New Directions: Obon Dharma Talk by Rev. Harry Gyokyo Bridge

Rev. Harry Gyokyo Bridge, Resident Minister of the Buddhist Church of Oakland joined us on August 9, 2020 to share an Obon and Hatsubon Dharma Talk with the title New Directions: From round and round and upside down to going and returning

Returning Home

In Japan, Obon is traditionally one of the busiest travel seasons, as family members who have moved away from their ancestral hometown will travel great distances to return home during Obon.  At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple too, there are many Sangha members who return to the Temple and reconnect with the Sangha each year during Obon odori dance practices and for the dance itself.  Our Hatsubon service is one of our most well-attended services of the year, as families gather from great distances to remember loved ones who have crossed over to the Other Shore since the previous year’s Obon.  In this year of Covid-19, when we are unable to gather in person at the Temple, we will be conducting the Obon services online and over the telephone via Zoom Meeting on Sunday, August 9 at 9:30 a.m.  This unusual Obon observance gives us pause to reflect upon the meaning of returning home for Obon. 

The Buddhist observance of Obon is inspired by the story of the Buddha’s disciple Mahamaudgalyayana, who felt deep gratitude toward his loving mother. After she passed away, he entered into deep concentration and searched for his mother throughout the many paths of birth and death.  At that time, he saw that his mother had fallen into the realm of the hungry ghosts, a state of suffering from unsatisfied desire.

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48 Vows of Bodhisattva Dharmakara (Amida Buddha)

From the Three Pure Land Sutras, Volume II: The Larger Sutra, pg. 20-29

1

“‘If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be hell, the realm of hungry spirits, or the realm of animals in my land, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

2

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land, should, after their death, return once more to the three evil realms, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

3

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be the color of genuine gold, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

4

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not all be of the same appearance and should be either beautiful or ugly, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

5

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not remember all their former lives,[1] and thus be unable to know at least the events of the previous hundred thousand kotis of *nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

6

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine eyes,[2] and thus be unable to see at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

7

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine ears,[3] and thus be unable to hear the teachings being expounded by at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddhas or remember them all, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

8

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess the wisdom to see into the minds of others,[4] and thus be unable to know the thoughts of the sentient beings of at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

9

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not possess divine feet, and thus be unable to go beyond at least a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands in a thought‐moment, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

10

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should give rise to any thought of attachment to their body, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

11

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the *stage of the truly settled and necessarily attain nirvana, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

12

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my light should be finite, not illuminating even a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of Buddha‐lands, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

13

If, when I attain Buddhahood, my life should be finite, limited even to a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

14

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the number of sravakas in my land could be counted and known, even if all the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas in the *triple‐thousand great thousand worlds should spend at least a hundred thousand kalpas counting them, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

15

When I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land will not have a limited life span, except when they wish to shorten it freely according to their original vows. Should this not be so, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

16

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the humans and devas in my land should even hear that there are names of evil acts, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

17

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all glorify and praise my name, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.[5]

18

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the sentient beings of the ten quarters who, with sincere and *entrusting heart, aspire to be born in my land and say my name even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment. Excluded are those who commit the *five grave offenses and *those who slander the right Dharma.[6]

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