Carve Gratitude in Stone

There is a saying that goes “Forget your own benevolence but carve gratitude to others in stone.” Now that is what I call a wonderful lesson for life. Although I first read this saying in a work by the writer Masaru Sato, actually it is to be found on a stone pillar by the side of the road leading up to Zensanji temple in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, an old temple of the Shingon Sect Eizan School.

Out of curiosity, I searched on the Internet and discovered that other stone pillars along the entranceway to Zensanji are inscribed with the sayings “Judge a person not by his birth but by his deeds” and “Right for hell, left for paradise; your heart will point the way.” But it was this “Forget your own benevolence but carve gratitude to others in stone” that captured my attention. I am now 70 years of age. While I don’t recall giving any benevolence myself to others, I have been on the receiving end of kindness on numerous occasions and am deeply grateful.

I can still remember the kindness that I received when I first came from rural Kyushu to Tokyo in my youth. I was about 19 at the time. I attended university night school while working at a chemical plant in Shinagawa during the daytime. A student of architecture at Nihon University came to work at the plant for about a month during his summer vacation. We got on very well together and had a lot of forward-looking discussions.

About a week before the end of his temporary job, this student said to me, “You know, it’s rather dangerous work here, so you would be better off moving elsewhere. I’ll have a word with my father if you like.” I asked him to do so, and soon after that he told me that his father had found something for me. The following day I was hired on a long-term basis by the distribution department of a textbook company related to Dai Nippon Printing.

I was then invited to dinner with his family and received much encouragement from them. His father was a senior official at the Ministry of Education. When I went to the company for this first time, I was greeted by no other than the vice-president. I felt so grateful to his father, who presumably had approached this person, and thanked the vice-president from the bottom of my heart.

Although a favorite saying of mine is “everything starts from here,” this turnaround really did change my life. When I went to say goodbye to the chemical plant manager, who had given me so much support, he encouraged me with the words “Do your best!” Deeply moved, I thanked him and said “Yes, I will.”

After that my friend from Nihon University and I went our separate ways. Indeed, although I never forgot his kindness for a single day, our circumstances were so different that 45 years passed without our paths ever again crossing. Then in August 2009, when I was watching general election reports, I was amazed to see that he had been reelected for a second term in the House of Representatives. When the opportunity arose, I thought, I would visit his office and pay my respects to him. But soon afterward the political situation turned chaotic and he was caught up in the turmoil, so I missed the chance. And time passed again.

My life has been supported by encounters with kind people like him, and I cannot express my gratitude enough. It really is a case of carving gratitude in stone. A life full of thanks!