Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Japanese Culture and Buddhism

2013-04-06 16.49.31

Growing up, I did not identify as a Buddhist. Of course, my family had the “butsudan“, a cabinet placed in the home that serves as a family shrine, and we visited the neighborhood temple on New Year’s Day. But, like most of the Japanese population, religion was only relevant when you were born, when you got married (when many would opt for a church wedding not for its religious beliefs but for the ceremonies that accompanied it), and when you died. It was a huge surprise to me when learning about Buddhism as an adult, so many of my decisions and actions that my Western friends found odd could be attributed to the Buddhist upbringing I didn’t realize I had. When I was young, I had a case of pneumonia that hospitalized me for a few days. When the doctor approved me to be discharged, I thanked the nurse on duty and the doctor (presumably at my mother’s urging). Then my father said I should thank the room for offering me an environment to recuperate, so I did. It didn’t seem strange for me to be thanking an inanimate object—a space, no less—and I thought nothing of it until now. I was listening to a Buddhist podcast where I learned that Buddha, upon attaining enlightenment after sitting under the Bodhi tree, got up and then thanked the tree. I called my father the next week, excited to tell him that now I knew why he instructed me to thank the hospital room so many years ago. To my surprise, he did not remember this incident, nor was he aware of the story where Buddha thanked the tree. I wondered how and why he thought I should thank the room: “Did I say something that great?” and then he said, “I guess Buddhism is in our DNA” (OK, he accidentally said DVD instead of DNA, because he doesn’t speak English and acronyms can be confusing, but I knew what he meant). My husband snickers when I apologize to the door when I accidentally slam it shut or walk into it. But every time I do it, I can now tell him it’s in my DNA.

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2015 by in Buddhism, Culture, Identity and tagged , , .
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