Reflecting and Cicadas
The cry of cicadas
Sinks into the rocks.
This seventeen-syllable haiku was written by Basho (1644- 94), who was a poet and thinker of the first rank.
When first I came to Toronto in 1970, I was 25 years old. If I had seen that poem then, I would not have appreciated the feelings and emotions that Basho was expressing. In fact, in my ignorance, I might have thought “Ok, cicadas, stillness, but how does the cry sink into the rock?
You know cicadas lay eggs that lay dormant for up to 17 years, then they emerge, usually in the fall to trill that unmistakable chorus late each autumn evening. This is truly
a marvel, an astonishing event that we often ignore or take for granted.
Later, at age 45, when I converted to Buddhism and the Toronto Buddhist Church, I would have looked at this poem differently. I was middle-aged, in a comfortable corporate job, I had a nice family and home. Life was good. But as the saying goes, “life can turn on a dime.” Later that same year, I was terminated from my vice-president job. My wife and I then purchased a small business. That poem, at that time, would have seemed frivolous. I was too caught up in my troubles and solutions to them. Thankfully, The TBC provided a place of refuge, a place where I could regain my faith in the community and the goodness of people.
Later, at age 53, I was elected president of the TBC. Wow! What an experience that was. My wife and I were still running our small business so I was up at 5 AM Monday through Friday and attending TBC board meetings at night. That poem, at that age, still seemed to be something distant, something I could not relate to.
The call of cicadas
Sinks into the rocks
At age 25, I was bold, cocky. I was sure of myself and the world around me. At age 45, my world as I knew it had fallenapartandIwaspickingupthepieces.Youknow,until stuff like that happens, we do not know the strength within ourselves. The TBC helped me through that difficult time and I am eternally grateful. At age 53, wow, the challenges of being a TBC president. It was tough, with a lot of sleepless nights but with the help of some great people at the Temple, we made it through and achieved some success.
The cry of cicadas Sinks into the rocks.
Upon reflection now at age 77, I finally have realized that the rock is me. When I was young, I read the poem as if I was outside of it. I felt no emotion. Even later in middle age I had no emotional response to this poem. The true meaning escaped me.
Now I realize that stillness is when I can reflect upon past events and appreciate the good and the bad. “The cry of the cicadas” is none other than the voice of Amida calling to me when I take the time to listen. I am the rock and at last, at long last, I am hearing the cicadas. How grateful I am!
Namu Amida Butsu. Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu.