Namu Amida Butsu

DUE TO COVID-19, WAILUKU HONGWANJI Mission's 2020 Obon gathering was cancelled. I received several phone calls from the mainland asking about Maui Buddhist Temples’ Obon services and dances. When I told them about the cancellation due to Covid-19, they were disappointed and said, "Oh no, we are planning to be on Maui from the ending of July to August 10. So, if anything changes in your schedule, please let me know." I firmly believe that all of us, including the visitors, are truly sad when we heard of the cancellation of the Obon services and dance. Why? Because Obon is one of the most wonderful cultural events and is a very special time for all of us.

Have you ever seen this [ ] kanji letter? Maybe it is a little bit hard to read. The first letter is [ ] "Aru" or "Yuu" which means "have or receive." [ ] The next letter is read as "mutsukashi-i which means hard or difficult" and it can be also read as "Gata-i."

So when these two Kanji letters combine with last hiragana, it read as "Arigata-i" in Japanese. I am sure some of you have heard the word of "Arigata-i" from your parents and Japanese ministers. What is the meaning of "Arigata-i"? How can you translate this particular phrase into English? It can be translated as "gratitude, be thankful, be grateful, or be kind."

According to the Japanese-English dictionary, the definition of "Arigata-i" can be defined as gratitude, being grateful or thankful by expressing one's appreciation. It is the true meaning of "Okagesama" which means “Because of you, I am here as I am.”

I think these two Kanji characters have a much deeper and wider meaning which includes appreciation and gratitude to our ancestors including our Hawaii Issei and Nisei.

The old folks (the Issei and Nisei) often used the word "Mottainai." This term "Mottainai" means "too precious to waste." In our lives, especially the younger generation, we sometimes forget this very important teachings that were taught by our parents and grandparents. I know many of us, including myself, keep junks in our house, garage, and shed. Why? Because we feel that those items are still usable and we may use it someday. However, most of us will not use these items anymore. It just piles up. Finally, we don't know what we saved or where it can be found. In our society, we have become wealthier but we forget or ignore something important, that our Issei and Nisei taught us. Because of their efforts and sacrifices we are here as we are!

Since we are not able to have this year's Obon service and festivities, this may be the most appropriate time for us to think about "What have we received or inherited from our great Nembutsu pioneers?"

When you think about our parents and grandparents, despite their difficult journey through life, they received the great spiritual guidance, joy, and happiness by attending temple services and other activities. Through these experiences, they received the seeds of sincere wisdom and compassion and great guidance from our temple’s members and services.

Unfortunately, these wonderful old timers are passing away one at a time. I firmly believe that their sincere gifts exist in our hearts. Whenever we offer our kindness to others, we are truly following their wonderful footsteps and sharing their great values to the next generation. Our lives are always interdependent and someone is always assisting us like a shadow that always follows each and every one of us.

Once we are able to understand this very important guidance, without knowing, we will offer kind words and kind actions to others. This is the true mind and feeling of "Arigata-i," the mind of gratefulness or gratitude, we are able to share our sincere hearts and joy with others and they return are able to learn from our wonderful actions. We must remember that we all inherited our ancestor's great guidance, efforts, wisdom, and compassionate heart, and we all are able to pass it on to the next generation.

An old timer shared with me these great and wonderful words. I believe these words are guiding us to the path of truth.

He said to me, "Manabe, Uketsuge, and Tsutaero." "Manabe" means to learn, "Uketsuge" means to receive or inherit, and "Tsutaero" means to transmit to the next generations.

We all inherited these great minds and guidance from our parents, grandparents and our ancestors. When you close your eyes and think about your parents and grandparents, you are able to recall many wonderful memories. Yes, their great guidance, recollections, and spirits still lives in our heart and are guiding us to the path of truth and warm feelings of Nembutsu.

We are living our lives with the mind of "Okagesama." What is the meaning of "Okagesama?" Okagesama is the true feelings and a mind of Arigatai and gratitude. When we put our hands together and recite Amida's Holy name, we are all able to receive the deep meaning of Arigatai, the gratitude and true meaning of Okagesama. And, at the same time, we feel the true feeling of peace and serenity in our hearts.

Arigato. Okagesamade! Because of other’s support, I am here as I am. Arigato! Okagesamade! Because of your selfless effort, I am hearing the teachings of Buddha Dharma. Arigato! Okagesamade! Because of your guidance, the Nembutsu comes out from my mouth.

Although we are not able to have our Obon services and dance this year, this is the great time for us to have a mind of "Arigatai" and express our sincere feeling of gratitude to our loved ones who had passed away before us and may we all pass the great guidance of the Nembutsu to the next generation.

I firmly believe that the sharing of the Nembutsu teachings, our great treasures, is one of the best ways for us to enjoy our precious lives with the mind of Arigatai.

May we all have a mind of gratitude in our daily lives and rejoice in the happiness with others.


Namu Amida Butsu