Day Two in JapanPosted: December 30, 2008 | Author: Doug | Filed under: Buddhism, Japan, Religion, Travel | 4 Comments »
Baby enjoyed her second birthday recently. We all went out for really good sushi, ate our fill, and then Baby got to enjoy a birthday cake made like Anpanman, her favorite cartoon character. She received among other things, an Anpanman kitchen set (with oven frying sounds), an Anpanman electric keyboard and an Anpanman purse.
Friends are gathering here far and wide to see Baby, who hasn’t visited since last October, but also to get together for the coming new year. Every front door in my wife’s neighborhood right now is decorated with colorful displays, kind of like Japanese omamori (good luck charms). These are not Buddhist in anyway, but are more part of native Shinto religion, which isn’t so much an organized religion as we know it, but more of a semi-organized collection of folk beliefs. Houses are decorated right now with images or pictures of the Seven Luck Gods (shichi fukujin). As I may have mentioned before, at least one of the gods, or goddesses, among the seven are imported from Hindu religion a long time ago. The goddess Benzaiten, is actually the Hindu goddess Saraswati, though much transformed as devotion of her migrated through Asia.
In addition, Old debts are being actively repaid, as per custom before the year ends, and we’ve been eating pretty well so far. I haven’t enjoyed Japanese iced coffee since leaving Seattle, which is both refreshing and cheap here. Also, the weather is much warmer and sunnier than the windy, cloudy weather in Ireland, so it was a nice feeling wearing a light jacket and getting some much needed Vitamin D.
Tomorrow is Near Year Eve, or Ōmisoka (大晦日), so we will be up late somewhere ringing the temple bell 108 times. In Buddhism, 108 happens to be an important number based on the follow formula:
- The Six Senses (“mind” is considered another sense in Buddhism) multipled by the 6 sense objects (object of eye, object of ear, etc, etc.), or 6 x 6 = 36.
- Multiply 36 by the 3 periods of time: past, present and future, or 36 x 3 = 108.
This stands for the 108 afflictions or defilements one possesses in Buddhism. The number is just a convention, and I’ve heard other versions of the meaning of 108, but this helps illustrate the various kinds of afflictions we have. Hence at New Year’s Eve, people ring the bell of a Buddhist temple 108 times to reflect on all the defilements that must be understood, and then overcome.