Tag Archives: Buddhist

G is for Gifts


by Lillian Csernica on April 8, 2016

Today I have some stories to tell that come from the United States of America.  My homeland is a big country.  You can do a lot of traveling without needing your passport!  Along the way I’ve had the pleasure of giving and receiving some wonderful gifts.

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San Francisco, California — I was at the San Francisco International Airport when I met a Buddhist monk with a heavy French accent.  We got to talking.  Like most holy men in public places, the monk was probably accustomed to people gravitating to him.  He seemed to understand a whole lot more about me than what little personal information came up in the conversation.  His gift to me took the form of sincere compassion and some encouraging words.  As a token of my gratitude I gave him a pewter sunflower with “Believe” engraved on it.  This is why I love to travel.  You never know who you might meet, or what might happen when you do.

Maui, Hawaii — The Hawaiian Lei Greeting has been a part of Polynesian culture for several centuries.  Many tour packages allow you to choose just how luxuriant you’d like your lei greeting to be.  Before the boys came along, I took a trip to Maui with my mother.  It was quite an adventure, including a luau and a submarine ride.  Magpie that I am, I got all excited about the leis made not from flowers but seashells.  Ever since I was little I’ve had a great fondness for seashells.  Mom has been to Hawaii more than once, so she had quite a few shell leis.  She has given them all to me, along with the kukui nut bracelet and earrings belonging to my great-grandmother.

Las Vegas, Nevada — Many years ago my husband and I stayed at the Excalibur.  My father and stepmother lived in Ohio at that time.  My stepsister lived in Vegas, so we decided to meet in the middle for Christmas at her house.  (I have several stories from that trip!)   In the Excalibur there was the usual casino floor with card tables and slot machines.  Downstairs, I found a whole floor for kids full of carnival games such as Skee Ball, the Ring Toss, the Dime Toss.  There were also a few games where you used what amounted to a small catapult to shoot a frog onto a lily pad or a witch doll into a cauldron.  I know how to play poker, blackjack, and even whist, but I’m not much for gambling.  On the other hand, I love to win prizes.  I must have won close to a dozen, most of them some type of stuffed toy.  I did not have room in my luggage for all of them.  Besides, it was really more about winning them than actually keeping all those toys.  So what did I do with them?  Remember, this was Christmastime.  I wandered around the hotel, giving the toys away to little kids (with their parents’ permission).

 

Seattle, Washington –I had gone up to Vashon Island with a friend to visit the All Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery.  I’ve been blessed to know Abbot Tryphon and Hierodeacon Paul for more than 20 years.  That visit deserves its own post.  Right now I want to mention yet another meeting in yet another airport.  In the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was waiting for my flight to be called.  My friend and I got into conversation with two ladies who admired my friend’s earrings, which I had made.  As it turns out, one of the ladies also made her own jewelry, including the pair of earrings she was wearing.  I don’t know what prompted her to do it, but my fellow jeweler took off her earrings and gave them to me right then and there!  People are so kind.  We forget that, with all the conflict and grief in the world.  I will always treasure those earrings as a reminder of that trip and a reminder of the difference an generous impulse can make.

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Filed under artists, Awards, Blog challenges, Christmas, creativity, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Family, family tradition, history, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, mother, travel, Writing

Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto Day Four)


by Lillian Csernica on Dec. 2, 2015

In Kyoto you will find 400 shrines and 1600 temples.  Of the many larger and more famous temples, Kiyomizu-dera is truly one of a kind.  If I had to name just one single reason for going to Kyoto, I would say I had to visit Kiyomizu-dera.  This was the number one item on my bucket list.  Thanks to my husband’s kindness and generosity, this dream came true.

I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve seen a lot of things, and I’ve written about many of them.  This is the first time I have deliberately gone to visit a location where I have already set four short stories.  My steampunk short fiction, which appears in 12 Hours Later and the forthcoming 30 Days After, centers around Kiyomizu-dera.  If there’s such a thing as a literary pilgrimage, I made one, and it stands out as one of the highlights of my strange and adventuresome life.

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 The Pure Water Temple stands halfway up Mt. Otowa, near the Otowa Falls.  Primarily a shrine to Kannon (aka Kwan Yin), the Goddess of Mercy, the main hall is home to the Eleven-Headed and Thousand-Armed Kannon Boddhisatva.  There’s a lot to know about Kiyomizu-dera.  Please follow the links to discover fascinating facts about this temple and Kyoto itself, both ancient and modern.

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http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp

There must have been hundreds of people visiting the temple the day Pat and I were there.  People were dressed in traditional kimono or yukata, modern street wear, or school uniforms.  When a tour group of high school boys passed by, a dozen manga sprang to mind.

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The best times of the year to visit Kiyomizu-dera are springtime for the cherry blossoms and autumn for the maple leaves.  Few things are more beautiful to me than the sight of late afternoon sunshine seen through the red leaves of a Japanese maple.

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Here I stand on the veranda overlooking a thirteen meter drop.  Known as the Stage, the veranda is built from over four hundred cypress boards.  The Stage contains not a single nail.  Wooden pegs were used instead.

In “A Demon in the Noonday Sun,” this is the spot where Dr. Harrington must protect the Abbot against the anger of Amatsu Mikaboshi, the Japanese god of chaos.  The Abbot is sitting in a steampunk wheelchair at the time.  Amatsu Mikaboshi keeps blasting it with black fire.  Poor Dr. Harrington, a scientist to the bone, has to make a rather sudden adjustment to the reality of Japanese gods and monsters!

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This is the view of the Stage from the opposite direction.  I stood at the corner on the center left.

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There are several shrines on the temple grounds.  This is an excellent example of a shrine to Inari, god of rice/wealth.  I love those fox figurines.  Strangely enough, I could not find a shop that sold them.

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Kiyomizu-dera is known for its shrine to Okuninushi, the god of romance and matchmaking.  The statue of him makes him look like a tough samurai.  Standing beside him is a rabbit that could give the one in “Donnie Darko” a run for its money.  The rabbit holds a haraegushi, a “lightning staff” decorated with those paper zigzags called shide.

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Now for the rather chilling part of this expedition.  The sign below explains the history of the god whose name is never spoken, the one who will punish playboys and heartbreakers.  A wronged woman can take a straw figure that represents the man who hurt her and nail it to the cypress tree behind this particular shrine.  The god-with-no-name will then bring down some hard karma on the man responsible.

Note, please, that the second thing to scare me in the Haunted House at Toei Kyoto Studio Park was a falling tree.  Pat told me later she noticed it was a cypress with a straw figure nailed to it.  We didn’t understand that at the time.  Now we do!

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The ema plaques below give one insight into the hopes and dreams of many people.  I was surprised to discover some of them had English writing on them, not just kanji.  Pilgrims come to Kiyomizu-dera from all over the world.  Most of the plaques we saw had a sheep on them.  Still not sure what that was all about.

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Here are the three waterfalls that grant particular blessings.  On the far right, wisdom.  In the center, long life.  On the left, success in scholarship.  I meant to drink from the water of longevity.  Turns out I drank the water for wisdom instead.  I suspect that’s probably what I really need!

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Soon it was time to head back down the mountain.  This took us back along the Sannen-zaka, a narrow lane lined with shops selling maneki neko, fans, mochi, dango, all sorts of postcards and cell phone charms and the items pilgrims might need such as prayer beads.

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I bought a hat embroidered with a battle between the God of Wind and the God of Lightning.  Pat found a number of items on her souvenir wish list.    If you love shopping, you simply must visit the Sannen-zaka.  We also enjoyed a singular snack: pickled cucumber on a stick.  Legend has it that cucumbers are the favorite food of Japan’s most famous monster from folklore, the kappa.  I have to say the giant pickle on a stick was crunchy and refreshing, right up until the moment when I bit into the stick.

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