On March 31, 2017, a group from the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple had the opportunity to attend the Dento Hokoku Hoyo Service held at Ryukoku-zan, the head temple for the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha school of Buddhism in Kyoto, Japan. The Dento Hokoku Hoyo or Head Priest Accession Service allowed us all as Jodo Shinshu followers to take part in commemorating the beginning leadership of Sennyo Shonin, 25th in the line. Our group made up of travelers from Gardena, Pasadena, New Jersey, San Diego, Venice, and West Los Angeles. It was a beautiful experience. By attending this event, we participated in the continuation of the Jodo Shinshu tradition which began with our founder Shinran Shonin 750 years ago.
After the conclusion of the ceremony, the group stayed in Kyoto to visit the Otani Hombyo or Otani Mausoleum and other sites in the area. We then moved on to Hiroshima for the Peace Memorial and Museum as well as Itsukushima Island or more commonly known as Miyajima. We then traveled South by train to Kagoshima.
As we continued on our journey together, we were able to share the experience of migrating to Kyushu and to see the Kakure Nembutsu or Hidden Amida Buddha in the southern most areas of Japan. Some background: When Buddhism began Shakyamuni Buddha taught the teaching freely to all those that practiced rigorously for their liberation. In Japan 800 years ago the teachings were seemingly for priests and the nobles of the time, the Jodo Shinshu legacy of Shinran revolutionized the availability of the teachings and made it accessible for everyone. In the 16th century, the Nembutsu teaching grew in popularity and because of this gain much religious persecution. Those caught with Amida Buddha or practicing Jodo Shinshu rituals were subjected to torture and even death. This was a real example of how valuable and how much we take saying the Nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu for granted. Jodo Shinshu followers then practiced in caves or hid their Amida statues and other items in places unseen like hollowed out support beams in the homes.
If I should not become a great provider
In lives to come for immeasurable kalpas
To save the poor and the afflicted everywhere
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
This excerpt is from the second verse of that which we commonly chant and call the Juseige. In this passage, Amida Buddha dedicates his Enlightenment to everyone that is afflicted with suffering and becomes the great provider of the Dharma. As Amida is already a Buddha, he will always be constantly be working for those now and future beings search-ing for Buddhahood.
Even today, we continue these virtues of the Buddha and work hard to help all those suffering to find true peace. We have to constantly remind our self and others of the Buddha’s aspiration for all. Ask yourself and reflect on the Buddha’s teachings. We all are in need, and Amida has already reached out and is connected to everyone. We are so fortunate to be able to hear and receive the teachings freely with a temple, home altar, and even a nenju or contemplation beads in our hands.
Kakure Nembutsu awakened an appreciation for the journey that the teachings took to get to each of us. We must also think about the influence that Amida has had our lives and the lives of those that had come before us. Who would you be without Namu Amida Butsu? How valuable is it? Is it enough to do whatever is necessary to guide others to Amida’s light and life as we live every-day? These experiences of visiting religious sites trans-formed within each of us a link from the physical Jodo Shinshu upbringing of thought to a feeling and connect-edness to Amida’s aspiration and heart. Change the ideals of calculation and logic into a life connected to the Heart and Mind of the Buddha.
Namu Amida Butsu
Rev. Kory Quon
Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple