Namo Amida Butsu
Have you ever heard the words or phrase of "Ofukuro no aji?" Whenever I go to the Japanese restaurants, there is the menu and it reads, "Ofukuro no aji." Translated, this special phrase means "Mother’s taste." When it comes to our mother’s cooking, we all remember the taste of food and believe that our mother’s food is always so special, as we are able to remember the love, smile, happiness, and so on. For myself, my mother passed away 7 years ago and I truly miss her very much. Wh
But now that she is no longer with us, I really regret that I did not express the enjoyment toward the great taste of my mother’s food and should have told her, "Mom, your food is always the best and number one in the world."
I realize that one of the old Japanese phrase that goes something like this, "Itsumade mo aruto omouna oya to kane" is so true. The English translation is as follow, "Do not ever think that your parents and money will stay with you forever."
A few months ago, I held a memorial service for one of our temple member at his home. After the memorial services, we had dinner together with the entire family. There were so many delicious dishes and one of the dishes which caught my eyes was "nishime" and without any hesitation I ate a lot. While I was eating it, one of the family members said, "Sensei, you like nishime, don’t you. Eat plenty." At the same time I recalled my mother’s nishime. There were "daikon, araimo, renkon, chicken, carrots, and so on" and I felt that the person who made this nishime spent many hours to prepare this food, so I had rapped my mother’s images and ate it with the warm feeling of gratitude.
What is this warm feeling of gratitude? I believed that it is one we have in our hearts, also known as "the feeling of peace and serenity, and unconditional trust" towards our mother. We have all experienced this feeling when we are born from our mother, having able to taste the love through cooking since our childhood, and feeling the warmth of our mother’s soft hands. We have received these great feeling of gifts through our mouth, ear, heart, and entire body. That is the reasons why the beautiful word of "Okaasan or Mom" is flowing out from our mouth without knowing any reasons. Even if we are away from our mother for many years, we have never forgotten the wonderful taste of our mother’s food.
About 29 years ago, I was given a book by a Hongwanji member and she said, "Sensei, my brother wrote this. Whenever you have time please read it." He was a Christian minister. He was born in Hiroshima, Japan and immigrated to Hawaii with his family when he was a child. As you may know, Hiroshima prefecture is known to many Hongwanji members and is sometimes called "Aki-monto or Aki district members,” which are members who faithfully follow the guidance of the Nembutsu. They always have morning and evening worship at the individual member’s house. These families are the true followers of the Jodo Shinshu and just like other families in Hiroshima they worshipped everyday and rejoiced in the life of the Nembutsu together with the entire family.
When they came to Hawaii, life was not easy; they went through some difficult times. However, their father wanted his son to receive a better and higher education so despite the cost, he sent his son to a private educational institute. It was a Christian school. At the school, he had to attend the Christian worship like other students and he became a Christian. Years later he became a Christian minister at one of the Japanese American Christian churches in Honolulu.
The book he wrote expresses his true gratitude to his mother’s guidance, which he had heard and learned to adopt the Shinran Shonin’s guidance and used Jodo Shinshu way of method and ideas as examples for his book.
When he was growing up, he received unconditional compassion and wisdom from his mother and even if he became a Christian minister, he used the method of Buddhist ways of propagation such as "Thinking of others and respect others," which this is a very typical style he had learned from his mother. I firmly believe the way he propagated his teachings from his mother—value and true mind.
His mother had passed away when he was in his 40’s, but whatever he received from his mother remained in his heart. Even if he had changed his religion, the great wisdom and compassionate heart of Amida Buddha still existed in his heart so that he was able to share his guidance to the people with the Buddhist ways of gratitude. I personally feel that the guidance of the Nembutsu is just like "Mother’s taste."
I would like to share with you a story that took place in one of the Buddhist temples here in Hawaii. This lady who was born in Hawaii attended temple services from her childhood with her mother almost every Sunday. It was almost as if it was mandatory that she had to come to the services.
In those days, all temple services were conducted in the Japanese language. She attended Japanese School for 8 years, but even if she learned the Japanese language from Japanese School, she couldn’t understand what ministers were talking about the Buddha Dharma.
After graduation from high school, she had the opportunity to attend the college on the mainland. Once she went to the mainland, she lost ties with the Buddhist temples. Years later when she retired, she returned to Hawaii and one of her friends asked her to go to the Buddhist temple for the Sunday morning services. When she stepped into the temple, she was able to recall the fragrance of the incense which she experienced and it was so nostalgic. This deep feeling of tranquility was so precious and somehow she felt she should again come to the temple services.
She said as follows, "Even if I come to the temple services, I am not able to become a special person, but somehow I feel so comfortable with a warm feeling in my heart. I am able to recall that when I came to the temple services with my mother somehow I felt a deep sense of tranquility."
I personally think about this deep feeling of tranquility means the great compassion and wisdom from our Amida Buddha and it is truly his great spiritual assessments in our lives. She said, "Through attending temple services, without knowing I learned sincere heart from many temple members’ actions, and I think I gained something, something special in my heart. I think that is Amida’s wonderful wisdom and compassion that came into my heart."
The lady said, "When I entered the temple I had a precious feeling of nostalgia and when I smelled the fragrance of the incense I felt a deep sense of peace and tranquility." The peaceful feeling which she shared with me is truly Amida Buddha’s great wisdom and compassionate heart that always and endlessly works for us. Even if she was away from the temple for many years, or someone who had changed his own religion to others, Amida Buddha’s great compassionate heart is always working for us and showing us the path of truth. That is the reason why whenever people come to the temple, we always feel that we have returned home, the home for our spiritual place and having a mind of peace and serenity.
Namo Amida Butsu, which we are reciting is "the essence Amida Buddha’s great guidance of the compassion and wisdom became this short phrase and it’s easy for all of us to call Amida’s Holy Name at any time and place." When we hear the name, Namo Amida Butsu, this is proof that we are one with Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha’s great vow which is just like our mother always caring and thinking of her children all the time whether we are physically together or not, the spirit of Amida Buddha is always together with us. So, whenever we recite Amida’s Holy Name, Namo Amida Butsu we are able to hear it from our ears.
I firmly believe that the great guidance of Amida Buddha has become the precious taste just like the mother’s taste and it is always remain in our hearts and giving us a warm feeling of peace and serenity. Yes, we all are embraced by the great wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha. That is the reason why when reciting Amida’s Holy Name, Namo Amida Butsu, we have a deep and great feeling of peace and tranquility in our hearts. For myself, I truly feel that when I am alone at the temple and recite the Nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu, I feel so peaceful and tranquil. "How grateful I am." You, too. Just recite Amida’s Holy name, Namo Amida Butsu. Without having any self calculations you will feel peace and tranquility in your heart. This is Amida’s great taste which he always embraces us all at any place and at any time. "How grateful we are." This is our Jodo Shinshu’s way of tasting Amida Buddha’ great wisdom and compassion in our precious lives.