HERE IN HAWAII, MOST HONGWANJItemples observe its annual Eitaikyo servicein November. This service is knownas the "Sangha Memorial Service."
We usually observe this special service with aguest speaker from another temple. We listen to the Buddha Dharma message by remembering our temple members. We do not have an Eitaikyosutra however, Eitaikyo means "Passing the Sutra(teaching — Buddha Dharma) from generation to generation." By holding this special service, we are perpetuating the Buddha Dharma memories of the deceased and the values of spiritual guidance to the next generation through the listening of the Dharma.
The history of the Eitaikyo (True name of thisservice in Jodo Shinshu is "Eitai Dokkyo") in ourHongwanji sect began about 320 years ago duringthe Abbot Jyaku-nyo time in Kyoto. Regardingthe origin of Eitai-Dokkyo at the Hongwanjis inJapan, there are so many explanations frommany scholar ministers. We don’t have a documentedrecord as to why and when the Hongwanjistarted the services. However, other Buddhistsects were already observing similar types of Eitai-Dokkyoservices called "Shi- dou-kyo" for theirmembers before the Hongwanji adopted the servicesin the 17th century.
According to Professor Emeritus the late ReverendShoko Taketomo’s Bukkyo Shiso Jiten(Buddhist Thoughts dictionary) he states "Eitaikyo"as follows: "In the olden days, the familiesobserve memorial services for the family memberswho have passed on before them on thedate of their death. Then they started observingmonthly memorial service (Gakki-meinichi),yearly special memorial service (nenki), andthen created special yearly joint memorial servicesfor the departed ones called "Eitai-Dokkyoservice."
Our Hongwanji reasoning for the Eitaikyo servicesor the purpose of having an Eitaikyo servicesis "For us to meet Amida Buddha’s greatWisdom and Compassion (Buddha Dharma)through observing of Eitaikyo services in memoriesof our departed one."
So this Eitaikyo service is of great benefit to allof us who are living this present life and be ableto receive Buddha Dharma through our lovedones memories. These are the reasons why HonpaHongwanji is perpetuating these services.Through these services, we are able to pass onthe Buddha’s great compassion and wisdom toour next generation.
As far as I am concerned, this service is agreat time or opportunity for all of us to come tothe temple through the memories of our deceasedand at the same time we are able to receive orhear the teachings of the Nembutsu, BuddhaDharma. Through the listening of the BuddhaDharma, we are able to recall our loved ones’memories. When we remember our loved onesthrough this service, our loved ones are returningto our place and guiding us to the path of truth.(Returning to this world, genso-eko) A Collectionof Passages Revealing The True Teaching of thePure Land Way Teaching;The Collected Works ofShinran p. 7.
So, if this statement is true, whenever andwherever we remember our loved ones at theservices, they are returning into our hearts andguiding us to the path of truth and leading us toAmida Buddha’s great wisdom and compassion inour lives.
"Eitai-Dokkyo" is reminding each one of usthat we are passing these treasures to our childrenand grandchildren through the listening of Buddha Dharma.