Nirvana Day: The Death of the Buddha

There are arguably 3 major holidays in Buddhism, particularly Mahayana Buddhism, all centered around the life of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni (e.g. Siddhartha Gautama): his birth, awakening, and death. February 15th in the solar calendar marks the death of the Buddha, though many traditions still rely on any number of lunar calendars to track thisContinue reading “Nirvana Day: The Death of the Buddha”


Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about Socrates (or “So-crates” for those who remember Bill & Ted), and I went back and watched this old video by 8-Bit Philosophy. Socrates was a pretty interesting figure if even half of the stuff said about him was true. Socrates was highly influential and responsible forContinue reading “I KNOW NOTHING!!11”

What is the Nembutsu? A Not-So Brief Overview

For anyone who’s come across the Pure Land tradition in Buddhism, they will have almost certainly heard like terms “nenbutsu”, “nian-fo” and such. Pure Land Buddhism is a long, broad tradition within the even broader Mahayana Buddhism. But if I had to distill it into a 30-second explanation, the tradition is based on devotion toContinue reading “What is the Nembutsu? A Not-So Brief Overview”

What’s in a four-syllable phrase? Yojijukugo

Japanese as a language is somewhat unusual in that it belongs to its own language family¹ genetically but has inherited so much from the Asian mainland.  Chinese compound words make up a large bulk of Japanese vocabulary, even if the grammar and usage are entirely different, but that is not all. Japanese inherited pithy four-syllableContinue reading “What’s in a four-syllable phrase? Yojijukugo”

Pure Land Buddhism: How Many Times Should One Recite The Nembutsu?

  Way back when in 2005, I got my first exposure to Pure Land Buddhism in the city of Kyoto at a famous temple named Chion-in, where I saw a lone monk chanting evening prayers before a statue of the Buddha.  Something about that moment made a real impression on me and I carried thatContinue reading “Pure Land Buddhism: How Many Times Should One Recite The Nembutsu?”

The Japanese Zodiac Explained

This year, 2020, is in the Japanese (extended) zodiac the year of 庚子 (kano-é-ne).  The Japanese zodiac was originally based off the Chinese Lunar calendar, though this changed in the late 19th century when Japan moved toward rapid Westernization and industrialization. However, the 12-animal zodiac, or jūnishi (十二支), is still an important part of theContinue reading “The Japanese Zodiac Explained”

War? No Thank You: Wise Words from the Buddha

With all the talk lately about the US and Iran, I thought about this quote from a Buddhist text called the Dhammapada. The Buddha, said in the Dhammapada, verses 129-132: All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill. All trembleContinue reading “War? No Thank You: Wise Words from the Buddha”

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

I saw this Twitter post today by the awesome blog Sententiae Antiquae: “Alive for a day: What is a person? What is not a person? A human is a dream of a shadow” ἐπάμεροι· τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ #Pindar — sententiae antiquae (@sentantiq) January 8, 2020 This quotation by ancientContinue reading “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”