March 11th has become the day to think about what it means to be alive for many of my people.
Maybe it is the day to be grateful to have survived the earthquakes and tsunamis that hit the Northeast region of my homeland, taking the lives of tens of thousands as we looked on helplessly.
Maybe it is the day to reflect on what separated the survivors from the victims so we can keep alive the lessons we have learned this time and be better prepared when the next disaster hits.
Maybe it is the day to search for what we can do for the victims and the survivors, and their hometowns, to make our lives that was let to live a while longer for some reason somehow useful.
But six years is, on the one hand not long enough to escape the horror of facing a life-and-death situation and the guilt of remaining alive while watching others’ lives be swept away, and on the other hand too long to stay just as engaged in the rebuilding of the lives of those still living. Either way, six years has made many of us remember less… and even forget that there are still many lives struggling to go on living, whether physically, emotionally, socially, and/or economically.
I myself regret to admit that I have not been too active with keeping March 11th in my thoughts. Certainly not as active as I have been with the big earthquakes that hit the Southwest region of my homeland last April. But I have made a couple of promises to myself – one, that I would make a small but fixed amount of donation whenever I encounter a donation box for this day, and two, that I would attend as many charity events as possible within my limited social circle.
So, on March 11th this year, I went to a charity tea service specially held at the Buddhist temple where I go to collect what I call “pieces of peace” and made a small donation (plus one of the blue birds of happiness I posted yesterday… I hope my people in the Southwest will not mind!). And there, one of my fellow guests, who happened to be from the affected region, told me a little story that I felt endorsed these two promises.
It was about the monk that appears at the top of every “piece of peace.” He was a high-rank and well-respected monk, but he never considered himself as such. He called himself a “prithag-jana” (a mere mortal), unenlightened and bound by earthly desires just like anyone else, but he devoted his life searching for things even a mere mortal could do to care for and comfort others.
March 11th reminds me that I am a mere mortal. But I now believe there is meaning to being alive, even as a mere mortal that I am. I do not think I will ever be fully enlightened on what it means to be alive, but maybe I will find some hints by keeping my two March 11th-related promises.
The eighth of eight verses of a sacred chant praying for world peace – the four characters say “making effort to be respectful of and giving to one another.” (The gerbera daisies became the symbol of love and support for those affected on March 11th, and featured in the recovery support song “Flowers Will Bloom.”)
Wait a second, what happened to the seventh verse, you ask? How observant of you…I promise to make a separate post about it in a few days!