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THE VOICE OF THE BUDDHIST NEW YEAR
Bell
By Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy:  The S. F. Asian Museum

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In the morning of  December 31st, 2017, twelve hours before THE TIMES SQUARE BALL in New York City descends 141 feet from the roof, of the #1 building in 60 seconds at midnight to announce the New Year, the coming of 2018 was announced in  the Sansung Hall inside the Asian Museum in San Francisco with the sound of a bell ringing l08 times, SILVIA CHANG,  the program’s organizer and  Museum Educator for Public Programs, tells CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL that the “ JOYA NO KANE Bell-ringing  ceremony” is the biggest and  most important Buddhist ceremony in Japan, where people travel to the Buddhist temples throughout the country to hear their bells ring.  Each bell rings l08 times, One ring per  bonno the wordly desires or anxieties that according to Buddhist belief torment humankind.  In Japan, the ringing of the bells starts in the old year and finishes right as the clock strikes midnight..
Ms. CHANG adds “the sound of the bell is enchanting,” she says “and it is meant to focus you on being in the moment. Many people come just to  listen to the bell being rung for many hours. We are fortunate to have a 2,l00 pound l8th Century bell in our collection that we also allow the public to ring.

Bell Inscriptions

The inscriptions on the museum’s  bell include Buddhist texts and information about the bell’s creation such as the artist’s name, date and temple name.
The following verses are in raised text alongside the figures of the four guardian kings of the east, south, west, and north in the four squares that surround the bell. They come from the Nirvana Sutra and express the essence of that text. All things lack permanence This is the law of birth and death Extinguish birth and death Cessation leads to bliss
These larger inscriptions appear in raised text on the front and back of the bell in a single vertical line. They seem to rise up out of lotus blossoms.
The text: Praise Amitabha Buddha Praise Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is carved into the bronze on the right side of the bell. This verse is chanted after reading a sutra aloud. Reading the sutra creates  merit, and saying the  invocation passes the merit on to other beings who are suffering so that they can attain liberation.
We vow to confer our merit on all beings equally May one and all attain awakened mind, be born     in the land of bliss.
—Translations by Melissa Rinne, former associate curator
    of Japanese art, Asian Art Museum
This y Rev. GENGO AKIVA will begin the bell ringing and participants may then take turns ringing the bell to leave behind any unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds or ill luck from the previous year.  In that, the S.F. ceremony  is different than the ceremony in Japan. While  waiting for their turn, people could make a wish, add a crane to to the museums 1,000 origami cranes or paint a netsuke (charm) for the year of the DOG. The ceremony include a purification ritual and the chanting of the Buddhist Heart Sutra.

THE CEREMONY

At the heart of HOYA NO KANE the ceremony is “The Heart Sutra” known in Buddhism as the The Perfection of  wisdom Sutra.  It is chanted by the Buddhist Monks.

It is believed that this sutra came to the  the mind of the  noble AVALOKITATESHVARA BODHISSATVA  while practicing the deep practice of  PRAJNAPARAMIT. and that in the process, the bodhisativa of Compassion discovered that  the SKANDHAS were empty of existence (lacked soul)
For the benefit of our  CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL’s  Westerner readers unfamiliar with BUDDHIST rituals or names,  we see necessary  to start by explaining  that there  are  Five Skandhas, and that  called in The Sanskrit they are called Aggregates or Heaps,
What are the SKANDHAS?
The Skandhas are the temporary “components” that, together and as a unit, form the self of an individual. They represent the personal, but transitory, elements of any  living  person. They are:  body, perception (the process of perceiving, or insight)  conception (The ability to understand mental concepts volition (the faculty of choosing or will) and consciousness (Special awareness or sensitivity)

Priest

SUTRAS
In Buddhism, Sutras  are conical scriptures, many of them regarded as records of the oral teachings of Gautama Buddha.. The sutra that all phenomena bear the mark of emptiness, was an insight that the noble Avalokitateshvara Bodhisattva,  received by the Buddha, when she was practicing the deep practice of  Prajnaparamitra, the central concept in Mahayana Buddhism associated with the doctrine of emptiness (Shunyate) or lack of essence (Svabhava). and looking upon the Five Skandhas (previously discussed) Its practice and understanding are indispensable to the Bodhisattva path of  perception, mental formation and consciousness.

Priest  

THE HEART SUTRA
Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom Sutra chanted by  The monks. Is the insight that  the venerable SHARIPUTRA one of the two chief male disciples of GAUTAMA BUDDHA, through the power of Buddha, conveyed to the mind of the bodhisattva AVALOKITESVARA, the  Buddah of compassion, to teach her how to practice the activity of  PRAJNAPARAMITA which is the profound perfection of wisdom Although is very brief, it transcended knowledge. The concept that form is exactly emptiness practiced in the Heart Sutra overcomes ill-being and completely relieves misfortune and pain

DESCRIPTION OF THE HEART SUTRA

In the Sutra, all dharmas are defined by emptiness because they had  not birth or destruction, purity or defilement, completeness or deficiency. They had no form, no sensation, no perception, no memory and no consciousness. No eye, ear, nose, tongue body and no mind. 

No shape, no sound, no smell, no taste, no feeling and  no thought.  no element of perception, from eye to conceptual consciousness;  No causal link, from ignorance to old age and death. No suffering, no source, no relief, no path; No knowledge, no attainment.
Becoming aware of this,  it is advised that Buddhists  take refuge in Prajnaparamita and live without walls  of the mind. That (only) without walls of the mind they will be without fears, and be able to see through delusions and finally reach nirvana.
According to the Buddhists  the mantra heals all suffering, is true, nor false and that all Buddhas past, present and future who take refuge in PRAJNAPARAMITA will reach unexcelled perfect enlightenment. The mantra continues:
Know the great mantra of Prajnaparamita, the mantra of great magic, the  unexcelled mantra, the mantra equal to the unequalled, which heals all suffering and is true, not false,

 ‘Gone, gone, gone to the other shore; Gone completely  to the other shore. Svaha. (Svaha meaning the end of the mantra.)
The ceremony ends with the ringing of the bell.

 

S.F. Asian Art Museum Bell Ringing Ceremony

December 31, 2014

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