Recently, while contemplating experiences my wife and I shared while in Japan, I was reminded of one of our favorite Buddhist traditions to which we had been introduced. That particular tradition is the ringing of the temple bell 108 times on New Years Eve; known as Joya no Kane [ 除夜の鐘.] The rings represent the 108 elements of bonō [ 煩悩 ], mental states that lead people to take unwholesome actions. Since I have always told myself that one day I would look into exactly what these 108 defilements are; it occurred to me there is no time like the present. So, I began to research and on a positive note, made the delightful finding that if one reads to the end of Shobogenzo ( the Nishijima-Cross translation ) he/she comes to Appendix III; Ippyakuhachi-hōmyōmon which lists the One Hundred and Eight Gates of Dharma Illumination. In there it is noted:
Now, mind you, I have not abandoned my research of the 108 defilements (more on that later) but, on further reflection I discovered the happy coincidence that there are 108 days between this year's winter Soltice, December 21 and Vesak 2014 (the traditional day the birth of Buddha is commemorated in Japan.) Consequently, what I propose to do in service to our Sangha is starting on December 21st, on each of those days I will post as a blog entry, a description of the respective Gate along with a graphic representation and a gatha, to assist us all in remembering the merit of studying these fascets of the Dharma."In compiling this chapter, Master Dōgen quoted two long paragraphs from the Butsuhongyōjikkyō,
a biographical sutra about Gautama Buddha. This chapter forms the eleventh chapter in the twelve-chapter edition of the Shōbōgenzō, but it is not included in either the ninety-five–chapter edition or the seventy-five–chapter edition."
This project and winter both begin next Saturday. You'll find my Blog here