Several months after beginning my practice of Buddhism, more than 30 years ago, I found the Thanksgiving holiday easily adaptable to my new philosophy of life. The expression of appreciation is part of the daily ritual of Buddhist prayers as well as a common theme running through a substantial percentage of the collected writings of Nichiren Daishonin, most of which are letters to his followers. But Thanksgiving offers a heightened focus for me, especially in light of the special nature of one I observed in 1982.
That Thanksgiving was the first one that my wife and I spent with her family since we were married two years before. When I informed her father that we planned on marrying, he was none too happy with the news. So unhappy, in fact, that he reportedly threatened to kill the both of us. Convinced that our determined prayers would protect us, we got married anyway. In November 1981, I determined that a child would be born into our family and that I would shake her father’s hand within the next year.
Sure enough, when our son Richard was born in early November 1982, my father-in-law came to the hospital to visit and shook my hand. It was his first visit with his daughter in over two years. He invited us to Thanksgiving dinner and later on for Christmas celebrations. He and I grew very close over the years, until he passed away five years ago. Along the way, all aspects of our lives have expanded into realms of joy I could never have imagined. So I appreciate and offer thanks to those in my family, my workplace and the world around me who have posed one problem or another for me, for it is they who have led me to challenge my karma and strengthen my religious practices. Of course, I also appreciate those who offer assistance rather than difficulty, although they may not force my growth in the same fashion.