Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 30)

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

We continue our study of the teachings of Honen-bo Genku, Shinran Shonin’s teacher, reflecting upon the hindrances caused by doubt, and benefits of shinjin, or entrusting in the Buddha’s teachings:

Return to this house of transmigration, of birth-and death,
Is decidedly caused by doubt.
Swift entrance into the city of tranquility, the uncreated,
Is necessarily brought about by shinjin.

Continue reading “Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 30)”

Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 29)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Please join us as we encounter the teachings of Honen-bo Genku, Shinran Shonin’s teacher, who established a radically inclusive Sangha community where samurai and aristocrats sat shoulder to shoulder with outcastes and thieves to hear the message of Amida Buddha’s great compassion:

Master Genku, well-versed in the Buddha’s teaching,
Turned compassionately to foolish people, both good and evil;
Establishing in this remote land the teaching and realization that are the true essence of the Pure Land way,
He transmits the selected Primal Vow to us of the defiled world:

Continue reading “Shōshinge: Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu (Session 29)”

Ho’onko: the Annual Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin

 In the Jodo Shinshu School of Buddhism, it is customary to hold an annual Ho’onko 報恩講 (Pronounced HOE-OWN-KOH) Memorial Service in remembrance of Shinran Shonin (1173-1263), the Japanese Buddhist priest who we look to as the founder of our tradition.  The tradition of annual Ho’onko services was initiated by Shinran’s great-grandson Kakunyo during the 33rd Year Memorial Service for Shinran.  At the Nishi Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto, Japan, the Hoonko observance is held each year from January 9th to 16th, culminating in an all-night Dharma marathon of talks by ministers from all over Japan.  This year, we will observe Ho’onko at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple on Sunday, January 22.  In temples of the Jodo Shinshu tradition, Ho’onko is considered to be the most important Buddhist service of the year.

If we conducted a survey of our Sangha members asking everyone which of our annual Buddhist services is most important, we wouldn’t be surprised to hear many responses along the lines of Hanamatsuri (Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday) or Obon (the grateful remembrance of departed loved ones that we hold every summer).  Of all the Buddhist services we observe throughout the year, why is Shinran’s Memorial Service traditionally given the most emphasis? 

Continue reading “Ho’onko: the Annual Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin”

Into the name flow all of Amida’s uncountable virtues

. . . into the name flow all of Amida’s uncountable virtues.  That is to say, in the name are contained all the merits and virtues of Amida’s inner enlightenment, such as the four kinds of wisdom, the three bodies, the ten powers, and the four kinds of fearlessness. Also contained in it are all the merits and virtues of his outward activities, such as the major and minor bodily characteristics, the emanation of light, the preaching of the Dharma, and the benefitting of sentient beings.

(Honen’s Senchakushu published by the Kuroda Institute, page. 76)

Hōnen Shōnin’s parting words to his students on the occasion of his being sent into exile

“Do not resent my being sent into exile, for I am approaching eighty years of age.  Even if we were living together as teacher and students in the capital, my departure from this saha world is drawing near.  Even if we are separated by mountains and oceans, do not doubt that we will meet again in the Pure Land.  Though we may reject this world, our human existence carries on.  Though we may cling to life, our death will come.  Why insist upon being in a certain place?

“What’s more, while I have spent all these years sharing the Nembutsu teaching here in the capital, it has been my heartfelt wish to go into the outlying regions and share the teachings with the farmers who work the fields.  However, a time had not come when I was able to fulfill that wish.  That I am now able to pursue this long-held wish is thanks to the great benevolence of the emperor.

Continue reading “Hōnen Shōnin’s parting words to his students on the occasion of his being sent into exile”

The Vow of the Buddha is Deep

In late 1206, while the Japanese Emperor Gotoba was away from the capital on a pilgrimage to the Kumano Shrine, his consorts Suzumushi and Matsumushi joined a Nembutsu gathering led by Honen’s followers Juren-bo and Anraku-bo.  After hearing the Nembutsu teaching, the emperor’s consorts experienced a great change of heart and took ordination as Buddhist nuns. 

When the emperor returned and discovered that Suzumushi and Matsumushi had renounced their lives in the imperial palace to join Honen’s Nembutsu Sangha, he became enraged and ordered Juren-bo and Anraku-bo to be executed along with two other leading followers of Honen.  Honen was ordered to be exiled on the island of Shikoku.  Seven more of his followers, including Shinran, were dispossessed of their priesthood and sent into exile, scattering the community throughout Japan.  While many lamented the exile, Honen instructed his disciples that this too should be accepted as the flow of karmic causes and conditions in their lives.  The following were his parting words to the Sangha:

“Do not resent my being sent into exile, for I am approaching eighty years of age.  Even if we were living together as teacher and students in the capital, my departure from this saha world is drawing near.  Even if we are separated by mountains and oceans, do not doubt that we will meet again in the Pure Land.  Though we may reject this world, our human existence carries on.  Though we may cling to life, our death will come.  Why insist upon being in a certain place?

Continue reading “The Vow of the Buddha is Deep”

The Path to the Pure Land: A Translation of and Commentary on Shinran’s Saihō-Shinan-shō

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

7:00 p.m. via Zoom Meeting

Rev. Dr. Toshikazu Arai

Professor Emeritus

Soai University, Osaka

We invite you join us to hear Rev. Dr. Arai share insights from his recently published translation of Shinran’s record of teachings by his master Honen.  This superb translation makes Saihō-Shinan-shō available to English language readers for the first time.

CLICK HERE to purchase The Path to the Pure Land: A Translation of and Commentary on Shinran’s Saihō-Shinan-shō

To join us for this online Dharma Session, CLICK HERE and sign up for “Study Classes and Seminars”.

Dharma Discussion: Śīla (July 19, 2020)

Please review the Bodhisattva Precepts

Discussion Questions

  1.  How do you practice these precepts in your daily life?
  2. Is there meaning in doing one’s best, even though one is not able to practice these perfectly in daily life?
  3. Which of these do you think our world needs most at the present moment?

Honen’s Perspective on upholding precepts (from The Passages on the the Selection of the Nembutsu in the Original Vow)

If the original vow required us to make images of the Buddha and to build stupas, the poor and destitute would surely have no hope of birth, but the fact is that the rich and highborn are few, while the poor and lowborn are exceedingly many.  

Continue reading “Dharma Discussion: Śīla (July 19, 2020)”

True Victory

In a recent address to the Sangha, our temple President began his remarks with the words, “I would like to offer my condolences to Reverend Adams. . .”  Wondering what loss I should be grieving, I momentarily searched my memories of the preceding weeks.  Then he finished his sentence with the words, “. . . for the inhospitable treatment your Minnesota Vikings received from the San Francisco 49ers yesterday afternoon.”  I grew up in Minnesota and the previous day those two professional football teams had faced off for the Division Title.  Having suffered defeat at the hands of the 49ers, the Minnesota Vikings lost their chance to play in the Super Bowl on February 2.  For many families, Super Bowl Sunday is a major social event that rivals the traditional winter holidays as an occasion for gathering friends and loved ones for elaborate feasting and celebration—or drowning your sorrows in bean dip and hot wings if your team happens to be losing.

Continue reading “True Victory”

Olympic Victory

Growing up in Minnesota, my favorite sport was alpine skiing. As a teenager, I competed in slalom racing on my high school ski team and the great sports hero of my youth was Olympic slalom champion Alberto Tomba. Our team practiced at a local ski hill that somehow managed to rise out of the flat surrounding farmland, gradually increasing in elevation over the years thanks to innumerable dump truck loads of dirt. I never came close to winning a race, but I enjoyed practices because the course of gates was set differently each time, transforming the otherwise unremarkable little hill into a challenging and exciting place to ski.

Continue reading “Olympic Victory”