About a year ago, my wife and I decided to purchase a newer vehicle since our other one had racked up well over 100,000 miles. We took our time and explored our options and ultimately decided on a nice looking 2010 Chrysler. I remember driving it off the dealer’s lot thinking that it looked and drove like a brand new car.
One morning, about a week after buying it, I was driving to work with the windows down because the weather was so nice. I enjoy the wind blowing through my (lack of) hair and being able to hear the occasional sounds of nature over the noise of traffic. While I was waiting at a red light, I could hear the sound of a motorcycle close by. Not just any motorcycle, but one of those that biker enthusiasts refer to as a “hog.” It was going BRRRUMMM-BUP-BUP-BUP-BUP-BUP as its rider also waited for the light to change. I looked up to check my rearview mirror and I noticed he was right behind me. Shortly after noticing him, he changed lanes and pulled up beside my open passenger window and began shouting at me.
I have to admit that the first thought I had upon realizing this leather-clad man was yelling at me was “Oh rats! Why me?!... Did I cut him off in traffic or something?” Anyway, I turned to look at him and it was then that I noticed his face had a kind expression on it. I gave him my attention and understood that he was telling me that one of my brake lights wasn’t working. I said, “Thanks” and that was the end of our encounter.
As I continued to work, I forgot about the rider and instead thought about my new “lemon” car that already had something that needed replacing. I was annoyed that I would need to spend money on its maintenance so soon after buying it. After a few minutes I calmed down and realized that it wasn’t a big deal since a new brake light bulb only costs a few of dollars at most. I bought one, replaced it myself and it’s still working just fine a year later.
Several months passed and one day, for some reason BAM! – I thought about the biker who gave me the heads-up about my brake light. It suddenly dawned on me that he very well may have saved my life (or my wife’s or my children’s). If he hadn’t taken the time to let me know, who knows what could have happened? It’s conceivable that I might have been rear-ended by a larger vehicle whose driver may not have known I was stopping. I’ll ask you: How often do you think about your brake lights? They’re not easy to see when you’re driving your car. Upon thinking about what the biker did for me, I realized I wished I would’ve said more than just a perfunctory “Thanks” to him.
So, what does this story have to do with Obon? Obon is a time when we reflect on our ancestors and other loved ones who have since passed away. We celebrate their lives by dancing, eating good food with family and close friends, and by attending the Obon service. These activities allow us to feel close to those who have been born in the Pure Land and we express our gratitude to them for the efforts they made during their lives that have led us to hear the Buddha-Dharma.
I don’t know what has happened to the biker since I saw him many months ago, but I am thankful to him for his part in me being able to continue hearing the Buddha-Dharma in this life.