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。

Nirvana Day 涅槃会 (February 11)

Nirvana Day is our observance of Sakyamuni Buddha’s departure from this world and entrance into the lasting tranquility of parinirvana. It is also a precious opportunity to reflect the truth that the impermanence of human life applies to all those who are born into this world.

2024年2月11日の9時30分から涅槃会をお勤めします。涅槃会は釈迦牟尼仏陀がこの世で最後の息を吸い入滅寂静を遂げられたことを記念する法要です。.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Nirvana Day Service
10:30 a.m. Japanese Language Dharma Talk 日本語法話 (Hondo)
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Social Hall)

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 3, Letter 4

How true it is that impermanence is difficult to escape for all, from the Great Sage, the World-honored One, at the highest level, to Devadatta, who committed evil acts and grave offenses, at the lowest.

Moreover, to receive life as a human being is indeed rare and difficult, and even more so is it the opportunity to encounter the Buddha Dharma, the way of emancipation from birth-and-death through practices of self-power is difficult to follow at the present time in the latter days. Therefore, our lives would be spent in vain unless we encountered the Primal Vow of Amida Tathagata.

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

The Buddha’s Teaching for Our Times (December 10)

Wise teachers like Rennyo Shonin affirm the truth of all the teachings shared by Sakyamuni Buddha during his lifetime. This Sunday, Rev. Adams will share reflections on the metaphor of the poison arrow taught by Sakyamuni Buddha, and the wisdom that speaks to the great suffering of this age in which we live.

From The Letters of Rennyo Shonin (Gobunsho) Fascicle 3, Letter 2

The teachings of the various sects differ, but since they were all [expounded] during Śākya[muni]’s lifetime, they are indeed the incomparable Dharma. For this reason, there is absolutely no doubt that people who practice them as prescribed will attain enlightenment and become buddhas. However, sentient beings of this last [Dharma] age are of the lowest capacity; this is a time when those who practice as prescribed are rare. Here [we realize that] Amida Tathāgata’s Primal Vow of other-power was made to save sentient beings in such times as these.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shōya Raisan Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service (Hondo)
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Dharma Room)

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Bodhi Day Service: How to Catch a Snake

Sunday, December 3, 2023

We warmly welcome you to join us in person at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple for our Bodhi Day Service on Sunday, December 3. Bodhi Day is our annual celebration of Sakyamuni Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment seated beneath the Bodhi Tree. As we revisit the traditional story of Sakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, Rev. Adams will offer some reflections on the Buddha’s teaching that listening to the Dharma requires the same care and focused attention needed to catch a poisonous snake.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shōya Raisan Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Bodhi Day Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion

To join us via Zoom for this Dharma Service CLICK HERE and sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Nītha the Scavenger

Translation by Henry Adams from the Sutra on Wisdom and Folly (Xiangujing), Fascile 6, Chapter 30 (賢愚經卷第六 T0202_.04.0397a24)

Thus I have heard. At one time the Buddha was dwelling at Jetavana in the country of Sravasti.

At that time, many people lived inside the walled city of Shravasti.  There were few lavatories, so most people went outside the city to urinate and defecate.

There were also wealthy people of high status, who did not venture outside the city walls.  They would use containers for toilets and hire people to take them outside the city.

There was one man named Nītha who was extremely poor and destitute.  He had nowhere to go and earned a meager living taking out the toilet pots.

At that time, the World-Honored One came to know of his situation and resolved to liberate him.  He instructed Ananda that they would go into the walled city with the intention of bringing Nītha out and saving him.  When they arrive a short distance from the city, they happened upon Nītha carrying a clay pot filled to the brim with filth on his way out to dispose of it.

Continue reading “Nītha the Scavenger”

The Buddha’s Final Meal

In the time of the Buddha, there was a blacksmith named Cunda.  Blacksmiths had low social status, but Cunda was hard-working and intelligent, and so he prospered and owned a beautiful mango grove.  On one occasion, the Buddha visited Cunda’s village and chose to stay in his mango grove.  At that time in India, the sons of wealthy and important families, like the Buddha’s Sakya clan, would not normally interact with common workers like blacksmiths, so Cunda was delighted that the Buddha would honor him by staying in his grove.

Cunda delighted in the Dharma taught by the Buddha and invited the Buddha and his Sangha to partake in a special meal at his home.  The Buddha indicated his acceptance of the invitation by remaining silent, so Cunda proceeded to prepare a scrumptious feast, including a variety of foods with good textures, well-cooked soft foods, and a dish made with a special kind of mushroom.

When the mushroom dish was served, the Buddha immediately claimed it for himself and instructed Cunda to serve the remaining dishes to the other monks.  After eating his fill of the mushroom dish, he told Cunda to bury what remained of it in the ground, saying, “This food can only be eaten by one who has mastered the Dharma and attained awakening.”

Continue reading “The Buddha’s Final Meal”

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。

Nirvana Day (February 12)

We welcome you to join us in person for our Nirvana Day Service, the annual remembrance of the day that Sakyamuni Buddha drew his final breath in this world and attained parinirvana, passing into the lasting peace of tranquility.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Activity
9:30 a.m. Nirvana Day Service
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion

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

Nītha the Scavenger (February 5)

In this Sunday’s Dharma Talk, Rev. Adams will share the story of Nītha, a scavenger who met the Buddha while collecting waste. Initially ashamed of his own lowly status, Nitha was welcomed by the Buddha to join the Sangha with respect and dignity.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial (Hondo Main Hall)
10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion (Dharma Room)

We welcome you to join us in person!

To join us online via Zoom , CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.