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We find ourselves approaching the month of May already. Soon a half of the year will have gone by. The month of May brings us our Jodoshinshu holiday called Shuso Gotan-e or Sect Founder’s Birthday Gathering and Mother’s Day. Both holidays are very important and significant days for us and are very much related.
The founder of Jodoshinshu was Shinran Shonin. He was born on May21st, 1173 C.E. in a small town of Hino southwest of Kyoto, Japan. At birth he was given the name Matsuwakamaro. Today if you visit Hino the temple that stands at the site of his birth is called Hino Tanjoin or the Birth Temple in Hino. It located in a very quiet area and typically does not see a flock of visitors as some other sites in and around Kyoto. As you stroll around the temple grounds you will find statues of Shinran as a young boy of 9 when he entered the priesthood. Below the statue is the poem said to be written by Shinran on the eve of his ordination.
Like cherry blossoms are the hearts that
Tomorrow they think they might.
For who can tell but there may be
A tempest in the night.
Shinran had lost both parents at an early age, and this most likely prompted him to enter the priesthood. Traveling from Hino to the great Tendai monastery, Shinran arrived late in the night and requested admission into the order. The head priest at Shoren-in temple advised Matsuwakamaro to wait until morning and they would perform the ordination. Shinran wrote the now famous poem above and the head priest was so impressed he ordained Shinran that same night.
When I first visited Hino Tanjoin with Rev. Russell Hamada, we were taken aback by a very interesting spot on the temple grounds. There stands a tree with a plaque reading that the umbilical cord of Shinran Shonin is buried there. We were wondering then why they would put the umbilical cord in a place of honor. Now years later, I realize that the umbilical cord or the heso no o 臍の緒 (tail of the belly) deserves to be honored and saved for prosperity because it is a link to one’s mother. This is a notion rooted in Japan’s strong and sentimental views on the connection between a mother and her child, even into adulthood.
As we contemplate the beautiful poem written by the young Shinran, we can imagine not only his deep understanding of the impermanent and fragile nature of human life, but his sorrow at having lost his mother. It was that sorrow and pain that moved Shinran to seek out the dharma and it was his mother’s death that sent him in that direction.
During Shinran’s study and practice at Shoren-in he encountered the writings of Genshin Shonin. Genshin wrote the following after his mother died.
“It was my mother who made me perfect in practice.
And it was I who had enabled her to attain the end well.
A mother and a child each becoming the teacher.
This could only be the happy fruit of past Karma.”
Undoubtedly, Shinran thought of his own mother when he came across this passage. He realized that his mother continued to be an influence on his life. And to have encountered the teachings of the Buddha was due in large part because of his mother. Shinran must have felt a deep sense of gratitude to his mother at that moment.
This month we celebrate Shinran’s birthday and we celebrate Mother’s Day. If your mother is no longer with you, I hope you can, like Shinran, know that your mother’s influence continues in your life, and your encounter with the dharma is a large part because of your mother. If your mother is still with you, please thank her for all she has given and taught you through the years. If you are a mother, Happy Mother’s Day, (Rev. Hamada used to say, “every day is mother’s day.”), and I hope you will embrace the dharma and pass on the teachings of the Buddha to your children as well. The dharma is a wonderful gift to share, a gift that is lasting and precious.
Rev. Hosei Shinseki
 True Pure Land Buddhism
 Established in 1150 also known as the Awata Palace, located in Higashiyama
“The reason for the Tathagata’s appearance in the world
Is solely to preach the ocean-like Original Vow of Amida.
The ocean of multitudinous beings in the evil age with five defilements
Should believe in the Tathagata’s true words”
Shoshin Nembutsu Ge
It is hard to believe that we are nearly in Spring and soon will be observing Hanamatsuri (Flower Festival) in celebration of the birth day of Siddhartha Gautama better known as Shakyamuni Buddha. History tells us that he was born on April 8, 643 BCE. Like many of you I love the Spring, not only because it brings the Hanamatsuri celebration, but Spring brings great weather. We begin to see the new leaves budding on the trees and flowers start to bloom. It is a sign of new life and the sign of the continuing cycle of nature.
Each year in April we reenact the scene of the Buddha’s birth at Lumbini’s Garden in India. We decorate our hanamido (Flower Shrine) with flowers and a statue of the baby Buddha. The Buddha’s birth is celebrated because like Spring, it was the beginning of a new life and the beginning of a new and important teaching brought to the world. Hanamatsuri truly is one of the most colorful and stirring commemorative services we have in our tradition. This year we will celebrate with the Salinas & Watsonville Buddhist Temples with a combined service in Salinas.
An important aspect of the Hanamatsuri observance as Jodoshinshu (True Pure Land) Buddhists is the above passage from the Shoshin Nembutsu Ge (Gatha on the True Faith in the Nembutsu). Our founder Shinran (1173-1264) writes about the appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha in the world and his sole purpose is to reveal the 18th vow of the Buddha urging us to take refuge in Amida Buddha.
For us as Jodoshinshu followers there is a never ending quest to come to grips with our karmic burden. This means to come to the realization that as ordinary human beings we are always producing and burdened by our karma. Becoming aware of awakening to our foolish self (bonno 煩悩) is the opening of the wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha. Shinran emphasized that although our present self is defiled our hearts and minds reside in the Pure Land.
Understanding this makes the birth or appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha and Shinran’s realization of the importance of this event all the more significant. It reminds us that it is not just a celebration of a birth, but the very source of our salvation. When all other paths have been exhausted and we find ourselves in a state of hopelessness the light of Amida’s Vow burns brightly and illuminates the darkness of our ignorance. I can imagine Shinran’s joy when he encountered the Vow, and his urgency to us as he wrote his gatha on true faith.
I implore all of you readers to join us on Sunday, April 22nd at 10:00 am at the Salinas Buddhist Temple (14 California Street) to celebrate the Buddha’s appearance in this world and together express our gratitude. We are honored to have as our guest speaker Rev. Henry Adams of the San Mateo Buddhist Temple. In addition, we are honored to have our Socho (bishop) Kodo Umezu, our Hongwanji representatives Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara, Rev. Anan Hatanaka, and three IMOP ministers from Kyoto Japan in attendance.
 Recitation of the name of Amida Buddha the Buddha of infinite wisdom & compassion, Namo Amida Butsu
 Hongwanji: Temple of the Primal Vow, our mother temple of Jodoshinshu in Kyoto, Japan.
 IMOP: International Minister’s Orientation Program
Moments of Silence
“Beings will come from the ten directions to be born in my country. They will be pure, their minds filled with gladness. Those in my pleasant country will be peaceful and at ease.”
Today marks the 5th year memorial of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. Five years later the debate on guns and gun control continues. Whether on the side of gun control or expanded use of guns the debate rages on and the killings continue. According to NPR some 60 school shootings have occurred since 2012.
Each time we encounter a tragedy we are asked to join in a “moment of silence” for the victims and their families. I think many of us take the time to think about our families, and we also think about and feel sorrow for the families suffering loss. Perhaps some of us feel at a loss about what to think and what that moment of silence is for and what we should be doing.
As a Buddhist, I think this moment is a time for me to be more mindful of the causes and conditions that bring about events in our lives. To look deeply at the suffering of human beings and practice kindness and compassion. If you take a moment of silence today in memory of Sandy Hook, I hope we will think of all who suffered as a result of that incident and know that they will all find peace in Amida’s Pure Land.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy new year. During the past year all of you have kindly supported me in my efforts to bring the Buddha Dharma to Watsonville and the surrounding area. Because of your efforts and support we have been able to see some growth and increased interest in our programs. I look forward to 2018 as we increase our efforts and programs at the temple.
On behalf of my family I send to all of you our deepest thanks and gratitude for all of your support and look forward to your advice and assistance in 2018 the year of the Dog.
Rev. Jay & Jane Shinseki and family.
This year 2018 (or 2,581 from the time of the birth of the Buddha) is the year of the dog, people born in 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018 are considered dog people. Some characteristics of the dog are: Sincere, reliable, considerate, understanding, patient, intelligent, hardworking, brave and responsible.
It was believed that as the Buddha lay dying; all the animals were summoned before him. Of all the animals twelve in number showed up to say their farewells to the Buddha. In honor of the twelve the Buddha designated a year after each. It was therefore thought that the person born in that year is strongly influenced by that animal.
The 12 animals that showed up in front of Lord Buddha included the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig successively. The story is that the cat spoke with his friend the rat. They agreed that whichever one of them awoke in the morning first would be responsible for waking the other so they could go to Lord Buddha together. Unfortunately, the rat did not wake his friend the cat. And for this reason the cat is missing from the twelve who visited the Buddha.
Many of us enjoy hearing and talking about the different characteristics of the 12 animals. However, the positive characteristics attributed to each animal can be achieved by each of us and the negative characteristics can be avoided. We can be the very best we can in 2018 no matter what our sign is. We each have the hearts and minds to be understanding, patient, intelligent and responsible even if our sign is not the year of the dog.
Together let us all make every effort to practice patience, compassion understanding and spread kindness and peace wherever we are.
Also, in the month of January we also celebrate on of our most important observances as Jodoshinshu Buddhists. Goshoki Hoonko literally means a gathering to express our indebtedness at a memorial to Shinran Shonin the founder of Jodoshinshu Buddhism. According to the western calendar Shinran was born on May 21st 1173 and died on January 1, 1262. What makes Shinran remarkable as a Buddhist is his achievement in setting forth, with a thoroughness and coherence, that is quite remarkable, a path to enlightenment accessible to all people. A teaching still relevant and applicable to our everyday lives.
This year we will observe the Hoonko service together with Monterey and Salinas at our temple on January 28, 2018. The observance will begin on Saturday, January 27th with a special lecture by our guest speaker Rev. Nariaki Hayashi of the Ekoji Buddhist Temple in Fairfax, Virginia. The special lecture/presentation will begin at 2:00 pm. The Hoonko observance will continue on Sunday, January 28th at 10:00 am with a special service and luncheon to follow. I encourage everyone to join us for this very special gathering.
Rev. Jay Shinseki
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.