SLO BUDDHIST TEMPLE
6996 Ontario Rd.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Ph. 805 595-2625
Some of the things we experience at our Sunday ser-vices seem to have no special meaning yet we acknowledge them and assume they are just part of the services. We also tend to sit in the same places and only through prodding do we occupy a different “seat.”
For Whom the Bell Tolls
If you are in the temple’s hondo at 11 am on Sunday mornings, you will hear the Kansho or Gyoji-sho being rung signifying the start of service. On the other hand, if you are driving into the parking lot and hear the Kansho (ritual or calling bell), you know that you will have enough time to hurry into the hondo before Rev. Nakano starts her service. The Kansho is made out of brass with decorative designs and a circular spot where it is struck by a wooden mallet. Our bell is of medium size and has a nice ring or tone to it when struck. If you listen closely, there is a certain pattern to its ringing. First, the bell is struck 7 times, each separated by several seconds, producing loud and distinct rings. Second is a series of blows first quickly and softly then slowing down and increasing in volume to a crescendo. The ringing then reverses itself by becoming more rapid and decreasing in volume. This process is like running up a steep hill, reaching its top, then running down the hill. The third step is like the first but only with 5 blows. Next is a repeat of step 2. Finally, the bell is rung 3 times - one loud blow, a tap, immediately followed by a final loud blow. Why the pattern of 7-5-3 blows? The official meaning has been lost in time but maybe it’s the Japanese’s affinity for odd numbers. For special services such as a funeral, the pattern is 2-5-3. In Jodo Shinshu, the first use of the Kansho was in 1688.
Besides reminding those present that service is about to begin, the ringing of the Kansho also cues Rev. Nakano to make her way to the onaijin or altar. That is why Dexter, rather than sensei, usually rings the bell. Also, the ringing of the Kansho allows those seated to meditate, preparing them-selves to better receive and understand the dharma. Next to the side door that opens to the hanging Kansho is a chart that shows the pattern on how to ring the bell. Below the chart are wooden mallets of different lengths to better suit the bell ringer and even a stool for those who “need a lift” to reach the bell. Maybe if you would like to try ringing the Kansho, Rev. Nakano may call on you to do just that (of course if Dexter is not there).
OKAZU by Gary Hongo
It Is Not a Game of Perfect
After making my way around the Cypress Ridge Course on a golf cart, monitoring the volunteers and golfers for 5 hours, I have come to realize that golf is not a game of perfect. To see players trying to make that perfect shot to put the ball on the green for a chance to win a prize, I quickly realized that it takes skill or luck to be successful. Out of 144 golfers, only a small fraction of them were able to accomplish the feat. Trying to win that 2017 Buick Encore by getting a “hole in one” was an even more impossible task. At a distance of 165 yards (495 feet) and hitting to a green that is above you, coupled with a large and daunting sand trap (bunker) directly in front of the green, you would be better off trying to make a basket throwing the basketball the full length of the court (or getting a Royal Flush with spades at Chumash Casino). Maybe that is why Borjon Auto Center is happy to provide a new “Hole in One” vehicle every year because they know it will always be back in the showroom after the golf tournament. Perhaps one day they may just auction it off at the post tournament BBQ dinner.
That’s My Seat
There is a story that goes like this: Every Sunday at a Jodo Shinshu temple an elderly man always attended its service. He always sat at the last row, on the far end of the pew, no matter how many others were attending the service. The minister tried unsuccessfully to encourage him to sit closer but his words fell on deaf ears. It came to a point where the minister could always count on the gentleman to be in his favorite seat listening to the dharma talk. Then one Sunday, the minister looked up but did not see him, not in his usual seat and nowhere in the hondo. Inquiring after the service as to where the elderly man could be, the minister learned that he had passed away. It was only a short time later that one on the gentleman’s daughter sought out the minister and said, “As you may have known, our dad was almost totally blind. However, he did not have to see to appreciate your dharma talks. He always sat in the same seat in the back row at the very end because in that seat he could open his heart to hear your words. That seat made him feel very comfortable, undisturbed by anyone around him, allowing your words to touch him. Forgive him for not heeding your pleas to sit closer or to mingle with others but he gained so much more being in his favorite seat.”