By Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, Resident Minister
I think everyone enjoyed the events of our 90th Anniversary. The reunion of past Jr. YBA
members and their friends renewed old friendships and connected different generations of
members and advisors. The Kieshiki aspirants were excited by their personal commitment and
dedication to have their new name act as a spiritual guide to their life. This opportunity was made
possible by previous members of our temple and the BCA structure that enabled Bishop Kodo
Umezu to conduct this important Shin ceremony. Seeing the Chigo participants may have
reminded many older members of their own children or of themselves, participation in years past.
The 90th Anniversary Service and luncheon honored the elders, as they are the ones who made
this significant event possible.
In November, we hold our Eitaikyo Service. Eitaikyo is interpreted to mean a perpetual
chanting of the sutras. Shinran voices this in his thought of experiencing the benefit of the
Nembutsu, and then paying it forward by sharing its meaning with others. Thirty five people took
part in our Kieshiki ceremony, by affirming their identity as Buddhists and receiving a Buddhist
name. As they lend their voices to our chanting, their contribution demonstrates the expansion of
the Primal Vow to benefit all beings.
In his book, River of Fire, River of Water, Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno states: “The fundamental
purpose of the Name as Namu Amida Butsu is awakening to the incomparable worth of this
unrepeatable life, this limited, finite life that is inseparable from boundless, infinite life.”
T. Unno, 1998, 29.
I think he is expressing the fundamental theme of Eitaikyo, that our limited, finite life is one with
boundless, infinite life.
Because of our biological birth in this human realm, we are now connected to the infinite past
and the infinite future. We had very little influence on our own biological birth. We received it from
our parents, grandparents, and from our human ancestry. If we look back on our evolutionary
past, we might realize how improbable our human birth is. Scientific theory and evidence
demonstrate that somehow, about 4 ½ billion years ago, our tiny planet formed in our solar system,
in our galaxy among billions of galaxies. From unknown causes and conditions, life began as an
organic mass. A process of change created cells that slowly morphed into organisms that
became separate physical entities. So our human life is connected to Light (stars) and Life
(organic ooze). Amida is the Japanese word that combines the two Sanskrit words, Amitaba
(Light) and Amitayus (Life). Voicing Namo Amida Butsu affirms our awakening to our Oneness with
Light and Life, Wisdom and Compassion.
Our foundational myth relates that the Bodhisattva Dharmakara took 5 kalpas to meditate on
the qualities of his Pure Land. Might we relate this to the entire evolution of our present life from
the Big Bang? Somehow, stars were formed, planets spun off from these stars, and life emerged on
this earth. Voicing Namo Amida Butsu is our affirmation of our awakening that we are connected
to the infinite past and the infinite future.
It will be our chanting or our sharing the truth of the Shin Dharma that benefits those in the
future. The Issei pioneering founders of this temple and the courageous Nisei, who followed
through the difficult wars years, faced difficulties far greater than what we do today. Awakening
to this unique gift of human life can only engender a deep sense of gratitude. We received our
biological birth and the words of the Buddha because of our karmic inheritance. Individuals lives
must end. But, by truly hearing the words of the Buddha, we join the long line of ordinary people,
waking up to the gifts of the Nembutsu.
Appreciating what we have, balances our desire for things that we don’t have. I think this was
the attitude of our predecessors. This seems to highlight the character that our elders display. Our
90th Anniversary events honored their efforts that sustained our temple. They preserved the
sutras, the words of the Buddha, for us to chant, to hear, and to follow. The words of the Dharma
inspired them to persevere, so that we are able to hear and receive it.
Thank you to the elders, for your many, many years of service and contribution to this
temple. You are the cherished example of living a Shin Buddhist life. We hope that the Kieshiki
recipients, Chigo participants, Dharma School and Jr. YBA students will follow your example to
provide that same opportunity for generations to come.
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