It is inevitable that with all the handling, some Patra vessels would break. Now at the end of the year’s cycle of being passed about, there are twelve in various states of brokenness. Some of the Patra bowls have been replaced and some repaired.
Several participants have written of their worries concerning curious pets or a fear of using them or shipping them in some way that would risk breakage. Please know that if damage or breakage occurred, I know it was not deliberate and is viewed as potentially part of the cycle. Worse yet, it is not an omen. Maybe just amen, if taken as the literal meaning of the word: “so be it”.
There are contemplative opportunities in the shards. A Kabbalistic tradition involves the breaking of vessels as a necessary ritual for leaving old forms to make way for new possibilities. Another beautiful Japanese tradition is a process of repair called Kintsugi. When a precious tea bowl is broken, it is restored by filling the cracks with gold. The repair highlights the fractures and points to the history of damage which lends the object a deeper beauty and often makes it more valuable too.
Using breakage as a metaphor for larger themes speaks to how transformation and expansion arise from difficulty. I don’t like saccharine sayings about how much stronger someone is because of tragedy. Not all things can be put back together again. Amidst the rubble, it isn’t easy to care for the offerings – messy jagged edges can cut deep. But also true, new growth might emerge after leaving old forms, like the Kabbalistic ritual infers.
Looking at these repaired bowls, I know they cannot be “good as new”. Few things can. They are different. Broken parts leave evidence; yet this is also what lends character to their new form. I honor that by repairing them with the laborious Kinsugi process. The gilded cracks underscore the beauty of the vessel’s journey.
“The lives of sentient beings are like clay pots destined to break sooner or later” – Buddhist Proverb