Flowers that Bloom in the Springtime

Growing up in Minnesota, I spent many hours in the autumn helping my mother in our family flower gardens.  We would clear out the dead plants and prepare the soil for the flowers my mother had planned for the following spring.  I remember one afternoon in early November when I was planting flower bulbs and thinking to myself, why are we putting these plants in the ground now, when the soil will be frozen for the next four months?

The following year in April when the snow finally melted, a bed of beautiful tulips and crocuses bloomed in the spot where the bulbs had been planted.  I marveled at how life had carried on through a long period where it seemed that everything in that place had died and then resurfaced with such striking beauty.  Life had not ceased in the garden.  It simply took on another form.  Today, recalling the understanding of the cycle of nature that I learned seeing those flowers bloom as a child, I can appreciate how conditions from the past bear fruit in the present.

This month of April we hold our Hanamatsuri Service at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple celebrating the birth of Siddhartha Gautama over 2,500 years ago in Lumbini, Nepal.  During his lifetime, Siddhartha attained awakening and came to be revered as Sakyamuni Buddha, the compassionate teacher whose way of living and words of wisdom continue to inspire and guide seekers of the truth around the world.

The traditional story of Siddhartha’s birth tells how he was welcomed into this world with the abundant blooming of flowers.  Upon arriving in this world, he is said to have taken seven steps, with a lotus flower blooming on the ground in each place that his foot touched the earth. Having passed through the six paths[1] of death and rebirth countless times, he was steeped in causes and conditions from the past.  The seven steps represent his resolute intention to transcend the cycle of birth-and-death and realize the path to lasting peace, not just for himself but for all beings.

Sakyamuni Buddha’s final human birth came to an end when he passed into the lasting tranquility of parinirvana at age 80.  Like a beautiful flower that blooms temporarily in our garden, the Buddha’s human life expressed the truth of impermanence.  And yet, the wisdom and kindness he brought into this world continues to guide and support all those who take refuge in his teachings.   

Among the many teaching that Sakyamuni Buddha imparted during his lifetime, the teaching of Amida Buddha’s compassionate vow provides our gateway into the garden of awakening.   Amida Buddha vowed that those who live with deep mindfulness of the Buddha’s wisdom and compassion and express their sincere gratitude in the words “Namo Amida Butsu” will unfailingly attain the life of lasting peace and joy.

This flower of truth blossoms in our hearts each moment we say “Namo Amida Butsu” with a heart of grateful entrusting.  In The True, Teaching, Practice, and Realization, Shinran Shonin offers the words of Master Tz’u-min as an expression of his joy in the Nembutsu:

Considering then this human existence – hard is it to obtain;
It is like the blossoming of the udumbara.
Truly we have come now to hear the Pure Land teaching so rare to encounter;
Truly we have encountered the opening of the dharma-gate of the nembutsu.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 41)

The udumbara is a flower that requires very specific conditions to bloom, such that it rarely blooms.  Lifetime after lifetime we have cycled through a long winter in traveling the paths of birth-and-death.  Finally, the causes and conditions have matured for us to encounter the teachings of the Buddha.  Now springtime blooms in our hearts and we can appreciate how truly precious is this human life we have received.  Let us cherish and make the most of this life by listening carefully to the Buddha’s teachings and settling our path to liberation from suffering.

Namo Amida Butsu


[1] A traditional Buddhist worldview describes six possible states of existence into which a person may be reborn: hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, fighting titans, humans, and heavenly beings.

Hanamatsuri Buddha’s Birthday Service

April 14, 2024

Guest Speaker

Rev. Yukiko Motoyoshi

Buddhist Churches of America

Minister Emeritus

御講師

本好由紀子

浄土真宗本願寺派北米開教区

名誉開教使

We warmly welcome you to join us in person at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple or via Zoom Meeting for our Hanamatsuri Service on Sunday, April 14, 2024 at 9:30 a.m. in celebration of Siddhartha Gautama’s Birthday.

2024年4月14日の9時30分から灌仏会(花祭)をお勤めします。

オンラインや電話を通しての参拝も可能です。

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyōfu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Hanamatsuri Service with Dharma talk by Rev. Yukiko Motoyoshi
10:30 a.m. Japanese Dharma Talk by Rev. Yukiko Motoyoshi 日本語法話 本好由紀子 先生

To join us for this online Spring Ohigan Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

ご参拝したい方はここにクリックして、”Live Broadcast of Services”に登録してください。

Sakyamuni Tathagata is Truly Our Loving and Compassionate Parent

In this month of April, we observe our Hanamatsuri Service celebrating the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha.  The many Buddhist traditions of the world celebrate the Buddha’s Birthday.  The Theravada Buddhist observance of Vesak includes the celebration of Sakyamuni Buddha’s birthday and was recognized by the United Nations as an occasion for the world to honor the Buddha’s wisdom and seek the guidance of his teachings.

A multitude of Buddhist lineages span the world, each with special observances honoring the founders and great teachers of their tradition.  All those diverse linages revere Sakyamuni Buddha as the great teacher who appeared in this world.  In that sense, all those who journey through life on the path of the Buddha are our brothers, sisters, and siblings in the Dharma.  In the following section from his Hymns on the Samadhi of All Buddhas’ Presence, Shandao describes the Buddha as the compassionate parent of all those who seek the path to awakening:  

All my friends who aspire for birth in the Pure Land must carefully reflect upon their own lives.  Sakyamuni Tathagata is truly our loving and compassionate parent.  He uses various skillful means to guide us to awaken the unexcelled heart of entrusting.  Moreover, there is not just one gate into his skillful teachings.  This so that they may benefit unenlightened beings like us with our upside-down views.  Those who live by the teachings may pass through any of the gates he taught to encounter the Buddha and attain birth in the Pure Land.

Continue reading “Sakyamuni Tathagata is Truly Our Loving and Compassionate Parent”

Hanamatsuri Buddha’s Birthday Service

April 9, 2023

We warmly welcome you to join us in person at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple or via Zoom Meeting for our Hanamatsuri Service on Sunday, April 9, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. in celebration of Siddhartha Gautama’s Birthday.

2022年4月9日の9時30分から灌仏会(花祭)をお勤めします。

オンラインや電話を通しての春季彼岸会参拝も可能です。

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyōfu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Hanamatsuri Service with Dharma talk by Rev. Henry Adams
10:30 a.m. Japanese Dharma Talk 日本語法話 アダムス・ヘンリー先生

To join us for this online Spring Ohigan Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

ご参拝したい方はここにクリックして、”Live Broadcast of Services”に登録してください。

The Honored One

In the month of April we hold our Hanamatsuri Service celebrating the birth of Siddhartha Gautama 2,645 years ago in Lumbini, Nepal.  One who diligently progresses on the path to Buddhahood over the course of many lifetimes is called a bodhisattva.  The Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life (The Larger Sutra) provides the following description of a bodhisattva’s birth in the lifetime in which they will attain awakening:

Immediately after [the bodhisattva’s] birth from [his mother’s] right side, he walked seven steps. A brilliant light shone from his body, illuminating all the ten quarters, and countless Buddha-lands shook with six kinds of tremors. He then said, “I shall become the supremely honored one in the world.”

(The Three Pure Land Sutras: Volume II, pg. 5)

This description seems improbable from a modern scientific worldview, but these words are an expression of religious truth rather than scientific fact.  Scientific facts are based on empirical observations, such as what we can see with our eyes, hear with our ears, or measure with our hands.  From that perspective this life begins the moment we are born with this body and ends at the moment of death.  This way of viewing the world is limited by what can be measured.

Continue reading “The Honored One”

Hanamatsuri Buddha’s Birthday Service

April 10, 2022

Guest Speaker

Rev. Dr. Hoshu Matsubayashi

Buddhist Churches of America

Minister Emeritus

御講師

松林芳秀先生

浄土真宗本願寺派北米開教区

名誉開教使

We warmly welcome you to join us in person at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple or from the safety and comfort of your own home via Zoom Meeting for our Hanamatsuri Service on Sunday, April 10, 2022 at 9:30 a.m. in celebration of Siddhartha Gautama’s Birthday.

If you would like to attend the service in person, please reply to this email or call (650) 342-2541 to reserve a seat. Proof of full Covid-19 vaccination is required. A maximum of 36 in-person attendees will be allowed in the Hondo, so please contact us at your earliest convenience if you wish to attend.  Please do not come to the temple without registering in advance.

2022年4月10日の9時30分から灌仏会(花祭)をお勤めします。

本堂で御参拝する方は事前登録が必要ですので、メール
smbt@sanmateobuddhisttemple.org 、又はお電話(650) 342-2541でご連絡をお願いいたします。4月10日に本堂でのお参りに参拝ご希望の方は新型コロナウイルスのワクチン接種を完了された方に限り36名まで枠がありますので、お早めにご連絡をお願いいたします。

尚、今まで通り、オンラインや電話を通しての春季彼岸会参拝も可能です。

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyōfu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Hula dance lesson with Stephanie Hagio Chin
9:30 a.m. Hanamatsuri Service with Dharma talk by Rev. Hoshu Matsubayashi
10:30 a.m. Japanese Dharma Talk 日本語法話 松林芳秀先生

To join us for this online Spring Ohigan Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

ご参拝したい方はここにクリックして、”Live Broadcast of Services”に登録してください。

Hanamatsuri Buddha’s Birthday Service

April 11, 2021

Guest Speaker

(English)

Rev. Dr. Jeff Wilson

Toronto Buddhist Church

日本語の御講師

攝受弘宣先生

惠光寺(ドイツ)

EKŌ-Haus (Germany)

View Post

Under these extraordinary circumstances, we invite you to join us from the safety and comfort of your own home for an online Hanamatsuri Buddha’s Birthday Service via the Zoom Meeting internet program on Sunday, April 11, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise with instructor Juliet Bost
9:30 a.m. Hanamatsuri Dharma Service with English Language Message by Rev. Dr. Jeff Wilson
10:30 a.m. 日本語法話 攝受弘宣先生 Japanese Language Dharma Message by Rev. Hironobu Shoju

To join us for this online Spring Ohigan Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

現在感染が拡大している新型コロナウイルス感染を防ぐため、サンマテオ仏教会本堂内に集まることはできませんが、オンラインや電話を通して春季彼岸会を行います。

そこで、2021年4月11日の9時30分から灌仏会(花祭り)をインターネットと電話でライブ中継をする予定です。自宅からご参拝されたい方は次の手順でご参加下さい。

ご参拝したい方はここにクリックして、”Live Broadcast of Services”に登録してください。

Buddha Loves You Little Shark

Raising children can be a challenge.  My wife and I have three sons, and there have been times when their behavior has been entertaining for others but exasperating for us as parents.  Our third son is still a baby, but before we know it, he will be crawling, then walking, then running, then talking and making animal sounds.  If he is anything like his big brothers, he will do all these things in the middle of Sunday service.  I once overheard a conversation between a temple member who attended service most Sundays and her daughter, who rarely came to the temple.  The temple-going mother said, “You should come to service more often.  It’s fun to see what mischief Sensei’s son is going to get into next.”  When she noticed me standing within earshot, she hastily added, “I mean you should come to service to hear Sensei’s Dharma talk.”

A few years ago, when one of our older sons was at the height of his “terrific twos,” he was thoroughly enjoying himself crawling around under the pews during the Hanamatsuri Service.  He was having so much fun playing cat-and-mouse with my wife, who was desperately trying to contain his antics, that he scurried off under the pews until he popped out from under the first row and stood grinning back at my wife from the floor right in front of the podium where our guest speaker was delivering the Hanamatsuri Dharma Talk.  The instant my wife moved to get up from her seat to retrieve him, he gleefully dove under the table upon which the Hanamido floral shrine sat at the front of the Hondo.  The table was completely covered from front to back with carefully arranged potted plants to evoke the luxuriant Lumbini’s Garden in which baby Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be, was born.  The front of the table was covered with a large sheet of white paper, so no-one but me could see my son as he sat happily in an enclosed little space beneath the Hanamido.

Continue reading “Buddha Loves You Little Shark”