Generally, Yakudoshi for men and women is different. The most common age for Yakudoshi for a women is the age of 33 and for men, the age of 42.
Why was the man’s age at 42 and woman’s age at 33? According to legend, when a boy reaches the age of 13, he is considered to be a man (adult), and at the age of 42, he is considered to be retired. For females, young girls, even at the age of 12, were married and "at the age of 14 they had already given birth." Because they worked hard, by the age of 33, their physical condition was poor, and they became quickly ill
Both male and female around those ages of 42 and 33 were both physically and mentally passed their prime and truly it was their turning point. As I mentioned, they were physically passed their prime time so even if they had a small incident, it became severe as a result of their age.
Yakudoshi is guiding us or teaching us that we must take good care of about our body more than before—do not drink too much, do not eat too much, do not do too much physical and mental work.
My understanding of "Yakudoshi" is based on my observations so it may not be the perfect answer as to the true meaning of Yakudoshi. I do not believe this belongs to any religion, but it gave people a feeling of fear and created a misunderstanding of the true meaning of salvation.
As a minister, I have attended numerous Yakudoshi parties for both male and female and did the invocation at the party. Whenever I go to the Yakudoshi party, I noticed that here in Hawaii most people believe that party is a happy occasion.
Several years ago, one of the families invited me to their son’s Yakudoshi party and asked me to do the invocation at his birthday, and at the same time the family asked me to explain the meaning of Yakudoshi. Before I delivered my invocation, I started by saying, "Happy birthday to you. May you and all your family receive infinite wisdom and compassion from our Buddha and rejoice in the happiness with others like this birthday party." Then I explain to them about my understanding of the Jodo Shinshu way of this special gathering as follows:
"The family asked me to explain to you about the meaning of ‘Yakudoshi’ so I would like to share with you my understanding and acceptance of this special party. This is the birthday party for Mr. A, and we all wish that Mr. A will be happy and have good health for many years. Yakudoshi is the turning point for all of us because when we reach this age, our physical condition also reaches the peak and from that point forward it will go downhill. So, Yakudoshi is guiding us or teaching us that we must take good care of about our body more than before—do not drink too much, do not eat too much, do not do too much physical and mental work. We must exercise moderately, and so on. So this means that we all would like Mr. A to live and take good care of his health and enjoy his precious life with his family. Your family and friends wishes you to enjoy your life with your precious family. So, please accept your family’s wishes. In Hawaii, today’s special party is a happy occasion. May you always be blessed with our Holy Buddha’s infinite wisdom and Compassion."
After my invocation, I received some nice comments from Mr. A and his friends. I believe that the old beliefs that unfortunate things will happen to people is not true, but it is for us to be careful and aware of many things in our lives. In the teachings of the Buddha, "A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another, the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another, it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden.
Through this "Yakudoshi Party", I truly discovered this Buddha’s word that "family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. All people who came to the party made the place truly beautiful as a flower garden." As a Hongwanji minister, I truly felt that we all are inheriting the great value of care and joy through the dynamic guidance of Nembutsu and we all are receiving the great wisdom and compassionate heart of Amida-sama. How wonderful we are.
Namo Amida Butsu