Getting In The Holiday Mood

The Holidays are fast-approaching, and to help get in the mood, I always enjoy this video:

Actually, I lied. This has nothing to do with the holidays. I just wanted to share it. This is a hack of the old Super Nintendo1 game Super Mario World, that follows some Japanese pop song. It’s a bit long, but fun to watch. How did someone make this?! o_O

Anyhow, enjoy!

1 Super Famicon (スーパーファミコン, Sūpā Famikon) for Japanese readers. ;)

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Thank You Everyone

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Hello,

It’s Thanksgivings Day here in the US. My family and I are preparing for a busy day of food and family.

In the US we have a tradition of telling others what we are thankful for this year.

For me, I am thankful for my blog readers. This blog is almost 7 years old and over time I’ve seen a lot of Japan/Buddhist blogs disappear. People get too busy, their lives change, etc. But somehow I have been able to keep going for 7 years thanks to encouragement and comments from readers.

So, thank you everyone. Even if you don’t leave comments and feedback, your readership and positive energy are appreciated.

Best wishes to everyone from me and my family this Thanksgiving!

Posted in Family, General | Tagged | 3 Comments

Getting To The Bottom Of Ferguson, Cutting Through the Madness

Two young, black men who have tragically lost their lives recently.

Two young, black men who have tragically lost their lives recently.

I was sad to hear about the verdict in the trial for police officer Darren Wilson. I felt bad for Mike Brown’s parents who lost their son, and for all those frustrated with life in Ferguson, MO.

But then I read another article by the BBC which shows how there are many, different eye-witness stories about what happened. Many people saw what happened, but they gave different versions and different viewpoints. So it was hard for the jury to find any concrete evidence.

"Rashomon poster 2" by Daiei, (c) 1950 - http://entertainment.webshots.com/photo/2011951000055228984dXleQp accessed 01-March-2008. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Rashomon poster 2″ by Daiei, (c) 1950. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Reading this reminded me of a famous old Japanese movie called Rashomon, which was originally a short story by the famous author Akutagawa Ryunosuke. The story and the movie take place at the famous Rashomon Gate (羅生門) in Kyoto where three men talk about a murder that recently happened.

The murder is told from four different viewpoints. The first three (the thief, the samurai’s wife and the samurai through medium) all contradict each other. It’s clear each person is telling their version of the story out of self-interest.

Only the final version of the story seems objective but not completely.

So, the film (and novel) teaches a lesson that people are frequently motivated by self-interest and will distort the truth to suit their own beliefs or desires. Oftentimes people do this without realizing it because most of the things we do in life are motivated by self-interest anyway.

But it’s because of this distortion that we are unable to see the truth. We see what we want to see even if it is not accurate.

I guess this is partly why so many witnesses at the scene of Mike Brown’s death are so contradictory. Everyone brings their personal “baggage” and judgments. But it’s even worse on social-media. Many people who did not witness the death of Mike Brown still give their opinions. Some say Darren Wilson is a racist cop, some say Mike Brown is a thug. Some say Mike Brown is a saint, others say Darren Wilson was performing his duty in a stressful environment. Maybe all these opinions are true. Maybe none of them are true.

To me, it seems like people’s opinions on social media tell us more about that person’s “personal baggage” and views than what actually happened.

Unfortunately, we may never know the whole story.

As a Buddhist, I see the loss of life, any life,1 as tragic. Thus, regardless of why or how it happened Mike Brown’s death still affects us all. People are angry, scared, frustrated, confused and now rioting in the streets. So, regardless of what actually happened, a violent death still degrades society that much more. If we continue to act in self-interest though, the cycle will repeat and more lives will be lost.

As I wrote in a previous post, we may not always be able to help incidents like this directly, but there things we can in our own lives, and our own community that will still benefit people in places like Ferguson and others.

The Buddha gave some help advice on this, as taught in the Dhammapada:

129. All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

130. All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

131. One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.

132. One who, while himself seeking happiness, does not oppress with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will find happiness hereafter.

133. Speak not harshly to anyone, for those thus spoken to might retort. Indeed, angry speech hurts, and retaliation may overtake you.

And elsewhere in the Metta Sutta:

Let no one deceive another
or despise anyone anywhere,
or through anger or irritation
wish for another to suffer.

Until people learn to talk face to face and listen, respect one another as fellow humans, misunderstandings will continue and violence will repeat itself. We will have to cut through the madness sooner or later or perish as a society.

P.S. More on differing viewpoints in American culture and Buddhism.

1 This is why Buddhist uses the term ‘all sentient beings’. Buddhism sees all beings equally, because the individual forms are temporary. One day a frog, the next day a banker, etc.

Posted in Buddhism, Hosso, Japanese, Literature | Leave a comment

MCD Flashcards For The Win

Lately, I’ve been converting my existing flashcards on Anki from basic flashcards (sentence or word on one side, translation on the other) into “MCD” cards. The idea for MCD was promoted by Khatzumoto at AJATT in this series of posts. The idea, as I understand it, is to test on parts of a sentence. One sentence can have 4 or 5 flash cards, one for each part of the sentence.

Lately, when I learn a new word in Japanese or Korean, i use an online dictionary (Goo for Japanese, Naver for Korean) to get an example sentence. I don’t want to make up my own sentence. I want to use sentences made by native speakers.

Then, I start making cards for each part of speech in the sentence. So for this sentence, 服の裏まで雨が染みとおる, I would break it up into 服の裏まで, 雨が, 染みとおる. So, I can make three cards. Here’s an example flashcard I made:

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Here, I focused just on the particle が (ga). This is to help me remember that が goes with the verb 染みとおる (shimitooru) meaning to soak through.

Here’s another example from another card, another sentence:

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This sentence has many parts of speech, so I can make many cards just from this one sentence. Here, I’m focusing on the verb 夜更かしする (yofukashisuru) meaning to stay up late.

The MCD method is much more helpful to me, because I’m learning new vocabulary and new grammar in context. When I was studying for the JLPT, I learned a lot of grammar and vocabulary but I learned it out of context, so in real life I often used it wrong. My words were too stiff, incorrect, etc. I still do this. But using the MCD method of making flashcards, I am slowly fixing this, and learning new words and grammar.

So, when reading Japanese manga, or Korean Twitter posts from Kpop people, I keep an eye out for new sentences to add to my MCD collection.

But what about my old cards? I am slowly converting or deleting them. If I still want to learn that word, I find example sentences and make MCD cards instead. If I really don’t need that word anymore, I delete it.

Sipmle as that. I’ve almost finished converting both my Japanese and Korean decks, so I hope to have just MCD cards only soon.

Posted in Japanese, Korean, Language | 2 Comments

Line Rangers as a Metaphor for My Marriage

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My wife and I play a game on our smartphones called Line Rangers or rain renjā (lineレンジャー) in Japanese. This is a Japanese game made by Naver JP (a Japanese-division of the Korean company, Naver), but is pretty popular all over Asia. There’s quite a few players in Taiwan and Thailand, it seems. Anyhow, we started about 1-2 months ago, and the game is very addicting. Basically, you collect characters (rangers) and you can train them, and form a team with them. Then you play through levels of monsters. As you fight the monsters, you deploy your characters over and over to form a little army. If you trained them well, you can fight your way through and destroy the enemy tower. You might also win an chance to get more rangers.

Some rangers are very silly. For example, there is one cranky old-man named KSM:

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No one knows what “KSM” stands for. But, I did a little research and I think KSM means 恐妻マン (kyōsaiman) which might mean something like “hen-pecked man”. It’s a joke because the ranger is supposed to be a henpecked husband. Kyōsai means the same thing in Japanese, and “man” is based on the English “man” as in “Superman”, “Batman”, etc. But this is just a guess.

My wife and I have different playing styles. I started playing first, and spent a lot of time reading tips and strategy webpages. I pushed through pretty quickly, and got far into the game, but then I stalled for a long time. My wife’s strategy is slower, more cautious. She tends to wake up a night because of the baby, so she plays each night, slowly building up her characters. Her progress is slower, but unlike me, she doesn’t stall for a long time. She makes slow, steady progress. I tend to get lucky on the “random” rangers, but she is better at utilizing the basic rangers she gets. :)

We tend to act the same way in real life too. I am impulsive and nerdy, so I are a lot and make lots of strategies. My wife is more cautious and less impulsive, but also more diligent and hard-working. I guess opposites attract, or something.

Line Rangers, like many phone games, can be played for free, but if you spend money, you can get extra characters, abilities, etc. We both agreed that we wouldn’t spend any money. It makes progress a lot slower, but I feel the money spent would not be worth it. Another thing I like about Line Rangers is that friends can help each other out. You can call friends into battle once per 24 hours, and you can also do “friendly” battles with each other. If we had more friends, we could make a team, but for now it’s just the two of us.

Anyhow, Line Rangers is a fun game, but it is a huge time-sink (aren’t they all?), so unless you want to invest a lot of time on it, you might be better off avoiding it. But for my wife and I, it is a fun thing to share together. We sometimes talk about it during the morning over breakfast or at night after the kids are asleep.

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Ignorance

Something I found on Twitter recently. Enjoy!

The person who wrote this, Heinrich Khunrath, was a physician, philosopher and alchemist in the 16th century. The German phrase, was helffen falken, licht oder briln, so die levt nicht sehen wollen is translated as “what good are torches, lights or glasses if people do not want to see?”.

This is a good reminder that people can get so caught up in beliefs, that they refuse to see the truth, even if it is right in front of them.

It reminds me of a quote from the novel Dune, specifically from the holy book the “Orange Catholic Bible”:

Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us? What is there around us that we cannot know?

Or from the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra (quoted here too):

For him [the Buddha] there is no birth or death, neither retreat from nor emergence into the world. Nor is there any existing in the world and entering extinction follow that. Nothing is simply real, nothing simply empty, nothing as it seems, nothing the opposite. The threefold world is not as we experience it.

Deep words to think about. :)

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Investing in the Future

Hello,

After giving up on Zen and before I got sick, I decided to go back and read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Finding Our True Home. As time goes on, I appreciate this book more and more. Today, I wanted to share this passage (I added [ ] for clarification):

At our last hour we are in a great deal of pain and we may not have the strength of remember to recollect the Buddha [念仏]. The important thing is to practice today. We should recollect the Buddha today, even if it is only once or twice. Though people say it’s all superstition, we continue to recollect the Buddha, because we know that by recollecting in this way we are sowing wholesome seeds in our consciousness. If everyday we recollect the Buddha once or ten times, then when the hour of our death comes it is certain that we shall not be afraid; the address and telephone number are stored in our memory and whenever we need them we can call them to mind.

Sister Thuan Nghiem, a nun here at Plum Village, has told us how, when she was growing up in Germany, her sisters made her learn to recite her address from memory. That way, if she lost her way, she would be able to tell someone her address and they could bring her home. That is the advantage of knowing your address. If we have a home but we do not know the address, how can we ever find our way there? We should memorize the name of our home and its address so that when we have nowhere to turn to and we feel we’re being swept away by the winds and the waves, we remember the name and address of our home and we can find our way back. (pg. 102-103)

Good advice, I think.

Posted in Buddhism, Jodo Shu, Religion, Zen | Tagged , , | 1 Comment