蝉の声

夏が終わりにさしかかるにつれ、そろそろ心が9月24日の秋のお彼岸法要に向かいます。この季節はお寺の雰囲気をより味わうことができ、小林一茶(いっさ)(1763~1827)のこの俳句がこころに響いてきます。

小坊主や袂の中の蝉の声
こぼうずや たもとのなかの せみのこえ

昔から日本ではお寺が子供の教育の重要な役割を果たしてきました。現在にいたっても多くのお寺が近所の子供たちが通う保育園や幼稚園を経営しています。一茶の当時、子供の保護が出来ない家族は子供を小僧としてお寺に預かることも珍しくありませんでした。一茶自身が信仰していた浄土真宗のお寺は家族で営むことが多く、子供は幼い時から仏教のお勤めと教えを学んでいました。

蝉の鳴き声といえば日本の夏を思い出します。昔から、蝉という大きくて、立派な泣き声をする昆虫は子供に興味深く、多くの子供たちが蝉を捕まえ虫籠に入れて遊んできました。上記の俳句を読むと一茶の周りの小坊主たちが在家の子供たちと同様に遊んでいたことが分かります。その当時、あるお寺は修行の道場でありながらも、一方で子供の楽しい遊び場としても存在していました。小坊主たちはお勤めを学び、教典を勉強しつつ、夏には蝉を捕まえ、それを衣の袂に入れて遊んでいたのです。

出家してお寺に入った小坊主たち以外に、在家の子供たちも寺院の中の寺子屋で読み書きや算盤を習いにお寺に通ってきていました。サンマテオ仏教会で行われている「サマー寺子屋」というサマーキャンプは日本の寺子屋の古い仏教教育の伝統を受けながら運営されています。

サマー寺子屋に参加している子供たちは交代交代でお勤めの調声をし、毎朝大乗仏教の根本実践法である六波羅蜜(布施、持戒、忍辱、精進、禅定、智慧)を学びました。サマー寺子屋が行われていた一週間の間、お寺は小学一年生から高校一年生までの子供たちが仏教の伝統と教えを学ぶ道場であると同時に、面白いひょっとこの面を作ったり、友達と歌を歌ったり、駐車場でバドミントンをしたりして、子供たちが楽しく遊ぶ場でもありました。

一茶は念仏に生かされていた人でした。念仏に生かされるということは親鸞聖人の言葉に次のように表されています。

男女貴賤ことごとく 弥陀の名号称するに
行住座臥もえらばれず 時処諸縁もさはりなし
(『浄土真宗聖典 註釈版』 594頁)

念仏に生かされるということは日常生活から離れることなく、毎日の仕事と遊びの中で仏様の智慧の光に照らされていることに気づくことを意味します。9月17日のお参りでは、サマー寺子屋の子供たちがお勤めを担当し、寺子屋の思い出を発表してもらう予定ですので、是非ご一緒にお参りください。

南無阿弥陀仏


Cicadas

As summer draws to an end and we prepare to welcome the change of seasons with our Autumn Ohigan service on September 24 at 9:30 a.m., I have been enjoying the following haiku by the Japanese poet Issa (1763-1827) that captures the atmosphere of our temple in recent weeks:

Kobōzu ya
tamoto no naka no
semi no koe.

Little monk, I hear the cicada in the sleeve of your robe.

Buddhist Temples have long played an important role in children’s education in Japan. Today many temples run preschools and kindergartens that are attended by local children. In Issa’s day, it was not uncommon for children whose families were not able to provide for them to be placed in the care of a Buddhist temple, where they received education and underwent religious training. Issa himself was devoted to the Jodo Shinshu Nembutsu tradition, in which most temples are run by families, with children being brought up from an early age to help out with religious services.

The call of cicadas is a constant refrain to late summer life in Japan. These large and vocal insects are fascinating creatures, and catching them and keeping them as pets has been a favorite entertainment of Japanese children for centuries. This poem tells us that the children Issa knew who had entered Buddhist life at an early age had fun and played just like other children. Buddhist temples in Issa’s day were places for serious religious practice, but the life of many temples was also punctuated with the joy and playfulness of childhood. The young monks at the temple learned to chant and studied the sutras, but they also caught cicadas and carried them around in the sleeves of their robes.

In addition to children who ordained and lived the monastic life from a young age, there were children who lived with their families but regularly went to a Buddhist temple to learn to read, write and calculate with an abacus. These early education programs conducted by temples were called terakoya. At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, we model our Summer Terakoya program after the terakoya that have played such an important role in the education and spiritual growth of Buddhist children for generations in Japan.

During our Summer Terakoya, the participants took turns leading sutra chanting in the Hondo and the recitation of the Six Paramitas (giving, discipline, patience, endeavor, meditation and wisdom), the six key virtues that serve as the cornerstone of Mahayana Buddhist life. While Summer Terakoya is a place for children grades 1 to 9 to learn Buddhist traditions and deepen their understanding of the Dharma, it is also a place to play badminton in the parking lot, design a silly hyottoko mask, and sing songs with friends.

Issa lived in the Nembutsu, a Buddhist way of living that permeates our lives and was encouraged by Shinran in the following words:

For all people – men and women, of high station and low –
Saying the Name of Amida is such
That whether one is walking, standing, sitting, or reclining is of no concern
And time, place, and condition are not restricted.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 385)

In the Nembutsu, we find that rather than abandoning our daily activities to pursue an ideal of Buddhist practice, our lives are transformed such that we encounter the boundless wisdom and compassion of the Buddha in our everyday activities of work and play. If you’d like to learn more about how our Terakoya youth experienced the joy of the Nembutsu during their time at the temple this summer, please join us for service on Sunday, September 17, when the Terakoya participants will be leading service and talking about their experiences.

Namo Amida Butsu