MOST BUDDHIST TEMPLES THROUGHOUTHawaii observe Ohigan during the months ofMarch and September. Ohigan is the time for usto reflect upon ourselves through the teachings of the BuddhaDharma and re-dedicate ourselves by extending our lovingkindness to all.
Higan refers to the “Other Shore”, which is Nirvana or Enlightenment. I am sure you have heard these words and storiesmany times because ministers like to emphasize these kinds ofstories during the months of March and September. As youlisten to these stories over and over, you may get tired of it. Youmay not want to hear another Ohigan story. You may evensay, “My ears are plugged up; enough already.”
According to the Buddhist tradition, it is said that, “in order to reach the Other Shore of Nirvana”, we must practice the Six Paramitas.
We all participate in these practices in our daily lives. Through the practices of paramitas, we received joy, happiness, thoughtful minds, and courage which create the new friendship and fellowship in our lives. This month I would like to share with you the following story.
There was a very hard working and wonderful family living in a small town in Japan—husband, wife, and two sons. The family worked hard and started a taxi cab company. They started with only two cabs. Within 15 years, the company became so successful that they employed over 50 employees and 30 cabs.
They became wealthy and enjoyed their lives. The wife was a very understanding person and never complained about her health even when she was tired. One day she went to the doctor because she was not feeling well. When the doctor examined her, he discovered that she had cancer, stage 4. She grew weaker day by day and lost weight rapidly. She went to the hospital and received the best treatment possible. However, it was too late to do anything. So, the doctor decided to send her home to stay with her family. One spring day, she felt good, so she told her husband, “Otosan (Dad), there is a bit of weeds in the garden. I would like to take the weeds out.Can you please take me to the green grass area?” So, her husband smiled and carried her to the green grass. She sat on the grass and started pulling out the weeds. Then, her husband felt that he should bring her a cup of cold water, so he went to the kitchen to get her water. When he returned, he discovered that she was lying down and instead of pulling the weeds, she was just touching the grass. She didn’t have enough strength to hold her body up or to pull anymore weeds.So, her husband said, “Okaasan, I think that is enough. You did so well.” But his wife said, “No, there are so many weeds here,I have to take care of my garden, I have to…..” Her husband carried her back to the bedroom and said, “Your garden became so beautiful. Let’s get you rested.” That evening, her condition became critical and she was in a coma for three days.Early on the fourth morning, after a few deep breaths, she passed away peacefully.
After the 49 Days Service, he sat in front of the family altar and gazed at her picture next to her ashes and said, “Arigato,thank you very much for everything.” When he closed his eyes,he was able to recall many pleasant memories. He realized that through the life of his wife, he was able to learn a very important and wonderful lesson from her—mind of Dana—patience, effort, precept, concentration, and gaining wisdom.She had passed away but what she shared with her husband and family were the most important things in their lives.
We also, without realizing it, are following the practices that we learned from our parents, grandparents, and friends. We must all remember that by attending temple services and activities we are able to learn important lessons in our lives. We are receiving the culture, the history, caring for others, the true mind of peace and serenity through the temple activities and guidance of the Nembutsu.
When you attend temple services and hear the minister’s dharma messages, you may hear many stories. The most important way to accept the minister’s messages is accept it as your own. If we do, each of us will be able to understand Amida Buddha’s true salvation of great wisdom and compassion.
Shinran Shonin’s acceptance of the Nembutsu guidance in Amida Buddha’s wisdom and compassionate hearts are always encouraging our precious lives and giving us deep feeling of peace and serenity. Amida Buddha’s wisdom is like sunlight. It shines from corner to corner, giving us warm feelings of wisdom in our hearts and lives. Once we realize Amida Buddha’s spiritual light of the wisdom, it clears away our ignorant mind just like ice covering a mountain will melt slowly by the sunlight and become pure spring water.
Thus, Ohigan is the most wonderful time for all of us to reflect upon by ourselves through listening to the Buddha Dharma, light of the Buddha’s true wisdom.
Regardless of ethnic backgrounds or languages, the sincere heart of the Dana and wisdom, we all are able to communicate with others and be able to make our precious lives more meaningful with peace and serenity.
In Jodo Shinshu, our goal is to listen to the Dharma. As we listen to the Buddha dharma, without knowing it, we are able to rededicate ourselves through the spiritual light, wisdom, and compassion of Amida Buddha which is his great name of Namo Amida Butsu.
This is the reason why we observe Ohigan services twice a year and re-dedicate ourselves to listen to the Buddha Dharmaas our true guide.
Seeing another man’s fault is the greatest lesson for everyone of us. Cultivation is not something unusual; it is part of our everyday life. Whenever we recognize and correct our own faults, we are cultivating and following Buddha’s great guidance of six paramitas.