Minister’s Message, January 2011

New Year’s Greeting 2011

By Rinban Don Castro

the bonsho across from the Seattle Buddhist ChurchHappy New Year! May 2011 bring you and your family “peace and tranquility” – the BCA theme for this year. Years ago, I adopted the custom of reciting haiku poems at the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Services that are related to these two important and evocative holidays. These two transitional events, like death and rebirth, have inspired the haiku poets and their poems convey truths that span cultures and generations. Now that my ministry here at Seattle Betsuin has touched parts of four decades (1980’s – 2010’s), the following haiku by the poet Jokun came to mind:

I intended
Never to grow old, –
But the temple bell tolls!

Regarding this poem, the haiku scholar R.H. Blyth wrote, “What a universal emotion is expressed in the first two lines! Making our peace with age is part of our acceptance of death. The bell speeding the old year comes sounding across the fields. We are a year older whether we will it or not.”

How fortunate we are to have a bonsho (temple bell)! When I first arrived in Seattle, we struck it every evening at 5:00pm. Now, we usually sound it only on Sunday mornings and New Year’s Eve. To me, the bonsho truly is the call of the Buddha. It’s deep resonance is visceral (hara in Japanese ) as the gatha “Yube no Uta” says in the third stanza, “Listen from the depths of your being (hara) and awaken! …The temple bell tolls…the temple bell tolls.”

Because our bonsho is such a wonderful gift (from the great Buddhist philanthropist, the late Mr. Yehan Numata), we should not take it for granted. For this reason, I integrated the tolling of the bonsho into our Sunday Family Service so that it can be truly savored. We call it “Bonsho Meditation.” Following the welcome and opening remarks by our service chairperson, we open all the doors and sit quietly-and-mindfully while the bonsho is slowly struck ten times. Rain or shine, hot or cold, the temple bell tolls…the temple bell tolls.

With your help, I hope in this new year we can include a number of new things to enliven our Sunday services. Again, best wishes and Happy New Year!