Last Post of 2009

Well, 2009 is nearly over. I spent the first half living in Europe, I spent the second half living in the US. I started with one blog, the “Level 8 Buddhist”, and ended with another one. For most of the world, this year is coming to a close, and per schedule, this is my last post for 2009. Can’t believe the year’s already done!

Last year, I was very fortunate to spend the New Year in Japan, and got to take part in a joya no kane (除夜の鐘) ceremony at a nearby Jodo Shu Buddhist temple. I really enjoyed the experience, which strongly rekindled my faith in the Pure Land path at the time, as well as giving me a new perspective as I had never actually seen a Buddhist service in Japan (always in West). I also fondly remember spending the evening before the service in the car with my father-in-law watching an Enka music contest in the little built-in TV set, while “Baby” slept in her car-seat in the back for nearly two hours. That was for New Year’s eve, or ōmisoka (大晦日).

This year, folks there will no doubt flock to Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines to bid farewall to the old year, burn old charms and shimenawa (注連縄), which are a kind of large, white sacred rope used in Shintoism to demarcate holy sanctuaries and absorb evil (hence the burning later). They will enjoy amazake which is the left-over rice gruel from making saké, though it’s supposedly non-alcoholic (sure tastes like sake though, yuck). People will sit at home and enjoy hours and hours of singing competitions like kōhaku uta gassen (紅白歌合戦), the famous “red and white” singing competition or enka competitions for the older generations. :)

However, for 2009/2010, I am not able to go to Japan for New Year’s, and I am on-call as well, so I will be stuck home possibly busy. My wife is planning a little celebration at home with friends, but no toshi-koshi soba this year as it’s not that safe for little children to eat (probably because of mochi, which is easy to choke on). Also, we are fortunate to finally get Japanese TV on cable last week, so we will be enjoying the yearly kōhaku special on TV, and my wife has purchased some an array of oden food for both New Year’s eve, and osechi for New Year’s day. New Year’s day is called oshōgatsu or gantan-e in more formal situations (お正月、元旦会). Anyway, as long as I am with wife and daughter for New Year’s, it’s all good. :)

New Year’s resolutions? Well, I normally find resolutions silly, but I do have a few resolutions this year I intend to fulfill:

  • Get RHCE certified in Linux, probably in early Spring. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long-time, but couldn’t quite manage.
  • Take the online Jodo Shinshu Correspondence course and pass. I am already registered. :)
  • Take the JLPT2 certification test and hopefully pass. This one is quite a stretch given the much higher-degree of difficulty than the JLPT3 (which I still haven’t received the test results for), but it’s worth a shot. I am reasonably confident I could pass by 2011 though.
  • Get certified as a minister’s assistant at the local Jodo Shinshu temple I go to. From there, hopefully ordination.

Whatever your resolutions or aspirations are, here’s to 2010 and a good year! I’d like to close with a haiku by the famous Jodo Shinshu priest/poet named Kobayashi Issa when he was penniless and in deep debt at the end of the year, a time when traditionally all debts were supposed to be settled:

ともかくも (tomokaku mo)
あなたまかせの (anata makase no)
年の暮れ (toshi no kure)

In any case,
I entrust myself to you
(Amida Buddha)
for this closing of the year

That’s an amateur translation of mine, but I hope it gets the idea across. Whatever challenges I face in 2010, I can do little else but take refuge and carry on. :)

Namu Amida Butsu

P.S. My little girl turned 3 not too long ago. Happy Birthday, sweetpea!

3 Comments on “Last Post of 2009”

  1. Shinyo says:

    “Get certified as a minister’s assistant at the local Jodo Shinshu temple I go to. From there, hopefully ordination.”

    I will be finishing my lay minister training with Bright Dawn in May and was just curious what all is involved in becoming a minister’s assistant. How does one get started? Just ask the minister? Our minister is retiring and we should have a new one soon.

  2. johnl says:

    Thanks for your efforts throughout 2009! It’s very interesting to read of your thoughts and activities.

    Sorry to disagree, but you are wrong about amazake–it’s delicious! Although it can develop a bit of an alcoholic taste in some circumstances, if the yeast is still active.

    By the way, toshi koshi soba does not include mochi. ‘toshi koshi’ means something like ‘pass the year(s)’ and is one of those non-jocular puns. The long noodles symbolize long life. On New Year’s Day and the following days, most people eat ‘o zoni,’ a kind of stew or chowder, which usually does include mochi. Or they may eat mochi in other ways, like oshiruko, a kind of sweet bean soup. Part of the idea is that eating mochi saves he trouble of cooking rice during the holiday period. But usually after just a day or two, people are lining up at restaurants to eat their beloved rice! I don’t think ozoni is ever served in restaurants, by the way.

    Anyway, have a great year of the tiger! (I will be ‘toshi otoko’ in 2010!)


  3. Doug says:

    Hi guys, sorry for the late reply:

    Shinyo: The BCA program is still new and somewhat complicated, so, I only know that as a minister’s assistant, given some time, training and tenure, I can move onto tokudo which is like a partial-ordination. YOu can do some limited services, nothing more. Moving to full ordination or kyoshi takes a lot more time and training, which is as it should be.

    Johnl: Yeah, I got it all wrong. My wife was going to make ozoni, but worried about the mochi, so she didn’t. I didn’t know you were a ‘tiger’. Have a great year! I am a snake (the ladies tell me that too, just kidding).

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