Thank You My Shoes

The most important event, when pursuing a spiritual path, is to meet your teacher. He or she touches something within you that brings the teachings to life. In my life, this person was our temple’s founder, Rev. Gyomay Kubose. His approach to the Buddhadharma was simple, yet deeply profound. An example of this was a story he often told the Dharma school children.

Rev. Gyomay told them that every night, before he went to bed, he would tell his shoes, “Thank you my shoes.” This seemed silly. Why would anyone thank their shoes? After all, the shoes couldn’t hear you, they were just shoes. Rev. Gyomay explained that throughout the day his shoes had kept his feet warm and dry. They had protected him from stones, glass and other objects that might have injured him. His life in the city was much more pleasant because of his shoes. His shoes did all this and expected no reward. By thanking them he was expressing his gratitude for all they had done. Even more, this gratitude went beyond just his shoes.

Buddhism speaks of the Oneness of all things. Too often, we think of ourselves as existing apart from others. Our ego wants us to believe that we are self sufficient and completely independent. This attitude is a cause of our suffering. Rev. Gyomay’s shoes existed because of the hard work of all those involved in their manufacture and delivery. The leather in his shoes came from the hide of an animal. His “Thank you my shoes” encompassed a gratitude to all of these.

All that exists now is the result of that which has come before. The situation into which we are born is a result of factors out of our control. The various opportunities and hardships we encounter, and how we respond, also shapes our lives. Many people in the world are not fortunate enough to have shoes. Mindful of this, “Thank you my shoes” acknowledged his gratitude for the causes and conditions that resulted in his present life.

A simple story touching upon basic Buddhist teachings. Giving without the expectation of reward. The Oneness of all things. Karma, the law of cause and effect. Throughout his life, until his death at age 95, Rev. Gyomay was able to make the most difficult concepts understandable and relevant to everyday life. What is more important, he lived the teachings. He was a true teacher.

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I want to wish all my readers a joyous and healthy holiday season. The past year has seen great suffering both here and abroad. As we celebrate the season, let us reflect on how we can use our spiritual and religious paths as a means to overcome this suffering. “Peace on Earth, good will towards all” is a sentiment we can all share regardless of our beliefs.