Happy New Year! Did you visit a temple (or shrine) on the first of January, and ring the bell 108 times, per Japanese tradition? The ringing of the bell represents the 108 bonno — defilements of man. Have you even wondered what exactly the 108 bonno are? Here is a list:

Ostentatiousness, grudge, gambling, ingratitude, dipsomania (make that 109 bonno if you don’t know what dipsomania is), ambition, dominance, faithlessness, manipulation, stinginess, pessimism, hostility, abuse, debasement, sexual lust, sarcasm (I’m not touching that one!), humiliation, jealousy, gluttony, unruliness, hurt, cruelty, unkindness, obstinacy, envy, indifference, negativity (in case you skipped pessimistic), furtiveness, sadism, enviousness, derision, falseness (think that includes teeth?), high-handedness, know-it-all, rage, aggression, rapacity, effrontery, disrespectfulness, hard-heartedness, power hungriness, lying, insidiousness, self-denial (really?), inattentiveness, contempt, wrath, haughtiness, greed for money, seducement, vindictiveness, insatiability, voluptuousness, excessiveness, censoriousness, dissatisfaction, egoism, ignorance, hatred, greed, impudence, imposture, cursing, imperiousness, lecherousness, callousness, malignancy, torment, intolerance, blasphemy, shamelessness, irresponsibility, obsession, prejudice, arrogance, violent temper, garrulity, dogmatism, presumption, intransigence, oppression, prodigality, lack of comprehension (like, for example, this list?), obstinacy, pride, conceitedness, delusion, quarrelsomeness, self-hatred, violence, vanity, hypocrisy, stubbornness, baseness, pretense, mercilessness, disrespect, ridicule, masochism, tyranny, capriciousness (oh, nooooo!), deceit, anger, discord, calculation, unyielding, desire for fame (say it ain’t so!) and deception.

Sniffle. How does anyone ever make it to heaven?!

One obvious omission from the 108 is humorlessness. Who came up with this list, anyway?

The problem with the list is, many people will not recognize themselves as possessing any traits on the list. After all, I’ve never met a racist who believes he’s racist.

On a lighter note, take the indifferent, callous Japanese “bicycle borrower.” This is the person who decides he needs a bicycle to get somewhere so “borrows” someone else’s. (Someone who albeit, irresponsibly neglected to lock his bicycle.) This is unbelievable to me. In my country, if we need a bicycle fast, we steal it.

And what about umbrella pinchers? These arrogant people will, upon leaving a building, notice the pouring down rain and take someone else’s umbrella from the stand — without any intention of returning it. Surely none of these people think of themselves as compulsive umbrella thieves. Nor do rapacious bicycle borrowers consider their actions bonno.

If we could break down the 108 into smaller categories and modernize the list a bit, it might be more relevant to the average person. We could even include the shameless people who cut the queue at the post office. Another one missing from the list is “fetishes.” Sexual lust is on the list, but I don’t think underwear fetishes qualify as lust, unless of course they’re silk undies from Frederick’s of Hollywood. But the average pair of used underwear? No one would be lusting after that, trust me.

And how many underwear thieves see the harm in pinching old, soiled underwear from the clothes line anyway? They’re probably doing the person a favor. Besides, this is petty crime, not grand larceny, as if the criminal is holding warehouses full of women’s panties worth thousands of dollars (and if they are, I’d like to see it because it would be a mighty impressive collection).

But still, stealing underwear is indecent (another word not on the list) and an inconvenience (not on the list) for the previous underwear owner, who now, in their pantiless condition, cannot even ride their bicycle. Which is why I think most underwear thieves are also bicycle borrowers.

Some people don’t like the translation of bonno as “defilements” and instead prefer to call them the 108 “misleading karmas.” Remember this the next time you’re pulled over for speeding. “Sorry officer, I was mislead by my karma.” Rather than giving you a ticket, he might send you home to meditate.

The opportunity to cleanse yourself of your bonno every year on January first makes me think that December must be a high crime month in Japan.

Of course, the purpose of ringing the bell 108 times is to cleanse yourself of all your bonno. So there you go, you don’t have anything to worry about anyway.

At least I hope not. You did ring that bell 108 times, didn’t you?

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.