Things We Can All Learn

Posted by:

K. Ken Fujimoto

There are times when people have suggestions for new programs or improvements for ongoing programs that show they have little, if any, idea of what is actually happening here. At best, it seems like they are making suggestions for what they think is happening. This shows that there is much to be learned by all of us on many different levels.
The first thing that we need to learn from this is that we need to do a better job letting our members and others know about our programs and the content of those programs. The people who are here regularly and take part in the programs will know what we are doing and what it entails, but there will be a number of others who do not. Some of this is due to a sense of modesty on our part. We do not want to appear as if we are touting our own efforts. However, if we do not talk about it, how are others to know? How are others supposed to learn about the content of our programs? This is a matter of “no brag, just fact.”
We seriously need to improve our dissemination of information regarding our programs and activities. This is something that we must all do, the ministers, staff, board and members on all levels. This leads to the second aspect we can learn from this situation. We need to know what is offered and what it entails. Though this may seem obvious, how often do we assume something without really knowing what is happening? How often have we passed on information that we have heard from someone else and did it without having checked on the accuracy of that information? It is always easier to pass something on as we have heard it than it is to actually check.
This is what probably leads to suggestions that are slightly off the mark. Improvements over what people think is happening without really checking to see what is actually happening. This is not a recent phenomenon. This type of thing has been happening for centuries and has led to many of the superstitions or popular beliefs surrounding many of our customs, such as the observance of the memorial services that we hold. We see and hear of many odd practices that people feel must be true that have no basis in fact or even Buddhist tradition. Often those practices have become folk tradition, but they are based on misinformation or misguided interpretation.
One such example is the idea of not doing wanting to do a 49th day service if the date happens to cross three months. For example, if a person passed away on March 21, the actual 49th day would be May 8, but many people would not want to hold the service because it crosses over a span of three months. This is not an issue in English, but the sounds of the words in Japanese led people to come up with the notion that this should be avoided. 49 can be read as shijuku and this is the same sound as the words that can be taken to mean, suffering throughout history. Three months can be read as mitsuki and this can also be taken to mean adhering to the flesh. From the combination of these sounds, someone at some time decided that they did not want suffering throughout history to stick to the flesh and came up with the idea that holding the 49th day service on a date that spans 3 months is something that needed to be avoided. No basis in fact; but a combination of similar sounds being twisted around to mean something that is not there.
This may seem pretty silly, but some of that which we see today is very similar. People referring to any altar area as the naijin, when it is only the inner area (the altar) in the hondo that can be considered a naijin is an example of this. We need to ask ourselves if we are part of that which is creating and disseminating false information and creating misguided traditions. It is difficult enough to see what is true without creating greater obstacles and false paths for ourselves.
© April 20, 2015