Obon at the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple

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The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet and the Eternal Fishnu enjoying the 2019 Obon Festivities hosted by the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I attended the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple’s Obon Celebration for 2019 yesterday afternoon. It’s one of the highlights of the year for us because we can eat a wonderful bento – as good was what we’re used having grown up in Hawaii.

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This is the best bento East of Hawaii!!! onigiri, inari, shoyu chicken, tamagoyaki, namasu!

OK, OK … I confess. I had two of these in one sitting! Gluttony. That’s forgivable, though. It’s natural to gorge ourselves on seasonal items while it’s there because it won’t be there for another year … as opposed to gorging on Big Macs which we can get at any time. Yes, I will keep telling myself that … hahaha.

We had these perfectly made “mochi-balls” for desert. Although this person sharing our table thought that rice, beans, and sesame seeds “sounds disgusting”.

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Perfect mochi-balls.

However, we’re not otherwise very into the obon festivities itself. Neither of us get down with the odori, but do enjoy the taiko drums and on some years a martial arts exhibition. But I can do a good impersonation of my grandfather belting out “Tanko Bushi” – I never appreciated that he was quite a good singer in that style.

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This obutsudan is being donated to the local museum.

We did sign up to “adopt” an obutsudan in need of a home. We signed up for one last year, but they were all quickly taken by congregation members. Obutsudan really are treasures. They were the spiritual center, mini temples, at Buddhist family homes. For the modern tastes and sensibilities, though, these old obutsudans don’t quite fit in. If we were chosen to adopt the obutsudan, it will be considered the spiritual center of our home as well.

An interesting although trivial point though, is that the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple belongs to what is known as the “Pure Land” sect of Buddhism. I’ve written that I grew up as a Shingon Buddhist, known as Esoteric Buddhism. But it dawned on me yesterday that that isn’t exactly true.

My mother’s side of the family were Shingon Buddhists. In fact, during my youth, the extended family of my mother’s side dominated the congregation of the Haleiwa Shingon Mission. My father’s side of the family attended the Honpa Hongwanji, a beautiful temple off Pali Hwy in Honolulu. But I ended up regularly attending “Sunday School” with my mother’s side of the family at the Shingon mission.

I believe the only times I’d been to the Honpa Hongwanji was for weddings and funerals on my father’s side of the family. However, when we stayed over at my paternal grandmother’s house, at each of those many stay-overs, we prayed at her obutsudan before going to bed. She taught us to repeat a few times what phonetically sounded like “Namman dao-tsu”, but I recently learned is probably “Namu Amida Butsu”.

Recently, while browsing through the Internet, I learned that the Honpa Hongwanji is indeed Pure Land Buddhism – like the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple. Not once had I heard that term growing up. All I knew of Buddhism back then, from either sect ,were non-English prayers and chants – completely meaningless to my monolingual brain (pidgin doesn’t count … hahaha).

So I do have a heritage in Pure Land Buddhism. This doesn’t matter at all really. But somehow this genuine heritage helps me to feel we can offer the obutsudan a genuine “home”.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I refer to ourselves just as Buddhists. In Buddhism, there is a recognition that the world is so rich and complex that we really need lifetimes to see everything from every angle. No matter how much we know, it’s like how a huge number like a billion is virtually zero compared to the number of atoms in the Universe. The reality is that we don’t even have to try to have a beginner’s mind – what we know in our human brain is virtually nothing already.

Each sect of Buddhism, and we believe that includes ALL spiritual teachings out there, is well expressed by a saying I learned from a dear Bahai friend: “The same light, but a different lamp”. For this moment in space and time, we happen to explore the insights from the Zen point of view; for me, particularly as taught to me first-hand by the Eternal Fishnu.

 

Magic Plant Season 2019

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The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet posing with the first Magic Plant bloom of 2019!

This morning Mrs. Hanamoku discovered that the first Magic Plant Flower of 2019 bloomed!

We’ve had Magic Plant since March 2005. It has provided us with these incredible blooms every Spring.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I found Magic Plant back in 2005 when we lived in Redwood City, CA. We found Magic Plant on a walk, tossed on the side like trash, no pot, eaten up by snails. Mrs. Hanamoku took it home with us and I lovingly planted it in a pot.

A few months later, a little red dot appeared. We watched it for a few weeks grow into some big bud. You can see what the buds look like in the photo above.

Then one night, Mrs. Hanamoku had a thought that this is some sort of night-blooming cereus, similar to the ones we know well growing on lava rocks in Hawaii. Sure enough, there it was, at least six inches across, as showy a shade of red/purple/orange as can be imagined. We were so thrilled. We never saw such a flower.

The next year, Magic Plant has 23 blossoms! I suppose since we enjoyed just that one so much.

Even though the individual blooms last only about two days, Magic Plant does continue blooming for almost two weeks. The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet says that this period is a blessed time. A time to meditate on the gratitude of an abandoned, snail-eaten, pot-less plant that found a home.

When is the Lunar Bodhi Day for 2019?

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Last week Thursday (Jan 31, 2019), Venus was very close to the waning crescent moon. Mrs. Hanamoku got a nice shot of it.

Today is Chinese New Year! The Lunar New Year. So I thought I’d mention the date of the next Lunar Bodhi Day.

The Lunar Bodhi day for 2019 is January 2, 2020. That is, the 8th day of the 12th New Moon of the lunar year that comprises most of 2019, which begins today, February 5, 2019.

As always, the standarized “secular” Bodhi Day 2019 is December, 8, 2019.

Here are a couple other blogs explaining the secular and lunar Bodhi Days:

Simple

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A very simple painting.

Buddhism is simply about simplicity.

Even though much of what is written about Buddhism can be frustratingly hard to digest, it’s shear simplicity. It’s hard only because our mind lives in the realm of competing things.

The fewer things you seek, the freer you are – fewer gotchas, roadblocks, and engineering of convoluted compromises no one is happy with. Simplicity increases with decreasing constraints. A beginner’s mind, free from “sacred” beliefs. A 100% acceptance of what is right in front of you, free of desires. That’s it!

Certainly, other people and things have their “desires” and there isn’t much if anything you can do about it. They are what they are. However, we can ultimately eliminate all complexity and the resultant suffering from our lives through simplicity.

With that said, simplicity does not equate to deprivation. The Buddha went through a long phase of ascetic deprivation before plopping under the Bodhi Tree, emaciated and near death. His ascetic days at least showed him something that didn’t work.

Simplicity also is not something you seek. “Seeking” something, even simplicity or enlightenment, is still a desire for something. Rather, simplicity means choosing not to exacerbate complexity. Turn away from unforced engagement (picking fights),  procrastination (resisting what is), or running away (you can’t run away from yourself).

Happy Day 3 of the Lunar Bodhi Season!!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Lunar Bodhi Season 2018!

Happy Bodhi 4715!!!

Today begins the Lunar Bodhi Season for 2018! That is, it begins seven days of meditation that ends the morning of  the eighth day, Sunday, January 13, 2019, Bodhi Day.

But Isn’t it 2019? It’s the 12th New Moon starting from the Chinese New Year – a lunar calendar –  back on February 16, 2018. Really, this is Bodhi Season 4715 in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. I discuss this in more detail, in this blog, When is Bodhi Day 2018?. Mrs. Hanamoku and I celebrate both the Secular and Lunar Bodhi Days. However, we do place more emphasis on the former since it does come first.

A few weeks ago, during the Secular Bodhi Season of 2018, I posted a series of blogs for each of the seven days, starting with Tomorrow Begins the Secular Bodhi Season of 2018. Please do read that set, one for each of the upcoming days – as you would an Advent Calendar. I intended the series for both the Secular and Lunar Bodhi Seasons of 2018.

Links to the other posts belonging to this set of Secular Bodhi Day 2018 posts:

Although Siddhartha Gautama did literally meditate under the Bodhi Tree for these seven days, I can’t do that. There’s this earning a living thing that gets in the way. But we do “meditate” in a few other ways. My primary meditation during that Secular Bodhi Season last month took the form of spending two or three hours early in the morning before heading to work (3am to 6am) writing each of those blogs.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I also stick to a simpler diet, pretty much vegetarian; certainly no sugar, alcohol, or other stuff that’s “not good for you”. Since the Secular Bodhi Season is in December, we’re even more mindful of keeping “the Christmas Spirit”.

However, I’ll leave with a new little lesson to help with your meditation during this next week.

Kiai!!

In most martial arts (although here I’m referring mostly to the Japanese styles), there is a notion of kiai (pronounced like key-eye). This is that “hi-yah” sound you often here during fight scenes in martial arts movies.

I was taught it as a very sharp “long A” sound (like the A in bake). Most important than the actual sound, it comes from deep in the belly. Think of like doing crunches and saying A at the contraction of your ab muscles.

What is the purpose of that noise? At the time of this writing, the Wikipedia article for Kiai doesn’t mention anything about the really important aspect it, just a very superficial, although valid, interpretation:

“Students of Japanese martial arts such as aikido, karate, kobudo, kendo, or judo (or related arts such as taiko drumming) use kiai to startle an opponent, intimidate, express confidence, or express victory.”

However, the kiai is more to affect you than to affect your opponent. Its real value is in reigning in your focus when it starts to wander. It brings our minds back to the present, away from fears based on the past or what hasn’t happened, or things that don’t matter. The more we’re in the present, the more we fit into the flow.

It’s for that purpose that I keep a bell with me during meditation, a gentle kiai to bring me back if (when) my mind wanders.

Faith and Patience to you!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Buddha Christmas Cookie 2018

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Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku’s Buddha Christmas Cookie for 2018.

Hello Everyone,

Here are my Buddha Christmas cookie for 2018.

The triangular design towards the bottom of the Buddha above is my not so good attempt at a Fano Plane. Just above the 2018 is Venus. I think I at least got the saffron color of the robe pretty close.

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Seven Bodhisattvas. Mrs. Hanamoku and I split one for each of the seven days prior to Christmas.

The yellow one at about “3:30” could be a bunny faced upwards. But I like to think of it more as a duckling – see the beak on the upper-right and with at the upper-left.

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This is a huge dorje cookie. Notice the enso with Venus inside. The pi symbolizes relationships hidden in the enso.

 

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Group photo of all the Buddha Christmas cookies for 2018.

 

Merry Christmas,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Bodhi Day 2018!

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From Left to Right: Maitreya Buddha, The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, The Eternal Fishnu, and the “birthday” boy himself, Shakyamuni Buddha, aka Siddhartha Gautama.

Happy Bodhi Day, everyone!!

First off, if you’ve only heard about Bodhi Day now – because today is Bodhi Day (December 8, 2018) – please see this blog that explains what is Bodhi Day. If Bodhi Day sounds interesting after reading that post, skip towards the end of this post to the Bodhi Day Mulligan section.

Now, for those who have been following my daily Bodhi Season posts the past eight days, this is a short, quick and dirty recap of my Bodhi Day ceremony. I’m taking the day off from writing anything of substance so I may continue to ponder what I meditated upon this morning. That was a lot of writing these past eight days!

Before I get to my Bodhi Day, I look forward to seeing you on the path, and some advice about keeping it. This is where the 3rd Zen Story comes into play. Picking Up the Bag. Here are a couple of my older posts regarding the day after Bodhi Day:

Now to my Bodhi Day. I awoke at about 3am to mostly cloudy skies. But at about 4:20 I noticed Venus popped out for a bit. So I quickly dressed and left around 4:30am for my short walk (due to my sore foot).

I was greeted by our Airbnb hosts’ huge pyrenees who roams freely on what has to be a property of at least a hundred acres. We think his name is Gus, but we call him Cujo. He guarded me through my entire ceremony.

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I was guarded during my meditation by the Airbnb hosts’ huge Pyrenees. The mountain lions probably would have found Reverend Hanamoku tastey, highly marbled, not so gamey due to my vegetarian diet the past week.

I usually start with three reps of the Hannya Shingyo, but since Venus was out for what looked to be a short time, I started with the 112 reps of the Morning Star Mantra. She was visible for about half the mala before disappearing for good behind clouds.

I then went straight into the Hannya Shingyo, three times, as traditionally chanted. My Kindle did shut down halfway through since the battery was a little low and I hadn’t touched the screen for a few minutes. Before going into meditation, I read the Hannya Shingyo in English so that my brain could wrap around its succinct description of Buddhism.

I went into deep meditation for what was probably about half an hour. I must admit I was distracted a few times by my guard dog chasing off real or imaginary enemies. But I hit the song bowl to refocus. I did have a few flashes that I will ponder for the rest of the day, and write about over the coming months, mostly on fishnu.org.

I was brought out of my meditation by rustling behind me. It was time to head back for my breakfast of rice and milk.

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The Eternal Fishnu and Rubber Ducky blessing my meal of rice and milk. I told Fishnu walking on water is more impressive.
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Sunrise on Bodhi Day 2018 morning.

Bodhi Day “Mulligan” On January 13, 2019

If you’re only learning of Bodhi Day today, or you just mucked this one up … hahaha … you have another chance in a few weeks to try what I’ve been posting about the past eight days starting with Tomorrow Begins the Secular Bodhi Season of 2018. It’s the lunar Bodhi Season starting on January 6, 2019 with the lunar Bodhi day on January 13!

Today is the Secular Bodhi Day, standardized in many countries to be on December 8 every year. The lunar Bodhi Day is the 8th Day of the 12th month of the lunar year. I call December 8 the secular because Bodhi Day is supposed to be the 8th Day of the 12th Lunar Month which is always changing. Standardizing to a set date every year helps all the busy people plan around a consistent date.

There are two sets of daily Bodhi Day posts for you to follow, something like an Advent calendar, should you want to do the Lunar Bodhi Day in a few weeks:

  1. Lunar Bodhi Day 2017 starting on December 18, 2017 with Bodhi Day on December 25. Last year’s lunar Bodhi Day.
  2. Secular Bodhi Day 2018 starting on December 1, 2018 with Bodhi Day on December 8. This is the one we just went through.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Other than that, use your new Bodhi skills to be the best Christmas guest ever!!!

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Nativity scene Mrs. Hanamoku photographed at the local grocery store near our Bodhi Day Airbnb.

Update on the Day After Bodhi Day – December 9, 2018

This morning was a wonderfully clear morning. So I did a mulligan on the Morning Star Mantra part of the ceremony. It was mostly cloudy yesterday morning, so Venus was only visible for a time.

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Venus on the morning after Bodhi Day 2018.

Links to the other posts belonging to this set of Bodhi Day 2018 posts: