August 30th, 2019
“Bodhisattva, would you take me by the hand
Bodhisattva, would you take me by the hand
Can you show me the shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your china, can you show me?”
from “Bodhisattva” from Steely Dan
Karin and I spent the day prior to the land purification helping the monks and nuns get things set up. Actually, most of the time, I just acted like I was helping. There was an excess of labor available at the Ground Zero site. Remembering back to my Army days, I made every effort to at least look busy. Sometimes, I failed to even do that.
When I went outside after breakfast, I found Toby, a monk from Massachusetts, on his hands and knees. He was scrubbing the pavement around the stupa with a wire brush. Why? I don’t know. The concrete looked good to me, but I guess it wasn’t clean enough for the ceremony. I asked Toby if he wanted help. He did, so I took over from him.
What is a stupa? Well, in this case, it is sort of a monument. In the center of the concrete pavement is a massive base made of large stones. On the top of the base is a tall granite slab. The slab has Japanese writing inscribed on opposite sides. The phrase “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo” is written in gold paint. Buried under the stupa are the remnants of a crucifix and a statue of the Buddha. These fragments were fused together in a fire started on this property by two Marines from the neighboring naval base. The arson occurred thirty-seven years ago.
Kamoshita, a young monk from Okinawa, was standing on top of the base of the stupa. He was washing down the large, upright granite slab. The hunk of stone was taller than Kamoshita. He stood on a ledge and diligently cleaned the granite.
Several people were raking the dirt around the site of the soon-to-be-erected peace pagoda. The site was circular and looked like a moon crater. Inside of the crater were concentric rings etched in the soil. There was some steel rebar sticking up in the very center of the circle.
Other people were working on the altar. It had three levels, and those would eventually be covered with flowers, and food offerings, and a statue of the Buddha. Flags were being set up near the altar. Post holes were dug in order to set up artificial trees with paper flowers.
Karin was inside the Ground Zero building. She was there with Takashi and some other folks. They were polishing brass bowls and ornaments. Denise was placing vegetables into a bowl and trying to make it look something like a flower arrangement. Other food offerings were already set up. There were pyramids of oranges. Watermelons had somehow been made to stand upright. There numerous vases filled with flowers and ferns. Most everything was going to stay inside until the next morning, and then the altar would be decorated prior to the land purification ritual.
Udae and Ben were in the kitchen cooking. I steered clear of that. Udae was like a whirlwind, in constant motion. He knew exactly what he as doing, and he didn’t seem to need any extra assistance.
Work continued throughout the day. I’m not sure who was in charge. Maybe nobody was. It was hard for me to tell because often the people were speaking in Japanese. I felt kind of lost. I guess that was okay, because everything got done.