The mala I wear now was given to me by a Buddhist priest who happened to be the brother of my son’s “J” mom (self-appointed Japanese “mom”) in Japan. We visited her brother’s Pure Land Temple in Satsumasendai and toured its funerary altar (where she showed us where her ashes will be placed) as well as its community shrine and spent time drinking tea and chatting. IB’s “J” mom shared that the temple has been in her family since her grandfather and had only recently been built into a more modern structure. Before it was simply a part of her grandparents’ home.
Before we left, her brother came out with three boxes and gave JB, IB, and me a mala. Mine is made from Bodhi wood, the wood from the tree under which the Buddha sat when he received enlightenment and then decided to stay engaged on earth and teach this wisdom rather than remain in this cosmic nirvana.
This weekend, my mother asked me to wheel her into her bedroom where she rummaged through dresser drawers. She wanted me to have a bracelet. She had already let my sister choose one and there were two others that she wanted to give away. Two of them, delicately crafted, she said she had spent a great deal of money on (one of them my sister had already chosen) and had thought at the time she would one day give them to her girls. The third one was multi-colored glass. She said she had bought this one as a present for herself a very long time ago, just after my father had died. That was the one I was attracted to. She said she will give the third bracelet to my sister’s partner. I put the bracelet on and have not yet taken it off. I really should. The colored glass beads might break. My mother wanted to make sure the clasp was secured tightly before I left.
I have been wearing this bracelet with the mala for a couple of days now. I know the giving of these bracelets is not simply about my mother letting go, divesting, or releasing. In fact, the gifting of these bracelets is more about my mother finding ways to give specific tangible legacy. This piece of jewelry acts as a thread which, for her, binds time into some sort of continuum, the links of this bracelet representing larger more significant connections. It helps to assure her that her reach will touch the future.
The overlapping of the mala and the bracelet broadcasts the generosity of spirit that time distanced from experience can provide. A reminder that enlightenment is often about untying the more complex and intricate legacies. Her gift of this bracelet is the mantra I need to hold.