Obaa-san and the biker gang

Confiscated from . . .

Living Wabi Sabi

by Taro Gold
. . . a 14-year-old American boy goes to live with his Japanese grandmother in Japan for a summer after his father dies . . .

I remember shopping one Sunday with Obaa-san at an open-air market in the city. A few angry-looking men from what appeared to be a biker gang were making a loud fuss over something with a local shopkeeper.

As Obaa-san and I walked by the scene, one of the men whirled around to leave, yelling profanities, and carelessly bumped into Obaa-san. Losing his balance, he tripped against a towering display of wooden boxes that crashed down around him.

Adding to his humiliation and anger, the man barked a few rough words at Obaa-san as if she were to blame. Obaa-san calmly replied, “Excuse me, sir.”

Fumbling to get up and impervious to Obaa-san’s politeness, the man stormed off, grumbling in frustration. As we watched his self-imposed drama march away with him, Obaa-san bowed low in his direction and quietly said, “Thank you very much.”

Her tone, to my surprise, was respectful and sincere.

. . . . .

After we helped the shopkeeper clean up the mess, we enjoyed the remainder of our day in the city. At home that night, I asked Obaa-san why she had softly said “thank you” as that stranger stormed away. How could she even have been thinking “thank you” after someone bumped into her and yelled obscenities at her?

“I said ‘thank you’ as a little prayer of appreciation to that suffering man, to myself, to the Universe, for giving me an opportunity to change a bit of my karma,” Obaa-san explained.”Who knows how or why, but my karma led me to be involved in those unpleasant circumstances today. I could have decided to be insulted or angry, but I wanted that karmic scene to be finished. I wanted it to end there and never come back to me again. So I decided to break the cycle by accepting responsibility for my role in it and say ‘thank you’ for a chance to clear my karmic slate.”


The above excerpt reminds me of Bono, from U2.
I love this idea of his, that grace overcomes karma.

In this instance grace shows up as gracious appreciation. Other times it is love. Sometimes it is exuberantly creating something new. Sometimes it is simply an experience of profound understanding.


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