2017: Year of the Fire Rooster - Buddhist Year 2558

With fire as his element, the Fire Rooster will be vigorous, highly motivated and authoritative. He will be able to operate independently and with great precision and skill. Strongly principled and single minded in his pursuit of success, he will display managerial abilities and leadership.

~ The Chinese Lunar Zodiac

In 2637 BC Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first Chinese Zodiac in the 61st year of his reign. A complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five simple cycles of 12 years each. The 77th cycle started on February 5, 1924 and ended on February 1, 1984. Twelve animals were assigned to each of the 12 years. Only 12 came to bid the Buddha farewell. As a reward, each animal was awarded a place in the Zodiac in the order that they arrived. First came the Rat, then the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Boar. In the 60 year cycle each of the animals is combined with the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These five elements are further split into magnetic poles called the Ying and Yang. Thus we have the 12 zodiac animals combined with the basic elements with their respective Ying and Yang poles to make up the 60 year cycle. In the present 60th cycle, 2017 becomes No. 34, the Fire Rooster, Tei yu ( 丁 - 酉 ). The calligraphy, Tei-yu is written in the seal script style.

~ Chinese Horoscope

Lessons from the Snow

Ignorance and blind passions abound,

Pervading everywhere like innumerable particles of dust.

Desire and hatred arising out of conflict and accord

Are like high peaks and mountain ridges.

~ Shozomatsu Wasan (Hymns of the Dharma Ages) Verse 8 CWS pg. 400

During the past few weeks with all the snow, we finally seemed to break through some of the drought that has afflicted our state for the past few years. Whenever the snows fall, I get to plow the snow that covers my driveways and the sidewalk in front of my house. I get a strange pleasure from plowing with my large 13 horsepower snow thrower that can cut a 30” swath through the snow. I think it’s because of my OCD, but my mind seems to clear as I throw the snow. I have warm water proof boots, heavy gloves, heavy down jacket with hood, a warm red University of Utah Winter cap, my noise cancelling headphones and Iphone set to Tower of Power’s “American Soulbook”; I feel invincible. From the chaos of a snow-covered drive way and sidewalk to a clear path: confusion to clarity, I feel as though I am able to easily cut through this difficult obstacle and find my way to a clear path.

The passage I began with reminds me of the unreality of this feeling of power I often receive from clearing the snow. As I clear the snow for a moment, the snow continues to fall and once again cover the path of clarity. This is like my mind, there is an unreality to any clarity I feel, it is there for a moment and quickly my bonno covers this clarity with greed, anger and ignorance. If I think about it, I am not even the one clearing the snow. With a snow shovel, I get very tired after a few shovelfuls, let alone two driveways and the sidewalks of three homes. It is the 357 cc Briggs and Stratton engine that allows me to find those moments of clarity. In a similar manner, it is not my foolish self, but the power of Amida Buddha that allows me those moments of clarity in my bonno filled mind.

Speaking of unreality, a few days before New Year’s Day, I had a very strange dream. In this dream, I was lost in a familiar city. I was going on a trip with Carmela and as the shuttle bus we were on was about to stop, a little girl danced by me, I recognized her, now she was doing cartwheels. It was India Elliot and I thought she was going to cartwheel down the stairwell so I jumped up to help her. In that split second, Carmela shouted “Jerry, this is our stop!” and jumped off the shuttle. Making sure that India was alright, I went back to my seat to get my backpack, but it was gone. No one seemed to know where my backpack was. The shuttle began to drive away and I saw Carmela walking towards the door to the station without noticing that I had not gotten off the shuttle.

I once again frantically began looking for my backpack. Asking all the other passengers, “Have you seen my backpack? Have you seen my backpack?” The shuttle began to leave and I reached for my cell phone to call Carmela. My cell phone was also missing. As I said, it was a familiar city. It felt like Salt Lake, but I realized Carmela and I don’t take shuttles to the airport on a shuttle tram. This was a much larger city. All around me were large buildings and subway stops. This did not look like Oakland or Berkeley or any place that I regularly traveled, but it felt familiar. I jumped off the shuttle, thinking that my cell phone must just be in another pocket or in my jacket and that it would all make sense once I found my cell phone and called Carmela.

Jumping off the shuttle, I suddenly found myself in a crowded downtown area. Something did not feel right. I tried to ask the people around me what city I was in, but no one seemed to speak English. In fact, I couldn’t tell what language they were speaking. I kept thinking, “I just need to get my cell phone and call Carmela and everything will be ok.” As I looked in all my pockets for my cell phone, I realized my wallet was missing. Then I began to think, this cannot be happening to me. This is a dream, I could not lose Carmela, my backpack, my suitcase, my cell phone, wallet and money. This is a bad dream, but how do I wake up. I have to call Carmela. If I can call Carmela it will ground me to reality. I wandered all over this city, I kept thinking how can this be happening to me, it’s too long to be a dream and if it was a dream, “HOW DO I WAKE UP!” Just as my panic level reached this high point, I turned a corner and suddenly found myself turning in bed. I lay there wondering what a strange dream. I looked at the clock and it was 7:45 a.m. I remembered that an alarm had rang at 7:00 a.m. and at 7:30 but I had turned them off to sleep a little longer. The dream seemed to have been at least 8 or 9 hours, but in the reality I awoke to, it had only been 15 minutes.

Hearing Carmela in the bathroom, I shouted to her, I just had the strangest dream. I got up and told her my dream and she said, “Welcome to my brain.” Now you know what my mind feels like every day. We laughed and I asked her, “How do I know this isn’t a dream.” She said, “You don’t. This could be like the movie ‘The Matrix’ and you are Neo.” I just looked at her and shook my head. Buddhism always explains that this life is like a dream. It is a life fueled by our bonno, that constantly fills our life, like the snow constantly falling this winter. Just as I was searching for the phone to wake me up and to find my foundation in Carmela, the only thing true and real is the Nembutsu. Each of us, are living our lives in dreams of unexpected beauty, confusion, horror and boredom. The one thing we should each wake up which can help us live a true and real life is Namo Amida Butsu. Please join us for Hoonko and our temple’s New Year Luncheon on January 22.

~ J.K. Hirano