Boom … Boom … Boom. Bam. Bam. Bam. Boom … Boom … Boom. Bam. Bam. Bam. Boom … TapTapTapTapTapTap. Boom … Boom … Boom … Bam. Bam. Bam. Boom. TapTapTapTapTapTap. Boom. … Boom … Boom … Boom.
Following the hypnotic beats of the taiko drums – and the succulent scents of roast pork and fried akule wafting through the air – we found our way to the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Waimea Temple bon dance last weekend. Undeterred by passing showers, community members trickled in and out of the temple’s yard where the lantern-lined ring was established.
Some stuck to spectating, others adorned with bright colors for the festive occasion circled inside dancing as one in sync to the music.
This weekend’s bon dance in Kapa‘a wrapped up the 2011 season hosted by the Kaua‘i Buddhist Council, but there are a handful of other organizations, like Mahelona Hospital and KVMH, putting on their own events this month.
Bon season is certainly something to savor. Although it’s really a memorial service to remember loved ones, the mood is not somber. I’d venture to say over my years of taking in the bon dances around Kauai, I routinely see more smiles at these special occasions than I do at the county fair.
There’s a certain feeling in the air at bon dances. I can’t capture it in words, and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe it’s the spirit of Amida Buddha, I don’t know. All I am sure of is bon dances are a place I feel not only welcome, but present.
Living in the moment is not something I particularly excel at, but I make a concerted effort to improve at this each day. It’s tough to stop worrying about all the planning that needs done for tomorrow and all the things could have been done better yesterday. But I’m trying.
My better half has taught me a lot about this. She entered her first bon dance like she was right at home. I suppose since she was born and raised in the Isles, she may have had a head start on me.
After reading some sutras under the Buddha statue and meditating as the dancers went round, I could see in her eyes that the essence of the bon dance had transported her, so to speak, to another place. I’ll see her there soon, I tell myself.
Even if you’re not into the spiritual aspect of obon season, as I confess I wasn’t until recently, there is much to enjoy and soak in at each dance in the way of local grinds and family bonding. I managed to find room for a flying saucer and shave ice after working my way through the roast pork plate. But even there, locals know best and my girlfriend educated me on the importance of adding a scoop of ice cream under the shave ice. And rainbow flavor. Always rainbow.
“A jug fills drop by drop.” — Buddha