Although very few people actually acknowledge this weekend as a recognition of the struggles, accomplishments and contributions of working people, it is Labour Day. Let me suggest this might also be a day to remind ourselves of the efforts and contributions of all beings. In our oryoki recitation we often will “This meal arises from the labour of all beings, may we remember there offerings”. What this reminds us is that each time we sit down to feed ourselves we can recall the incalculable chain of contributions made so that we may eat. From the people at the store who stock the shelves we can work back to delivery people, factory workers, pickers, farmers seed makers and the whole world of agriculture workers. Then multiply that times all the others for each item on our plate.
We may also recall that some of our food, especially meat and dairy in all of its forms comes to our table from the labour of uncounted animals or other beings, bees, birds, worms, beetles and on and on. Each has a contribution to make to that meal before us. With the humans we will often minimize this connection by saying “well they get paid for it” as if that balances off the debt. This cannot in any way even out the contributions of all those non-human beings, especially where our meal depends on their death.
Mealtime is but one way we can appreciate the efforts of so many beings. The greatest obscenity of the modern economic blindness is that we have dismissed the interconnection and contributions of animals, fish, birds, insects, trees, oceans and everything that is not rich, white males. Our existence is more than a web of beings, it is a web of interacting beings, each one contributing their unique efforts, their labours for the benefit of the whole.
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu