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”

Ho’onko Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin 報恩講法要

January 22, 2023

Guest Speaker

Rev. Takashi Miyaji

御講師

宮地 崇 師

Resident Minister

Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church

H.E. Kosho Ohtani Professor of Shin Buddhist Studies

Institute of Buddhist Studies

We invite you to join us in person or from the safety and comfort of your own home via Zoom Meeting for our for our annual Ho’onko Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin on Sunday, January 22, 2023 at 9:30 a.m.  

This service will also include the Installation of Officers for the temple Board of Trustees led by incoming Temple President David Chin and the Buddhist Women’s Association led by Co-Presidents Grace Kanomata and Doris Murai.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyōfu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Mindfulness Meditation
9:30 a.m. Ho’onko Service
  English Language Dharma Talk by Rev. Takashi Miyaji

  Installation of Officers for the SMBT Board of Trustees 
  Installation of Officers for Buddhist Women’s Association
10:45 a.m. 日本語法話 宮地 崇 師 
  Japanese Language Dharma Talk by Rev. Dr. Takashi Miyaji

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

自宅からご参拝され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。

Parents and Children

In the month of May we observe our Gōtan-e Service celebrating the birth of Shinran Shonin, the founder of our Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism.  During the Gōtan-e Service, we place a statue of Shinran Shonin as a young boy in the temple hall and recall the story of his childhood.    May is also the month in which we celebrate Mother’s Day and express the gratitude and appreciation we feel for the mothers in our lives.  As we observe these two holidays of Gōtan-e and Mother’s Day, the month of May provides us with precious occasions to reflect upon the karmic bond between parents and children.  The parental figures in our lives are not limited to our biological parents.  Grandparents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are other examples of those who can provide the care and guidance of a parent in our lives.

According to tradition, Shinran Shonin was separated from his mother at a young age and left home to receive ordination as a Buddhist monk at the age of nine.   While the time that Shinran spent living with his mother and father was brief, he had a profound sense of receiving parental love and care in his life. 

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Ho’onko Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin 報恩講法要

January 16, 2022

Guest Speaker

Rev. Akinori Imai

御講師

今井亮徳師

Bishop Emeritus

Higashi Honganji North America and Hawaii Districts

Minister Emeritus

Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple

Under these extraordinary circumstances, we invite you to join us from the safety and comfort of your own home for an online Ho’onko Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin via the Zoom Meeting internet program on Sunday, January 16, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.  Please do not come to the temple in person.

This service will also include the Installation of Officers for the temple Board of Trustees led by incoming Temple President David Chin and the Buddhist Women’s Association led by Co-Presidents Grace Kanomata and Doris Murai.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyōfu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Hula
9:30 a.m. Ho’onko Service
  English Language Dharma Talk by Rev. Akinori Imai

  Installation of Officers for the SMBT Board of Trustees 
  Installation of Officers for Buddhist Women’s Association
10:45 a.m. 日本語法話 今井亮徳師 
  Japanese Language Dharma Talk by Rev. Akinori Imai

To join us for this online 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、2022年1月16日の9時30分から報恩講法要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ここにクリックして、”Live Broadcast of Services”に登録してください。

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”.

Ho’onko Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin 報恩講法要

January 10, 2021

Guest Speaker (English)

Rev. Patricia Kanaya Usuki

Minister Emeritus

San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple

日本語の御講師

ワンドラ睦先生

オレンジ群仏教会

Rev. Dr. Mutsumi Wondra

Orange County Buddhist Church

Under these extraordinary circumstances, we invite you to join us from the safety and comfort of your own home for an online Ho’onko Memorial Service for Shinran Shonin via the Zoom Meeting internet program on Sunday, January 10, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.  Please do not come to the temple in person.

This service will also include the Installation of Officers for the temple Board of Trustees led by incoming Temple President David Chin and the Buddhist Women’s Association led by Co-Presidents Grace Kanomata and Doris Murai.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Gyōfu Chanting
9:00 a.m. Taiso Morning Exercise with instructor Juliet Bost
9:30 a.m. Ho’onko Service
  English Language Dharma Talk by Rev. Patricia Kanaya Usuki

  Installation of Officers for the SMBT Board of Trustees 
  Installation of Officers for Buddhist Women’s Association
10:45 a.m. 日本語法話 ワンドラ睦先生 
  Japanese Language Dharma Talk by Rev. Dr. Mutsumi Wondra

To join us for this online 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、2021年1月10日の9時30分から報恩講法要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ここにクリックして、”Live Broadcast of Services”に登録してください。

Dharma Discussion: Dāna (July 12, 2020)

Reading and Discussion Questions

Passages referenced in the conversation

To realize shinjin oneself and to guide others to shinjin
Is among difficult things yet even more difficult.
To awaken beings everywhere to great compassion
Is truly to respond in gratitude to the Buddha’s benevolence.

Kyōgyōshinshō, Chapter on Shinjin, Section 94

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What is necessary?

            Over the past month we have seen the gradual relaxing of the Shelter in Place guidelines that have dramatically reshaped our lives since they were first ordered in March.  Many stores are now offering curbside pickup for shoppers and restaurants have started to open for outdoor dining.  Our neighborhood pool is open with new rules, such as masks should be worn at all times when not in the water and no pool toys are allowed.  If you wish to relax on the pool deck, bring your own chair from home because all common pool furniture has been replaced with large squares of red tape guiding the families to sit six feet apart from one another. 

San Mateo County restrictions on gathering at houses of worship have also been relaxed, which has prompted several Sangha members to ask, “When will we be able to return to the Temple for in-person services?”

Continue reading “What is necessary?”

Hearing one another, hearing the Buddha

One month ago, as I sat down to write my newsletter article for April, we were just beginning our life of staying at home under the Shelter in Place Order.  My mind was filled with uncertainty about what the coming weeks would bring. I did not imagine the extent to which this coronavirus would affect the lives of so many people across the globe. As I sit down to write this article for May, I see the following headline in today’s edition of the Washington Post, “Covid-19 is rapidly becoming America’s leading cause of death.” It has been deeply saddening and distressing to hear of so many people near and far falling ill with Covid-19.  The loss of life is heartbreaking. In the midst of my anxiety and fear, I find myself turning to the words of Shinran Shonin for comfort and guidance.

In my reading this past month, I came across a letter that Shinran wrote at a time when famine and epidemic disease had devastated communities all over Japan. To me, Shinran’s words shine the light of wisdom on the challenges we face today.  Shinran writes:

It is saddening that so many people, both young and old, men and women, have died this year and last. But the Tathagata taught the truth of life’s impermanence for us fully, so you must not be distressed by it.
(Collected Works of Shinran, p. 531)

Continue reading “Hearing one another, hearing the Buddha”

20/20

Earlier this week, I was dozing off in my office at the temple while attempting to read a challenging passage from Shinran’s writings in Japanese when the chime for the outside doorbell woke me with a start.  As I sprang to my feet to answer the intercom, my glasses slipped off my face and fell to the ground.  The hinge that holds the right temple in place broke apart as it hit the floor, rendering my glasses unwearable.  Ideal vision is traditionally described as being able to see clearly at a distance of 20 feet the same object that a normal person can see at 20 feet, often expressed as the fraction 20/20.  The largest letter at the top of a standard eye chart that you find at an optometrist’s office often corresponds to 20/200 vision, which is the eyesight of a person who needs to be 20 feet away to see an object that a normal person can see from a distance of 200 feet.  Without my glasses, I have a hard time seeing that big letter E at the top of the chart.

I searched through my drawers and found an old pair of glasses I had purchased when I was living in Kyoto.  The first time I bought a pair of glasses in Japan, I remember complaining to the optician, “You got my prescription wrong.  Every time I have gotten new glasses in the past, I could see more clearly.  With these glasses, I can see less clearly than with my old glasses.”  When I suggested that they switch out the lenses to give me my old prescription back, the optician calmly explained to me, “From our perspective, your previous prescription was too strong.  Your left eye is stronger than the right, so you favor your left eye.  By slightly reducing the strength of your prescription in the left eye, we are creating a balance so that you will use both eyes equally.  This will reduce fatigue.”  I was skeptical, but the optician was adamant, so I decided to give the new prescription a try.  Prior to moving to Japan my prescription would increase slightly every couple of years.  During the six years I spent living in Japan, my prescription didn’t change at all, so in time I became a believer in the approach my optometrist in Kyoto was advocating.

When I went to update my glasses here in California for the first time after moving back from Kyoto, my new optometrist made the comment, “The prescription for your right eye remains the same, but we’ll need to increase the prescription in your left eye.”  When I explained the rationale for the prescription I had from Kyoto, my optometrist was dismissive.  “You want to be able to see as clearly as possible.  I am not aware of any research that supports deliberately under-correcting in one eye.”  I was not about to argue the science of optometry with a doctor, so got my new glasses and enjoyed being able to read distant signs on the freeway in time to change lanes and avoid missing my exit.

Wearing my old glasses from Kyoto these past few days as I wait for my current glasses to get repaired, I find that indeed my eyes do not get fatigued as much when I am reading.  That first optometrist I saw here in California was most intent on bringing the object of sight into crystal clear optical focus.  To him, the best prescription was determined by how clearly I could see an object across the room from where I sat.  For the optometrist I saw in Kyoto, the best vision was determined by taking into account both the subject who saw and the object that was seen.  Rather than focusing on the external object of sight as the sole criteria for determining the prescription, my doctor in Kyoto also took into account my experience of seeing through the lenses all day long.  In our conversation, I was encouraged to consider not just “What can I see?” but also “How do I see?”

A plaque hangings in the Buddha Hall of the San Mateo Buddhist Temple that reads “見真 kenshin” which means “see truth.”  Kenshin Daishi is the honorific title bestowed upon Shinran Shonin by the Meiji Emperor of Japan.  These words capture the spirit of our life in the Nembutsu, in which we endeavor to see the truth that is illuminated by the wisdom of Amida Buddha.  In reflecting on his own experience of seeing, Shinran composed the following verse in his Hymn of True Shinjin and the Nembutsu:

The person burdened with extreme evil should simply say the Name:
Although I too am within Amida’s grasp,
Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him;
Nevertheless, great compassion is untiring and illumines me always.

The clear sight that I receive in the Nembutsu arises from seeing my life illuminated by the light of the Buddha’s wisdom, which helps me see how my perceptions are clouded by the greed, anger, and ignorance that arise moment to moment in my mind.  As I welcome the New Year 2020, I am grateful for the light of Amida Buddha that guides me to clearly see the truth of wisdom and compassion each day.

 

Namo Amida Butsu