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gem in the sleeve

wakanomori helped out a colleague with a tricky reference in a Japanese Buddhist text. There was this Buddhist teacher who liked to carry around a kemari (=courtly Japanese football) in his sleeve, and at one point in an exchange with someone, the teacher says, "Like this ball, surely it has great value."

Waka's colleague wasn't sure what that was all about, but Waka explained that it was a reference to a Buddhist story in which the Buddha (in some kind of disguise or incarnation or whatever) is with a friend, and the Buddha slips a jewel in his sleeve. The next day the friend is complaining and moaning about having no money, and the Buddha says, "What are you talking about? Didn't you find the gem in your sleeve?" In other words, salvation, etc. is already with you, and you don't even notice.

Anyway, it reminded me of this true story of something that happened to us, once upon a time
One Easter, we joined seuzen and her family at a little church near their house. At the time, the healing angel was still barely out of diapers, and low and behold... he had an accident. I think it must have been Waka who took him out, because I don't remember the next part, which was that a nun gave him a little paper Easter basket with some goodies in it.

So, eventually we went home, and I consolidated the kids' various goodies and threw away the papers, wrappers, and other trash. Then a little later, I went to throw something in the trash, and something in there caught my eye. It was money. I pulled it out, and it was a $20 bill. And there was another, and another, and another.

I was flabbergasted. Where had it come from, and how had it gotten in our trash? I figured it must have been in the little basket the nun had given the healing angel. But had she really meant to give us $80? And if so why? Could it be a mistake?

So next we had to try to find her: we called the church and told them what had happened, and I think they found the number of the priory that she came from, and we told them what had happened, and wouldn't you know: The basket had been a present to her from some of the other sisters on some occasion--maybe her birthday or some anniversary--and because she didn't need the candy, she had kindly given it to the healing angel--not knowing that the sisters' gift to her was hidden in the bottom! And then I had thrown it out--but fortunately had seen it in time. So, we wrote her a check for the money and sent it to her, so she could have the gift they had intended her to have.

Isn't life strange?


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 3rd, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, that is a strange one--and I am so glad you found the money and were thus able to give it to the intended. What a kind gesture on the part of the nun, and how crazy-making it must have been for her friends!
Dec. 3rd, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC)
i can remember how nice the nuns were at that church, but sartorias comment made me wonder whether the other nuns were made "crazy" wondering why the candy-giving nun hadn't thanked/acknowledged their gift...or is this something only a petty atheist suffers from...and how must they have felt when candy-giving sister told them the story
Dec. 3rd, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
I think they might have wondered, but probably wouldn't have said anything... I mean, it's human to want to know that someone has gotten and appreciated a gift, right? I think we called them by the end of the day, so probably it all was sorted out pretty quickly... so crazy, huh!
Dec. 3rd, 2006 11:48 pm (UTC)
The number of misses in the story, and yet the fact that it all worked out were what blew me away. But it sure did make me see the risk of a subtly hidden gift! And there was something classic about the fact that she gave it away, truly generously, to a child--not realizing what else she was giving away! And then, I have to say, when I first found the money, part of me wanted to believe it was a gift for us... but since we in no way looked or seemed needy, I had to admit that the money couldn't have been intended for us... and then I got to thinking how I might have just emptied the trash and not noticed--all so weird!
Dec. 3rd, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC)
Waka as imaged in kingdom hearts:

Dec. 3rd, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)
Hee! It's great :-D
Dec. 4th, 2006 08:05 am (UTC)
What a funny story!
Dec. 4th, 2006 11:50 am (UTC)
God/dess works in mysterious ways hir wonders to perform. :)
Dec. 4th, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC)
My grandfather, just before he went to Florida every year from his Ohio home base, used to stash his cash someplace and then tell his daughter where he'd hidden it. The year he died, he neglected to tell her, though she suspected he had sewn it up in one of his coats, as he usually did.

After the funeral, and after my grandmother had gotten back to Ohio, my aunt asked where Granddad's old coat was. She was planning to look for the hidden stash.

"Oh that old thing? It was the first thing I gave to the Salvation Army," my grandmother scoffed.

And I do believe that, like the Buddha story, she had missed the riches that were right under her nose...and missed them much of her life.
Dec. 5th, 2006 10:19 am (UTC)
It's funny how these things happen--absolutely LITERAL reenactments of parables and stories... And probably the person who bought the coat never knew, either. So strange...
Dec. 5th, 2006 09:02 pm (UTC)
another version
My Cousin, John, an unsatisfied person, once gave his father, Charles, a silent person a wallet with a hundred dollar bill in it as a birthday present. After Charles' death, John was going through his belongings and found the wallet in a dresser with the hundred dollar bill still in it. This did not improve John's lack of satisfaction with his father's now deafening silence.
Dec. 5th, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC)
Re: another version
Wow, that's so sad. Why do you suppose your uncle never opened it? What a mystery he must have been to your poor cousin...
Dec. 6th, 2006 01:22 am (UTC)
Re: another version
My uncle Charles was a universe unto himself. He had a noisy and unpleasant wife and in defense had made it so he had no outside needs and he no longer responded to outside stimuli. He never asked. He never gave. As to the wallet, I suspect he just assumed it was another gift he had no interest in from a son he did not relate to. On the rare occasions I got Charles to talk (alcohol was involved) he turned out to be brilliant and interesting... and that made me feel pretty sad and I remember realizing in that moment that an unexpressed thought may as well never have been thought.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)
I have put you on my friends list. Hope you don't mind. Let me know if you do. I am new to this blogging game and only learning the protocol. Of course that is a good excuse to muck around any way I want while I learn the ropes.

Dec. 6th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC)
Re: ps
I know how you feel--I started last year and was very tentative at first :-) Most people love being friended, though! I friended you back.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:32 am (UTC)
Re: another version
Wow, more and more it makes you wish there could be a time machine that could make it possible to change some things before it was too late (because of death!) Your uncle and cousin might never have been best friends or anything, but if only they had been able to talk to each other just a little, they might both have been happier... well, but I guess it's no good dwelling on if-onlys. It sure does make you think about from now on, though, huh. Sometimes I'm tempted to just give up and let a relationship be as limited as it seems destined to be, but I guess it's always worth trying a little harder to make it better...
Dec. 6th, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC)
Late to this thread, but re "an unexpressed thought," that's so true and part of what makes Ryôkan's poem special, I think. Six lines talking to himself, it seems, the way we do even when talking to others, but then in the last two he turns to his listener directly and simply, invites a response. (Reminds me of Father Joe in Tony Hendra's memoir). Rough translation of the poem follows:

Throughout the Buddha-realm's ten directions
the single Vehicle shows us where to go.
Bright and clear--there is no other way;
What can we lose, what can we gain?
We think we've won something, yet there's nothing new.
When we lose something, someone has hidden it nearby.
Look, my friend, at the jewel in your robes--
surely you see the colors it makes?

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )



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