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Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year's Ritual

And so in January, New Year's Day, we renew all the decorations, so we carry old ones to the shrine. Old, old small shrines, or just stone deity called a Dosojin. Most of the days we do not know even there is a Dosojin. But on New Year's Day, or from New Year's Day to January 14th, old symbols and ornaments will be there. People, you know, take them to the old shrines.
So at that time, we realize that, “Oh, here is shrine.” On January 14th we make pretty big shrine, maybe six feet high, with straw. And when it is dark, we set fire on it and burn it. And children come with mochi rice balls. Mochi rice balls are made on New Year's Day and we put it on the branches of a kind of tree and we decorate it in front of altar. And on January 14th, children take all the small rice balls, dango, and bake them in that fire we made with the old decorations. Some people knows why we do this and some don't.

My mother told me the story of why we do it. All the year round, Dosojin, that spirit, lived in various parts of the village, and knows who observes good precepts and who doesn't. He is supposed to keep a record, as the ino also does [laughs] in Tassajara zendo or City zendo [laughing]: who attends zazen and how many times someone didn't come. He has that kind of responsibility. So he is supposed to have all the records, and January 15th is the day when when some spirit comes to check his notes. And when someone didn't observe precepts, an evil spirit comes and checks the record. And if someone didn't observe good precepts, then that evil spirit will visit his home [laughs].

That was the idea, but Dosojin is very good spirit. So before the evil spirit comes he burns the records. And he may say: “Yesterday evening we had a big fire [laughs], so I have no more records. They were burned away, so I am sorry." So wherever the evil spirits goes, many deities, you know, will say “I'm sorry. We had a big fire, and we have no records. So [laughs] I am sorry. Next year I will be very careful. Please come next year.” [Laughs.] So tge evil spirits don't know where to go, so all the villagers will be protected from the evil spirits. That is the story. - from Shunryu Suzuki lecture 71-07-29.