A Thousand Winds
I had a humorous experience recently. There was a touching poem listed in at least one source under “Native American, author unknown”. I was intending to use it for Obon. This poem is now a very popular song in Japan -
Senno Kaze ni natte. Then in Toronto’s Guiding Light, our own Grant Ikuta Sensei said that he has known the poem since 1966! He even uses it with modifications in some of his funeral services. That amazed me since I was sure it was Navaho or Sioux. Now is seems that it was written by an IRA youth. Then a second sense, Kikuchi Sensei, included it in the Steveston newsletter with the research that it was written by Mary E. Frey in 1932. Now it was time for me to do some research too. A certain Karin Aleida Vorrink claims to be the real author. She wrote it in 1981, supposedly.
This is a humorous situation. Everyone has a different result to the research on a poem that is liked world-wide. It is an English language poem, popularized by a Japanese music group and used in funerals all over the world, with maybe Aboriginal connections. Who really, really wrote the poem? Or does it matter?
What I found meaningful - on top of an already meaningful poem - was that two Senseis managed to make it relevant to our Jodo Shinshu experience. This means that the basic concepts of our religion are not weirdly irrelevant to our Western Culture. Shin Buddhism has something to say to all humanity.
Of course, I would like to be the third Sensei to add some interpretative comment of my own. Please excuse this temerity, if you will. In our teachings we are to become one with Amida’s Bodhisattva Vow (hongwan). We do this upon the descent of death after a life of nembutsu. In a sense we are all Buddhas-To-Be. Shinran explained this as attaining a status equivalent of that of Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the future.
By now you are probably anxious to read the poem. But not yet, bear with me a few more lines, one more quote from Shinran’s “Notes on the Essentials of Faith Alone: Nirvana is uncreated, peaceful happiness, true reality, oneness, Buddha-nature... this pervades countless worlds; it fills the hearts and minds of… all beings. Thus plants, trees and land all attain Buddhahood!
Now, at last, we can read the poem:
A THOUSAND WINDS
Lyrics by Unknown
Music by Mitsuru ARAI
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awake in the morning bush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.
Should I use it for Obon as originally planned? Well, please join us for at least part of the Obon services. And, by the way, if you ever do find out who really wrote the poem, let us three Senseis know.
June 17, 2007
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