Namo Amida Butsu

ON THE ISLAND OF MAUI, OBON SEASON BEGINS IN JUNE, and people truly enjoy participating in them. During the obon, "Obake stories" always makes people a little more curious about them. Just out of curiosity, do you believe in Obake? Obake is ghost in English. In Japan, there are many Obake stories, especially during Obon season. These stories are shown on the television and at movie theaters.

Living in Hawaii, we face and experience various multi-ethnic cultures and many of us have adopted them in our daily lives. For example, we eat sashimi, sushi, and nishime with chopsticks. I believe that these are Japanese foods, but it is not only the Japanese who eat these foods with chopsticks. Other people living in Hawaii have become accustomed to using chopsticks with these types of food. We eat Japanese foods at many occasions without any hesitation. However, not only do we adopt the food from other cultures, but also their superstitions as well.

"Bachi and Obake stories" are one of them and many people firmly believe these "Bachi and Obake stories" without having any proof. One Buddhist minister (not a Hongwanji minister) still tells people about "Bachi" and making people feel fear if they do not follow the minister’s or temple’s directions.

They might say, "To save you from these fears, you should purchase their ‘Omamori and Ofuda’ which is good luck charm or special blessing paper." How many of you believe that if you have these Omamori and Ofuda with you, you are saved from Bachi, Obake and misfortune?

One day I received a phone call from a local Japanese American and had the following conversation, "Sensei, there is an Obake that is coming to my house, I feel that I have bad spirits with me so called "Tsukimoto." So can you bless me and my house? I have the ‘Omamori and Ofuda’ with me but it’s not helping me at all." If I said "Hongwanji does not believe in such things, and we don’t do that kind of blessing or prayer, then we could lose a potential member." So, I felt that this is the most wonderful opportunity for me to share our Jodo Shinshu teaching and may also gain a new member. So I replied to him and said, "Ok, why don’t we set a date and time for this special service." Then he said, "Sensei, can you come as soon as possible?" It was Saturday morning around 10 a.m. so I told him "Okay." Then I got his address and went to his house. It was not far from the temple so I told him that I will be at your home within 10 to 15 minutes.

When I approached his house, I was able to recognize him because he was waiting outside of his house and as soon as he saw me he waved his hands and his body language look like telling me, "Sensei, this side."

When I came out from the car, he expressed his gratitude with his body language and bows his head and said to me, "Sensei, thank you very much for coming to my house in such short notice. Sensei, can you have a special service and bless this place and me."

So, I went in the house and chanted sutra and had him offer incense. After the short service, I asked him what was happening to him. Then he said, "You know Sensei, I always feel that my shoulders are getting so heavy, just like I am carrying someone on my back and getting so tired." I asked him, "Did you see that person’s face?" Then he said, "Well, she wore a white gown and she looked like my mother who passed away about 15 years ago. So, I told him that "We had a service and you offered the incense, did you feel that she is still here with you?" Then he said, "I think she went home."

So, I told him "Whenever an Obake visits you, you may chant the sutra and offer the incense, and then the Obake may go home." After we had the service, and he offered incense, he looked like he was satisfied so I left his house. The next morning I was wondering about him so I called his house. He said, "Sensei, you did a great job. Because you chanted the sutra, the Obake never came to my house last night. Can you please bring me a new Ofuda and Omamori to my house so that I am able to seal my house from the Obake?"

As you may know that we, the Hongwanji never used Ofuda and Omamori for any protection, and we have never made and sold those items. On top of that even if we have those items, I don’t think that we would be able to seal or protect anyone from any Obake. I visited his house on Sunday afternoon and heard more Obake stories from him.

At that time, he told me "Sensei, I have another Obake coming to my house from the back door. He usually comes around sunset time, so Sensei, can you do another special blessing and exterminate him." So, I asked him "Where the Obake is coming from?" Then he pointed towards the kitchen side of the back door. So I brought the incense burner, picture of the Buddha, and chanted the sutra and have him offer incense. When we finished the service, I asked him about "How often does the Obake come to your home?"

He replied, "He usually comes to my house during sunset time." So, I told him that I will come back around sunset time. When I arrived at his house around sunset time, I felt a really nice breeze from the mountain side but I noticed that outside of the kitchen door making a funny noise like "kata, kata, kata." Just like someone is trying to open the screen door. So I went to the kitchen side and discovered that one of the hinges of his screen door was loose.

Because of the wind it was making a very unusual noise, like someone is trying to break in. So I assumed that this was one’s true character which he is calling Obake so I ask him to bring a screw driver and tightened the few loose screws of the screen door and I closed it. After that there were no more funny noises coming from outside. Then, he said. "Sensei, just in case, can you please chant the sutra and bless this place. I don’t want him to come back after you leave my house." So, we did a short service and had him offer the incense. After the service he was showing much relief on his face. I told him that "I think the problem was this screen door. Even if I gave you "Ofuda or Omamori." if you didn’t fix this screen door, you will continue to hear the unusual sound. ‘Omamori and Ofuda’ would not solve this situation."

We, Jodo Shinshu do not believe that those items are able to solve Obake, Bachi or unexpected happenings in our lives. Instead of believing in those items, we should think positively that we are already embraced by the Buddha and walking in the path of truth. We shouldn’t have to worry about Obake and Bachi in our lives. I believe that superstition is one of the warning signs towards us, and telling us that we should not go into the dangerous areas, or not to do bad things to others and so on. I feel that our ancestors have left their wisdom or I would like to say expediencies to their children and grandchildren for them to stay away from any dangerous situations.

Obon is the most wonderful time for us to reflect upon by ourselves and for us to remember our ancestors’ wonderful guidance and thoughtful mind. When we put our hands together in Gassho and have a moment of silence, we are able to feel a warm feeling in our heart. This great feeling is their thoughtful mind, Omoiyarino kokoro in Japanese. We all inherit this value and legacy from our great ancestors in our precious life.

I firmly believe that Obon is for us to be aware of this very important guidance in our life.

Namo Amida Butsu