Since 1965 the Spokane Buddhist Temple has been located in the middle of the South Perry business district. It occupied an old church until that structure burned down in April 1992. The new temple was constructed soon after, and tonight the congregation will open its doors to neighbors and friends of all denominations for New Year’s Eve.
”This particular service, Joya-e, is also called ‘the last night gathering’ and it’s not a big or very formal service,” said Jefferson Workman, who will become a minister’s assistant at the temple in January. “We will have a small dharma talk during the service. This is our time to express our gratitude for all the causes and conditions that have allowed us to continue through the past year.”
A dharma talk is a presentation on an aspect or teaching within Buddhism given by a Buddhist teacher.
“At this time of the year, we often reflect on the interdependence of how things work in our lives,” said Workman. “We reflect on how we are interconnected with other people and how our lives crisscross other peoples’ lives.”
For instance, said Workman, think of a meal: Before it arrived at the table, someone grew the food, someone transported it to the store, someone stocked the shelves so the food could be purchased.
“As Buddhist, we don’t live our life separate from everyone else’s life – New Year’s is a time to think about that,” said Workman.
Part of the New Year’s service is the striking of the Kansho – the calling bell – 108 times.
Workman explained that 108 represents the 108 “bonno,” or afflictions that hold humans in this world.
“These afflictions are what are imperfect about us, like greed,” Workman said.
The act of ringing the bell symbolizes the aspiration to overcome the 108 afflictions – such as anger and ignorance – in the new year, and letting go of afflictions of the old year.
“I’m often asked if I celebrate Christmas, and I usually say yes, because we as Buddhists recognize it as a religious holiday but don’t celebrate it in the traditional way,” Workman said. “The spirit of Christmas is about gratitude and selfless giving and reflection – this is the time of year to celebrate those ideas.”
At the New Year’s Eve service, everyone will be invited to ring the Kansho at least once.
“We divide the 108 with the number of people who show up,” Workman said. “Everyone is welcome. It’s just a nice way to celebrate New Year’s.”