Funerary and Memorial Practices in Japan

Since my mother in law passed away recently, and my wife is back in the US, I’ve had a crash-course on memorial practices in Japanese culture, and wanted to share in case others run into this too. Much of these practices are rooted in a fascinating combination of native Japanese religion, blended with Indian-Buddhist practicesContinue reading “Funerary and Memorial Practices in Japan”

Lonely At The Top: Minamoto no Sanetomo

I’m still keeping up with the Japanese historical drama the Thirteen Lords of Kamakura, discussed here, which is based primarily on the Azuma Kagami (吾妻鏡) a historical text about the period, and a fascinating look at how the Shogunate, or samurai military government, of the Kamakura Period rose and fell. The rise of the KamakuraContinue reading “Lonely At The Top: Minamoto no Sanetomo”

Kannon: the Genderfluid Bodhisattva

Kannon Bodhisattva (観音菩薩), also known by such names as Guan-Yin, Chenrezig, Avalokiteshvara, and so on, is one of the most popular bodhisattvas in all of Buddhism, and whose devotion cuts across many sectarian lines, but Kannon is also one of the most difficult figures in Buddhism to explain to someone who is not a Buddhist.Continue reading “Kannon: the Genderfluid Bodhisattva”

Samadhi, Schamadhi

My family knows I love to eat rice and natto, or fermented soy beans, in the morning. Often with Korean kimchi. It’s a breakfast habit I started about 10-15 years ago, and never looked back. Thanks to the crunch of the pandemic, and inflation, shipments from Japan have become a trickle, and so our localContinue reading “Samadhi, Schamadhi”

The Real Treasure Was Inside Us All Along

Recently, I have been reading up on the Obaku sect (Ōbaku-shū, 黄檗宗) of Japanese Zen Buddhism: the same sect that Tetsugen was a disciple of. Obaku Zen is the third and last Zen sect to come to Japan to China, centuries after Rinzai and Soto were imported. Rinzai and Soto were both imported from ChinaContinue reading “The Real Treasure Was Inside Us All Along”

What Separates Humans from Animals

Time and again, I keep thinking back to that famous scene from the original Dune novel by Frank Herbert and the gom jabbar test. “A duke’s son must know all about poisons,” she said, “…Here’s a new one for you: the gom jabbar. It kills only animals.” Pride overcame Paul’s fear. “You dare suggest thatContinue reading “What Separates Humans from Animals”

Don’t Play To Win

For those of you who are competing somewhere, consider the following the advice from Kenko in the 13th century Japanese text, the Essays in Idleness: I once asked someone skilled at the board game of sugoroku for hints on how to play. “Don’t play to win,” he said. “Play not to lose. Consider what movesContinue reading “Don’t Play To Win”