So I was at a children’s park in Sacramento the other day and there was a little Japanese garden area with a statue of a man sitting on a turtle’s back and there was a placard with the legend of Urashima Taro. It caught my eye and I read it, it wasn’t that long. The story goes that Urashima Taro was a fisherman who one day saw some children torturing a turtle, and out of compassion for the creature he offered to buy the turtle from the children and then released it. When he was out fishing some time later, the turtle found him and spoke to him. The turtle was a messenger from a princess under the sea, and for his kindness she had sent for him and wished for him to join her at the Dragon’s Palace, a place only known to Urashima as a myth. But he believed the turtle and rode on his back down to the Dragon’s Palace, and it was indeed beautiful and lavish. He ended up marrying the beautiful Princess, at her insistance, greatly enjoyed her company, along with the beauty and riches and feasting and enjoyment all offered by this land. At some point he felt guilty to have been gone from home, and asked to return back to his hometown to see his family. The princess, unhappily, consented and gave to him a little box as a parting gift but instructed him not to open it, under any circumstances, unless he felt he had no other choice and no where to turn.
When he returned to his town, he didn’t recognize the people or the buildings. Everything had changed. He went to where his house was, and it was a different house. He inquired about the family of Urashima Taro. People said that there was a legend of that name, of a man who had ridden a turtle out to sea three hundred years ago, but he thought it was not possible, it could not possibly have been three hundred years that he had been gone! Disconsolate, with no family left in the town, nowhere to turn and no idea what to do, he opened the box that the princess had given him. Immediately he turned old and gray, and died soon after. For what had been in the box was his old age, for he really had been gone three hundred years, although it had only seemed like such a short time.
When I first read the story, I was a little disappointed in the ending because obviously it wasn’t a happy ending…but I also had the feeling like I just don’t get it. What is the point? Why does she instruct him not to open the box unless he’s in a dire situation, and then when he is, and does open the box, he immediately dies of old age?
The placard of course didn’t have a “moral” like I am used to fables that we learned in school having. So I have had to ponder the moral on my own, dang it!. But after thinking about it longer, I think the moral is all about looking inward. We have the gifts that we need, already inside, to overcome any obstacles that may come our way. It is when we let guilt, sadness, regret, uncertainty, or fear overcome us, and if we look elsewhere for answers, thinking that they are outside of ourselves, in some magic box…we perish. Maybe not as dramatically as Urashima Taro did. But it always comes back to love. Out of love and compassion, he saved the turtle. He was rewarded with more love, from the Princess and the Dragon Kingdom. He loved and enjoyed. When he became full of guilt, for leaving his family, and then fear and sadness, when he realized that so much time had passed and his family was no longer there, he became desperate. There is no love in desperate. There is no hope, no joy. He went looking for that hope outside of himself, and received only more pain and ultimately, death.
Do you feel that when you love, really love yourself and your life, you feel younger, more vibrant and radiant, and unstoppable?? When you realize that the path was always there, inside you? When you focus on joy and love and the amazing creation that we are all a part of, don’t you feel grateful? When you feel grateful, doesn’t that lead to more happiness, joy and love, and even greater connection with the inner guide? After making this connection, I feel that this story is completely amazing and I can’t believe that I was led to read it at this exact time in my life. It fits perfectly with what I have been learning about loving myself, being positive, and listening to my soul as my guide. Seek the answers within. My soul is pure love, and it will guide me in the best possible way, and never let me down. I have to tune out the negative thoughts, however, to be able to hear the guide within. It has always been there for me, no matter how much I have punished it in the past, pushing it deep down, covering it up with negative thoughts about myself, and seeking reassurance or acceptance, or love or forgiveness, from others outside of myself.