Namu Amida Butsu
During the month of November, Hongwanji temples observe a special service called, "Eitaikyo." This special service is also called Sangha Memorial Service here in Hawaii but at other nonHongwanji Buddhist temples, it is called, "Shi Do Kyo."
Eitaikyo has three Kanji letters. The Kanji for "Ei" means forever, the Kanji for "Tai" means generation and the Kanji for "Kyo" means sutra. We do not have an Eitaikyo sutra. Instead the service allows us to pass on our guidance to the next generation with a sincere mind of appreciation and gratitude.
The term Eitaikyo is an abbreviated version of Ei-Tai-Dokkyo. Rev. Tatsuo Unno interpreted this term as, "Chanting Sutras for Generations as an Act for the Benefits Received from Our Ancestors."
I firmly believe that an Eitaikyo Service is an excellent time for all of us to remember our loved ones who have passed away. Some of you have lost your grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren, and their memories still exist in your hearts.
Whenever I officiate a Memorial Service, I always explain to the family that the Memorial Service is a time for us to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation for what we have from people who were part of our lives; especially our parents and grandparents who were always supporting us in many ways. Through the memorial service, we are able to listen to the teachings of the Buddha. Our loved ones brought you here to listen to the Buddha Dharma and rely upon the Dharma as your spiritual guide.
When I came to Hawaii on December 1, 1985, the plantation population was already decreasing because many of the plantations started closing, and the young families did not see their future as working on a plantation. They moved to larger cities or to the mainland to better their lives.
One Sunday afternoon, I officiated a memorial service at Kapaa Hongwanji. Even though it was 34 years ago, I clearly recall this family because it was a very unique situation I encountered. This family brought quite a few "ihai" along with their old Butsudan (family altar). Ihai is a wooden tablet that had the deceased Buddhist’s name written on it. In those days, Hongwanji used ihai in their services.
The family asked, "Sensei, can you please have a memorial service for all of our family together with this Butsudan?" The Butsudan was very old but was kept very clean, so I replied, "No problem, but why with the Butsudan?" Usually, in those days whenever we have memorial services, the family would just bring ihai for the services. Having the service with their Butsudan (family altar) was kind of unusual. The family responded, "Sensei, our grandparents and parents were very strong temple members and always put the temple first. They volunteered at many of the temple functions. We go to the Butsudan every night before dinner to pay respects to our ancestors. This Butsudan was brought here by our grandfather when he came from Japan and we have used this Butsudan for so many years. Whenever we have church services at my house, people gather together with the minister from Kapaa Hongwanji and enjoy the chanting of the sutra. Unfortunately, we don’t have those gatherings anymore as we are moving to the mainland for our jobs next month. This service will be our sincere farewell and arigatou to all of our family members and Butsudan as our spiritual support." During the chanting of sutra, I was able to see their faces and most of them had their eyes closed. I could sense that they were deeply listening to the Sutra.
After the service, one of the family members said, "Sensei, it was so nice for all of us to get together and have this special memorial service. We all remembered our grandparents and parents. We all grew up on the Kilauea Plantation and we were very poor but our parents and grandparents were always giving from their hearts." I saw tears from one of the family members, and I felt that the Butsudan was truly the center of their spiritual guidance, and it gave them courage and hope while they were growing up.
Another family member came up to me and said, "Sensei, even though we are moving to the mainland, we will keep touch with you and have another service because through today’s service, we were able to recall our wonderful childhood and what we chanted at the church services at Kilauea Hongwanji together with our grandparents, parents and other temple members. So, if you don’t mind, please keep this Butsudan until our next visit."
The following year in September, I received a phone call from this family and learned that they will be visiting Kauai in November and would like to have another service together with their Butsudan. We held the special service for this family with their Butsudan.
Shinran Shonin adopted a great passage from Doshaku Zenshi (Tao-Cho of China, one of Shinran Shonin’s seven masters) and it read, "People who were born before, guide people who were born after, and people who were born after followed the great footsteps of people who were born before." This family member truly received guidance and sincere joy of happiness through their parents and grandparents’ wonderful acts and along with their dedication and great guidance of the Nembutsu; it has nurtured their precious life with true mind of gratitude.
At this year’s Eitaikyo Service, may we all participate at the service with a sincere mind of gratitude and express our joy of spiritual happiness through the chanting of sutra and reciting Buddha’s Holy name. Namo Amida Butsu