say “yes” with confidence. For example, when I returned to Toronto from Japan, I complained about the long 13-hour flight and the high cost of travel.
However, after watching two movies on the plane and being tired, I closed my eyes and fell into a deep sleep. When I woke up, the plane had arrived in Canada. When a flight attendant announced, “We have arrived in Toronto. The temperature outside is 9 degrees.” what I thought when I heard that? Was I happy to wake up safely…? No, I was not. I thought, “It’s cold!” I am still not practising enough.
When I emailed my family to tell them that I had arrived in Canada safely and I was looking forward to seeing them again, my brother sent me my grandfather’s words that I would never forget.
He said, “Roshofujo(老少不定) so we will leave everything up to Amida’s other centred power.”
If you compare me with my grandfather who is 95 years old, it’s easy to think he will pass away before I do. However, what my grandfather said “Roshofujo” that means “life is not guaranteed that we never know what will happen to the old or the young.”
It can be easy to feel distressed or anxiety because this world has no guarantees, so the only thing that we can rely on is Amida Buddha’s other centered power.
He also taught me that the other centred power of Amida Buddha became the Nembutsu “Namo Amidabutsu”. I am sure that Amida’s true aspiration has reached me, my grandfather, my nephew, and everyone when we do Gassho and recite Nembutsu from Amida’s great Wisdom and Compassion.
Rev. Yoshimichi Ouchi
Dharma Talk – December 2022
PASSAGE OF TIME