Like many of you, I had the opportunity and privilege to attend the 850th and 800th joint commemorative service to celebrate the birthday of Shinran Shonin and the establishment of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism at Nishi Hongwanji in May.
In addition, we attended the World Buddhist Women’s Convention, toured the Kyushu area of Japan, ventured over to Okinawa, and concluded our tour in Tokyo before returning home. I joined the festivities as a member of the Northern California Buddhist Women’s Association tour group and was so fortunate to travel with a wonderful group of members from Stockton, Cortez, Sacramento, Florin, and their family members.
In Japan, I reflected on the birth of Shinran Shonin, his desire to share the Buddha-Dharma with others, and his deep appreciation of Amida Buddha’s compassionate wisdom. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for his dedication.
Despite the obstacles he faced and the exile he was subjected to, he never lost sight of how important the Buddha’s teachings were and how Amida Buddha’s compassionate embrace included everyone of all walks of life. Because of Shinran Shonin’s efforts and his sincere appreciation we are so fortunate to encounter the teachings today in the United States.
Because of this celebration to acknowledge Shinran Shonin’s unwavering heart and mind and during our tour of Japan, I was able to reunite with members from Northern California temples where I previously served or supervised and also met individuals who I had not had the pleasure of meeting before.
As a whole, I can describe our group as kind, considerate, generous, thoughtful, patient, understanding, and overall, just fun to be with. They were enthusiastic and also very curious and appreciative of what they were able to encounter in Japan as well. They looked after me (and all of my luggage!) like their own family member and I could feel the closeness of our group. Their kind consideration and cohesiveness reminded me of the importance of Sangha, how essential it is, and why community as a Sangha is one of the Three Treasures in Buddhism.
On the last day of our tour, we were able to visit Tsukiji Hongwanji in Tokyo. In addition to chanting together and learning more about its history, we were also able to hear the sound of the pipe organ. The organist played “Ondokusan” and in unison, we all began to sing along.
Between the grand sound of the organ and all of our voices singing together as one, I was so moved that I began to tear up and lost my voice to sing. It was during this beautiful Nembutsu moment that I reaffirmed my commitment of sharing my deep appreciation of the Buddha-Dharma with others.
As Shinran Shonin wrote in “Ondokusan,” translated as “In Gratitude,” there is much gratitude to express for Amida Buddha’s great compassion and to our Dharma teachers. How fortunate we are to encounter them.
Now, as we have an opportunity to bring more awareness into our lives through Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings, especially through Shinran’s Shonin’s understanding and appreciation of Amida Buddha’s compassionate working in our lives, let us all express our gratitude and reaffirm our commitment to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as well.