Tag Archives: monks

#atozchallenge: U is for Unseen


by Lillian Csernica on April 24, 2018

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Here’s the question: Why can some of the characters in my Kyoto Steampunk series see the gods and monsters of Japan, while other characters can’t see a thing?

Nurse Danforth When she sets out to make a deal with the Devil that will save Madelaine’s life (In the Midnight Hour, Twelve Hours Later), she opens her own mind to the supernatural powers present in Japan. Whether or not that was a one-time experience remains to be seen.

Dr. Harrington Being appointed personal physician to the Abbot of Kyomizudera is a great honor. The position includes a few duties Dr. Harrington is not aware of at the start. He has become one of the guardians of the Abbot, and as such is now on the radar of all things supernatural in Japan.

Madelaine Children are often more capable of perceiving the supernatural. Madelaine has the added advantage of intense curiosity.

Constance A practical, down-to-earth woman, Constance has all the psychic sensitivity of a brick. She does see the terrible yokai that comes after Dr. Harrington in The Wheel of Misfortune (Some Time Later). Some monsters are so formidable they make their presence known regardless of whether or not humans have psychic gifts.

Alexander Thompson The Undersecretary for Technology Exchange is a dedicated civil servant with very little imagination. This is a mercy, sparing him from sights that would surely bring on what the Victorians referred to as “brain fever.”

Fujita-san When Amatsu Mikaboshi confronts Dr. Harrington, Fujita-san can’t see him. I suspect Fujita-san may have more talents than I’ve discovered so far. His close working relationship with the monks of Kiyomizudera makes me wonder if Fujita-san knows more than he’s telling.

The Abbot and monks of Kiyomizudera One would expect ascetics pursuing a spiritual discipline to be familiar with the supernatural realm and the beings who inhabit it. This proves true in A Demon in the Noonday Sun (Twelve Hours Later) when Dr. Harrington’s call for help is answered.

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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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And now…. Kyoto!


by Lillian Csernica on November 19, 2015

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Kiyomizudera, the Pure Water Temple

Yes indeed, between hospital stays I managed to run off to Kyoto, Japan for a week.  Two of those days were spent in transit, but I did manage to do quite a bit in the five days I had to explore one of the most amazing cities on our planet.  What made it even better was doing the exploring with my best friend, Patricia H. MacEwen.

It took one car, three planes, a bus, and a taxi to get us from my house to our hotel in Kyoto.  I have many stories to tell about what happened to us in transit, both on the way to Kyoto and especially on the way home.  I’m going to save those for a later post.

Day One: As we roamed the streets of Kyoto, in search of the nearest Citibank branch and the local post office, we were lucky enough to come across a few of the local Shinto shrines.  Most of them were in honor of O-Jizo-sama, the god of children.

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The first such shrine we found was on one of the major streets, tucked into a niche next to a big bank building.  Most of the time we came across the shrines in what to us were side streets or back alleys.

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A shrine to Inari, god of rice, which equals wealth.

It was quite impressive to see this shrine,  complete with hand-washing station and the bell to ring.  The shrine was spotless, well cared for, and clearly maintained with great respect and affection.

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A map of the original Bukkoji temple complex

Pat discovered Bukko-ji Temple.  This is one of the lesser known temples in Kyoto.  The government is working to generate more interest in it, and I hope the project is successful.  The temple complex is smaller than some, but even so it possesses that unearthly peace you find only in sacred places.

I have come to learn that my idea of Buddhist monks is based largely on Zen monks.  There are at least five different Buddhist sects alive and well in Kyoto.  Not all of them have monks in the sense that I recognize.  This got more than a little confusing because some Buddhist men who work at the temples will wear a garment that looks like a black scholar’s gown.  They also wear stoles which come in different colors.  I asked about those, and if I understood the explanation correctly, the stoles indicate one’s home temple.  (When we visited Higashi Honganji, there was an older gentleman in a three piece suit wearing a pale green stole of fine workmanship.  The stole is what one wears when one visits a temple, much like as an Orthodox woman I cover my head and I do not wear pants when I go to church.)

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This is where you purify your hands before entering the temple. The dragon is a rather intimidating presence!

Pat figured that we must have hiked a good three miles that first day.  What an adventure!  Yes, we did find Citibank. Neither of us had a Japanese bank account, so there wasn’t much they could do for us there.  That’s why we went looking for the post office.  As we knew from our adventures in Yokohama during Nippon 2007, the ATMs which will accept foreign debit cards are found in the post office.  Unfortunately, by the time we found the local post office, we were thwarted in our efforts.

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Yes, this is sideways.  I find it rather fitting because our plans had gone sideways.  See that little door on the left?  In that tiny alcove we found the ATM.  In a strange example of serendipity, when we went back the next day during business hours, the person in there using the ATM was an actual monk.  Monks need cash too, but the sight still caused me a moment’s cognitive dissonance.

We’d been doing pretty well reading the map and navigating in the right directions, but as the afternoon wore on and our joints started to complain, we found ourselves getting a bit turned around.  My Japanese is good enough to ask for help and figure out what I’m told in reply, so we made some progress.  Somebody Up There took pity on us and sent us an angel in the form of a young lady named Manami.  She appeared at my elbow and asked if we needed help, and once we explained where we were trying to go, she led both me and Pat down the street for at least two blocks and pointed us in the right direction.  I tell you, the Japanese are more than just polite.  They’re really nice, really kind people.

On the corner just down the street from our hotel was a McDonald’s.  Call me a Philistine if you like, but after doing so much exploring on foot and absorbing so much really amazing culture, I needed the simplicity of a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke.  At this McDonald’s you ordered downstairs, took your drink and a number, then went up a flight of stairs to the seating area on the second floor.  I’ve seen this design when I was at a McDonald’s in Amsterdam.

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Pat and I settled in to enjoy our comfort food while we watched our temporary neighborhood shift from its busy day to the more carefree tone of a Friday night.

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Our home away from home in Kyoto.  I highly recommend Citadines.

Here’s our room:

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With a 7-11 right across the street and a subway station entrance practically outside the hotel’s front door, we had one of the easiest, most convenient vacation locations I’ve ever enjoyed.

Next up: The marvels of Higashi Hongaji!

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