Namo Amida Butsu
In November, most of the Hongwanji Temples observe a special memorial service and it is called Eitaikyo. Eitaikyo service is known as Sangha Memorial Service here in Hawaii. The true meaning of Eitaikyo is translated as "Eternal Generations Sutra." More fully means, "The Service of Chanting Sutras for Generations as an Act for the Beneficences Received from Our Ancestors."
I think this Eitaikyo service is a great moment for us to recall our loved one who had passed away before us. And I firmly believe that even if they passed their memories still exist in our hearts.
Whenever I officiate the Memorial services, I always express my true feeling of gratitude and appreciation to the deceased person who brought the family members to the temple especially who are away from the temple services for a long time, and I explain to them about the Sutras. As you may know that Sutra is Buddha Shakyamuni‘s message or so-called guidance to his disciples.
The original sutra was written by Sanskrit but it‘s translated into Chinese, then in 7th Century, it was transmitted to Japan. In Japanese Buddhism society they used the same sutras as Chinese but it was read as Japanese pronunciation and now here in Hawaii, we have translated it to English and using it at our Sunday morning services. So most of us are able to understand what the Shakyamuni Buddha had said in the Sutra.
One of the Sutras started said, "Thus I have heard." Yes, Sutras are not what Buddha himself wrote but it was after Buddha‘s death many of his disciples were together and shared what they learned from the Buddha. They spent many years to establish Buddha‘s words and pass it on to the next generations. So, it may have changed from his original words since they didn‘t have any written records but more or less it was the guidance that people heard from the Buddha. That is the reason why many of the Sutras are started "Thus I have heard."
When we are growing up, we received profound guidance from our parents, grandparents and society. During our young time it was not much of interest to what we have learned from our parents, grandparents, and society, but amazingly, it‘s remained in our hearts as their great memories which I might say "Thus I have heard."
At the memorial services, I often ask them "What did you recall about your deceased one?" One family member said, "My grandfather always said, "Ganbare, Ganbare," which means "Don‘t give up; just do your best." These great words still exist in my heart even if grandfather passed away so many years ago. Why? I guess I don‘t want to lose my grandfather‘s wonderful memories, wisdom and guidance. It‘s all my great treasures."
"Thus you heard from your loved one." "What did they hear from their loved one?" Yes, they heard very important guidance, which are the thoughtful mind; "Kokoro," wisdom and compassionate heart and all of these are precious gifts from their ancestors.
When we think about our parents and grandparent‘s great guidance and memories, we are able to feel the honor and appreciation to them for their great efforts. Because of their selfless efforts and establishments, we are having much comfortable lives today. We must remember these truths and fact in our lives.
In the collected works of Shinra, Shinran Shonin using the passage from "Land of Happiness" and it says, "I have collected true words to aid others in their practice 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." Like this passage, we are able to follow our ancestors‘ great footsteps in our lives and be able to pass it onto our children and grandchildren. We all learned the great value from our ancestors and I firmly believe that values are precious gifts from them.
When I was at one of the Hongwanji Temples, I met a girl from Vietnam and she showed me her form of Gassho. Her form of Gassho is put two hands together in front of the chest and one knee on the floor and vow to the Buddha. It was so beautiful and I truly felt the true gratitude and respect. I truly felt that she received the wonderful acts and mind of gratitude from her parents and grandparents through the guidance of the Buddha.
Eitaikyo memorial service, this is the great gift that we are able to learn the Buddha‘s spiritual guidance and be able to pass it on to the next generations as our faithful gift with the "Magokoro." Our children and grandchildren are able to learn from our faithful acts, the form of the Gassho, and chanting of sutras. Why? Because you heard profound guidance, thoughtful mind, and spiritual joy and happiness in the life of the Nembutsu that is the reasons why you are sharing these true mind of gratitude and appreciation to your children and grandchildren with the great mind of gratitude.