2018 is a year of the Dog. This year is known as the year of extinction. The fruits will fall onto the ground and the tree will return to its original state. By letting go of the flowers, leaves and fruits, the true nature of ourselves and the world we live in will be revealed.
I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirit. Throughout the year 2017 that there were members and friends who has been through illness, injury or many other stressful situations. As followers of Buddha's teachings, we acknowledge the hardship as a part of life and Shugyo, training, to cultivate our strength to achieve peace, joys and wisdom within such hardship.
On the evening of December 31st, I rang Joyano kane (the year-end purification bell) 108 times. Each time I rang the bell, I prostrated. I offered incense and prostrated 108 times, each time taking about 3 to 4 minutes. Traditionally, it is customary to cleanse our delusions and attachment by the time the new year starts. This year, I offered the incense and the sound of the bell to every one of those I met in our life and wished for their happiness... whether they are alive or dead. It was as if I were physical with them in the silence on the new year's eve. By the time I finished the 100th bell, my memories were all renewed and the life I had in the past felt blessed again.
From the time we were born, we met our family and all those friends from kindergarten, elementary school, junior high and high school, college, companies, girlfriends or boyfriends, spouses, neighbors and people who were just there for you. Each relationship gave us a clear definition and meaning of who we were and how we mattered in their life.
Then, the realization comes that such personal connections created many untold stories of our parents and ancestors and all people and living beings. The closer we feel to our own life experience and relationship, the closer we are able to feel to other sentient beings.
We call this kind of practice a Metta practice, the practice of compassion. This starts with clarifying our love to the most intimate person in our life. Eventually, it allows us to be in touch with the most real elements of other being's life and helps us understand the hardship, suffering, joy, and love of living beings. As I rang the last bell, I said “I love you.” to my son, then, I heard the voice of thousand's Spirits echoing in the mind sending love to their most beloved one. May the year 2018 bring you deep wisdom and compassion to all beings.
Gassho, Rev. Yukinori Gyokei Yokoyama