Obon and Hatsubon Service Service

August 14, 2022

Guest Speaker

Rev. Michael Endo

Executive Assistant to the Bishop

Buddhist Churches of America




Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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 Obon and Hatsubon Service on Sunday, August 14, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.


8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyofu Chanting (Click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Social Hour
9:30 a.m. Obon and Hatsubon Dharma Service with English Language Message by Rev. Michael Endo
10:30 a.m. 日本語法話 遠藤マイケル先生 Japanese Language Dharma Message by Rev. Michael Endo

All ages are welcome to join without prior registration.  Proof of full Covid-19 vaccination required for eligible individuals age 5 and older.  Up to 36 in-person attendees will be seated in the Hondo, with overflow seating available in the adjacent Social Hall.


To join us online via Zoom, 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。

Obon and Hatsubon Service

August 8, 2021

Guest Speaker (English)

Rev. Grant Ikuta

Steveston Buddhist Temple

Learn more about Rev. Ikuta





Under these extraordinary circumstances, we invite you to join us from the safety and comfort of your own home for an online Obon & Hatsubon Memorial Service via the Zoom Meeting internet program on Sunday, August 8, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. during which we will remember our loved ones who have crossed over to the Other Shore.  Please do not come to the temple in person.

8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyofu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise with instructors Juliet and Grace Bost
9:30 a.m. Obon and Hatsubon Dharma Service with English Language Message by Rev. Grant Ikuta
10:30 a.m. 日本語法話 高田興芳先生 Japanese Language Dharma Message by Rev. Koho Takata

To join us for this online Obon & Hatsubon 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。

(SMBT Obon lanterns photo by Aiko Chikaba)

Obon Cemetery Services

This Saturday, August 7 the San Mateo Buddhist Temple Sangha will resume our annual Memorial Day Weekend tradition of in-person outdoor cemetery services at the follow times and locations:

Please click map links below for detailed locations.

9:30 a.m.     Skylawn Memorial Park (MAP)

10:10 a.m.     Golden Gate National Cemetery (MAP)

10:40 a.m.     Olivet Memorial Park (MAP)

11:00 a.m.     Japanese Cemetery in Colma (MAP)

Covid-19 Safety Guidelines for Outdoor Services

  • If you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, please stay home.
  • Please wear a face covering at all times during the services.
  • Please maintain 6 feet of social distance from people not in your household.
  • Biodegradable disposal paper straws will be used for incense offering.
  • Please consider bringing your own chanting book/card for chanting Juseige (photocopies will be provided as needed).

When we meet, we will smile

Each year during our Obon and Hatsubon Service, I am reminded of the power of the Buddhadharma to provide guidance and support for us as we navigate our feelings of grief.  As school for my sons usually begins a few days after our San Mateo Buddhist Temple Obon Observance, I have come to associate our Obon with the end of summer.  Opening the freezer at the temple to put away the Obon service manju for an occasion when we can all enjoy them together, I noticed three large bags of frozen hamburgers.  I was suddenly reminded of the delicious hamburgers grilled at the temple picnic and all the experiences that we did not get to have this summer: bazaar—which marks the start of summer in my mind, the annual BWA service at the Japanese Cemetery in Colma, followed by brunch with BWA members at Denny’s in South San Francisco, a family trip to Japan, our summer Terakoya day camp, spam musubi at Obon Odori practices, and chanting together with a Hondo full of attendees at our Obon and Hatsubon service. 

Continue reading “When we meet, we will smile”

Memories of San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s First Obon

By Susan (Kawakita) Kwong

Hearing my mom reminisce of how she and a handful of her friends started Obon at San Mateo Buddhist Temple, it quickly caught my attention and found it my mission to contact her friends and listen to their stories. Wish I had known years earlier since I was only able to obtain a few people’s memories. Was quite interesting and wanted to share this story since our Obon is around the corner. Thank you, Mrs. Wada, Mrs. Hashimoto, and mom for reminiscing about San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s first Obon.

Continue reading “Memories of San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s First Obon”

The Lantern of Wisdom

I always leave one high-efficiency LED light on in the hallway and open the door just a crack when I go to bed.  At some point in middle school, I stopped sleeping with my Snoopy nightlight, and for many years, I tried to make my room as dark as possible before going to bed.  Even a little bit of light in the room would make it hard for me to get to sleep.  That habit changed suddenly for me one night almost ten years ago, shortly after my wife and I moved to Oxnard, California, where I had received my first assignment as a minister in the Buddhist Churches of America.  We were settling into life in California and getting used to living in a spacious single-family home after having spent a couple of years in a tiny downtown Kyoto apartment.  Our entire Kyoto apartment would have fit inside the kitchen of our Oxnard house.

Continue reading “The Lantern of Wisdom”

Shared Ancestors

As summer vacation draws to a close we prepare to welcome the Autumn Equinox with our Ohigan Service on Sunday, September 23. Looking back on the lively season of temple activities that we enjoy between our bazaar in late June and our Obon in mid-August, I fondly recall the week of our Summer Terakoya Buddhist summer camp, when the sound of joyful children’s voices could be heard all day long at the temple.

This year our theme for Terakoya was Buddhist Holidays from around the world that commemorate important events in the life of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Continue reading “Shared Ancestors”

The Dance Comes to Us

The first time my parents came from Minnesota to California for a visit during Obon season, I was headed out the door one evening and said to them, “See you later! I’ll be back after the dance practice finishes.” My father adjusted his hearing aids and said, “Wait, did you say you are going to dance?” To which I replied, “Of course, dancing is one of my duties as a minister.” He got up from his chair, grabbed his camera and said, “This I’ve got to see.”   I always cringe when I see someone pointing a camera in my direction during Obon dancing. I have seen many beautiful photographs of Obon dancing posted on Facebook and Instagram over the years. One that stands out in my memory features a harmonious line of dancers making elegant halfmoon shapes with their arms up around their head. There I am at the center of the frame with my hands spread wide and low down near my waist like a baseball umpire calling “safe!”

When I stepped into the circle and joined the dance for the first time, I discovered that no-one was judging my dancing. As I struggled to keep up, one of the more experienced dancers kindly came over to dance alongside me and walk me through the steps. Momentarily forgetting my embarrassment and my pride, I encountered the joyful liberation of simply dancing. If the purpose of Buddhist practice is to let the ego fall away and realize liberation from attachment to “me” and “mine,” then I am hard-pressed to think of a better ground for this practice than Obon dancing. Obon dancing is not a show; it is a Buddhist tradition through which the Dharma transforms our lives quite outside our own efforts.

The people of Santa Barbara love a good dance party, so attendance at my first time dancing at the Santa Barbara Obon far exceeded my expectations. As the dancing was about to begin, our dance instructors dressed in beautiful summer yukata gathered in a small circle at the center of the church parking lot. A crowd quickly gathered around them. About half of the crowd was made up of regulars on the Southern California Obon dance circuit who had come to join the dancing. However, it was many of the attendees’ first encounter with Obon dancing, and not knowing what to expect, they jostled their way toward the center in anticipation of a performance by those beautifully dressed dancers.

Those who had come to dance were interspersed throughout the crowd, some close to the center near the instructors, some on the outer edges, and many in between. There was a beautiful moment when the music started. The assembled dancers took their cue from the instructors at the center and began the dance, forming concentric rings of motion rotating around a common axis at the center of the instructors. Those who thought they had come as spectators suddenly found themselves right in the middle of the dancing. Some stood startled for a moment before making a panicked dash for the outer edge of the parking lot where they could stand on the sidelines and watch the dance. However, a few of those who unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of the dance were delighted by the dancers all around them. Noticing that the movements of the dance were simple and repetitive, they opted to joined the dance rather than flee to sidelines. In joining the dance, they were able to taste the liberating joy of Obon dancing for themselves.

In the life of Other Power nembutsu, we let go of our calculating mind that attempts to impose our ideas of how things should be on the situations we encounter in life. The following passage from the Tannisho elegantly expresses this character of Other Power nembutsu:

The nembutsu, for its practicers, is not a practice or a good act. Since it is not performed out of one’s own designs, it is not a practice. Since it is not good done through one’s own calculation, it is not a good act. Because it arises wholly from Other Power and is free of self-power, for the practicer, it is not a practice or a good act.

(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 665)

We think we can control when it is time to dance and when we get to sit back and watch, but the truth is that that’s not how life works. In life, the dance comes to us, sometimes quite unexpectedly. It may be the birth of a child or the start of a new relationship. It may be a serious illness, the loss of a job or the passing of a loved one. When we struggle against the flow of life, thinking “I will decide for myself when I am ready to dance,” we have an uncomfortable time. When we bravely step into the circle, we find that a world of joy and companionship opens up to us as we dance.


Namo Amida Butsu