The Wailuku Hongwanji Mission’s (WHM) Board of Directors initiated the Vision 2030 project as a means of defining strategic directions which will enable WHM to successfully increase its capacity to serve as a vibrant home of Jodo Shinshu teachings. More information...
To commemorate its 115th anniversary, Wailuku Hongwanji Mission will renovate its social hall. The renovations involve removing the existing wood sliding glass doors and replacing them with commercial grade, aluminum sliding glass doors. More Information...
Most of the Hongwanjis in the State of Hawaii will observe their annual Eitaikyo service in November. This special service is also known as the "Sangha Memorial Service" here in Hawaii. The literal meaning of Eitaikyo is translated as "Eternal Generation Sutra." The Rev. Tetsuo Unno, Buddhist Churches of America’s retired minister, commented on this service as follows: "Eitaikyo is the service of chanting the sutra for generations as an act for the beneficences received from our ancestors."
As a minister, I have many opportunities to officiate memorial services at the temple, at homes, and at cemeteries. I usually express feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the deceased person in my memorial messages. I also share the "Dharma" or the teachings and guidance of Shakyamuni Buddha with family members so they will be better able to express their gratitude for the deceased.
Sutra is the Buddha’s teaching in the form of a chant. At one memorial service, a family asked me to chant the English version of the sutra, "Gassho to Amida", because of their grandchildren who were at the services. The family wanted their grandchildren to understand the meaning of the sutra. "Gassho to Amida" is not a traditional sutra, but most Hongwanji temples in Hawaii adopted its use at Sunday morning services. I provided the service books and asked them to chant together with me. When I started chanting "Gassho to Amida" I couldn’t hear the family’s voices. However, slowly the family members joined in chanting with me. After the recitation of the sutra, I expressed the following to the family, "When we call Amida’s Name, Amida Buddha is calling us, too. This means that with Amida’s guidance, Amida and we are united as one.”
The sutras that we recite today were not written by the Buddha himself because written forms of his teachings did not exist during his time. The Buddha’s teachings were passed orally from generation to generation until finally, several Buddhist scholars gathered to share their knowledge and understanding of the Buddha’s teachings about 500 years after the Buddha’s passing. The late Taido Matsubara of Komazawa University commented that, "With the passage of time, the words from the Buddha were changed because nothing was kept in written records. Also, because different villages used different dialects and languages, trying to understand and translate the Buddha’s messages was a difficult task". Countless Buddhist scholars spent immeasurable hours organizing the Buddha’s words and teachings into sutras. Some of the important points of his guidance may have been omitted or amended, but the scholars did their best to put what they believed were the Buddha’s original messages into written recordings in sutra form.
Originally, all sutras were written in Sanskrit on bamboo stalks. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia, the sutras were translated into different languages. When Buddhism was introduced into Japan over a thousand years after the Buddha’s death, Japanese Buddhist priests originally used the same sutras as the Chinese. Over time, the sutras gradually evolved into a form that was closer to the Japanese language.
Jodo Shinshu accompanied the first large scale Japanese immigrants onto the western shores about 150 years ago. With the spread of Buddhism in the west, many sutras were translated into English, and the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii has played a major role in promulgating the use of English versions of sutras. Through the use of English versions of sutras, non-Japanese speaking temple members are able to understand the meaning of sutras. Although language translation is often not precise, the gist of the Buddha’s original words is perpetuated in the current day sutras. And, sutras still serve their original intent of teaching us and guiding us down the Dharma path of truth in our daily lives.
Sutras serve to ensure that the Dharma will live on. Another means to ensure that a legacy lives on is leading by example so that succeeding generations will model and follow the examples. Growing up, we all remember the many lessons we learned from our parents and grandparents. At memorial services, I sometimes ask people to close their eyes and think of a deceased loved one and to try to recall a lesson learned from the deceased person. Amazingly, despite losing their grandparents many years earlier, many remember their "Ojiji" (grandfather) or "Obaba" (grandmother) who always said "Gambare" which means "do your best and hang on — don’t give up!" I, too, lost my grandparents many years ago, and I still remember them telling me, "Gambare!
As a parent, and now a grandparent, I find myself repeating the same words and lessons taught to me by my family members who came before me. I consider the lessons and pearls of wisdom left by them to be personal treasures. I am confident they will live on in the future generations of my family. In the collected works of Shinran Shonin using the passage from "Land of Happiness" it is said, "I have collected true words to aid other parishioners for attaining birth, in order that the process be made continuous, without end and without interruption, by which those who have been born first guide those who come later, and those who are born later join those who were born before. This is so that the boundless ocean of birth-and-death is exhausted." As this passage suggests, we are all able to learn from those who came before us and we are obligated to pass our knowledge on to successive generations.
The Eitaikyo service provides a wonderful opportunity for each of us to connect with Buddha’s spiritual guidance. It is a time to remember that in our daily lives, we are guided by the values and principles held by our ancestors and the Nembutsu. It is also a time for us to reflect on our own lives to make an assessment of our own faults and blind passions. As the Buddha preached about 2500 years ago, in order to grow spiritually and live in serenity, we must first recognize and address our own faults.
Because we are all humans, we can never be free from the chains that bind us to our blind passions. However, by trying to follow the Dharma teachings and living by the values passed on to us by our ancestors, we each can attain some degree of "Magokoro" or a peaceful and sincere mind and spirit. I know I speak for each of us when I say I would like to pass any level of Magokoro I may have attained on to my children and their offspring to help them to be better able to experience the legacy of Amida Buddha’s infinite wisdom and compassion. As a reverend, it is my hope that the lessons learned from your ancestors coupled with your acceptance of the Nembutsu teachings will enable you to reach a some degree of Magokoro which you in turn can pass on to others to help guide them down Amida’s path.
May we all pass our acceptance of the Nembutsu to others and rejoice in spiritual happiness.
Namo Amida Butsu