November is the start of the holiday season for us. We begin with Thanksgiving and then move right into Christmas and the New Year celebration. From a Buddhist perspective it is a season of gratitude. Beginning with Thanksgiving a holiday created to express thanks for what we have received. It is good to be reminded of what we should be thankful for and also reminded that Thanksgiving is not just about turkey and football.
The first “Pilgrims” to land in the United States included many mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and little children. They crossed over a vast ocean to an unknown land. The trip was difficult with a small overcrowded ship the Mayflower. They spent two months on the Atlantic seeing nothing but the ocean. We can imagine their thoughts of warmth, shelter and food when they saw land. However it was November and they were greeted by rocks, sand and bare ground. That first winter over half the Pilgrims died from the cold and hunger. One Native American named Squanto felt compassion for the suffering Pilgrims and taught them how to plant corn and other crops. The next autumn they harvested their crops and were relieved that they had enough to survive the coming winter. In gratitude to Squanto and his friends the Pilgrims hosted a feast for them. This became the first Thanksgiving, a true gesture of gratitude.
Each November we conduct a major service called the Eitaikyo Muen Hoyo or Perpetual Sutra Chanting Memorial Service. This service represents for us the continuing influence generation after generation that allow us to hear the teachings within the sutras. For us at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple it is an important time to reflect on our temple history and how we as a sangha are able to receive the Dharma in our lives. We have just completed the celebration of the 110th Anniversary of the Watsonville Buddhist Temple. It was an important reminder of the sacrifices that our founders made to establish and maintain the temple. Like the Pilgrims of old, the Issei came to a hostile land and established communities and temples. We honor those in the past with the yearly Eitaikyo Muen Hoyo. The Eitaikyo list of people in the past is extensive and each in their own way have contributed to making our temple a living, breathing continuing Dharma center.
We have at our temple an Eitaikyo book which sits on the altar. It is a calendar book in which the names of deceased persons are entered on the day of their death. Donors to a special fund used only for upkeep of the Naijin or special Dharma events have their names entered into the book. Sutras are chanted yearly for those names entered in the book in perpetuity. Donations to the Eitaikyo fund can be made in memory of family members at any time. We encourage all members to honor their past and continue to make donations to the Eitaikyo fund assuring the continued chanting of the sutras in memory of family members.